Sunday, July 17, 2011

Guarantees and Assurances

Readings: Malachi 4:1-6; Romans 15:4-13; Luke 21:25-33

Our mortal lives seem to revolve around guarantees and assurances.  Purchase something and, before you get through the check-out process, you’ll more than likely be asked if you want an extended warranty on something to guarantee repair as needed for a reasonable price or for no cost at all. Our first impulse is to say, “Sure! Sign me up” What could be better than a worry-free relationship with the item we just bought? However, most of these warranties and guarantees are conditional. Lots of “ifs” and “buts” rear their ugly heads; lots of fine print appears. Ultimately, once we study all the fine print and the ifs and the buts, we find that it will probably be worth the gamble to save the money now and then spend it later if needed.

As we expand and move on to the larger necessities in our modern lives, insurance and all its guarantees and assurances merge into the picture. We have assurances non-stop from nice little ladies and gentlemen on the television and over the radio that if we buy insurance they’re touting, that all our worries will cease to be. If something happens to us, the insurance company will come riding in on that white horse and protect from all that is wrong.   Until that unforeseen event actually happens. Then that “white knight” is more like the “dark knight” in most cases. We start drowning in a sea of red tape, we need our own army of attorneys and interpreters to wade through all the fine print, and our “guarantees and assurances” aren’t quite as shiny as originally presented. Once again, lots of “ifs” and “buts” accompany our policies that we purchase. Nevertheless, we are at the mercy of taking the gamble of protecting ourselves against the catastrophic. Not a comfy place for us to be.

Simply put, mortals can have their moments of shiftiness.  We don’t like being cheated—just ask anyone. However, we continue to write policies and guarantees and assurances full of wiggle words that will guarantee and assure one thing—the company in charge of the policies will be on the winning end the vast majority of the time.

How refreshing it is to turn to the one true source of guarantees and assurances we can trust. Throughout the scriptures, we are guaranteed a number of things. These things, however, are not exactly the rosy world that we mortals like to deceive one another with through materialism. No, these are flat-out guarantees about our eternal lives. In all three readings, there are guarantees of destruction to all mankind. Guaranteed. You might not think that a very refreshing thought. And it’s not; no one likes to think of one’s own destruction. The pleasing part of this guarantee is the element of truth. No sugar-coating, no wiggle words. Malachi 4:1 states, “’Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All of the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble and that day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the Lord Almighty.” How much more straight-forward can it get? Not much. That’s a guarantee.

More guarantees throughout the Bible: in Luke 21:25 the words are written, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.” These are very factual and tangible events. No gray areas. We can see these things, we can hear them. We have solid proof of their existence.

In our current world, the guarantees we receive are sketchy at best; we have been convinced by ourselves and others that they are a necessary part of life. But are they really guarantees? When compared to the guarantees in the scriptures, they do pale by comparison.  Maybe we should just call them “conditions” or “options”. It seems demeaning to put them on the same level as the true guarantees we have received from God and from Christ.

Another thing that we mortals do cling to are assurances from one another. We want others to tell us what we want to hear. With that initial need, we negate the whole idea of assurances. To assure is to promise or to be so confident that it can be taken as a promise. It has nothing to do with twisting the truth to be told that everything lost to a disaster will be fully recovered, or that the loved one will make a full recovery.  We mis-take the word, and we then feel that others have not been honest with us. Once again, we get ourselves into unnecessary frustrations or periods of hurt due to wanting guarantees and assurances that only fracture their original meaning. It’s just part of the condition of being human.

Is there relief to this disillusionment of mis-taken assurances? Happily, yes. For real assurances that we know will come to pass, we once again need only to turn to today’s readings. They are full of beautiful assurances for all of us who choose to receive the grace of God’s infinite love.  In Luke we are told that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (21:33). In Malachi, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings” (4:2). And, from Romans, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (15:4). Those  words are assurances. They are promises from the only trusted, tried and true maker of promises. They are told to us from the epicenter of confidence—our hope.

We need to keep all things mortal in perspective—we’re not perfect and our practices throughout daily life will not be prefect, either. We will assuredly be disappointed, disillusioned, and disenchanted throughout life by others and by events and situations. But the thing that keeps us going and makes all these inconveniences pretty much back burner items is the knowledge that it’s just all part of the journey to perfection with the Perfect One. We can be assured that is something indeed  to look forward to—guaranteed.

“May the god of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13)

*Readings used from The NIV Study Bible, 1985.