Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Larry's Celebrity Roast

The Word:
Psalm 112:5 (Blessed is the man who is gracious and lends to those in need)

(Here's a synopsis for a potential Veggie Tales episode. Unfortunately, I don't think it will ever be used. Due to the nature of the true story on which this is based, while the overall ending is happy, and the intended lesson is taught, part of the storyline would most likely be deemed too intense for young or sensitive viewers.)

This is a story about riches, service, and one man's juggling of priorities to do, as is often said on VT, what is right.

Our story centers around Larry (played by Larry the Cucumber), who works for a business in Rome. He is an executive assistant to "Mr. Six." (who, after much discernment over casting, is played by Bob the Tomato. Or possibly Archibald, the Asparagus with the British accent who wears a monocle. I'm still not sure who would be a better fit.)

Over two hundred years have passed since the time of Jesus. Remember the story in the Book of Acts? From the time the first seven great assistants were appointed, their job was to keep track of the wealth of the Church, with a priority on spending that wealth on those who needed it - the poor, the sick, the orphaned, and the elderly - people who had nobody to care for or pray for them. As the church grew, so did its potential wealth - and also the people who needed it.

The Emperors of Rome (all played by Mr. Nezzer) never quite understood how some people were able to get rich. The Emperors amassed their wealth by taxing the people for nearly everything under the sun. And if you were not a native Roman citizen (meaning you lived in one of the territories or colonies claimed by the Empire), you tended to pay a lot more taxes. But that's really another story. The Emperors tended to spend their wealth on personal luxury; and when they needed more stuff, they would finance wars to extend their empire and collect more taxes.

By the time Larry and Mr. Six were around, the Empire was in financial straits. Things that had been built to support the Empire were in need of repair, and the Emperor was not about to give up his personal lifestyle or wealth to fix things. He wanted more money. And here was Mr. Six and his business, thought to have enough excess wealth to be able to feed the hungry, clothe the needy, and shelter the homeless. Mr. Six set aside any profit from his business to use in this way. Further, he set such a good example doing this that most of his employees chipped in extra, so they could rightfully claim they also helped.

Well, one day the Emperor sent out his prefect (played ubiquitously by Mr. Lunt) to Mr. Six, demanding that the assets of the company be turned over to the Emperor. In the Emperor's mind, this was just like any other organization within the Empire, of which he was top banana (or zucchini, or cucumber, or whatever) and whatever he wanted, he got; and if he didn't get it, he would take it by force.

As you might guess, the meeting between the prefect and Mr. Six didn't go well. Mr. Six knew that God wanted him to use the wealth he was holding - which wasn't his, after all, but God's - on those who really needed it. So he flatly refused - and was led away to jail, where he was sentenced to be executed (not made executive - there could be some dark humor there).

While all this was happening, Larry was out doing what was right - what God wanted him to do. He had spent the night at the home of a poor widow, fixing her the best meal she'd had in some time - as Larry was an expert in cooking on the grill. He also gave her house a good cleaning, getting help from some of the young boys in the neighborhood, whom Larry also fed. All the while, Larry would tell all manner of stories and jokes, as this helped to pass the time and lighten an otherwise heavy work load. Nobody seemed to mind. People had come to know that a visit from Larry meant at least a few hours of a really good time.

The following morning, Larry headed back to his office to do all the paperwork; but on his way there, he encountered the prefect and some soldiers, 'escorting' Mr. Six to a place from which Larry knew he wasn't returning. Larry, in shock, asked Mr. Six, "Where are you going, and especially without me? I have gone with you everywhere you wanted or needed to go." And Mr. Six, knowing that this was their last meeting in this life, had a message from God for Larry, told him to go to work and get all the paperwork in order, and that after three days had passed, the two would meet again.

Larry went about his work diligently, as he had been told. I don't really know if he knew what fate had come to Mr. Six, but I suspect he was aware of the possibility. Two days had passed and Mr. Six had not come into the office. And on the third day, Prefect Lunt shows up to see Larry. You guessed it - he was demanding that the riches of Mr. Six's company be turned over to the Emperor. Larry, in the meantime, had put in overtime paying out more bills, buying extra food and supplies and getting these distributed. He didn't want to have any assets on the books that the Emperor could claim. On the contrary, he wanted to demonstrate to the prefect and the Emperor what the company's assets really were.

Prefect Lunt ordered Larry to appear before the Emperor the next day, and at that time to surrender the wealth of the company. At the appointed time, Larry appeared, not with gold or jewels or the keys to his office or the deed to the property on which the business stood. Instead, with Larry were many of the people he had helped through the generosity of Mr. Six's employees. He defiantly told Lunt and the Emperor, "This is my master's wealth - and as such the company has greater riches than you!"

Well, as you might guess, the Emperor thought this was some kind of joke; and it could have been taken as one, as Larry was quite the teller of funny stories. (It had helped him immensely when he worked with others, and his sense of humor was keen. It was known that Larry did stand-up comedy at times to help raise money, and never took anything for himself.) However, as it became clear that Larry wasn't kidding about this, the Emperor decided to give Larry a roasting; immediately, and he was to be the guest of honor.

Larry, true to God and to his character, went to meet his Master and his boss in good spirits. While enduring his fate, he would quip that he needed to be turned because he wasn't quite done yet; and dared his tormentors to take a bite. (Roasted cucumber happens to taste quite good.)

As usual, the show would take it's turn at summarizing its main point ("God has a lot to say in his book"). So when Bob asks Querty for a Bible verse, I would use Psalm 112:5, above; or John 12:26, or 2 Corinthians 9:6-10. All of these speak of spreading God's wealth where it is most needed.

After what I've written in the last few days regarding pain and suffering as a Christian, and recognizing that this is an incomplete theology, Deacon St. Lawrence reminds us that many people died for their beliefs when the Church was in its early years. What percentage of the population went the way of martyrdom is not truly known; it's even possible that a similar percentage is destined to that end still today. It's generally not martyrdom alone that ushers these souls into God's presence; but the acts of charity worked in an environment opposed to such works.

So remember, God loves you - and everyone - very much!
Deacon Saint Lawrence, pray for us.

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