Yesterday was our annual church picinc. It was a beauty, after several days of high heat with humidity to match. Folks brought their best salads, desserts and appetites. Kids and some adults brought swimwear to enjoy the backyard pool in Levon and Cathy’s yard, our hosts.
We sat on folding chairs, around tables covered in familiar red and white checked tableclothes. It brought back my Georgia years, when our small Baptist church held dinner on the grounds. Several times a year, it followed Sunday morning church. This was our idea of eating out. It was when the finest cooks and bakers flaunted their best for our Sunday picnics.
Faster than the heat warranted, deacons in overalls hauled sawhorses to the side of the church yard where grass struggled to grow in red Georgia clay. Then the men placed planks atop, forming tables. Next, the women unfurled tableclothes, held in place by mason jars filled with fresh cut flowers.
Finally, the feast arrived, cradled like the treasure it was: pinto beans, fried okra, turnip greens, cornbread, sliced tomatoes, greenbeans, fried chicken, butter beans, country ham, biscuits, homemade pickles, watermelon still warm from the patch it was plucked from. And towards the end of the table sat pies, cakes and pitchers of sweet tea to wash it all down with. And close by, women in aprons, protecting their Sunday best. This was farm to table fresh, made from scratch. Everything.
So, what’s with the baloney? Well, yesterday’s picnic reminded me not only of dinner on the grounds in Georgia, but one of my favorite stories. Bob Benson wrote it in his book, SEE YOU AT THE HOUSE. While most isn’t in quotes, this is Bob Benson’s story.
As I recall it, he’d gone to church, then realized it was picnic Sunday. So when church ended, he raced home to grab something to bring. In the fridge, he found a piece of dried up boloney, a couple of slices of bread and not much mustard. He went knuckle deep into the jar to get as much as possible, then spread it on the bread and slapped the baloney between. Last, he tossed it in a paper bag and headed back to the picnic. One happy kid.
When he arrived, families had already started eating and he looked for a place to slip in. Then he heard his name, “”Bobby, why don’t you come sit with us, honey?” Well, if it wasn’t the best cook in the church who’d called him over to join her family. He sheeplishly replied,” M’am, I only brought a baloney sandwich.” And she said, “Why, Bobby we just love baloney sandwiches. Come share with us and we’ll share what we’ve got with you.”
And so he shared what he had and they did the same. He thought years later, that’s a whole lot like Jesus. We come with our worst to offer and Jesus says,” Just give me all you’ve got and I’ll do the same.” How foolish if we clutch and cry, “You’re not getting my baloney sandwich!” Bob Benson ended the story with, “Really, Jesus doesn’t need our baloney sandwiches but we need all He’s offering us. “
Sometimes that’s been me, clutching, crying, refusing to trust Jesus with the worst in me. Truth is, there’s not a day goes by I don’t need what Jesus offers for my baloney: forgiveness, grace, patience,purpose, mercy, perspective, wisdom, peace and JOY for dessert. Which takes me back to how most of our Sunday services ended back then. We sang “Just As I Am” as an altar call. So folks with a stale baloney kind of life could come on down the aisle and trade it in for a feast they knew they didn’t deserve but needed for real life.
“Just as I am , Thou wilt receive
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve
Because Thy promise I believe
Oh, Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
Anyone tired of their baloney sandwiches?
I know for a fact, Jesus keeps a place at the table for the likes of me and you.
And we get to come, just as we are, any old day.
Not just on Picnic Sundays.
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