by s. nicole böcek
2017 and 1536
We always hope that the last time we see someone isn’t the last time we see someone…
“Mom! I’m going out with Lacey,” Amber yells up the stairs.
There is a moment of silence and then footsteps on the steps as Mother comes down.
“Where are you going?” Mother asks.
Amber sighs. “To the mall. But her mom is stopping by their church first.”
Mother frowns a bit, “Isn’t her family Mormon?”
“Are they going to their church for classes or teaching?
“No. I don’t think so.” Amber hopes her mother doesn’t stop the plan.
Mother sighs. “Well, alright. Just be home before lunch.”
Amber nods and tromps outside to meet her friend at the pond. After a few minutes, she arrives and sees Lacey waiting on the bench, tapping away at her phone. Amber stealthily sneaks up to her and grabs Lacey’s shoulders. Lacey yelps, dropping her phone. Laughing, Amber slides into the bench next to her friend.
“Filthy Hobbitses,” Lacey hisses good-naturedly, bending over and grabbing her phone.
“Ah, gets you every time,” Amber grins. “How’s life?”
Lacey smiles. “Great. But I’m just stuffed with cookies. I brought you some.” She hands Amber a sandwich bag with chocolate chip cookies.
“Wow. Thanks!” Amber starts eating one right away.
Lacey looks down at her phone and then out at the pond. “My mom made them for the church bake-sale. Mother’s really a good woman. And such a great person. Dad’s so pleased with her. I hope I’m half the woman she is when I grow up.”
Amber frowns, touching the edge of the bench with her fingertips.
Lacey continues to prattle on about everything her Mother did. Amber becomes uneasier by the second, especially when she hears the words, “I’m sure God is pleased with her as well.”
Luther’s words ring in her mind. “Not by works, but by grace. We are saved by grace alone.” Maybe I should say something.
But she does not know how to open the topic. “Oh,” Amber says instead, interrupting Lacey. “Have you studied for tomorrow’s chemistry test?”
Lacey rolls her eyes. “I tried. All I can remember is Zeff.”
“Ugh, you’re really stuck on that word, aren’t you?” Amber snorts, remembering her science class.
“So what? It’s cool! It sounds sci-fi and futuristic and stuff like that!”
Lacey’s mother honks the car horn and the girls climb into the back of their car. The trip to the mall is shadowed by Amber’s fearful silence about God. But gabby Lacey hardly even notices Amber’s silence. She has so much to say about other things. When they arrive home, Amber opens the car door.
“See you later, sneaky booger,” Lacey snickers.
Amber smiles and runs up the front steps.
She’s been waiting for this moment for so long now. At least when she’s time-traveling she doesn’t feel so guilty.
Going into the garage, she checks herself to make sure her clothes are normal, and then she twists the date 1536 onto the watch.
The blue portal surrounds her. This time she feels an electric buzz, and then nothing. Amber opens her eyes in the midst of falling forward. She squeals and catches herself against a door. There’s shuffling inside the room and then the door opens.
The man opening the door has a long beard and is wearing a funny hat and a long, fur-lined cloak. His eyes widen.
“I saw an ethereal glow under my door,” he whispers, “and then you knocked on my door.” His gaze roams around and then settling on Amber’s watch. “Like that blue light! What is that bracelet?”
Amber’s eyes widen. Say something! Say something! Her gaze roams into the room and she sees a bunch of papers on the desk. “Oh!” she hurries over to the papers. “Are you a writer?”
The man looks surprised for a second and then walks over to her. “Yes, I am.”
Amber looks at the papers, almost choking on her breath when she saw the name on the front page. John Calvin!
“John Calvin? The reformer?”
“Yes, I suppose I am trying to reform things. Though that is a strange word to use.”
Amber’s mind races as she looks down at the papers. Jesus. Augustine. Luther. Now Calvin! “What are you writing?”
“I am writing The Institutes of the Christian Religion,” Calvin replies, brushing his fingertips over the papers. “What’s your name, child?”
Institutes. Calvin’s Institutes…Dad always talked about those.
“Oh. Sorry. I’m Amber.” They shake hands and smile at each other.
Amber’s eyes return to the papers. “May I ask? What are they about?” Amber tilts her head a bit.
“Well…” Calvin looks down at the desk, “It’s everything about being a Christian.”
“You’ve got a lot of papers here. So, can you summarize it? Like Institutes for Dummies or something like that.”
“For dummies? Oh. Are you learning disabled?” He tipped his head and studied her, then with a laugh added. “I see. Simple terms. Okay, then. Let’s put it this way. The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life. It cannot be grasped by reason and memory only, but it is fully understood when it possesses the whole soul and penetrates to the inner recesses of the heart.”
Amber nods, her interest piqued. The gospel should possess the whole soul and heart.
“Having then used the Law to tell us of our weakness and impurity, the Lord comforts us through trust in his power and mercy. And,” Calvin lifts his finger, “it is in Christ, his Son, that he reveals himself as being benevolent and favourably disposed to us.”
Amber scratches the back of her neck. “Favor means grace, right?”
“Yes. His grace comes through Christ. Christ alone. In the Law, God only appears as the rewarder of perfect righteousness—of which we are completely bereft—and, on the other hand, as the upright and strict Judge of sins, in Christ, his face is full of grace and gentleness, and shines on miserable, unworthy sinners.”
“That sounds nice. His face full of grace and gentleness. It reminds me of Aaron’s blessing, ‘the Lord make his face to shine upon you…’”
Calvin smiles warmly, “Exactly. For this is the admirable display of his infinite love that he gave to us: he delivered up his own son for us and, in Him, opened to us all the treasures of his mercy and goodness.”
“So, is everyone allowed to go to heaven then?”
Calvin’s slight frown and shake of his head drew her in to his words. “No man is excluded from calling upon God, the gate of salvation is set open unto all men: neither is there any other thing which keepeth us back from entering in, save only our own belief.”
“So we must believe and call upon God. And then we can be saved. But what if we’re very good and everything? Doesn’t God expect us to be good?” Amber asks, remembering Lacey’s words about her Mom.
“Deeds do matter. But the more eminently that any one excels in holiness, the farther he feels himself from perfect righteousness, and the more clearly he perceives that he can trust nothing but the mercy of God alone. Are you following me so far?” Calvin looks down at Amber.
Amber nods. “You mean that when we realize we are sinners we lean more on God’s mercy. In a sense our good deeds should show us we are not good enough.”
“Right. As believers are every day involved in many faults, it will profit them nothing that they have once entered the way of righteousness, unless the same grace which brought them into it accompany them to the last step of life.”
“So being good is not good enough. It has to be goodness on the path of Christ.”
“Why do you call yourself a dummy? You know the gospel, my child. This is from Psalms. ‘Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.’” Calvin smiles and nods. “Psalms 32 verse 1 to be exact.”
“But how can we have perfect faith? I feel like I can never do the right thing when I should. I should have shared with Lacey about Jesus, but I didn’t… Lacey’s my friend. Her family’s Mormon.”
“Mormon? Is that in India?”
“Never mind, Amber. You ask about perfect faith. A perfect faith is nowhere to be found, so it follows that all of us are partly unbelievers.”
“Yes. You see, a man will be justified by faith when, excluded from righteousness of works, he by faith lays hold of the righteousness of Christ, and clothed in it, appears in the sight of God not as a sinner, but as righteous.”
“So if Lacey’s family believes they have to be perfect to go to heaven, they’re wrong. She has to have faith in the deeds of Jesus Christ. She has to be an actual believer in his deeds for us in order to go to heaven. But being a real believer is more about grace than deeds. Our failing good deeds prove we need Jesus. I really should tell my friend Lacey.”
“Right. You’ve got it! It’s by Christ’s deeds alone.” The reformer smiled.
“By Christ alone. By faith alone. By grace alone.”
“That’s sounds catchy!” Calvin laughs. Suddenly his attention is drawn to the doorway. “Oh! And there’s my good friend!”
Amber turns and locks gazes with the Pea-Green Coat Guy at the door, who has a giant smile on his face.
Calvin looks back at Amber. “This is my good friend Seth.”
“Uh…I’ll catch you later,” Seth says, taking a step back and darting off down the hallway.
I can’t let him get away!
“I have to go, too,” Amber tells Calvin, pushing past the reformer and swinging around the doorway down the hall.
The patter of fast footsteps ensues until they reach downstairs. Seth darts away full speed down the waterfront.
Amber follows him, panting already. This is not going well.
Seth ducks under a cart. The donkey brays. Amber slips back and runs around the animal. Come on. Come on. You ran a marathon last year; you can do this.
Seth’s green coat is nearing. Amber pants. Hurry. Hurry.
He throws down a barrel of apples in front of her. She stumbles to avoid stepping on them.
“Hey! Who’s going to pay for those! Don’t step on my apples!”
Amber looks with apology at the angry greengrocer, but picks up speed again and with a burst of energy catches up to the green-coated young man.
“Wait!” She pants. “I just want to ask you something!”
She reaches out, almost able to touch the coat, to grab him. She has too many questions. “Why can’t you just stop?”
Just a bit more. Amber strains herself. At the last second, she slips on a rock and she’s propelled forward. Grabbing the green coat, she holds on. The coat slips off of Seth.
He makes a grab for his coat, but the world is spinning. Both of them are pulled into a glowing blue portal.
Amber feels like a ton of bricks is being pushed against her mind. Everything turned blue now goes black.
She has no idea where she has ended up this time.
She is lost in time….
What do you think? Who is the Pea-green Coat Guy? What are these dates? Write your predictions below…