“we tried”

On January 2, 1961, episode #13 of the Andy Griffith Show aired. Titled “Mayberry Goes Hollywood” this show is about a Hollywood producer who comes to Mayberry. The producer is scouting locations for filming a movie.

Turns out, the producer likes what he sees in Mayberry. Friendly people, simple living, and scenery that meets the needs of the movie’s script.

You know Mayberry, word trickles out to its citizens. On the morning that the producer and his film crew arrive to start their work—Mayberry has changed. 

The people have transformed themselves and their shops into a downtown that resembles a gaudy tourist trap. Even Deputy Fife has a spiffy new uniform.

Mr. Harmon, the producer, isn’t happy. 

At a welcoming ceremony, in honor of this significant  milestone in Mayberry’s history, town leaders plan to take down a beautiful tree. And that’s when Mr. Harmon speaks up.

He gently chastises the mayor and his citizens. He wants the townsfolk and the storefronts to return to their normal appearances and routines.

Although there is some disappointment, the citizens listen. They head home to change out of their best Sunday clothes. Shop owners make preparations to remove the Hollywood inspired signage.

And the downcast Mayor, says to Sheriff Taylor:  “We tried to tell them didn’t we Andy.”

Of course, you know Mayberry well enough that it was Andy who “tried to tell them” not the Mayor.

Recently, I have started thinking about something I call the “reflective cringe.” 

This is when my memory goes way back, and I recall moments in life when someone tried to tell me something for my own good. Of course I didn’t listen. And when those reflective moments hit me, I cringe. 

I think to myself how could I have been so out of touch, unreasonable, impractical, selfish,  and downright stubborn?

Those parts of my life, I would like to have permanently removed. Like when the broken, fractured, crumbling section of a road surface are cut out and repaired.

Road surface on Westham Parkway photo by Bill Pike

Right now, America isn’t much different from that road surface. America is worn, weather beaten, fractured, and divided.

Natural born worrier that I am, America worries me. 

In truth, America scares me.

When I reflect upon America, I cringe. 

Because I see the same in America that I see in me when someone who cared about me, maybe even respected, or loved me—“tried to tell me.”

I see America as being like I am sometimes— out of touch, unreasonable, impractical, selfish, and downright stubborn.

On Saturday, September 26, the scripture reading in the Upper Room was from Mark Chapter 7 verses 31-37.

Friends of a man who could not hear or speak brought him to Jesus. Jesus was near the region of Decapolis. They want Jesus to touch him, to fix his impairments, to make him normal.

Jesus takes the man aside. Jesus puts his fingers in the man’s ears. Jesus spits and touches the man’s tongue.

Next, Jesus looks toward heaven, he sighs, and then he says the word “Ephphatha” ( f ah tha) which means “be open.”

Bible stories like this where Jesus in an instant restores the man’s hearing and speech frustrate me. I cringe.

I want to know why in our present day world things don’t work like that?

For example, why can’t God’s angels take hurricanes that pummel the Gulf Coast and force them to make a left turn? Steer the remnants of the storm northwest go drop 10 to 20 inches of rain on California, Oregon, and Washington instead of states that are already soaked.

At times I wonder has God given up on us?

Maybe God knows about Episode #13 of the Andy Griffith Show.

Maybe God is thinking:  “We tried to tell them didn’t we Jesus?”

Maybe our problem is “Ephphatha” ( f ah tha).

Maybe we are not being open in the way God needs us to be open.

On Thursday and Friday of this past week, I virtually attended the Leadership Institute at the Church of the Resurrection out in Kansas. 

One of the keynote speakers was the Reverend Michael Curry, Bishop of the Episcopal Church. 

Bishop Curry concluded his presentation by telling a story about two neighbors in Daytona, Florida. One neighbor was white and one was black. It is a story of chicken coop droppings, illness, chicken soup, and roses.

But, it is also a story of reflective cringing and how to “be open.”

The quiet, humble hero at the heart of that story was love. 

Despite how she had been treated by her white neighbor, the black neighbor follows the teachings in the Bible—she gives love to her ill neighbor.

The Commander Supreme recently steered me to read Charlie Mackesy’s book:  The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse.

I think this book should be required reading for the whole world.

Perhaps, in an indirect way, the book is about how to “be open.”

Here is a sample:

“I’ve realized why we are here.” whispered the boy.

“For cake?” asked the mole.

“To love,” said the boy.

“And be loved, “ said the horse.

Makes no difference if its Mayberry, Decapolis, Daytona, America, or the world, to change the challenges in front of me I must be open to love.

Let us pray:

Father of us all, help us to be open. Open to love our neighbors. Open to allow you to work on our hearts and the hearts of those who surround us each day. In your name we pray, Amen.

Author’s note this piece was used as devotion for the Outreach Sunday school class on September 27, 2020.

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