Once upon a time . . . which is to say, “then and now and again” . . . there was an old man who lived in a run-down shack on the edge of town. A young man walked by on the other side of the street and noticed the small, elderly man sitting on a porch swing, holding an old black pot and stirring. The young guy couldn’t help but notice that, whatever he was stirring, it was beginning to shimmer and reflect golden light onto the old man’s jacket and about the porch.
So this young guy runs across the street and is shocked to see the old man holding a pot of gold. Without even introducing himself, the guy asks, “OK, how’d you end up with a pot of gold?”
The old man smiles, “This is nothing. I have several of them, in fact.”
“That’s impossible,” the young guy insists. “I mean, you must have stolen it, right? Or it’s just fool’s gold.”
“Think what you want,” said the old man. He dumps the golden nuggets on the porch. Then he hobbles off the porch, picking up dirt and small rocks to put in the pot. Then he spits in the pot and begins to stir it all with a stick. In minutes, the muddy concoction begins to sparkle and shimmer in the sun’s light!
“How’d you do that?” the young man shouts.
The old man smiles and says, “What do you mean? You just saw me do it. That’s it: empty pot, add mud, rocks, spit, and stir. Gold happens!”
The old man gives the pot to the young guy and reminds him to do just as he said: Come back in the morning and show him the gold!
Well, the young guy can hardly contain himself. He gets home and does just as the old man did . . . But all he ends up with is mud, rocks, spit, sweat, and frustration! He works at it all night long. Nothing.
The next morning, the old man is on the porch swing as the young guy storms up to him.
“You lied to me! There’s some kind of trick to it!”
“What do you mean?” the old man says sympathetically. “I never lie.”
The young man shows him the pot. “This is all I have after a whole night of stirring! Mud, rocks, and spit!”
And the old man seems confused at first. But then, his eyes widen suddenly as he apologizes and says, “Of course, I forgot to tell you. While you are doing all of these things, you must never, not even once, think about the gold!”
I wonder if such a tale was ever passed on to any of the Olympic athletes. I am both curious and fascinated by the statement whenever an Olympian is interviewed after winning the gold, “What was going through your mind?” And their response is often something like, “This is what I spend my life doing, what I train for. I’m just here to stay focused on doing what I’m doing, the best way I can.”
Well, I think the same can be said about how we live in the world as followers of Jesus, as participants in life, as part of God’s creation and kin-dom. We live and we love; and perhaps when we are able to forget about our own desperate, hyper-focused anxieties for stuff or status or self-esteem or ambition or rules or friends and school (or even heaven or hell), all that’s left is letting go and loving moment to moment — being love.
This Sunday, August 21, we’ll look at the story of Jesus’ healing of the arthritic woman on the Sabbath as we continue our mini series on August, Olympics, and summer heat. What does it mean to live a life of love in a world of rules and self-doubt and competition?
“August, Augustus, Augury — Love Breaks the Rules”
with the music of Dr. John, Ray LaMontagne, and Ben Harper.
Join us for some humor, music, and an inspirational word or two.
See you then,