Tuesday of Pentecost 23 – Malachi 4:1-6

“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.

“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

My father served a rural parish when I was young. It was an old parish which remembered the days when preachers need a horse to visit his parishioners. The parsonage came with 20 acres of land, enough for my father return to his roots as a son of a farmer and get a few cattle, a horse, and even a ridiculous goat which no fence could contain.

Parishioners who were farmers were only too happy help. A dairyman sold us a couple of newborn calves we could raise, bottle feeding them until they were weaned. One of them became mine, a small black calf with a white face. All winter long my after school routine was the same. Mix the powder with water in a large plastic bottle and feed this animal in the small barn behind our house. One day, early in spring, my father said is was time to let the calves out. But he insisted we be present, not only to watch but to be there in case something happened. For you see, when a calf has been confined to a barn all winter and it takes those first hesitant steps outside, the hesitation quickly passes. Soon, it is as if an entire winter’s worth of play is released. Leaping and twisting, running in ever greater circles, our little calves went tearing around the little pasture situated just outside that barn.

I was shocked to see my docile little friend run right into the gate. She got up, a little stunned, but none the worse for it. I imagined that her neck was broken or some other horrible thing had happened. My father laughed. He said sometimes they will run right through a fence. Then we would have had to chase them down. As it was, she hit the gate and learned a lesson. Soon she was much calmer. Malachi likens our joy on the day of Jesus’ coming to that of a calf released from the stall. Will we be a bit of a danger to ourselves? It may be. But our shepherd will be watching. Go ahead, kick your heels up a bit. It will be a whole new world.

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