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If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands

by davesandel on October 12th, 2021

Tuesday, October 12, 2021                             (today’s lectionary)

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands

My plumber friend Paul drives back and forth from Danville, Illinois every day. He saves every penny he can to pay off his house, on a dead end street which ends in the woods near Stoney Creek, which empties into the Vermilion River not more than a half mile from his home.

There are fancy neighborhoods in Danville, but my friend’s neighborhood is spacious and quiet rather than fancy. Last year he saved twice as much as usual because he couldn’t go out to eat much during Covid. He is now out of debt and very happy.

“If my house was in Champaign it would be a $200,000 house,” he said. In Danville it cost him $50,000.

Did not the maker of your hands and face also make you on the inside? And to clean what is within, be generous to the poor and everything will be clean for you.

I have always admired his work ethic, which I think echoes that of his boss, Mark. Everything he does for us is spit-spot perfect, and then some. When I’m with him I sense the “cleanliness” of his insides. I imagine he is generous to the poor, but I know he is generous to us with his time and his skills.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day pours out the word to day, and night to night imparts knowledge.

Although he has driven the same stretch of interstate every day for 17 years, Paul declares the glory of God with his presence. He strikes me as one who is gentle and easily satisfied, happy with little rather than requiring much. He is a bachelor. He has a dog. He loves the animals that come out of the woods, including a baby fawn this spring which spent day after day around his house, and a giant tortoise, which comes up out of the woods once a year, on the same day each year, perhaps to mate? Paul watches that big guy in awe.

And spending some time with him yesterday I kept comparing his words to the Texas stories of young Jack Deere, one of my favorite Vineyard speakers back in the 90’s, who wrote a book Even in Our Darkness, that revolves around the suicides of his father and his son. I am listening to that book this week, and it seems like no one in the book, including young Jackie himself, can find that satisfaction. Even as newborn Christians he and his friends are working so hard!

Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities of eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that we are without excuse. Although we know God, we neither glorify him nor give thanks to him, and our thinking becomes futile and our foolish hearts are darkened.

I imagine going with Jackie and his friends to Danville, to watch the giant tortoise slide up out of the creek, through the woods, and onto the grass in Paul’s back yard. He could sell tickets; it happens at the same time every year. We could sit there with Paul, silent, smelling the breeze through the trees, and weeping with joy at what we are so privileged to see. Paul the author of Romans might be with us in the clouds, pleased as punch to see Paul the plumber invite his friends to attend this glorying of God.

While claiming to be wise, we became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal Creator God for likenesses of people and things that God himself created.

What on earth is wrong with us? God made that tortoise. God sustains that tortoise year after year in its simple, satisfied life. I would like to sit in a lawn chair beside Paul, and perhaps beside you, too, sip something, be happy I’m alive and just praise God.

(Romans 1, Psalm 19, Luke 11)          

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