But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Snakes never have and never will be one of my favorite creatures. As a child, I am scared witless of them. Every time dad takes for a walk in the woods in warm weather, I always have my eyes peeled so as not to accidentally step on one.
For, in our woods, vipers lurk. The ominous rattlesnake and the venomous copperhead. Each colored to blend seamlessly with the leafy forest floor.
One wrong step . . .
And, even though Dad assures us that most snakes are harmless, I don't buy into it. Just the sight of a black Racer slithering through the grass in our yard is enough to send me screaming and scrambling to the house. Staying indoors for the rest of the day.
Snakes. From the temptation of Eve to the present day "snakes in the grass", they are portrayed as menacing, treacherous, untrustworthy.
So, imagine my surprise when my daughter, Sara, returns from church summer camp with this announcement:
"Mom! The new nature center is open at camp now, and guess what? They have a snake named Peanut Butter and I got to hold him more than once!"
After figuratively picking myself up off the floor, I manage a wan smile.
"Oh, really?" And, can't help but add, "And, you weren't scared?"
"At first, I was," she admits, "but, when I saw another girl hold him, I just had to try. He is so sweet and gentle and silky to touch. Oh, Mom, when we go to family retreat, we can go to the nature center and you can hold him, too!'
Over my dead body . . .
"We'll see, honey."
When, several months later, it's family retreat weekend, I'm hoping Sarah has forgotten all about Peanut Butter. Not a chance! She drags me, mentally kicking and screaming, to see her beloved snake.
There is already a small crowd of children around the young man holding Peanut Butter for all to see. I observe the little hands stroking the snake as it slides up and down his arms.
"Go ahead, Mom, touch him!" Sarah urges.
I sidle closer. Grit my teeth. Hold my breath. Reach out tentatively.
"See, Mom, it wasn't all that bad now, was it?"
Do you have a fear of snakes? If not, is there another creature that scares you?
Will you pray with me?
We thank You, Father, for the beauty and variety of Your marvelous creation. We know each living thing has a role to play and is treasured by You. Help us to appreciate, even if it's from a safe distance, the wonder in all Your works. Amen.
Psalms 26, 28 or 36, 39