Sunday Dinner

There are forty-two people in this room. Elderly couples, young families, a few high-schoolers, some children. It’s a trip back in time.

Birmingham is sunny. The weather is chilly, but not unpleasant. I am in a tiny church, sitting beside my cousin, his wife, and his three kids. His two girls wear white dresses.

Times have changed. Once upon a time, I remember when all girls wore Sunday dresses. Today, I don’t see more than four or five in the congregation.

Also, I don’t see any penny loafers on the little boys. As a boy, my mother never let me attend church without wearing a pair of god-awful loafers.

There are forty-two people in this room. Elderly couples, young families, a few high-schoolers, some children. It’s a trip back in time. A reminder of the days when Sunday school teachers taught us to say grace by rhyming:

“God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food…”

The congregation sings from hardback hymnals. Then, a sermon from a man with white hair, who pronounces “Lord” as “Lowered.”

The pastor tells us that he and his wife have been married for fifty-two years. The church applauds. Fifty-two years is a rarity.

He got married in 1967—when Andy Griffith was still on the air. That’s when he inherited his first church, in Tennessee, too.

When the pastor and his wife moved into their first parsonage, his wife placed a large cardboard box beneath her bed, she warned the pastor never to touch it.

“This box is private,” she explained. “Promise me you’ll never open it.”

He crossed his heart and hoped to die. For fifty-two years, the Baptist man honored his word.

Until a week ago. He opened the box and it surprised him. Inside, he found it full of cash and four eggs.

He confessed to his wife what he’d done, then asked her about the box.

“Well,” she explained, “when we married, my mama said, ‘Darling, a preacher’s wife has to listen to a lot of bad sermons. Every time you hear a really bad sermon, place a hen’s egg in the box.’”

The preacher thought about this. He felt very proud of himself.

“You mean, after fifty-two years, I only preached FOUR bad sermons?” he shouted. “That’s marvelous! But, what’s all the money for?”

“Well,” his wife went on, “Whenever I’d collect a dozen eggs, I’d sell them for cash and put the money in the box.”

Church lets out. It’s time for lunch. We have a few options. We could go to the city and fight hungry crowds—along with two hundred thousand Birminghamites.

Or, my cousin’s wife suggests, we could do Sunday dinner at her aunt’s house.

We choose the latter. We pile into an SUV and ride backroads, weaving northward through the hills of Jefferson County.

Finally, my cousin arrives at a yellow house, located on acres of green. The kids leap from the vehicle and run for parts unknown.

“Don’t get your clothes dirty!” their mother hollers.

They ignore their mother.

So my cousin’s wife tackles her children, smacks their hindparts with her bare hands, and warns them to never ignore her again. Then, she asks for forgiveness from the Lord because it’s Sunday.

Inside, the house is pure heaven. Women in the kitchen are dusting a counter with flour, stamping biscuits with a glass. Men gather in the den, swapping stories—telling blatant lies about fish, deer, and women they’ve known.

Children chase one another. Most have already gone outdoors and ruined their Sunday clothes.

A Labrador, named Big Al, is following anyone who smells like food. Today, it must be me. He sits beside my feet and gives me The Look.

Now it’s time to eat.

Twenty-three people gather in the kitchen. We all come from from different walks of life. There are eleven Baptists; six Methodists; five Episcopalians with more money than a show horse could jump over; and a handful of children with grass-stains on their clothes.

Everyone joins hands to pray. One elderly uncle suggests that his eight-year-old niece say grace. A girl steps forward. She is a towhead, wearing a dress. She clasps her hands.

“God is great,” she begins. “God is good, let us thank him for our food…”

We all know the words, and we say them in unison. We smile at each other, not just because we’ve been saying this rhyme since childhood, but because this is one of the few things in life that hasn’t changed.

Everything changes. Friends come and go. So does happiness. Careers die. Loved ones pass from this world. Life throws a wrench into every plan you ever had, then it bills you for the damage.

But on Sunday, for a few hours these things don’t exist. We see old friends, we eat meals around big tables. Preachers deliver goose-egg sermons. Women bless us with flour and cholesterol. And we say childish prayers.

It all reminds me that somehow, by some great miracle, we all are fed.

So thank you God, for daily bread.

Amen.

36 comments

  1. Judy Kate - February 25, 2019 7:53 am

    Amen. 🙌

    Reply
  2. Trey Gregory - February 25, 2019 7:58 am

    “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Roughly Psalm 118:24, also set to song as a Children’s Church favorite. Turns out, it’s also a good way to live, one day at a time, with grace & gratitude. Also thankful for these showing up in my inbox with that same frequency. Much appreciated, SoS.

    Reply
  3. MaryJane Breaux - February 25, 2019 11:18 am

    ❤️ just pure love. Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  4. Elizabeth Edens - February 25, 2019 11:20 am

    It’s the small things! Thank you!

    Reply
  5. Karen - February 25, 2019 11:20 am

    I did not grow up in the church. Sunday rituals were not part of my life.
    They are part of my life now, and I do not take them for granted. There is something about the consistency and reliability that speaks to me. We have a church member who has hosted a Friday prayer breakfast, every week, for 30 years. He shops on Thursdays, and starts cooking on Friday morning. He serves up biscuits and sausage, and pancakes, beginning at 7:30. Every Friday. Thirty years. He has a servant’s heart. I love him for this.

    Reply
  6. Cathi - February 25, 2019 11:21 am

    Ah-men! The simplest things become the holiest things when done with great love. Thanks for reminding us!

    Reply
  7. Sue Tomlinson Baldridge - February 25, 2019 11:33 am

    Amen.

    Reply
  8. chatfield84 - February 25, 2019 11:45 am

    Amen indeed.

    Reply
  9. Sue - February 25, 2019 12:41 pm

    So much better than waiting at a crowded restaurant, and oh, the wonderful memories made at our relatives homes.

    Reply
  10. Marward Howard - February 25, 2019 1:18 pm

    I love reading your daily thoughts! God bless you

    Reply
  11. Candace Caswell - February 25, 2019 1:23 pm

    Reminds me of after church on Sundays, lunch at my grandmother, Libba’s, southern fried chicken, rice and gravy, good ole turnip greens, and Laura’s homemade biscuits……and don’t forget the sweet ice tea with lemon and home grown mint that grew right outside her back door! Top it all off with the best dessert ever….Red Velvet cake from the Curb Market in Montgomery, Alabama….and yes we said the Blessing in unison …… God is great, God is good…precious memories I’ll always cherish and miss to this very day. Those were the simple days filled with so much love!

    Reply
  12. Phillip Saunders. - February 25, 2019 1:46 pm

    No egg in the box for you today, Sean.

    Reply
  13. Johnny Parker - February 25, 2019 1:55 pm

    Sean,
    You reminded me that when I was growing up my mama always called the daily meals, breakfast, dinner, and supper. It wasn’t until I went into the Army that I heard Yankees say breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Your right, everything changes except one thing. The memories we hold dear. I can’t wait for supper tonight.

    Reply
  14. Connie Havard Ryland - February 25, 2019 2:08 pm

    Thank you. I remember Sundays at church. Every female wore a dress. I still wear dresses to church. My grandpa would come back and haunt me if I didn’t. We were poor as dirt but Sunday dinner we always had meat, even if it was chicken and dumplings. Some great weeks we had pot roast. My momma made the best biscuits in the world, to me. Thank you for reminding us of our childhood and the simple pleasures that we took for granted. You are my daily blessing.

    Reply
  15. Edna B. - February 25, 2019 2:52 pm

    My brother and I said that very same prayer all our years of growing up. I still say it. It’s good that some things don’t change. You have a wonderful day, Sean. Hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  16. John Allen Berry - February 25, 2019 3:28 pm

    Thank you. For a moment there, you took me back to Maw Maw’s house, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and strawberry cobbler. My Dad or Paw Paw saying grace or me (the length of the prayer depending on how hungry I was). Thank you for that.

    Reply
  17. debbie gillespie - February 25, 2019 3:36 pm

    The fact that this post not only resonates with me but with thousands of others from different places, causes my heart to swell with gratitude. Thankful for having similar memories from my days as a child to even yesterday as I had lunch at a friend’s house after church. God IS good and God IS great and we are still thankful.

    Reply
  18. Glenn - February 25, 2019 4:05 pm

    This same Sunday ritual of large family gatherings with always too much and always great food was a big part of my childhood. Thanks for conjuring up fond memories of those days.

    Well, maybe except for the time my older cousins convinced me that trying to ride a goat was a good idea. The goat didn’t agree.

    Reply
  19. Budd Dunson - February 25, 2019 4:32 pm

    Great just great.

    Reply
  20. jnearen2013 - February 25, 2019 5:00 pm

    “[S]tamping biscuits with a glass.” 🙂

    Reply
  21. Heather - February 25, 2019 5:49 pm

    Our boys still say this prayer at meals…glad to see there are others that do it too! Love your blogs Sean, they certainly light up my day!

    Reply
  22. Shelton A. - February 25, 2019 5:51 pm

    Amen!

    Reply
  23. Lee Taylor - February 25, 2019 6:02 pm

    Wow and amen . . . From a Birminghamite!

    Reply
  24. Judy Riley - February 26, 2019 12:22 am

    Well Sean, this has nothing to do with todays post….but I had a good laugh in Walmart today. I’m strolling slowly down an aisle and there before my very eyes was “screw on Tupperware”! Except it wasn’t Tupperware…it was Rubbermaid! But what’s the difference…not much. I’m now the proud owner of “screw on Tupperware”! (It is much better than “pry off”! You should buy some for Jamie…she”ll love it.

    God Bless little gray headed Tupperware ladies!!

    Reply
  25. Jack Darnell - February 26, 2019 2:37 am

    Lot of memories here! Thanks… God is great, God is good……….. yep that is remembered!!
    Sherry & jack

    Reply
  26. Jack Quanstrum - February 26, 2019 7:51 am

    How delightful!

    Reply
  27. Debbie - February 26, 2019 12:18 pm

    Not sure that my youngest grandchildren know the “God is great, God is good” blessing, but I’m gonna be sure they hear it next time. Thank you for the reminder. They DO, however, have a song they sing, and I can’t help but shed a few tears when they sing it. Hearing the “out of tune” voices singing together, while joined hands swing in time to the music, and the littlest one is peeking to see if it’s time to say “Amen” – all of this is a part of Sunday dinner. My heart was full this past Sunday as my husband asked our thirteen year-old grandson to ask the blessing, and he did a beautiful, full-blown “adult” one! Loved your story, Sean. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  28. Amy Morissette - February 26, 2019 12:48 pm

    Sean, you are a blessing to me! I so look forward to your stories in my inbox everyday! This one was full of memories for me! God is great and God is good!

    Reply
  29. Carol - February 27, 2019 4:35 pm

    AMEN 🙏

    Reply
  30. Estelle Sexton Davis - February 28, 2019 7:48 am

    Sunday dinner at mama’s house after church. It was pot roast with potatoes,carrot and onions cooked all together with biscuits and gravy or fried chicken, mashed potatoes,green peas and biscuits and gravy. And in the summer also sliced tomatoes and green onions. So many wonderful memories.
    I love your writings Sean. They just get better with time. Lewis Grizzard woul be proud that you are following in his shoes.

    Reply
  31. Robert Chiles - March 4, 2019 3:05 pm

    Lord, bless the food upon the dishes; as Thou has blessed the loaves and fishes. As the sugar in the tea, so may we be lost in Thee.

    Reply
  32. Debbie - March 25, 2019 11:00 am

    💖🙏Amem🙏

    Reply
  33. Nanny - March 25, 2019 1:50 pm

    Amen

    Reply
  34. Debbie Shiflett - March 25, 2019 2:53 pm

    There were several perfect lines in this one Sean. But my favorite is, “women bless us with flour and cholesterol” .Only a gifted writer could put that together and make us feel it! Way to go Sean.

    Reply
  35. Mary Roten - March 25, 2019 9:40 pm

    I read your column in my inbox everyday and then follow it, or copy it and pass to a friend. My day is always blessed by the words from your sweet heart- one of the most thoughtful men I know!

    Reply
  36. Kathryn - March 26, 2019 12:47 pm

    By His hands we are fed, thank you for our daily bread. Amen.

    Reply

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