The Mechanic

This past week we have been visiting friends in North Africa and seeking ways to share love and compassion with the people of this region. We are blessed to have friends who live in this area and who dedicate their lives to sharing love and showing mercy to their neighbors.

As we began the week, my friend found himself in need of some car repairs. This would be a new experience for me as I had never before been with him when he needed to have work done on his vehicle.

We made our way to the street where the mechanics were located and found one that had time to check out the problem. The shop looked very little like a repair shop in our country, though there were some similarities. There were wrenches and there was a shelf loaded with salvaged parts that might one day be used to solve a problem in someone else’s car.

When the mechanic had identified the problem with my friend’s car, we followed his assistant up the street and around the corner to the shop that sold new parts. After comparing the old part with the options for replacing it, my friend chose the new part most likely to work and we returned to the mechanic’s shop. The mechanic took the new part and installed it in my friend’s vehicle. After few quick turns of he wrench, he pulled his head from under the hood and with a smile on his face he instructed my friend to start the vehicle. His smile grew even broader as the engine roared to life.

As I watched the mechanic smile and listen to the engine humming, I realized that I had just witnessed the revealing of a pleasant, if obvious, truth. Namely, mechanics are mechanics. Whether in North Africa or East Tennessee, there are some people who know how to fix machines. They have knack for figuring out how a device or an engine is supposed to run and they know how to make it do what it is supposed to do. They have different names. One might be Joe the plumber while the other is Hakeem the auto mechanic, but they are the same in that they both know how to do repairs and make things work the way that they are supposed to work.

On this Sunday before Easter, we would all do well to remember that we have each been loved by the one who sent his son to love us. All of us have been loved with this love. There are none of us more different from any of the rest of us than God is from all of us, yet God loves us.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. I John 4:7-12
In being loved by God, we are called to love others. We are called to love those who are like us and those who are different from us. However, being loved by God does not protect us from failing to love or from loving for our own purposes. Therefore, we ought always to offer the love that God has shown to us with humility so that even in our imperfections God’s love might prevail.

Will We Remember?

When did we start calling the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday?” I heard such a reference or two during Thanksgiving week and could not recall having heard it before this year. I must have missed it. Of course, I am not much of a shopper on any day, much less the day after Thanksgiving.

When I heard the phrase “Black Friday,” I thought of Easter and Good Friday. Good Friday I know. A man died on Good Friday. That being the case, I have always thought it odd that we refer to that Friday as good.

Black Friday is different. It is not the Friday before Easter at all. It is the Friday after Thanksgiving. Good Friday only makes sense as a name for the day that Christ was crucified because we live on this side of Easter and resurrection. On humanity’s darkest day, Good Friday, God was at work to do the greatest good that could ever be done. Black Friday, now that I know it exists and has its own name, is slightly more perplexing — even disturbing.

Black Friday is perplexing and disturbing because giving a name to the biggest shopping day of the year seems to formalize the long held practice in this country of seeking to satisfy our deepest needs by consuming and possessing stuff. In a nation that so often seems to find its greatest satisfaction in buying stuff that it does not really need, is there a more important day than Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year?

Black Friday is perplexing and disturbing because presumably Black Friday happens in preparation for and in anticipation of Christmas and the birth of our Savior. Really? We get ready for the birth of the One who said to an inquirer, “Go and sell all you have,” by buying all we can? Can we get ready for the One who said, “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry,” by filling our lives with all the material possessions that we can grab? How do we prepare for the One who said, “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled,” when we have already filled our lives to suit ourselves?

I don’t think so. Granted, Black Friday happens in preparation for something. However, that something is not Christmas. It is not the birth of Christ. Maybe it used to be that way. Maybe all that has become of the American experience of Christmas used to reflect what God was doing in Christ on that long ago Bethlehem night. Now the reflection is muddled at best. Now, when we so need to see Jesus, recognizing Him is not so easy in the market-driven, one-day-only, 50-percent-off-sale that Christmas has become.

The American Family Association is up in arms because Costco does not use the word “Christmas” in their in-store advertising. Many see Costco’s practice as a slight toward Christmas and Christianity. I wonder though if they and other retail outlets don’t do the church a favor by creating some distance between buying stuff and observing the birth of Christ. I wonder if the followers of Christ are not better served by letting those who have no particular interest in Jesus do whatever makes sense to them during the holidays. This might well free believers in Jesus to rediscover the meaning of an ancient and holy day.

Black Friday is perplexing and disturbing because now, as on Good Friday, a man has been killed. While the testimony at the church has for 2,000 years proclaimed the significance of the One who died on Good Friday, there is no such testimony for the one who died on Black Friday. Why did Jdimytai Damour die on the Friday after Thanksgiving? What was in that Wal-Mart that was worth a man’s life? Was it the $798.00 Samsung 50-inch plasma HDTV? It could not have been the Bissel Compact Upright Vacuum for $28.00 or the men’s Wrangle jeans for $8.00. He died because a mob got out of control. He died because a group of people were so determined to get what they wanted that they no longer considered the welfare of others.

In just a few weeks we will celebrate the birth of the One who came to us and died for us so that we might know the everlasting love of God. I wonder if by then we will have forgotten the one who died so that we could buy stuff at really cheap prices, Jdimytai Damour. I hope that we do not forget, so that in remembering the one who died senselessly at the hands of a mob, we might more clearly see the extravagant gift given freely to us by the other.