Sunday, August 07, 2005


Last night I was driving back to Nashville after having spent the afternoon and evening with 4 church youth choirs at a small event in Tullahoma, TN. Before I turned onto I-24 I stopped at a gas station and got some beef jerky, a large bag of peanuts and an Arizona Ice Tea. The cashier entered my purchases into the register and the total came to $ 6.66. He looked at me with absolute fear in his eyes and said, “I hate that number.” He paused, clearly petrified and continued, “Could you buy something else so this number will change?” I said, “Well, I could...or you could just add a penny to the total.” He fumbled around a bit looking for some way out of this devilish dilemma and I was feeling really bad for him. I said, “What do you think this number means, anyway?” He said, “I don’t know - I just don’t like it. It’s amazing how many times this total comes up and it always freaks me out.” I told him I had just read an article in which some Biblical researcher had recently determined that this infamous number had likely been miscalculated and was actually 616. He seemed really glad to hear that but he was still agitated. Having determined no acceptable solution to our plight I paid him the money, told him not to think too much about it and headed back to Nashville wondering the whole while if someone was going to wander into that little gas station tonight and hold him up or if Satan himself might jump off an overpass through the moonroof of my Passat and rip my heart out.

I thought about that kid a few times today. This end-of-the-world stuff was a familiar topic to me. I began hearing all about it as a kid in church: studies of John’s Revelation, Christ’s Mount Olivet discourse, passages from Daniel and Joel and then the apex - Hal Lindsey’s “The Late, Great Planet Earth.” Years have passed since Lindsey’s very popular volume was published and the event of that publication kicked many into troubled frenzy. Much of it focused on Israel, Christ’s self-predicted Second Coming, severe weather changes, the anti-Christ, Daniel’s 70 weeks, the Rapture, the Whore of Babylon, the Mark of the Beast (666 ?), etc. The topic has become a significant part of pop culture showing up as cover articles on national magazines, in films and proven by the recent, uncanny success of the “Left Behind” series of “novels.” Very bizarre, complicated, mysterious and yes...scary stuff.

Although I continue to be intrigued by it I have long since turned from this prophetic speculation as necessary nutrition for my soul. Without discounting its relevance I choose to reflect more closely on Christ’s more actionable teachings regarding the Kingdom: “Blessed are the poor in spirit...What you have done for the least of these...A cup of water in My Name.” “Fear not” is the most repeated phrase in the New Testament. I wish I could have done more to chase the fear out of that kid’s eyes. Next time I stop in there I’m going to get a small bag of peanuts - that should get the price down to $ 6.16.


Blogger Stephen Moseley said...

brilliant...just brilliant...

August 19, 2005 at 10:43 AM  
Blogger jlpriest said...

Thom, your gift of writing is not limited to music. I look forward to reading more of your insights.

October 11, 2005 at 3:31 AM  

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