Saturday, April 26, 2008

What about the tip?

One of my favorite days of the week is Thursday morning. On Thursday morning a small number of faithful souls gathers in the sanctuary of Good Shepherd to pray Matins and celebrate the Eucharist. Afterwards, we usually go to lunch at Thornapple Kitchen; one of those great little local places that so often times have the best breakfasts.

It is usually only three of us who go to breakfast. We talk about everything: current events, history, Scripture, the doctrines of the Church, funny things that have happened since the last week, etc. We take turns paying for breakfast and it always comes up that one of us who doesn't pay for the breakfast will leave the tip.

This is very awkward for me. I never carry cash. All of our purchases are made with a debit card and you can't very well leave a tip with a debit card. It always makes me feel bad when I have to decline paying the tip.

One Thursday morning after breakfast I got to thinking: What about the tip?

Is there some greater theological comparison that can be made here?

If someone agrees to pay for your meal, shouldn't they also get the tip?

How does this compare to what Christ has done for us?

Does He leave us to pay the tip?

My first thought was absolutely NOT. He has paid everything, I don't need to worry about any payment.

But then I stopped to ponder this a little more. Where does the tip go? Does the tip technically have anything to do with the actual bill? Could I not leave a tip? If so, who would I be hurting?

The tip is the theological equivalent to good works done to and for our neighbor. God pays the necessary bill, the bill for our eating and drinking eternal life and salvation and forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ alone. We don't owe anything for that bill.

However, we are called to serve our neighbor, to do good works. After all, from this week's Gospel (John 14:15-21) Jesus says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." He gives us that ability. All the burden and crushing weight of our sin have been removed and totally paid for by the merit and righteousness of Jesus Christ. His love has freed us to truly keep the commandments, not for our own sake, but for love to God and our neighbor. This is like the tip. It does nothing really for the owner of the restaurant, he is paid when the bill is paid. The tip only serves our neighbor, the nice lady who always has our coffee (and tea) without being asked, the one who knows I like a glass of water with my coffee, the one who knows that I like two brown sugars with my oatmeal instead of raisins. She serves me gladly and kindly through her vocation and because Christ has freed me from the damning sentence of the Law, I may now serve her with the sweetness of the Law. That sweetness is the very Gospel.

So, what I first I had thought was a great illustration of God paying the WHOLE bill (thereby justifying me not having cash for a tip when my turn came) turned out to be a great illustration of how our loving Father frees us and gives us wonderful opportunities to serve our neighbor in love and not for selfish or forced motives (I will start making sure I have cash on Thursday mornings!)

"Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."

There, Laura, now I have updated the blog!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Great Insight

"Guilt makes a proud man dangerous."
From Edward Rutherfurd's Russka, page 114.
How true this is, especially in the church. How many times have proud men and women turned away from the grace of God and instead lurked down the path of destruction rather than humble themselves before the Lord and confess their sins?

Pride is the source of so many sins and yet it's banner is brazenly flown in almost all sectors of society without apology or rebuke. Lord, keep us ever from the death trap of pride, that we may always humbly seek Your grace and mercy over and above ourselves.