The roommate and I have been picking plums all over town because we want to make a batch of plum wine in a few weeks. The result of this is that we have an enormous basket of small plums on our kitchen counter. This morning my older son sat around eating them. I realized all of a sudden that I had no idea where he was putting the pits. That’s when I said it, the age old joke, the folksy story that has—I am quite certain—been told for hundreds of years: “you better be careful with those pits” I said, “or a plum tree might start growing in your belly and that would be uncomfortable.” I must admit I sort of made fun of myself for even saying it. He and I had a fun time making jokes about various things that could grow in bellies, it was one of those tender-sweet moments make being a dad so pleasurable.
It also got me thinking about how stories get passed down through the generations. Stories and jokes are passed on when people find them exciting, invigorating, funny, or meaningful. Now I know as well as anyone why we have chapters and verses in our bibles but as someone who has spent years in academia I also know how annoying all the infrastructure of a page can be. The cross-references, the footnotes, the maps, and even the mere chapter and verse markers can take something fun and sap the life out of it. Who hasn’t read a book with so many footnotes it makes you cringe?
There are stories in the bible that are well told and worth re-telling, but have we run out of love for them? Have we drowned them in numbers and technicalities? I sure hope not. The story of David is a rollicking tale of sex, adultery, war, kingship, friendship, and family, it has all the makings of a Netflix hit, if only we sat and read it as a single story rather than in little chunks defined by our daily reading plans.
Over the next few weeks here at St. Andrew’s we are going to turn our attention to the book of Jonah, you know the one with the guy swallowed by a big fish. It’s a good story and unlike the thing with plum pits there is actually a lot to learn from it. Perhaps that’s the problem, we are a culture reluctant to learn. We need to learn so much so fast just to keep up with technology and politics and culture that we haven’t the will power or the nerve to face learning another subject. At any rate, I love these old stories, they are well told and full of meaning.
As for the wine, I sure hope it works out because pitting hundreds, if not thousands, of little plums is reminding me that there isn’t all that much I really want to watch on Netflix.