The Andy Griffith Show is a favorite of many in our small congregation. Recently some of us watched an episode of the show entitled “A Date for Gomer.” Thelma Lou’s cousin Mary Grace unexpectedly comes for a visit. The problem is that the Chamber of Commerce Dance is set for Saturday night, and even though she and Barney already have a date to go together, Thelma Lou won’t think of leaving Mary Grace home alone. She insists that Barney find a date for Mary Grace. Barney balks. In appearance, Mary Grace is what many would consider “homely.” Barney exclaims, “She’s a dog!”
Because Thelma Lou won’t go to the dance without Mary Grace, Barney seeks assistance from Andy, who is already set to go to the dance with Helen. They decide to ask Gomer to be Mary Grace’s date. Gomer keeps asking, “What’s she like? Is she pretty?” and they keep insisting, “She’s sweet. She’s nice. Real nice.” Gomer agrees to go.
Our plain, simple small church is homely in the eyes of some. Second rate. They seem focused more on what we are not, and what we lack, and it feels as if they don’t appreciate the grace and beauty and blessings hidden in our quiet, humble package. Sometimes people say the same thing about us that Barney and Andy said about Mary Grace: “The people are sweet. The people are nice. They’re real nice. But…”
I understand younger people’s desire to go where there are larger numbers of young adults and children, and where it is possible to offer more age-specific programs for them. I understand that they want to be with people their own age. I understand that they are looking for a place they can enjoy. But there’s something to be said for the blessings that come when multiple generations worship and live closely as the family of God together. There is something to be said for making a commitment to understand one another across generations and for struggling to work together as a company of disciples, that spans the ages from cradle to grave–and beyond! Yes, it takes special effort to work together in this way. This is definitely the narrower, less popular road.
In the TV episode, Gomer goes into the date with Mary Grace with open eyes. When the guys arrive at Thelma Lou’s house to pick up the gals, Gomer’s “Hey, Mary Grace!” is warm and sincere. He smiles and chunks Andy on the arm. But then Gomer realizes that there is something he’s “got to do,” so he abruptly hurries out. It later becomes clear what Gomer is up to. He believes Mary Grace deserves to be “adorned” just like Helen and Thelma Lou, so he searches high and low to find a corsage –he pronounces it “cor-say-ge”–for her. Adorned with this token of grace, Mary Grace shines. In Gomer’s eyes, plain, simply-dressed Mary Grace is pretty, and she is definitely someone worth spending time with. He sees the grace in her, looks on her through gracious eyes, and treats her with grace in his own Gomer Pyle way.
May the Lord raise up Christians of all ages who see deeply through God’s gracious eyes. May he raise up people of all ages to answer the call to live as intentional, covenant communities together, where Christian nurture flows from one generation to another and back again. May the Lord raise up Christians of all ages who want to follow Jesus and serve him, each other, and a hurting world together, side by side.
I admit it. This is my prayer. I hope God brings somebody to Morton who hears the call to be an anchor for a young adult generation, someone who envisions a multigenerational family of God, someone who wants to be in the company of us who are older, and someone who wants their children to grow up knowing us older saints well. Our hearts and our arms long for these young adults and their children. May God help us who are older to listen to, respect and make room for them.