I am a huge Minnesota Twins fan, which means this was a very disappointing summer. When they started off with a 0-9 record, I knew that things were not going to be good, and as it turns out, that was not even their longest losing streak of the season.
Still, I love watching them. Call me hopelessly optimistic. My summer evening routine (when I do not have commitments) includes a good book and the Twins on mute. When there are a couple of runners on base, I will turn the mute off and pay closer attention to the game, or when I am done reading for the evening I finish watching the game with sound. During games this season, there has frequently been a commercial for a lawn mower. Though I cannot remember the brand, the commercial has certainly stuck in my brain for other reasons.
|Father Richard Kunst
Now, I know the point of commercials is not to be theologically correct, and the tractor may very well be the best one on the market. I simply have no idea. But some of the things that are said on this commercial make me want to pull my hair out.
The opening line of the commercial has a narrator saying, “If time is infinite, why is there never enough of it?” Who ever said time was infinite? Nothing is infinite except God! There is not a world religion I know of that makes such a claim; only God is infinite, and time will come to an end at some time.
The last line of the commercial is even more problematic: “They’re not making any more land, but there will always be plenty of time.” Now again, in no way do I want to call into question the quality of the product the commercial is trying to sell, but on the face of it, this last line is downright wrong. Jesus repeatedly warns his disciples against complacency with time. He tells us to be alert and to always be ready, because “you must always be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” (Matthew 24:42).
Jesus is not trying to scare us by surprise, he is warning us against the danger of complacency — against always thinking that there will be more time.
The devil works in many various ways. When thinking of the devil and his work, we often think of the movie “The Exorcist,” when Linda Blair’s head twists all the way around. The devil does indeed work in this most extraordinary way, but it is pretty rare. The devil works mostly through temptation, convincing us to act in sinful ways. The devil is aware of our weaknesses, and he plays on them in temptations. Temptations are basically portraying sinful behavior as a good — as something we should do, when in fact we know we shouldn’t.
The devil also works in other ways that are less obvious, such as convincing people that he really does not exist. This he does very effectively; a recent poll indicates that only 57 percent of Americans believe the devil exists. If we do not believe he exists, it will be impossible to protect ourselves from him. Another insipid work of the devil is when he convinces us that we always have time, that there will always be a tomorrow.
How is this bad and dangerous? Why would this be the work of the devil? I will explain by telling you about a conversation I had several years ago with a parishioner. The person was struggling in his faith life, and he told me that he simply did not have the time to get serious about his relationship with God. He said, “When I get older, I will get more serious about working on this.”
Besides being stupid a comment, it was also a dangerous one in which the devil was certainly at work. We can never count on more time. We all know people who died suddenly and unexpectedly, many of whom were young. God does not give us any clear warnings as to when he will come for us. Instead we are to live each day as though it were our last. This is not morbid, it is Christian, and if we live this way, day-to-day, then we will be more ready.
So, two things to learn from the tractor commercial: only God is infinite, and we do not always have more time! Great tractors, I’m sure; theologians they are not.
And let’s pray for the Twins’ 2017 season!
Father Richard Kunst is pastor of St. John the Evangelist in Duluth and St. Joseph in Gnesen and administrator of St. Michael in Duluth. Reach him at [email protected]