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Vol. 78 - No. 6
JUNE 2007

WORD FROM THE PASTOR:             


            If you ask most youngsters what they want to be when they grow up, I suspect you would frequently hear things like astronaut, police officer, or veterinarian.

            But my earliest occupational ambition was to be a barber.

            I loved my barber, a jolly Hispanic man named Willie Suniga.  (Our family shared his grief when his son was killed  in Vietnam).  Willie gave me a lollipop every time I visited him.  He had a special bench that he put on the barber chair every time a little guy like me came in.  A visit to Willie was truly a magical event.  So naturally, I wanted to follow in his footsteps.

            One day, when I was about six years old, I decided to try my hand at barbering.  I sneaked up behind my father with a pair of fingernail scissors as he sat in his armchair watching television.  And surreptitiously I snipped at his hair.  And snipped....and snipped.  The falling hair I kicked into a corner to conceal it.  (I guess deep down I realized that giving my father a secret haircut wasn’t really such a good idea).  It took quite awhile for my father to realize what I was doing. 

            And he wasn’t very happy about it.  That was pretty much the end of my barbering!

            Our hair covers only a small percentage of our persons–yet we lavish lots of attention on it.  We’re constantly combing it, having it cut or styled or permed. We fret when advancing age thins it out.  (My hair was once so thick that I paid barbers to thin it out!  So thick that dozens of barbers over the years have said to me: “Boy, if you ever lose your hair, you’re going to have to lose a lot!”  Mission accomplished, guys!)  We frown when gray begins to show.  Our hair becomes part of our identity.

            In A Hard Day’s Night, Beatle George Harrison was asked: “What do you call that hairstyle?”  And he replied: “Arthur”.  But hairstyles do have names, and some of them have become legends in their times, instantly recognizable with a single word: the beehive, the ducktail, the Afro, the shag, the mullet, pageboy, flattop, dreadlocks.  By adopting a certain hairstyle, we often make a statement about who we are.

            There are two interesting Old Testament stories about hair.  The best-known one is, of course, the story of Samson.  Samson was specially consecrated to the Lord before he was born; and part of this consecration was never cutting his hair.  Samson was a great champion for Israel; no foe could withstand his great strength.  But the Philistine temptress Delilah, after several failed attempted to discover the secret of his strength, finally got him to tell her: “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been consecrated to God from my mother’s womb.  If my head is shaved, then all my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.”  (Judges 16:17).  While he slept, she shaved his head, and the Philistines were able to capture him.  (Later, of course, his hair grew and his strength returned, and he was able to pull down the temple of the false god Dagon).

            Another great Old Testament story about hair involves Elisha.  Like Samson, Elisha was a holy man of God–but his hair situation was different.  He was bald!  And once while he journeyed from Jericho to Bethel, some mischievous boys started teasing him: “Go on up, you baldhead!  Go on up, you baldhead!”  Elisha pronounced a curse on the boys–and two mother bears came out of the woods and mauled them!  (II Kings 2:23-24)

            Obviously, I’ve always thought Elisha overreacted.  But then again, every time I look in the mirror...

            There is, however, a wonderful New Testament passage about hair that we would do well to meditate upon continually.  Jesus says to His disciples: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are numbered.  Fear not, therefore.  (Matthew 10:29-30).  Even the hairs of your head are numbered.  God has a concern for us that reaches to the smallest detail of who we are.  God not only knows your name and knows your face–God even knows your hair.  Whether it’s ample like Samson’s, sparse like Elisha’s,  or “in transition” like mine...whether it’s a Dorothy Hamill or a Veronica Lake, dreadlocks or (what I call mine) a “regular men’s haircut”, God knows what’s on top of your head.  And if He knows every hair, then He also knows all your fears, your dreams, your guilt, your anxiety.   If He knows every hair, then He knows everything you need. And He sent Jesus, upon whose hair a crown of thorns was set, to die and rise again to fulfill your deepest need–the need for forgiveness and new life!

            I think that’s one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible–the very hairs of your head are numbered.  It shows us a God who sees us, not as an undifferentiated mass of humanity, but as individuals.  In teaching the Sacraments, I  stress something Martin Luther said–the Sacraments show us that God loves us as individuals, not just as a big lump called “humankind”.  When you are baptized, it’s not “humankind” being washed–it’s you, whose every hair God knows!  When you receive communion, it’s not “humankind” being fed with Christ’s body and blood–it’s you, the hairs of whose head are numbered!  God doesn’t just love “the world”–He loves you!

            So as you’re doing things to your hair–washing, blow-drying, combing, putting on mousse or gel or spray or Brylcream (do guys still use Brylcream?), bobby-pinning, curling–use it as an occasion to think of God’s love.  He knows every combed, sprayed, bobby-pinned, moussed follicle up there. 

            And He loves beyond imagining the person standing beneath them.

            God loves you...and so do I!

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