Playing The Hero

Playing The Hero

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Rev. Dr. Jeffrey M. Gallagher is the Senior Pastor of the United Congregational Church of Tolland, Chaplain of the Tolland Fire Department and Connecticut State Police, author of the book Wilderness Blessings: How Down Syndrome Reconstructed Our Life and Faith, and an avid Star Wars fan.


Scripture:  Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 (NRSV)

He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

Reflection: Playing The Hero

 Rev. Jeff Gallagher (rt.) with his son Noah

For some kids it’s Superman or Wonder Woman. For others it’s Batman or Bat Girl. When I was a kid many of my friends chose He Man or She-Ra. But for me it was always Luke Skywalker. He was the hero that I wanted to be.

And so one year for my birthday—not too long before Halloween—a got a battery-operated lightsaber. And then my parents bought me the costume I had been eyeing in the aisles of Toys R Us for weeks. It was a completely non-breathable Luke Skywalker suit, with a plastic mask that stayed in place courtesy of an elastic that wrapped a little too tightly around my head. Many of you remember those, right? It had just the slightest hole for a mouth and nostrils to enable me to breathe—practice, I guess, for the mask-wearing days of pandemic well before anyone had ever heard of social distancing.

So I wore my costume proudly that Halloween—all over my neighborhood. Despite the heat and condensation behind the mask, I’m pretty sure I never took it off—breathing so much that the color around the mouth hole had begun to fade by night’s end.

It was a great night. I got a bag of candy and I finally got to be the hero.

Now I’d like to say that my penchant for wanting to be the hero waned about the time they mercifully stopped selling those plastic masks. But it didn’t. When the Star Wars saga continued—and I was able to watch the new installments with my son—I found myself yearning to be back in that X-Wing with R2-D2 as my co-pilot, as I had wished some 30 years before.

I confess: I still want to be the hero. And apparently that’s true when I read scripture as well.

For in sitting down to read the lesson for Matthew’s gospel this week, I immediately self-identified as one of the good seed—the hero, you might say, of this parable. Sown by God, trying to grow grain that can be harvested? Yeah, that sounds pretty heroic. And the explanation offered following the parable works, if I want to play the hero’s role.

But then, as I thought more about this text, I started thinking about a lesson I learned in my English Literature studies: don’t let someone interpret the text for you. Just because the author of Matthew’s gospel says the parable means one thing, that doesn’t mean he or she is right. So maybe this parable isn’t about striving to be the good seed. Maybe it’s saying that I’m a weed. Or maybe I’m the sower.

Or maybe . . . . maybe I’m the field.

Maybe I’m the field that has good seed and bad seed growing in it. And maybe it’s God working within me to keep my soil watered and help nurture those seeds of grain to grow high and to collect and take away those weeds that are getting in the way. Maybe, then, it’s showing me that no one person is only a weed and no one person is only a grain. Maybe we’re all a little bit of both. Maybe we all have the ability to grow something that will be harvested to feed many, or something that will just be tossed to the side to be discarded.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I like that image. It tells me that I don’t need to be perfect, but if I allow God to work within me, I might just be able to produce something that can benefit someone else. It gives me hope, and, quite frankly, let’s me off the hook. Being a perfect hero is a pretty high standard to uphold.

But then, you know what? Now that I think about it, Luke may have been the hero, but he wasn’t perfect. He fell on his head a few times while learning the force on Dagoba. And falling on my head? I don’t need to wear that mask. I’ve got that character covered.

PRAYER

Sowing God, thank you for not expecting us to be perfect, and for helping us to—hopefully—grow a few more grains of wheat than weeds. Amen.

New Prayer Requests:

We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at paged@sneucc.org

Prayers of Intercession:

  • For those grieving for the nearly 135,000 victims of the Covid-19 disease
  • For the family and friends of Rev. Charles W. Gelbach, former pastor in CT, who died on July 3
  • For those suffering after an explosion and fire aboard a naval vessel in San Diego injured 17 sailors and 4 civilians

Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:

  • For those gifts in our lives which bring joy and comfort that overshadows the hardships

Please Pray for the Following SNEUCC Churches:

Center Congregational Church of Meriden, Meriden, CT
First Congregational Church, Meriden, CT
Melrose Highlands Congregational Church, Melrose Highlands, MA
First Congregational Church in Melrose, UCC, Melrose, MA
Hillside Community Church, Medford, MA
Sanctuary United Church of Christ, Medford, MA
The United Church of Christ in Medfield, Medfield, MA
Mattapoisett Congregational Church, UCC, Mattapoisett, MA
Mashpee Congregational Church, UCC, Mashpee, MA
North Community Church, Marshfield Hills, MA
Congregational Church of Marlborough, Marlborough, CT
First Church in Marlborough, (Congregational), Marlborough, MA

This Week in History:

July 13, 2013  (7 years ago) The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was first used in a tweet on Twitter. The phrase was written in a response expressing anger and sadness upon hearing the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2012. The phrase became a rallying cry and eventually a movement for racial justice reforms in the United States.

“Study the past if you would define the future.”
Confucius

jeff_fd_stole.jpg
the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey M. Gallagher Gallagher

the Senior Pastor of the United Congregational Church of Tolland and author of the book Wilderness Blessings: How Down Syndrome Reconstructed Our Life and Faith

July 13, 2020
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