It took under ten seconds for me to realize I was out of my element at the party supply mega-store.
I mean, what guy even knows there’s such a thing as a “party supply mega-store”?
As it happens, such stores have protocols, too. For instance: Do not block the aisle leading to the pre-ordered helium balloons awaiting pick-up early on a Saturday morning.
Do not do anything, in fact, that impedes (even momentarily) the Birthday Party Mom who has one hundred and seventy-two other tasks to accomplish before the guests arrive at her place in a couple of hours.
Everything about her visage and gait communicates the fact that she’s a Woman on a Mission. And she does not intend to suffer the foolishness of an Old Dude, gazing in astonishment at the store’s stupendous array of inflatable mylar ornamentals.
Fortunately, I’m a quick study – and since it is, after all, a mega-store…I found there’s plenty of room for an Old Dude to then shuffle away from Ground Zero, whereupon to ponder an odd, odd sensation – that of knowing he’s stumbled upon a spot in suburbia where he feels utterly out-of-place.
I discovered it’s even more odd to have that same feeling recur when I’m in my own home – as 30 women swarm the main level to attend a dear niece’s bridal shower on a Saturday afternoon.
I’m told the women all had a great time. I was banished to our (finished) basement for the duration.
But banishment isn’t the world’s worst fate. (Ask any guy who’s had the debatable pleasure of attending a “couple’s shower.”) Indeed, a period of banishment gives the Old Dude a chance to think a bit. And as he thinks, he might even mull the notion that he’s been pretty lucky in life.
Rare indeed has been the occasion where he’s felt like a fish out of water, where he’s had to sip the bitter potion of powerlessness. More often, his life has proceeded much like a balloon party – filled with bounty and affection and joy.
He might notice, too, how subtly Jesus parses out the math of unity in this week’s Gospel reading. Households are going to be divided, he says, “three against two…and two against three.”
But that’s not the only way to do a five-person split, is it? “Four against one, and one against four” would also have been an option. But Jesus takes it away – this math of the powerful overwhelming majority. He teaches us to expect a much closer split in our disagreements. Nobody is going to be on top. Everybody’s going to have to learn to parcel out power…to cooperate, even in situations where they might feel extremely uncomfortable.
This is what it’s like, living in the Kingdom. It’s not gonna be a cake-walk. But we do have the promise of Jesus’ presence to see us through.
Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”
These are challenging words, are they not? Particularly for those (like me) who’ve been conditioned by circumstance to expect life to unfold something more like a balloon party.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.