By Pastor Brad Heintz
The other day I was craving some comfort food and asked my daughter, a hostess at T-Bone Tom’s Restaurant in Kemah, what their lunch special of the day was or like I call it, “blue-plate special.” After enjoying my lunch, as an extra treat I was able to bring half of it home and then used it as a topping on a delicious chef’s salad that night.
When my wife recently received difficult health news, first we prayed together and then I asked her what she wanted to do? She said, “I’m hungry and I want to go to Classic Café for some comfort food!” The lunch special, a.k.a. “blue-plate special” sounded good, but the Chicken Fried Steak sounded better, so we shared it!
All this talk about food makes me ravenous for more … information that is!
How did blue-plate specials get their name? According to Wikipedia, blue-plate special is a term used in the United States by restaurants, especially diners and cafes. It refers to a low-priced meal that usually changes daily. The term was very common from the 1920s through the 1950s. One can still find a few restaurants and diners that call their daily special a blue-plate special, and as an extra bonus at times, it’s even served on a blue plate. Sadly, this is a vanishing tradition.
Another vanishing tradition is what I would nick name a purple-plate special or Lent! Lent is a Christian season of 40 days before Easter (minus Sundays) where Christians traditionally take on the spiritual discipline of self-sacrifice in order to connect with the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on the cross.
It started in the Early Church as the timeframe when new believers would make room in their schedules to learn about the faith and then be baptized on Easter Weekend. Over the years this time developed into 40 days of self-sacrifice, spiritual discipline and preparation for many Christians. Some people give up meat, sweets or meals as a spiritual discipline. I’ve even seen others give up Facebook, video games or TV as a self-sacrifice.
The number 40 is a special number in the Bible. Noah experienced 40 days and nights of rain. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days in the wilderness after His baptism. The disciples spent 40 days with Jesus after his resurrection.
My adopted dad, Rush Warren described Lent as, “Making room on your plate for God.” One morning while eating breakfast at The Pelican Grill, he shared a story about when he went out to lunch with some co-workers. Around the table were a Muslim, a Hindu and a Christian. (I know some of you are expecting a joke or punch line right about now.) The Muslim and the Hindu co-workers all ordered their lunch and the Christian ordered water. They asked him why he didn’t order lunch and Rush shared that he was fasting. They both nodded in understanding since they both have used the spiritual discipline of fasting or, as Rush would say, “Making room on your plate for God.”
What if for the 40 days before we observe the death and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter, we make room on our proverbial plate for God. This may mean giving something up like a meal, TV show or even sleep.
Maybe you have gotten out of the habit of worship on Sundays? Now would be a great time to make room on Sundays for God. Maybe you could set the alarm 30 minutes earlier during the week and make room for God daily through prayer and reading of His Word?
What if you spent the next 40 days making room in your life for God? Do you think He could wipe away all that was bad in your life like Noah, prepare you for what He has promised, like the Israelites, empower you for ministry like Jesus or pour out the Holy Spirit like the Disciples? I think He will because he has moved heaven and earth to make space for you on His plate. Give it a try and let me know how God filled the space you made for Him!
I’m so sorry if this article made you hungry or if I left out your favorite restaurant. After Easter, invite me to lunch and let me know how God filled your plate! Just let me know.
Having been freed from a lot of tradition myself, I find keeping the spirit of this season more helpful than the letter of it. Lent, or my purple-plate experience starts March 1 and concludes Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017. How about you?