Fellow Passengers: This week’s Pastoral Passage* (Revelation 19:6-21) transports me to a time years ago when Kim and I sat in the living room of Dr. J. Allen Easley, who was then in his late 90s. He had been Chaplain of Wake Forest and Pastor of Wake Forest Baptist from 1928 to ’38, and was Professor of Bible at Wake Forest from 1938 until he retired in 1963, serving the last decade as Dean of the School of Religion. Dr. Easley was influential in the integration of Wake Forest University, and was a noted Biblical scholar who published many articles and books over the course of his life. He took up art in his retirement, and we cherish and have hanging on our wall one of his impressionistic still-life paintings he gave us for our wedding. So with such an accomplished lifework, it was a surprise of grace that afternoon when he offered to share with us some music from his childhood. He knew we played music and worked with kids in the church, and he wanted to teach us some songs. One of these was Froggy Went a Courtin’. It tells the tale of the froggy young romancer who took Miss Mousy for his bride, and he did ride with a sword and a pistol by his side. The tale goes on to tell who would be at the wedding, what they would wear, and what they would eat at the feast. (If you’re interested, Doc Watson has the classic version of the song, and Springsteen’s cover is worth a listen.)
If Dr. Easley were alive today, I’d go visit him again in his living room, and ask him about the book of Revelation. I wonder if he’d agree with me that John the Revelator paints a picture of Jesus as a pretty froggy savior, leaping out of heaven on his white horse, courting his church, and while he doesn’t have a pistol by his side, he does have a sword in his mouth and is taking no prisoners as he prepares to whisk away his bride. Jesus stands there at the front of the sanctuary, wearing his crimson stained robe, watching his bride walk the aisle in her pure linen robe, sewn by the saints with threads of just and righteous acts. John’s apocalyptic vision was a dramatic image of hope for the first century Christians, who were being persecuted and martyred left and right by the imperial powers and gladiators of Rome. They needed to see a knight in shining armor on the horizon in a bad way.
John doesn’t envision any of Miss Mousy’s butterbeans or black-eyed peas at the wedding feast when the hero comes for his bride. Instead, he sees caterers carrying in platters filled with the roasted flesh of kings and captains, imperial horses and riders, well done, as the spirited principalities and powers who have long purveyed poverty and prejudice and the rampage of violence finally meet their match and get roasted in Fire Lake. Quentin Tarantino and his violent Kill Bill wedding scene is mild in comparison. To wash the roast beast down, Jesus treads the winepress of wrath and pours vintage fury down the hatch of the feasters. Not exactly the fare that Dr. Easley enjoyed when he came to our wedding reception. We had the usual mints and mixed nuts, homemade orange balls, sausage balls, and I made some of Mama’s powdered sugar peanut butter swirlies. We washed it down with plain old ginger ale and lime sherbert punch. I’m not sure how many of us have the stomach for what’s on John’s menu. I suspect it would best resonate among those it was written for – the severely persecuted, the martyred. I think my friends who survived the attempted genocide in south Sudan would see its appeal. As for the rest of us, maybe we’d better pocket some sausage balls when we hear the wedding bells starting to ring.
How about you? Where does this Pastoral Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.