Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Circle of Grace

My sister-in-law loves to shop on QVC. Saw something the other day, she did, that made her think of me. It’s a bathroom scale that not only weighs you, but also calculates your total body fat, muscle mass, and bone density. She saw it and thought: “That’s Wayne; he’s gotta have one of those!” So she sent me one, God love her.

And so, now every morning I step on the scales and weigh myself; calculate my total body fat; compute my muscle mass. I count every pound, measure every inch, agonize over every failure. Some days I measure up pretty well; some days I don’t.

It occurs to me that many people in our world wouldn’t understand my problem.
We weigh the world in a lot of ways. We divide up the human race into winners and losers, rich and poor, black and white, East and West, young and old. But it is an indictment of you and me that we can also divide the world into “weight watchers” and “starving.”

Jesus told a story about you and me. It is sometimes called the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46). Among other things, it says that on Judgment Day God will weigh you and me by one criterion: “I was hungry and you fed me….” Apparently, when you have some people who eat and some who don’t, you can’t have the Kingdom of God.

Maybe we can’t eliminate hunger in our lifetime, but we can make a start, can’t we? We can do our part, can’t we? “Live simply so that others might simply live,” goes the slogan. As slogans go (and I think you know my policy on slogans), it’s not bad. I can eat a little less, drive a little less, consume a little less, and give a little more. And who knows? Maybe by making all the difference in the world for someone I can make all the difference in the world.

One of the things we’ve learned in the last eighteen months or so is that resources are finite and limited. There’s only so much to go around. To constrict the conduit of God’s grace to me and mine is to forget that we all, all of us, stand in the circle of the grace of God. What I pass on in the circle eventually comes back to me, and when I stop the circle of God’s grace, sooner or later I am the one who is deprived.

There’s an old, old story about a man who, in a dream, was transported to the afterlife – heaven and hell. First he went to hell and was told, in advance of his tour of the nether regions, that the only thing death did was to lock the elbows. Other than that, all was as it was before. But in hell he witnessed a scene of horrific havoc and torturous misery. To be sure, everything was as it was on earth, except for the fact that everyone’s elbows were locked in position. All about was a bounty of food within easy reach; but with locked elbows, they could pick up the food but could not feed themselves. Consequently, everyone was starving and in horrible anguish.

From there, he was taken to heaven, and the scene could not have been more different. Where chaos and misery and starvation had reigned in hell, in heaven there was peace and harmony and mutuality. Oh, to be sure, everyone’s elbows were still locked; but there they were in a circle – person-to-person, face-to-face…feeding each other, and being fed. It was the circle of the grace of God.

And so, you ask, just what is your weight and total body fat and muscle mass? Some things I take to the grave.

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