Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Shaped by Andy Griffith

Last week, one of my heroes died. I know it’s unusual for me to comment on entertainment on my blog. But Andy Griffith has shaped a generation of people who, in the midst of social change, longed for a solid rock of values and a sense of being at home in our world. It’s not that I want to go backward into “the good old days” with nostalgic sentiment. I don’t believe in moving backward. But as we move forward, Andy has always reminded me to claim what’s truly good and important.

I was born in the middle of the years “The Andy Griffith Show” was airing, so most of my memories are of watching reruns after school. I can’t say I’ve been an Andy Griffith nut (I don’t own the episodes and definitely haven’t seen them all), but at the same time I am grateful that he is one of the influences that shaped me. I love the comedy, the warmth, and the wholesome themes of what it means to be family and to be a responsible part of your community. Who can forget Barney’s craziness, and all the other characters and their idiosyncrasies? I’ve seen the lakehouse on Logan Martin that once belonged to Jim “Gomer” Nabors. Rarely does a month go by without some fleeting reference to an episode in a conversation with a friend or parishioner.

I believe all of us are shaped in life. My spirituality has embraced the truth that I am shaped and formed not only by the Bible and worship, but by how and with whom I spend my time. Spirituality is not divorced, somehow, from regular life and relegated only to what happens on Sunday or during morning prayer time. So I’m glad that for at least part of my life, Andy Griffith was part of that shaping.

I believe that all people are spiritual beings, shaped by the influences they give themselves to. Even the most profound atheist is actually on a spiritual journey, whether he or she knows it. Sometimes anger with or disbelief in God is not the opposite of relationship with God, it’s just the chosen stance within that relationship. Thankfully, God’s side of the relationship is always one of grace. A life of spiritual maturity is one that integrates all the shaping influences into one whole, one sense of who we really are and what it means to follow God with all our hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves. I’m glad I let myself be shaped by Andy Griffith.

Earlier this year, Andy’s companion George “Goober” Lindsey from right here in Jasper, Alabama, also died. In light of these deaths, I’m feeling led to have a bit of fun for my Pastor’s Study during Wonderful Wednesdays this Fall. I’ll do my rendition of the “Andy Griffith Bible Study” that has been a rave among churches and small groups for the past several years. We’ll watch a 27 minute episode and have a 45 minute Bible study. I’ll even tweak the study materials I have seen online for more depth.

Sunday, I got a Facebook message from a friend in church, who said I really nailed my sermon, and “That's one subject you just can't talk enough about: sin.” He and I have talked about good old Andy. I knew immediately the episode, “The Sermon for Today,” he was quoting (Barney really hadn’t heard the sermon but was making something up to say to the preacher after church). Thanks for the laugh. And thanks, Barney and Andy and the gang, for being part of my life.