Lectionary, Personal History

According to Hoyle

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

This past week I followed a college friend’s Facebook report about his vacation, and in the last update, he got into a conversation about Bridge, a game that is still a big part of his life.

I haven’t played Bridge in years, but it’s one of the major reasons I didn’t live up to my full potential in college. Sophomore year I saw people playing in my dorm, and I asked someone to teach me how to play, and I had a new pastime. Or habit. Or lifestyle.

My friend, JM, liked me as a Bridge partner because I was great at playing the cards. But I clearly didn’t become sophisticated at bidding, or rather not sophisticated enough. There were too many conventions to remember, too many tricky systems in which 3 Clubs didn’t mean a hand with a long, strong Club suit at all. The only one I could ever remember was Blackwood, which you used to figure out how many Aces your partner had when considering the possibility of a Slam.

“I just love it when JM takes me to Blackwood,” I once famously said, imbuing his perfectly innocent game play with something not quite intended.

But that’s not what this post is really about.

What it’s about is a guy who told us he came not to abolish the rules, but to fulfill them. And that is hard talk, because a lot of those rules sound as hard or complicated or ridiculous as Jacoby Transfers or Stayman, which I vaguely remember but couldn’t possibly use after so many years.

And I suppose it doesn’t matter, for me, because Bridge was about those friends I loved so much, and the other characters in our universe at William and Mary, and especially in Project Plus, the people who enjoyed a game and knew its rules and practiced it over and over again, and wrote funny songs about it (better not to remember them in public, but they were funny, I promise), people so enthralled with the same set of rules that we all played together even when we found each other irritating, even when we hurt each others’ feelings, even when we really ought to have been writing that paper or for heaven’s sake sleeping.

It’s a funny pseudo-religion, Bridge, a world of tournaments and rituals, of Duplicate and Swiss Teams and arcane rules and deep wisdom I never came near to knowing.

I loved those days, those friends, those places. We’re all grown-up now. I’m the only one left who isn’t 50 yet. And that brings me back to Jesus, who never got to be 50, or even 40, but who left us a rule of Love for God and love for each other. That’s the tie that binds, the fulfillment of all the rules, the meaning behind all the rest of it.

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