“Adversity is what makes you mature. The growing soul is watered best by tears of sadness.”
– Charlie Brown –
“It never fails. Just hint that some of their troubles might be with themselves, and they get mad at you!”
– Snoopy –
“…if you do not say anything in a cartoon, you might as well not draw it at all. Humor which does not say anything is worthless humor. So I contend that a cartoonist must be given a chance to do his own preaching.”
– Charles M. Schulz, Sparky –
Last week, I took a mini sabbatical to tend to spiritual care and spend time with God. I read a number of books and hung out with the Peanuts characters and creator…through comics and stories of course. I have become completely enamored by the way faith and the Gospel message has been portrayed from the funny pages all of these years, and many have not even noticed. Myself included.
When the idea to have a sermon series over a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving first came to light, it was because the animated short highlights the diversity of people who come to sit at our tables and the gratitude we must choose to have. The imagery of a table, of neighbors, of the multitude of emotions we bring to the holidays, and of all that we have to be thankful for, was quite relatable to what we practice as Christians. But as I began to research, I found more compelling nuggets that have forever endeared me to Charlie Brown.
Human history has for most of our existence, been an oral history. The art of storytelling has been practiced throughout cultures, religions, and nations. Our stories remind us of who we are and where we’ve come from. Our stories highlight the mistakes of the past and also the progress of humanity to evolve with new ideas, new innovations, and new hope. Modern cars no longer use cranks to roll down the windows. Modern televisions have color and do not need rabbit ears. Stories both draw maps to show us where we’ve been and what has existed, and they draw maps of what can be and where we can go.
Through his stories, Charles Schulz both related to the human condition and challenged it. He both acknowledged what plagues us and pointed to what changes us. Though Schulz was dedicated to the Church of God in his hometown, he became very involved in a Methodist church after moving to California. He connected with the Wesleyan devotion to scripture and personal holiness. He understood what John Wesley talked about when he spoke of justifying grace, and he celebrated the possibilities that exist because of social holiness. He gave his life to Christ out of gratitude, and his grateful devotion to God led him deeper into God’s word and teaching God’s word with faithful dedication.
Schulz once hoped that the messages, the stories he shared, would point people to Jesus, not him. He didn’t care much for celebrity. In fact, he was quite uncomfortable with it. Churches, seminaries, religious organizations, even Billy Graham, wanted to use Peanuts strips in their publications. For some time, Schulz allowed this without royalties. He’d then go to church on Sunday mornings, without any member of his family joining him, and he’d teach. He’d teach not about Charlie Brown, but about a faith that would become a voice for Charlie Brown.
For Schulz, his way to communicate with the world happened through scripture and Snoopy. His way of understanding humanity and heartache, was through Lucy and Charlie. His way of expressing fear and hope, was through Jesus and Peanuts. Essentially, Schulz truly had the Bible in one hand and the paper in the other. An act often described of relevant preachers.
This week I encourage you to watch a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, or read a Peanuts comic strip, and look for Jesus. I challenge you to open your newspaper next to your Bible and compare notes. I empower you to infuse your faith into your work, your language, your coming and going. I implore you to find something to be thankful for each day. I entice you to consider a deeper spiritual life, one of personal and social holiness; a life that dares to be changed, to stand out in a crowd, and to impact lives around you for the better.
Good grief…what have you got to lose?
A Charlie Brown Religion: Exploring the Spiritual Life and Work of Charles M. Schulz.
Referenced in yesterday’s sermon and recommended by Pastor Tiffany.
Other great resources: The Gospel According to Peanuts and the Parables of Peanuts by Robert L. Short.