Friends: Many of you were no doubt shocked at Old Tom’s appearance a fortnight ago. I apologize for my absence ere these two weeks, for while he tried his best, Tom was no doubt less couth than has become your custom. Still, to his credit, he was the only one with firsthand knowledge of my epic battle with the Jackal-headed Anubis, and had he not testified to this knowledge, I might be right now be fertilizing the fields in back of the Woodshed. I appreciate his coming to you when I was out of the country (metaphorically speaking, of course).
You will pardon me if I don’t get up. The nurse warned me that the staples would pop out like bullets from a counterfeit PK if I did so, and besides I haven’t the energy. That is, I haven’t the energy to waste. For, like a fighter who has stored his strength for a final uppercut before the bell, I have vowed to return to the Woodshed and once more confront Evil!
My time with that Wild Beast of Gevaudan stretched endlessly as the pain of the continuous battle built step by excruciating step. The beast, of course, was able to change shapes at will. So the toothèd polar bear changed into an alluring Italian flight attendant, which changed into fire-breathing quahog, and then a Fillipina cabin girl. The changes were as spiritually disquieting as they were strategically effective, since when one is flat on one’s stomach in the middle of a relaxing massage from a nubile nymphet named Olga, and Olga transforms into a feverishly cruel ogre wielding a club studded with shards of broken glass, one is not in a position to effectively parry the blows! It would seem to me obvious such a creature would be termed “Evil,” and yet there are those among us who question the existence of unalloyed Evil in the world. And it pains me even further, because if one can’t believe in Evil, how can one believe in Good?
Today’s reading is from Beowulf, as translated by Francis Gummere. I choose this text, not only because of its inimitable Christian subtext, but also because its themes of epic battle so closely match my recent encounter. To wit, the description of Beowulf’s foe, Grendel, and his foe’s cruelty, come close to summing up the challenge I faced:
Then laughed his heart;
for the monster was minded, ere morn should dawn,
savage, to sever the soul of each,
life from body, since lusty banquet
waited his will!
Indeed, when was the last time you responded to a notice that advertised “Lusty Banquet” and found to your dismay that your role fell more on the “banquet” side then the “lusty” one? That is what I call ”Cavendish’s Law”: If you are invited to a lusty banquet, on the whole chances are it is because some monster seeks to savage you, rather than you being on the savaging end of the proverbial stick.
Which brings us to the question of how good dogs go bad. I remember as a boy, when my mother brought us to Aspen, Colorado and I heard a radio program about how a dog was bad. Soon someone misheard and started saying the dog was “mad.” Then the citizens of town, fearing a mad dog was on the loose, killed the dog. The upshot was, of course, don’t be bad.
But Grendel was more than bad. He was Eeeeeeeevil:
Straightway he seized a sleeping warrior
for the first, and tore him fiercely asunder,
the bone-frame bit, drank blood in streams,
swallowed him piecemeal: swiftly thus
the lifeless corpse was clear devoured,
e’en feet and hands.
This is tragic, it is. Your usual hound from hell leaves a foot or a hand as a sort of souvenir of the sleepy warrior what might be brought back to his sleeping warrior family members in the Quad Cities or wherever. But you know a creature is evil when it ignores such niceties in favor of making even these heroes’ bony extremities into so many crunchy hors d’œuvres.
As the collection plate makes its heroic journey, I too ask your support in taking up the gauntlet in mine own Odyssey. As Llewellyn slew Gelert, I seek to return to the Woodshed! Antibiotics, however, are not free. At times like these, I remind you of my ordeal, and of how the clergy acts as a sort of “flypaper” which battles evil on the front lines, so that you can live free unsullied by its bestial canines in the gated estate of your choice!
I note the true extent of the beast’s evilness is demonstrated by the false account it clearly planted in the local alternative newsweekly, seeking to discredit me and, in this way, deny me the community support that it knows I need to return and vanquish an Evildoer.
Of course, since I was in the Woodshed, I could not have been in Bangkok! And those quoted in the scurrilous piece were not even of age, and so their claims are not to be given credence over the account of man not only of the cloth, but also of much more advanced years. Finally, I don’t even own the farm equipment in question, nor would I know how to operate it even outside a sauna, let alone inside of one!
But this is how it starts. First they make you think that the war on Evildoers was not really a war on Evildoers. If that was the case, could I sit before you today and, with a straight face, ask you for the funds to do it all over again? Could I indeed?
Labels: Sunday Sermon