Preachers sometimes get spoiled. I know I have been. I have been given baked goods, bags of potatoes, lawn furniture, dinners out, the use of a swimming pool for a week, popcorn, clothing, money, offers of free airline tickets, tickets to sporting events and concerts, garden produce and cuts of meat. Because we have eight children it’s common for people to offer us used clothing.
There is one thing, however preachers get that they can rarely use. Zucchini. Is there a difference between a gourd and a squash? Is Zucchini just squash with an attitude or what? If you dry out and Zucchini and hollow it out does it become a gourd then? What is the difference between a gourd and a squash? They say when you live in a small town you wouldn’t have to lock your car at all if you didn’t have to worry about people putting Zucchini in it while you weren’t looking.
Years ago we lived in a rural county in Ohio in a tiny cross-road village called Logansville. The county seat was Bellefontaine about fifteen miles away. That’s where we shopped and went to the library and the department store. Three miles away was a village called DeGraff, Ohio. The whole village of DeGraff came to a halt in the late summer for the Gourd Festival.
I read recently of a Road-Kill Cookoff Festival and a Moose Dropping Festival. Fredericktown, Ohio has a Tomato Festival. Fremont, Michigan has the National Baby Food Festival, Mount Vernon has Dan Emmit Days. I guess it really doesn’t matter what you call it if you have a chance to all get together in the evening and close the streets and smell peppers and onions frying on the grill and ride the Ferris Wheel high over the town and listen to folk music while you munch on Elephant Eats and Funnel Cake.
Anyway in DeGraff their excuse to celebrate was the Gourd Festival. I always thought it was pretty comical for a whole town to stop everything to celebrate something with no real practical value. And I used to wonder if it was really an honor to be crowned the “Gourd Queen,” and what kind of recipes call for gourd? Do they make gourd pie? Gourd bread? Gourd casserole? Fried Gourd? Mashed gourd? Have you ever seen gourd on the menu at a fine restaurant?
It’s a little difficult to imagine anything with less value than a gourd. I can’t imagine a person getting very attached to one. I guess the object of the gourd festival was to the award the farmer who grew the biggest gourd. But why would you want to waste your time and fertilizer and water and effort on something with the value of a gourd?
I’ve been doing a little research on this and it really is amazing how many people are able to keep a strait face while they discuss the finer points of gourd enthusiasm. Have you ever heard of the Indiana Gourd Society? They actually have a web site! Amazing. I know all God’s created things have a purpose and their own beauty, but you must admit there are so many things that are more important than gourds.
It’s easy to get caught up with “gourds” in life. Things that eat up our time a resources but have little real value. We all have done it. It’s always been that way. The Old Testament missionary Jonah grew so attached to his gourd that he grieved over its death, even when he was unmoved at the prospect of a whole culture with a death-sentence hanging over its head.
In the King James Version of the Bible, Jonah the prophet went out and plunked himself down on the hillside after his thee-day message of warning to Nineveh. A gourd grew up to shelter him from the hot sun. To his dismay, instead of having the privilege of seeing Nineveh toasted, he watched them repent and experience the mercy of God. Then God sent a worm to cut off Jonah’s prized gourd and it died. Jonah was in despair over the death of the gourd. God rebuked Jonah because he cared more about his gourd than he did about all those in Nineveh who were lost. If you read the story in the Bible you see that Jonah was too excited about the gourd when it grew and too discouraged about the gourd when it died. He cared so much more for his gourd than he did for people.
One Saturday night late when by parents were out shopping I watched a movie I’ve never been able to get out of my mind. It was about an alien invasion. The alien was a fast-growing vine plant that was taking over he world. Nothing could stop it. It was huge and insidious.
Do you have a gourd growing in your life that is taking over and choking the life out of important things?
When the things of God do not stir you
When the glories of heaven do not interest you
When the horrors of hell do not concern you
When the peril of the lost doesn’t move you
When the Word of God does not attract you
When the idea of prayer does not draw you
When the House of God does not delight you
When you do not see the other things in your life as a way to perform the will of God,
…then you know that “gourds” have taken over your life.