Monday, April 29, 2013

The Parable of the Seamstress

Once upon a time, Hazel sewed her family's clothes.  She lived in an era when there were no department stores or major clothing labels.  And Hazel's family couldn't afford the services of the nearest tailor, so Hazel sewed because that's what was necessary to survive.  And because it was necessary to survive, Hazel taught this skill to her daughter Sarah.  

When Sarah grew up and had her own family, she found that this skill was no longer a necessity.  For a reasonable cost, and with the aid of a department store or a catalog, she could contract someone else to do the hard work of measuring and cutting and stitching.  But even though she didn't need to sew anymore, Sarah still pulled out the Singer from time to time.  She'd sit down with her daughter Kimberly in her lap and make a garment or two around Christmas.  Sarah did this because the feel of the thread on her fingertips and the vibrations of the sewing machine on her palms reminded her of her mother, and she wanted to give some of those memories to her child.

But Kimberly couldn't even tell you how to thread a needle anymore.  Her grandmother sewed out of necessity.  Her mother sewed out of nostalgia.  But Kimberly doesn't sew at all because, without necessity, nostalgia rarely makes it to the second generation.

The Christian faith is necessary.  You are dead without it and nothing in this world can replace the salvation that Jesus gives to those who hear and believe His Word.  But when your pastor doesn't see you for months at a time, when you let every conflict bump the Divine Service off your Sunday schedule, when you never talk theology with your children, you teach them that the Word of God is nothing more than a trinket we pull out of the closet whenever we want to taste the sweetness of our familial heritage.  And when you teach that to your children, your children will not grow up to be Christians.  They will not believe anymore than Kimberly sews.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Virginia's Sunday Morning Windows

Virginia woke one morning to the sound of thunder and church bells.  "Oh, that's right," she thought.  "It's Sunday.  But the weather sounds terrible, and I have a lot of things to do around the house this morning.  So maybe next week."

Seven days later, the bells sounded again, their metallic clang ricocheting off the growling thunder and the drum roll of fat raindrops slapping the pavement.  "I know, I know," she told herself.  "It's been awhile since I've been to church.  But it's really nasty out there, so I'll just wait until things clear up."

But things didn't clear up.  With each passing season, the bells never rang without an accompanying rain shower.  For weeks and months and years, Virginia's Sunday morning windows rattled from the one-two punch of the bells and thunderclaps.  As she graduated and got married, as her children grew from infants to toddlers to teens, the roads remained far too slick to hazard a trip to the church.

Then, one Sunday morning, the rain stopped and the sun began to shine.  A soft heat began to radiate on Virginia's Sunday morning windows.  And even though the bells didn't clang that morning, Virginia told herself, "ok, now I'm ready.  Now that the rain is done, I'll go back to church."

But when she pulled into the lot of that old building, she didn't have to fight anyone for a parking spot.  She was the only one there.  Getting out of her car, Virginia saw that the church doors were locked and the windows were boarded.  Peering in through a crack, she saw that the font where she'd been baptized was dry, the altar where she communed was bare, and the pulpit where she heard the word was empty.  Then, stepping onto the same grass where she'd done cartwheels while her parents shook the pastor's hand on the Sundays of her youth, Virginia saw that the ground was now pierced with the shards of that bell she'd heard calling her for so many years.

So Virginia sat down and wept.  "There used to be so many people here.  What happened?" she asked herself aloud.

"They got old and died," a voice responded.

Virginia looked up and saw the gardener standing in front of her.

"And the younger generation, people like you, they didn't come back, at least not in time."

"But if God wanted me to be here, if he wanted me to come back to Church, why did he make it so difficult?  If he wanted me to follow the bells on Sunday mornings, why did he keep allowing all those thunderstorms?"

"O you of little faith," the gardener replied.  "It was the rain that made the bells ring."

God’s Word and grace is a passing downpour, which does not return to where it has already been. It has been with the Jews; but what’s lost is lost, and they now have nothing. Paul brought it to Greece; what’s lost is lost, and they now have the Turks. Rome and Latin-speaking regions have also had it; what’s lost is lost, and they now have the pope. And you Germans dare not think that you will have it forever, for the ingratitude and disdain will not let it remain. Therefore take hold and hang on tightly, while you are able to grab and to hold. Lazy hands are bound to have a hard year.
-Martin Luther