I remember when my family got our first answering machine. It had two, full-size, cassette tapes. One tape was for the outgoing message, the other tape to record incoming messages. All my friends had similar answering machines. We realized that the tapes also fit into regular stereo systems. It didn’t take long for us to figure out how to record better sounding outgoing messages and put the new tape into our answering machine. At home, we played the Star Wars soundtrack and recorded our outgoing message over the top. And, of course, we ended the message with, “May the Force be with you.” We also figured out that we could play the incoming message tape on our home stereo really loud. We could bring the tape to school and share with our friends. And, in one rare and very sad case, someone figured out how to play part of a recorded voice message over the sound system in the choir room.
My friend, Geoff, had an answering machine that would not cut off the incoming message at two minutes. One night, at a sleep-over, we called his machine and read from one of our history books. We figured we read for over 20 minutes. Another night, we called the machine and then set the phone down in front of the stereo playing the entire two album set of Saturday Night Fever. What we didn’t know is that they were waiting for someone else to leave a message. So, the unexpected outcome of our prank was that they had to listen to the entire tape to see if there was another message on it. To this day, hearing the Bee Gees reminds that family of our joke which I’m thankful they find funny.
Answering machines have come a long way. Yet, I kind-of miss those fun days of playing tapes and making fun (“far out”) recordings. I’d like to listen to one of them just to hear the voices of my friends back when we were eleven years old.
I have a daily desk calendar of church signs. Today’s sign read, “When the past calls, let it go to voicemail. It has nothing new to say.” There are times when we let things from our past call us up. Unlike the happy thoughts of my friends and me pranking one another, calls from the past can be negative. Sometimes they remind us of our shortcomings, things we failed at, or things we never even tried. At our Annual Meeting this past Sunday, we didn’t allow negative phone calls from the past to interrupt our progress and our joy of being together. We talked about the past but showed how we are stronger now and are certainly moving forward.
Saint Paul had to deal with his past calling him. After all, before his conversion, he persecuted Christians. In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul writes, “I focus on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (3:13-14) And, in his second letter to the Church in Corinth, he writes, “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (5:17) Paul is talking about letting go of the past and moving into new life in Christ. I think he’d agree that when the past calls we should let it go to voicemail. I would suggest that when the past leaves an unwelcome message, delete it and move on in your new life.