I like to begin spiritually related columns with a couple of my late father Alfred’s favorite church jokes that he’d tell our pastor, much to mom’s scowling chagrin. Stop me if you’ve heard the one about the fiery preacher raging against the evils of alcohol, telling his flock, “I wish they’d take every drop of whiskey and pour it in the river.”
The song-leader then directed, “Please join me in singing, ‘Let’s All Gather at the River.’”
All seriousness aside though, with no more NFL Sundays, I’ll be at the late service at CMA church more frequently. I think the Bible is pretty specific about attending church when nothing of any consequence is going on elsewhere. Fellowship with other believers is vital to spiritual growth.
But sitting attentively through sermons, my OCD-busy mind often wanders to mysteries and comical oddities of the Bible. For starters, how in the Anita Hill was Noah able to build an ark so large and intricately sea-worthy, it housed two of every animal for 40 days and nights? Bear in mind, this was centuries before kitty litter or air fresheners. Forty days must have felt like eternity! Legend has it the dove flying over with the olive branch in its beak lost consciousness and plunged to earth.
I mean, in my early roofing days with no air compressors and nail guns, job durations were increased ten-fold. Noah — and don’t even get me started on the great pyramid builders — didn’t even have a hammer! No nails, levels, Elmer’s glue … nothing. How they built anything more taxing than thatch huts and crudely designed wooden teeth is beyond me.
Yet these pyramids are deemed by experts as architecturally flawless as modern-day engineering. Nevertheless, no project supervisor would have made me mount stories-high scaffolding held together by coconut milk oxen dung, wearing a hard-hat of goat entrails.
I tend to imagine only a handful of people alive at any given time during Old Testament days. But I’m told there were millions making hundred-mile treks on foot or atop animals lucky enough not to have been sacrificed yet.
That reminds me of dad’s old buddy driving his souped-up Studebaker when he tried to pass another motorist on a blind curve, going over a steep embankment and rolling to the bottom. According to Pop, the other guy pulled over and yelled down, “Are you OK, mister?” The religious survivor replied, “Don’t worry brother; the Lord is with me.” Came the reply, “Well, he better ride with somebody else; you’re gonna get him killed!”
Seriously though, some of today’s most popular baby names are Aiden, Liam and Emma. You’ll get a “Noah” or “Jacob” occasionally, but the trend away from Bible icons like Ezra is striking. You don’t see “Jehoshaphat” on many birth certificates these days. Not a lot of “Abednego” or “Gad” tossed around the maternity ward anymore, either. Likewise you’ll never hear, “Say hello to my precious little angel, Jezebel.”
And what kind of parent names their son “Nimrod?” I would think even the clueless Ethiopian eunuch Paul met on the road would have more sensitivity than that. I mean, you might as well send the boy out into the world of 7-foot Philistines bullies with the name “Dipstick” taped to his mittens.
“Doug” isn’t Biblical, but I’ll take it. Thank God dad and mom Naomi didn’t go with “Alfred Jr.” With all due respect to Job’s lot in life, mine has been tough enough with a normal name.
In closing, I’m reminded of a story dad related about when my sisters and I were toddlers and the preacher came to visit. He found my mother overwhelmed, both arms filled with fussing brats. Apparently, when the preacher picked me up and I began throwing an epic tantrum, he said, “I believe this one is a little spoiled.” Mom says, “Not really; they all smell that way.”
True story? We report; you decide.