The Birthday Cake My Father Never Enjoyed

“The Birthday Cake My Father Never Enjoyed”

'Whose birthday is it?'

And I heard him murmur…

He would have liked that birthday cake…”

I didn’t know… so I checked it out in ‘crosswalk.com’…  as I was not sure if the Bible contained the word, ‘birthday.’  But, sure enough… there it was… in just 2 places…

Do you know those stories?  They are just a bit edgy if you know what I mean…

The first is in Genesis 40… the story when Joseph found himself in Pharoah’s jail and interpreted the dreams of the ‘cupbearer’ and the ‘baker.’  It seems that Joseph told the cupbearer he would live and serve on Pharoah’s staff for a good while.  However, the baker’s lot in life was going to end and three days later Pharoah threw a birthday party for his servants and sure enough Joseph’s prognostications came true… the cupbearer’s place on the staff was restored and the baker was taken out and hanged… happy birthday, Papa Pharoah…

The other story (actually it is in Matthew 14 AND Mark 6) is about another King…one named Herod who threw a banquet party on his birthday for his lords and military leaders and as part of the night’s activities..Herodias’ daughter did some pretty nifty dancing for the crowd… so enticing to rattle his proverbial sexual cage that Herod offered her…”whatever you want…” and after a quick consultation with her mother… the request came back…”John the Baptizer’s head on a platter…” and as things went in those days… the reply came…”so it is spoken… then so it shall be done…” and it was…

It seems then…at least according to the Bible…when a birthday shows up… stuff can happen… good stuff as well as not-so-good… banquets and dancing are one thing but silver platters and chopped off heads…well that wasn’t on my birthday list this year…

"Ok, if I make this...I get the first piece of cake!"

 But, I did have a birthday… # 57… yesterday… the birthday my dad never got to celebrate… AND it is also the day on which my mother died 3 years ago…and maybe what I need to say first and foremost before anyone else starts digging around the details of birthdays past… is that it wasn’t his fault that he died so young…and it wasn’t her fault that my mother died on my birthday… it just is what it is…

In fact, I spoke with one of my sisters yesterday and we concluded that if our father had not died of Legionnaires Disease (which takes 72 hours to diagnose and 24 hours to take you out!) there’s a likelihood he would still be hanging out with his grandchildren… after all his mom lived into her early 80’s as did her father…and he was a pretty healthy guy back then when the suddenness of his death jolted our family along with our church and community in which I grew up… and he did like birthday cake… and would have helped me eat some of mine had he been at the kitchen table when all the candles were lit and the lights went out…

But, I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t find the word, ‘birthday,’ all over the old and new scripts of God…I sort of expected it… and here’s why…

Birthdays point to us!  They pop up once a year and mark the time of our lives.  We look forward to them; we want to be ‘grown up’ and after a few more of them we want to stop having them as our birthdays not only recall when we got here…they remind us that some day we wont have them forever…

Or what about this?  Check out the calendar of festivals in our culture… feast days and celebrations for all kinds of things… SuperBowl Sunday, MLK, Jr. Day… Groundhog Day, President’s Day, St. Patrick’s Green River in Chicago Day, The 4th of July, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day…just to name a few and maybe by now you get the point… most of the days that we call holi-days are about the actions, victories and accomplishments of humans… celebrations that point to the men and women in our world who now because of their notoriety give us the right as well as chance to par-dee har-dee and do whatever we want even to the point of not have the capacity to remember what took place the night before…  like the college kid said to his roommate…”Wow, that was great last night…what a party…what did we do?”  Victories and celebrations of humans thus place an emphasis on ourselves and maybe that’s why Jesus is never remembered for blowing out 16 candles… but rather being the “light of the world” and the ‘lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world…”

And the Bible, then, tells of our life a different way… with the festivals and holidays pointing to the work and action of God… a weekly celebration recalling God’s need to rest and thus our need as well… celebrations for the changing of the seasons and bounty of the harvest… a celebration for God’s people being led out of slavery and across the desert and into the Promised land…and a party to remember the hand of God leading Israel’s victorious armies over their foes… or a time when angels appear to announce God is coming to the world!  And best a day to remember when God in Christ rose from the dead to point fully that the kingdom is here… bake a cake for that & God shows up!

My dad didn’t get to eat any of his 57th birthday cake nor did he or my mom have the chance to share in mine…  but as faith goes… we can say with confidence…it is what it is … as none of us has any guarantee that we’ll see any birthday to come… as each day is special, fragile graced and shrouded in mystery and brought forth to us as gift…  could we ask for anything more?  And if we did, would that really matter?

Lately as I have let others in on this story of me living into this time and season of my life I have heard similar thoughts spoken of how people have out-lived their parents or that someone else mentions as parents, they outlived their children or grandparents … and when all is said and done we can say with confidence that the quality of our lives is not fully determined by the length of our lives but rather by what we’ve done with the time given to us… 24 hours at a time…7 days at a time, 12 months at a time…one decade after another… and OBTW… the cake was chocolate… my dad’s favorite…

Murmuring from time to time,

     Brian

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About briangigee

Loves life; lives love! Bud and Doris' eldest son. Descendant of 'refiners' and 'reformers.' Husband to Margo. Father of 5. Grandfather to 2. Brother, uncle, friend and colleague. Working parish pastor. Became a naturalized Texan in February 2013.
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One Response to The Birthday Cake My Father Never Enjoyed

  1. Chris South says:

    Thank You Pastor Brian for sending this

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