Sermon Text: The Pizza Dude Philosophy
Luke can be harder than Matthew.
In Matthew’s Gospel, there are the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. People like Matthew’s version of these words of Jesus. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Lovely, right?
Luke is more blunt. In Luke’s version, Jesus says, “Blessed are you poor.” Period. Not “poor in spirit.” Poor. Ouch. You see, if you think about the difference between the poor and the rich in the time of Jesus, you’ll come to realize that you and I are rich. And comparing our lives to those of people in the Third World today, we are rich.
We eat every day, we have clothing, we have shelter. Compared to the truly poor, you and I are rich. So what do we do with what Jesus says here? “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.”
How do you and I deal with that?
Well, this is a job for an English teacher! I’ve learned a lot from English teachers over the years. And right now, I’m going to flat-out steal the words of one of them. Her name is Sarah Adams. She wrote an essay in a book I bought over a decade ago. The essay is for a series called “I Believe” from National Public Radio. In the series, people offered their personal philosophies. Many of them are just fascinating.
Sarah Adams became an English professor. But before that, she had many jobs, including telemarketing, working in a factory, hotel clerk, and flower shop cashier. And as I thought about trying to follow the impossible teachings of Jesus, I found some help in her essay. She calls it “Be Cool to the Pizza Dude,” and this is her essay:
If I have one operating philosophy about life, it is this: Be cool to the pizza delivery dude — it’s good luck.
Four principles guide the pizza dude philosophy.
Principle 1: Coolness to the pizza delivery dude is practice in humility and forgiveness.
I let him cut me off in traffic, I let him safely hit the exit ramp from the left lane, I let him forget to use his blinker. I do not extend any of my fingers out the window or toward my car horn because there should be one moment in my harried life when a car may cut me off or pass me, and I let it go. Sometimes when I have become certain of my ownership of my lane, and dare anyone to challenge me, the pizza dude speeds by in his rusted Chevette. His pizza light atop his car glowing like a beacon reminds me to check myself as I flow through the world. After all, the pizza dude is delivering pizza to young and old, families and singletons, gays and straights, blacks, whites and browns, rich and poor, vegetarians and meat lovers alike. As he journeys, I give him safe passage, practice restraint, show courtesy, and contain my anger.
Principle 2: Coolness to the pizza dude is practice in empathy.
Let’s face it: we’ve all taken jobs just to have a job because some money is better than none. I’ve had an assortment of these jobs, and was grateful for the paycheck which meant I didn’t have to share Cheerios with my cats. In the big pizza wheel of life, sometimes you’re the hot bubbly cheese and sometimes you’re the burnt crust. It’s good to remember the fickle spinning of that wheel.
Principle 3: Coolness to the pizza dude is practice in honor, and it reminds me to honor honest work.
Let me tell you something about these dudes: They never took over a company as CEO and then artificially inflated the value of the stock and cashed out their own shares, bringing the company to the brink of bankruptcy, resulting in twenty thousand people losing their jobs while the CEO builds a home the size of a luxury hotel. Rather, the dudes sleep the sleep of the just.
And Principle 4: Coolness to the pizza dude is practice in equality.
My measurement as a human being, my worth, is the pride I take in performing my job — any job — and the respect with which I treat others. I am the equal of the world not because of the car I drive, the size of the TV I own, the weight I can bench-press, or the calculus equations I can solve. I am the equal to all I meet because of the kindness in my heart.
And it all starts here — with the pizza delivery dude. Tip him well, friends, for what you bestow freely and willingly will bring you all the blessings that a grateful universe knows how to return.
That’s her essay. Thank you, Sarah Adams. That helps me with the impossible standards Jesus set. I may not be ready to put the Jesus teachings into practice with the entire population of the Earth. But I think I can start with the pizza delivery dude, and go from there. This English teacher gives me a way to make a start, at least, at following these impossible words of Jesus about riches and poverty, hunger and fullness, weeping and laughter.
Pizza dudes are everywhere. They are the ones who wait on us at the grocery store. They are the aides in hospitals and nursing homes. They plow our roads, collect our garbage, and keep our power on. They prepare our food. They collect the highway tolls that help keep us on the road. They are bank tellers, checkout clerks in convenience stores, and drive taxis and buses.
So this week, how about we remember to be cool to the pizza dude? Be cool to all those humble and maybe invisible people around us who just might turn out to be Jesus in disguise.