22 08 2017


As I write this, the breaking news is that Jerry Lewis has just passed. And while I have heard the news that he wasn’t the most genial of men to get along with, nobody can argue with how many laughs he brought many of us. Growing up, it was always a big Family Movie Night when a Jerry Lewis Picture was on television. The Nutty Professor, The Disorderly Orderly, Cinderfella, Who’s Minding The Store, The Ladies Man and Rock-A-Bye Baby were some of the treasured nuggets that we didn’t mind seeing over and over again.  Even my thrifty Dad would allow his kids to have their own pints of ice cream to enjoy when it was NBC Saturday Night at the Movies with Jerry. And then there were those celebrated classic comedies from when Jerry Lewis was partnered with Dean Martin. The Stooge, The Caddy and That’s My Boy will forever be counted among my all time favorites. And somehow the Jerry Lewis Telethon on Channel 5 out of New York City would always mark the conclusion of another summer and the reality of another school year about to begin. Some times those memories seem to be from another lifetime years and years ago and at other times, it seems like it all just occurred yesterday.

 I passed my love for Jerry Lewis on to my children and now my grandchildren. My son Rudy and I were privileged enough to have seen Jerry Lewis on Broadway in the musical Damn Yankees. It inspired Rudy to actually be in the play when Middle Township performed it during his high school years. And I still see lots of Jerry Lewis in me, even in my preaching. I am a slapstick kind of guy who loves to use different “voices” when I talk and still find lots of humor in a healthy pratfall. I know the times are always changing and in a constant state of flux, but there are days I miss the simpler years of childhood.

 Maybe it is the reality of my Mom turning 80 years old this weekend. Dad graduated to Heaven back in 2000 and there is still not a night that I don’t dream about him even 17 years later. And my Mom has always told me that when she turns 80, she’ll have the body of a 40 year old. I believe she’s right but I’m almost 60 and I sometimes I feel like I have the body of a 90 year old. My spirit still has the vibrancy of a teenager, but these bones will put up a good fight to sit out what my soul has put on the daily agenda. Maybe as the world continues to turn and another page of the calendar becomes a part of history, I am becoming wise to what matters most.

 There was once a Broadway Musical called The Fantastiks.  Its signature song was “Try To Remember.” The lyrics go something like this, “Try to remember the kind of September, When life was slow and oh, so mellow. Try to remember the kind of September, When grass was green and grain was yellow. Try to remember the kind of September, When you were a tender and callow fellow. Try to remember and if you remember then follow.”

 Life can’t be scripted, boxed in or tightly tamed. Love calls us to go where the heart must choose to be adventurous or else it will run and hide away. Faith is essential for us to follow our Creator into the hope and future he designed for us. You can’t put God into your own convenient carrying case to arrange and unleash when you feel like it. The tragedy of man-made religion is that it always reduces God to someone to be controlled, rather than seeing God as the One who is in control and is worthy of real, whole-life worship. And reducing God leaves us worshiping a god who cannot help or save or bless. In the end, the junk food of self-made religion will disappoint.

Whatever we make into our god—money, power, relationships or even a reduced, man-made version of the biblical God—will not deliver. The person who makes career their god will eventually find their route to blessing blocked by someone who is “too strong”—too able, too well-connected, too “lucky”—for them. The person who makes their image their god will find time an enemy too strong for them to hang onto their youth and good looks. Ultimately, death removes all the false gods we look to for blessing.  Everyone is a worshiper. I don’t believe in Atheists. The only question is, who or what is the thing we look to for ultimate meaning and purpose and blessing?

This is a different world than the one that many of us were raised in. Americans are more known for their love of ease and their pursuit of possessions than their championing of faith, hope and love.  It is so tempting to carve out a make believe bunker for ourselves—a quiet little island of peace where we can live in affluence and forget all about the crazy and chaotic world outside. But that is not how our Parents raised us. Our Grandparents modeled for us a courage and fight and
no-nonsense work ethic that withstood The Depression, World Wars and anything else that this old world threw at them. This isn’t a season to settle. This is no time to retreat and escape. No consistent New Testament Christian can live a life of ease. No lover of the cross can retire from God’s mission in the world.                               

  If you want to settle down into life as a comfortable Christian, casually unconcerned about the needs of men and women and the call of God, you are going to have to settle to serve an idol because Jesus is going to call you not to settle in a lazy boy but to lay down your lives, pick up your cross and follow the Lord. When I remember where I came from, it gives me the inspiration to keep on going and with the faith of my Mom and the sense of humor of Jerry Lewis and the everlasting love of Jesus, I know I’m going to make it.



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