While having lunch with some of my friends from Living Hope Community Church in Conneautville, PA, on Sunday, I learned quite a few things about life in the sticks. We laughed quite a bit, too. Scott was telling me about how he’s a great example of the error in my estimation that everybody from there were great hunters. He started to tell me a story about his poor shooting skills by saying “just after we got married, when we were living out in the boon docks . . .” I couldn’t stop laughing! When he asked me why, I pointed out that we were standing in Conneautville, PA. What could possibly be considered “in the boon docks” more than that? There isn’t even one traffic light in town!
It happened to be Rod’s birthday, and he was telling us about one of his birthday gifts: a garbage can. Then they all started talking about garbage can dinners. Now, you gotta understand that I have a history with unbelievable things like this. I tend to err on the side of naivety when I’m not sure what to believe about the crazy way people do things. It’s better not to insult them. But even I have my limits.
Sometimes things just seem too weird, like when I first met my future in-laws at Christmastime at their home in England. During Christmas dinner they all pulled on the ends of things called “crackers” that were festively decorated hollow cardboard tubes. They would pop and a toy would fall out. If that’s not weird enough, they also had paper hats that fell out and I was told that we were supposed to wear them. I thought they were pulling my leg – playing some kind of joke on the Yank. After the fourth house we visited where crackers were pulled and hats worn, I finally accepted the tradition as real. I’m still not sure about the Christmas pudding thing though (yuck!).
Back at our lunch in Conneautville, I finally asked what in the world all this talk about garbage can dinners was really about. All I could picture was some silly publicity stunt to raise awareness of the hunger problem in America. As it turns out, they were on the level. Apparently it’s a common practice for people to fill the bottom of a metal garbage can (that hasn’t been used in the traditional manner) with water, make a rack for corn or whatever else you’re cooking and heat the can over an open flame. It cooks lots of food all at once. Vicky, Rod’s wife, could see that I was hesitant to accept that this is really what people do, so she suggested I Google it. Yes, friends, it’s there – complete recipes and instructions on how to make the best garbage bread.
This reminds me of how the people must have felt in Jesus’ day, especially those he was speaking to in John 10. It’s hard to decipher who is telling the truth about the Truth. So Jesus gives them the best gauge: follow Jesus. If a claim made by a pastor or anybody else seems too crazy to be true – run it past the Word of God. It’s up to you to do it for yourself. It’s like the people from Berea mentioned in Luke:
And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. (Acts 17:11, NLT)
Don’t just take somebody’s word for it. Play an active role in your faith so that you fully live the life you’ve been called to. Did a guy really fall out of a window to his death because he fell asleep during an Apostle’s sermon? Is a foreign prostitute really included in the lineage of Jesus Christ? Is the quote “God helps those who help themselves” really in the Bible? Not all of these are true, but I’ll bet I could preach all three of them in a way that would convince you that they are.
Be in charge of your own faith, because nobody else can.