Friday, April 27, 2018

Tools of the Trade

Symbol of St. Capraisius
(Copyright © Edward Riojas) 

Copyright © Edward Riojas

“Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.” Luke 10:3-4

Pastors-to-be have just received their calls from distant congregations. The Call Service first brings thoughts of Christ’s charge to the 72, but then the symbols of St. Bartholomew, St. James the Less, and more obscure saints like St. Capraisius come to mind – and their tools.

In many ways, Christ’s charge loudly echoes with young pastors being sent to their first congregation. Education loans often follow the men as they leave seminary. Sometimes wardrobes have been supplemented with donated clothing. Sometimes furniture and books are secondhand. Purses are small indeed, if not absent altogether. Always, pastors leave the company of fellow brothers to face an unknown road and the reality of an unbelieving world. Things truly haven’t changed much since Jesus walked among us.
Symbol of St. Bartholomew
(Copyright © Edward Riojas)

Strangely, many of the symbols by which saints are known contain tools. Stranger still, the symbols do not point to saintly tradesmen. Neither do they point to godly professions, nor random talents of the saints. Being so closely associated with tools seems incongruous with a charge to take nothing with them, yet some of them seem to have a whole toolbox.

In most cases, the tools point to the manner in which the saints were martyred. Saints occasionally have more than one tool-based symbol to their credit, as if a macabre Monty Python skit was being played out:

First saint: “I was beheaded”
Second saint: “I was clubbed, then beheaded.”
Third saint: “Luxury.”
Symbol of St. James the Less
(Copyright © Edward Riojas)

One needn’t dig too deeply through the list of saints to quickly realize many were indeed lambs among wolves. The depravity of man also becomes evident with symbols of axes and saws and crank handles and bladed wheels and spiked chairs. Such symbols soberly remind us of our broken world, Faith’s resilience, and those who counted their lives so little when in the balance with eternity.

The trade – a forfeited earthly life for an eternal one bought by Christ Jesus – far outshone the tools others used on those saints of old. It still does. The brilliance of the Gospel will never be overshadowed by the darkness of sin. Neither will those who faithfully spread the Gospel ever be found wanting.

1 comment:

  1. Do you have a collection of additional clip art for churches that include images such as the ones in this post? I very much enjoy your work and would love to use more of it. Please let me know if you do: