Posted by bryanzug - 2009/02/15
Roo & Tug —
This is one of my favorite questions —
What do you suppose Jesus’ favorite holiday is?
It is fun to ask in a group and watch things play out.
Almost every time, someone quick hands the buzzer — Christmas! Easter!
“Naw”, I say, “don’t think so — Those are work days for Jesus. No way he’d pick those.”
The adults usually look at me with some variation of an “OK smartass” grin — but the kids are different.
“Really?”, they ask, leaning in with all sincerity.
“If it’s not Christmas or Easter, then what is it?”
That’s when I tell them it has to be the 4th of July.
: : :
After the guffaws die down, I continue.
The 4th of July is obviously Jesus’ favorite holiday — not because of the fireworks or a “God bless America” twinkle in His eyes.
The airtight proof that the 4th of July is jesus’ favorite holiday comes down to one indisputable fact —
God loves to BBQ.
The most arresting story in the entire Bible is that of the prodigal son — the boy who squanders his inheritance, is knocked to his senses while grazing in a pig trough, and turns back home.
The story up to that point is standard issue Sunday School 101, but then God throws in a twist (just to make sure we are paying attention).
He relays the reaction of the father, his response when he saw his son coming from a long way off. And his reaction was this —
He was overjoyed.
But, he was not “overjoyed” in an abstract, disembodied sort of way.
Not at all.
His joy was made manifest in this — He said, start the BBQ.
: : :
I once told that story in a small church my ex-wife and I were a part of in Cokedale, Colorado. (Yes, I was married once before mom — more on that later).
Folks in the church would measure out bits of Scripture and Story before we took weekly communion — framing that small meal we would share together with some particular rhythm of the Gospel that God had brought to bear on whoever was up there on a given week — reminding us of the practical ways God goes about hammer and tonging a people unto Himself.
Many months after my little table story, Doris Berry came up to tell me how her kids were still talking about Jesus’ favorite holiday — and how they had been convinced that it surely had to be the 4th of July.
: : :
I am some miles outside of Trinidad this morning. It is the summer of 1999 and I have a shovel in my hand.
Pastor Ed had suggested it, after I asked what I could do to help.
The message he left on July 5th said eight-year-old Stuart Berry had been killed. Hit by a car while on vacation.
My understanding is that Stuart died on the 4th of July.
: : :
I always feel helpless in times of tragedy. What do I do? What should I say?
I had a teacher once — in public high school — who would tell us things he probably shouldn’t have. But he was close to retirement and I don’t think he really cared if he got into trouble.
We were talking about what to do in times like these — and he said that the best thing he’d ever come across was to say this —
I know. I care. I am praying.
The instant he said it, I recognized the pattern — mourn with those who mourn.
Don’t try to solve. Don’t cliche it away.
Just weep with those who weep.
So when I heard about Stuart’s death, I sat down and wrote a letter to Dan, Doris and the kids.
I recounted the silly speculation — that inside story we shared about how Jesus is most at home at a BBQ — and how I imagined a place setting for a little boy at a picnic table with a checkered table cloth — where God was saying hello to my friend Stuart.
May the God of BBQ attend your sorrow.
: : :
It is funny how we do not know the effect we have on other people. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is Cliche with a capital “C” for a bunch of really good reasons.
A couple of days after helping dig Stuart’s grave at the church cemetery outside of Bon Carbo, I went to his funeral at the blue roof church in Cokedale.
I had not seen the Berry’s for many months. My first marriage ending had made my participation in that community too painful. So, the first time I had seen Doris for a long time was after the service.
The receiving line was very long. I felt really awkward.
I never know whether any of the stories I tell are a good use of time — or whether other people are just nodding along politely.
But when I got to the front of the line — I got a hug from the frailest of women.
I got a hug that felt like I was getting tackled by the starting center for the Broncos.
Doris wept and thanked me for the letter.
She said, “Thank you so much Bryan, I just read your note yesterday.”
“I was starting to forget Stuart’s face, and you reminded me what he looks like.”
: : :
I’ve got some other “that didn’t really happen, did it?” stories, that I will write down later. God has a way of kibutzing with my rational mind exactly when I need it most.
Keep an eye out for this in your own lives. I am pretty sure He is still active at coordinating Coincidences (with a capital C).
Much love —
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