Broods of Locusts and Other Summer Fun.

I just returned from a quick trip to Missouri for the wedding of a niece. Besides the joy catching up with family and old friends, meeting a new great-grand nephew, and officiating a wonderful wedding, I was able to once again hear the buzzy trill of cicadas as they emerge from their burrows in the ground. 

Before moving to Minnesota, our house was next to a wetland preserve, where at dusk especially, the song 0f frogs would join the drone of cicadas — a cacophony of buzzing and chirping and trilling with the occasional low croak of a bullfrog cutting through it all. It was the soundtrack of a hot summer night. 

Cicadas are interesting creatures. They are primarily midwestern insects, and they emerge from burrows in the ground in late spring, mate, lay their eggs in tree branches, then die. Later in the summer, the cicada nymphs hatch and make their way down from the trees where they burrow into the ground, like their parents, to grow and wait for their time to emerge. Here’s the most amazing part: depending on the type of cicada, they

remain in the ground for either 13 and 17 years before emerging again. Every year, of course, a different brood emerges… it’s just that some broods are bigger than others. Much bigger. 

And this year is the first time that the largest 17 year brood and the largest 13 year brood have emerged at the same time. It’s been 221 years since that happened. Several generations of people will come and go before this dual emergence happens again.

My father-in-law Joe is a self-proclaimed “good old boy from north Missouri.” He reminded me that when he was young, folks called cicadas locusts. And we talked about how locusts figure so prominently in the Bible. Of course, God sent a plague of locusts to torment Pharoah. The prophets Isaiah and Joel mention locusts. Leviticus 11:22 says it’s ok to eat locusts… but it doesn’t mention the best way to prepare them. And, of course, John the Baptizer was, in fact, a locust eater. 

In some ways, there are some biblical stories which we encounter in worship and study which are kind of like cicadas. Often times they burrow into our subconscious and then emerge later… 13 years later, 17 years later, perhaps even longer. But when they emerge, they seem to do it at the right time and when they are needed the most: at a wedding, at a death, at time of crises, or during periods of joy. 

But they’re always there, always prepared to emerge and work on us, bringing out new understanding and opportunity. And then, when their work is through, they slip quietly away until it’s time to emerge again. 

That’s why Lutherans consider regular worship and study essential for a life of faith. And that’s why we proclaim that the word of God comes to us in multiple ways: through scripture, yes, but also through hymns, and preaching, and prayer and in the carefully considered words of spoken and sung liturgy. 

Wherever we hear this word spoken, let us rejoice and take heart. Let us listen and respond. Let us eat it up, so to speak, so it can work in us and through us for the glory of God.