I without fail announce a cheerful “God bless you!” anytime I hear someone sneeze, even though I know it’s almost always a tactical mistake.
Because no one ever sneezes just once and it gets awkward if you keep chanting, “God bless you!” every time someone sneezes seven or eight times in a row and everyone is praying you’ll just stop spraying snot all around the room.
Maybe instead of the holy blessing we should all just start counting aloud and in unison, “1! . . . 2! . . . 3! . . .” like the person is doing public push-ups or something.
Because a really powerful sneeze draws a lot of unwanted attention to people and the natural reaction is to immediately begin to try and stifle the sneeze, which could in extreme circumstances lead to the sneeze-stifler’s head exploding.
I’ve read the blessing custom comes from the 7th century superstitious belief that anytime someone sneezed it meant their soul was departing the body and the blessing would serve as a spiritual sort of anchor.
Today we know better.
We know the people who wind up most truly blessed are the ones who had the financial foresight to invest in the companies that make Kleenex and other disposable facial tissues.
“Geshundheit!” — German for “good health!”— is a popular alternative, and incidentally a form of what a lot of people say when they drink the things in short glasses that lead to big hangovers.
Me, I always say “Geshundheit!” any time I’m in a room where someone tries to appear wise by using the word “eschew.”
I’ve spent a lot of time recently wondering what God says when Jesus sneezes.
Does He say, “I bless you!” “Geshundheit!” Or being a father, does he counsel, “How many times do I have to remind you to sneeze into your robed elbow?”
I’m guessing He probably doesn’t say much.
I base that belief on the fact that the King James Bible has by one count 593,493 words in it and not a one of them is a direct quote from God Himself. It’s always someone saying “God said” or what the courts call hearsay.
And I hope my musings don’t come across as heresy. The words look similar but the distinctions could mean the difference between me being brought up on perjury charges or me being burned at the stake.
In fact, the majority of the Bible deals with prophets, fornicators, drunks, thieves, non-believers, adulterers, etc., telling their stories, so in some ways tonight’s Good Friday Happy Hour at The Pond will be sort of like Bible study.
And, understand, every Friday Happy Hour at The Pond is a good Friday.
I think the reason there is no exact count of God saying something is because He usually has guys like Moses speaking for him, a role that today is fulfilled by Pat Robertson.
Now, Jesus is another matter. Biblical scholars all know exactly how many New Testament words He is credited with speaking. The number is 2,026.
By contrast, I in the ’11 story linked below, wrote nearly as many words about the night my fancy blue socks nearly got me killed in dangerous Hot Springs, Arkansas, biker bar.
It’s not exactly the Sermon on the Mount, but I think the piece still holds up pretty well.
As Easter approaches, don’t we wish we all heard a little more from God?
Some will argue He said all that’s ever needed to be said when Jesus rose from the tomb and there’s a lot of majestic poignancy to that belief.
But we have so many questions. Why are there wars? Why do people hate? How do you explain things like Cub fans?
My favorite question to God of all time came from my grandfather. He died at 97 about five years ago or almost 20 years after he told me he’d been praying every night that he’d be dead by morning.
He was sharp as hell right up to the very end, but was furious at his longevity.
“I’ve buried all my friends,” he’d decry. “My body’s breaking down. I’m sick and tired of being alive.”
He was a great man without being particularly religious. But he was very curious about the role or non-role God played in all he believed He’d created. I remember his anguished lament anytime he’d see someone, especially a young mother, die prematurely.
“How come God gave me so many years and He gave her so few?”
It’s a good question.
He had an even better one.
He swore when he’d get to heaven — and if he’s not in heaven I don’t wanna go — that he was looking forward to asking God: “I believe you created heaven and earth. But who or what created you?”
Think about that one for a while.
Maybe it’ll all make sense when we die and meet our maker. Maybe that would make it all worth while.
Just in the nick of time!
Either way, may God bless you on this Easter weekend.
And I mean that even for those you not struggling with abnormally high pollen counts.
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