At church on Sunday the priest, John, discussed the reading from Luke 1:26-38, where Mary hears from the angel Gabriel that she would bear the Son of God. First John warmed the congregation up by telling an uplifting story about an obese woman who discovered running and ran her first triathlon.
She was on the third leg, laboring mightily and running near the very back of the pack when an octogenarian man caught up with her. They ran together for awhile and the woman expressed her fear to him that when he ran on, she would be the final finisher. What a way for her first triathlon to end, she said bitterly, coming in dead last. What would people say about her then?
The man said simply, "They'll say you're a triathlete." The church audience murmured appreciatively at the story.
Then John launched into his sermon. "What were the angel's first words to Mary?" he asked.
"'Greetings, favored one!' Greetings! Not something from on high like, 'Listen now to God's command' no, a more friendly opening that would show Mary that her beauty, both within and without, came from God and was indicative of His love for us all."
There was more to the sermon, of course, but I was already in a reverie about the two stories. Dead last. Greetings.
After the service, as is customary, John spoke briefly with each parishioner as he or she filed out. When my turn came, I considered telling him my associations with both of his parables. John is not a runner, and being at least a dozen years younger than me, he didn't come into manhood during the Vietnam era.
Looking at the serious priest looking earnestly into my eyes, I decided against telling him that another thing that persons might call the overweight triathlete coming in last is "DFL."
No, I went with telling him that the association I thought about when the angel Gabriel opened with Mary by saying," Greetings," was that when letters from the selective service arrived telling you that you were being drafted, they started out famously with "Greetings." You're a favored one who is going off to Vietnam for a tour of duty!
John looked at me severely and said sternly, "That was the association you made from that passage?" Uh, yeah.