Gentle Reader – I’m stealing the salutation from Miss Manners, the Etiquette Authority – because I like her quip, “If you can’t be kind, at least be vague.” So, gentle reader, try to guess which specific Bible verse would fit the title of this particular devotional. If I refrain from brazenly offering a large reward, it is only from fear that I might drive some earnest soul over the edge – and get sued for psychiatric treatments. Even so, who will play along for another paragraph or two, until my known passion for Scripture will win out over the pesky funny bone? (If you can’t say anything kind about it, vaguely guess that my Maker might have stuck me with it.)
Cutting to the chase, poker-faced Darwin works at my preferred supermarket, and Jesus is a favorite checker’s little boy. She beams when she shares snippets of her joy in him. Lately, often stressed and exhausted by the “new normal” of the COVID-19 regimen, she echoes my prayers that the historic Jesus will meet her personal needs. Step with me to the produce section and hear the manager say, “You make my day whenever I see you walk into the store!” We bonded years ago over my wacky sense of humor that declared to him one day, “Did you know that certain vegetables are dangerous? Just think, potatoes have eyes, corn has ears, and celery stalks.” From then on, we exchanged borrowed jokes, puns, and uplifting words regularly, but – mind you – always respectful of shoppers and employer.
When Dave Peterman quoted Henri Nouwen in our church blog, my face kind of lit up. I’m privileged, I concluded, to offer such peace and words of healing quite often as I shop at this market where smiles are regularly exchanged. They all pale against the glow on the craggy face of the oldest “bag boy,” an elderly Coptic Orthodox Christian from Egypt. He openly calls me his sister in Christ and secretly whispers words of joyous anticipation of our Lord’s sure return. As God is my witness, I return from many of my shopping trips with an exhilarating sense of gratitude to my Redeemer. And that, gentle reader, is the saving grace that allows me to share something quite private so openly for the right reason.
Let Luke 10:1-20 do the proper “spin-doctoring.” Briefly, Jesus sends out the Seventy by twos to go preach eternal redemption or like ruin to all kinds of people. Justifiably timid at first, they return jubilantly with the certainty of Christ’s authority in and through them. “Lord,” they announce breathlessly, “even the demons are subject to us in Your name” (v. 17). His cryptic response? “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning,” but then cautions, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven” (v 18-20). So, if you and I truly prize and practice Christ’s mandate to speak in His name peace and healing and laughter into people’s lives, we will gladly keep in mind the most valid personal reason for our rejoicing. Giving our Savior much glory is our most authentic joy.