To The Wayback Machine, Mr. Peabody

By: Brian Robertson

Wayback Machine Mr. Peabody



I’ve always been intrigued with the idea of what I’d do if I had one of Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machines, the fascinating gizmo that Mr. Peabody and Sherman had back on the Bullwinkle Show which I watched when I was a kid. It was a long way from Dr. Who’s very cool Tardis, I admit, but the mind often skirts reality in what scientists call, “Thought Experiments.”

Perhaps someone who remembers that reference will also recall Steve Allen’s show, “The Meeting of the Minds” or something to that effect, in which famous people from the past would meet for a roundtable discussion, a concept that I totally loved.

H.G. Wells Time MachineI know it’s out there, but I looked around to see if there were any lists of famous people that a person would most choose to see if time travel was made available to them on a one-time-only basis, but in my search I came up empty. Dear readers of this site might have better luck and I’d love to know about one!

The reason I bring all this up is not that I’ve invented a Wayback Machine in my spare time or anything and am selling tickets, but, rather, that I’d have to say that my first choice of a journey back in time would be to find myself walking the dusty and hot streets of an obscure, out of the way part of the world where a man named Jesus walked.

Be warned, this is not the sappy image of Jesus I’m speaking of, not a wish that I could visit those times so I could swoon like I’d met a rock star (although I suppose I could). It is just a sense of intense curiosity, a wondering at ways I might be surprised, delighted, troubled, or puzzled.

This is a practical kind of impractical thinking. After all, I know, at least in the fantasy I construct, that I wouldn’t be able to understand a word of what was being said around me, but it also seems that one wouldn’t have to know the language to make the journey worthwhile. I think it would be enough to just look into those eyes as they gazed out upon the world with its rich, poor, powerful and powerless, wine, food, aching, blind, yearning and desperate inhabitants. What would you see? What answers might one be given with even a glance toward this person, with the sound of his voice unfiltered by later generations of writers and supporters?

And, to dig a bit deeper, if you knew for certain, what date would you tell Mr. Peabody to set the Wayback Machine for? Perhaps a meal with it’s abundance of good drink and food? A blind man who suddenly could see, both physically and, by the real miracle spiritually? Perhaps sitting outside the cold and dark tomb before daybreak on the third day after the frightening punishments given to the man? Or would it be the less well known moments, those now unrecorded, of a young boy walking alone or playing with friends or pausing to look at something in the distance, something his young heart couldn’t quite grasp?

Unless the government is keeping something from us, there is no such thing as a Wayback Machine. (And I hope they don’t have one, honestly, because that would allow them to screw up not only today and tomorrow, but also the past.) After all, there’s no Back to the Future Delorean parked out back. No H. G. Wells device that looked like the inside of a wildly constructed clock with gears and metal and spinning parts. Not even a Mr. Peabody, the talking, bespeckled dog, and no Sherman. Left to our own devices, we are free to imagine, to ponder, to put ourselves into our own little adventure.

But still, in all this, we have one other assurance, a kind of Ace in the hole. That whom we would seek has already informed us that says those who see and believe are certainly blessed, but how much more so are those who do not see and yet find it in their hearts to know that that the preposterous news they have heard is something to steer one’s life by.

Now, the Jesus I would expect to see now is not the one that I envisioned as a child of seven years back in my room at night in the darkness. The one who thought that, lying in the cool, safe bed, is long gone, alas, buffeted by winds of marriage and divorce, death and the remarkable birth of children, profound love and profound despair, life-gouging illness and more and I can remember him fondly if a bit sadly. All I have, really, is right now. So, what I am saying is that whatever it is that really looms behind the best image I can conjure in the limitations of my mind isn’t what I’d think, for over the years it has been steadily changing and may change again.

If Jesus was right and we are indeed born anew, not in some dramatic way involving large churches and tithing pledges but in some very real way that changes us to our core as we change directions in our journey, than that kind of being born anew means that this life can and often is the labor pains of that very spiritual birth.

We are supported by memories, challenged by our perception of today and hopeful about the journey to come in this life and beyond. We find our way through the world, time after time after time, and yet, at some future point for each of us what we seek is so timeless itself, so beyond what can be conceptualized and put into words, that time and words, our crutches and our friends, simply must, in that end, explode.

That, I believe, is what I would catch a glimpse of in those eyes of that man in that far away and all but forgotten place that lives beneath the images and stereotypes of what much of the Christian faith has become.


Rev. Brian Robertson



[Dear Brother Brian,

I’ve always enjoyed your blogs and being part of the CM Yahoo group. This post however really touches the heart.

I too wish I had my DeLorean where I can travel back to the day and see Jesus for myself. I know I would find a powerful man who speaks to the deep recesses of my heart-not in a churchy way-but a profound way that would push me to think. Although I am part of the Church, I long to see Jesus in a deeper way-especially this Lenten season.

Thanks always for your words. God bless you richly!]


[One of the best habits I have ever developed was that of always maintaining a consciousness that God is ever at my side, seeing all. For, as Christians, we are taught that He always sees each of us as if we were the only object in all that He has created, even though He sustains universes.

When I first began this habit, I found myself nervous, afraid of showing my flaws. And over the years, I have found His eyes: He sees each of us, as is, and looks upon His created beings with intense love. In each and every moment.

I share this experience because I know that it IS possible to look into His eyes; at least, feel them upon you. You don’t need a time machine, but discipline yourself to feel His prescence always.

And as it develops, so He reveals more and more of Himself to you.

One of my fave quotes goes something like this:

“Jesus can be as close to His disciples today as He was to His chosen twelve. His relationship with each follower is as distinct as if there were no other on earth.”]


[Right now…at this point in life…I would want to go back to the day Jesus was with His disciples in Capernaum.

I would just like to sit on a rock or on the sand and watch the men come in their boat and see the expressions…the mannerisms and listen to the tone of the words which were spoken when they questioned Jesus as to how He got there without a boat…then to listen to Jesus tell them about how He is the bread from heaven.

I would love to see Peter’s face and watch him as he listens to Jesus tell the men to eat his flesh and drink His blood.

Most of all I would like to see Peter’s countenance and the language of the eyes when Jesus asks if anyone else wants to leave with those who could not accept His teaching, and Peter says, “where will we go? You have words of eternal life”.

A moment when someone got it. I’m not sure I would have.]


by Mary Oliver

Sweet Jesus, talking
his melancholy madness,
stood up in the boat
and the sea lay down,

silky and sorry.
So everybody was saved
that night.
But you know how it is

when something
different crosses
the threshold — the uncles
mutter together,

the women walk away,
the young brother begins
to sharpen his knife.
Nobody knows what the soul is.

It comes and goes
like the wind over the water –

sometimes, for days,
you don’t think of it.

Maybe, after the sermon,
after the multitude was fed,
one or two of them felt
the soul slip forth

like a tremor of pure sunlight
before exhaustion,
that wants to swallow everything,
gripped their bones and left them

miserable and sleepy,
as they are now, forgetting
how the wind tore at the sails
before he rose and talked to it –

tender and luminous and demanding
as he always was –
a thousand times more frightening
than the killer sea.]