The parable that begins the 13th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel is a familiar one to most of us. It is one of the parables our Lord not only gives to us, explaining the working of the Kingdom of Heaven, but He interprets it for us as well. He decodes the images He gives so we might have an accurate understanding of what is going on. Now, I know Jesus calls this the Parable of the Sower, but I have always thought that perhaps a better name would have been the Parable of the Soils,
Songs that make me swell with pride, as my chest booms with every celebratory explosion in the sky. Passionate speeches and heart wrenching memories pour out of every red-blooded American. Love and brotherhood with our fellow citizen, that was by random chance born on this side of the globe. Admiration and appreciation for the soil and air we breathe on this particular continent. Defended, guarded, even pressed out beyond our borders, we join hands and voices to let our freedom ring around the world.
It is weird out there, is it not? I mean yesterday we celebrated the 244th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a moment in history that radically changed the course of world events. Those brave and daring colonist flexed their muscles of freedom and independence and were willing to go to war to have it. Independence Day is marked every year by great celebrations, by fireworks and parades and barbeques and picnics and concerts and baseball games and family gatherings. But not this year.
I was able to go to church last Sunday. I do not get to do that very often. Not because of the Covid-19 terror which plagues our land or a lack of desire to attend, rather as a pastor I am usually presiding in the Divine Service, not participating as a worshipper. My “going to church” is marked as my vocation and there are only a handful of times a year where I just go to church and sit in the pew as a layperson.
Day is over. Night sometimes comes quickly. Is the short quiet dusk that scares me the most. We know it must come, we watch the sun sinking minute by minute, second by second. Breathing in the cool air of the evening, enjoying the rest descending from the heavens, admiring the vibrant colors of the closing day.
The church library is unlike any place in at church. Grandmothers bring their well-worn novels that helped them make it through the tough times. Teachers bring their trusted curriculum in hopes that someone else will benefit like they did. Mothers bring their sentimental wholesome children’s books that their babies have now outgrown. Pastors bring their overflowing resources that have gone unused on the office shelf. The church library is quickly filled with the generous donations of the faithful in hopes that someone else will love this collection written words as much as they once did.
The words of our Lord found in the 10th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel are stark and difficult words to hear. They are marked by a raw honesty about the faith, about discipleship, about what it means to be called a Christian. There is a foreboding darkness hanging over Jesus’ words in this section. It is not all sunshine and rainbows or a prosperity preacher’s Pollyanna dreams.
There is a famous line from the movie “Usual Suspects” that goes like this: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” To not see the Devil, to not believe in him, to disregard the warnings and the cautions concerning his work, is to give him free reign to work his chaos and destruction. Without the Devil we forget the true opposition to our faith. We forget there is indeed a battle going on, that evil is real and working to divide and destroy the children of God. The other day I was talking with my good friend and colleague, Tim Barkett, about everything going on in our country these past few months. He said that out of all of Satan’s attacks, all his manifestations, this is perhaps his most elegant one.
Watching AKA Jane Roe, the new FX documentary by Nick Sweeney (on FX and FX on Hulu), the only thing I felt for Norma McCorvey was sadness. She claims to have been used, willingly, by both sides of the American abortion debate. Those who are interviewed confirm, sometimes with hesitation, those claims.
Red swirling tails overtaking the ripples of clear water. Ribbons of crimson twirling quietly, in this silent moment. A secret flood, a hushed wave, a hidden current rolling smoothly beneath the surface. All by herself, she watches the scarlet dance. Entranced by the simple beauty in the water. Hypnotized by the simple horror of the blood.