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!


Anonymous said...

Yes, you have and we enjoyed it thoroughly! Thank you, gave us lots to think about :)

jWinters said...

Nice illustration Jim, thanks!

in Christ,

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm a bit slow and not use to these kind of pictures but is that supposed to be God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit?

Jim Roemke said...

Yes, Anonymous, that is a depiction of the Trinity, it is called "Paternitas". Here is some of the symbolism and theology of the image (from
The Origins of This Image

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity proclaims the central belief of one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Classical iconography has developed two types of depictions of the Holy Tinity. The first, based on Genesis 18, is often called The Old Testament Trinity: three strangers visit Abraham and Sarah at Mamre and promise that they will have a son. The Fathers of the Church saw this event as the first manifestation of the Trinity. In icons based on it, the Trinity appears as three angels seated at a table.

The second type of Trinity icon takes its inspiration from three Old Testament passages: Daniel 7:9, where God the Father is depicted as “the Ancient of Days,” and Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6, which prefigure the eternal sonship and the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. There are actually two paradigms within this second category; this one is called the co-inhering type. The Ancient of Days holds Christ Emmanuel on his lap, and the Son, in turn, holds a mandorla which envelops the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. This icon is called Paternitas, or “Fatherhood,” and sometimes referred to as the New Testament Trinity. This image, written by Br. Claude Lane, OSB, is based on a fourteenth century Russian icon.

Theology and Symbolism

The theology of iconography rests firmly on the idea that icons may be painted and venerated because God has revealed himself through the Incarnation by taking on human flesh. God the Father is rarely depicted in iconography; the Russian model for this icon was probably developed in lands bordering the West where there were fewer inhibitions about representations of God the Father. This image is inspired by the book of Daniel 9:7, “As I watched thrones were set in place, and an Ancient One took his throne; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head was like pure wool; and his throne was fiery flames, with wheels of burning fire.” Later Christian theologians would see this “Ancient of Days” as the Father who is eternal. He is seen in glory, seated on a throne. At his feet is a wheel of fire, with wings and eyes all over it, representing one of the seven choirs of angels (see Ezekiel 1:16-21). Within his halo are two intersecting stars, one red and one blue, representing the intersection of his earthly and heavenly realms. The scroll in the divine hand represents God’s plan for the whole universe. Around his halo are the letters of the word Abba, the name which Jesus taught us to use to call upon the Father.

The Second Person of the Trinity is depicted here as Christ Emmanuel, “God with us,” eternally begotten and one in being with the Father. His garments are gold, and his posture reflects that of the Father. Christ's halo is inscribed with a cross (the nimbus) and the Greek letters omicron, omega, nu, spelling "HO ON"; in English, this becomes, "He who is," as in, “He who is, who was, and is to come at the end of the ages.” The abbreviated Greek form of the name Jesus Christ, "IC XC,” appears near his halo.

The Holy Spirit is often described in the Gospels as taking the form of a dove, and is thus shown as such in Christian art. The Spirit is called “Advocate,” a title given him by Jesus. The Spirit is held in a medallion of uncreated light called a mandorla. The dove is shown with wings ready for flight, reminding us that “the Spirit blows where it chooses…but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes” (John 3:8).

The Trinity emanates from a mandorla and on either side there are six-winged seraphim. Seraph means “fiery one,” a member of the choir of angels that perpetually looks upon the face of God and attends to him at the altar of heaven (see Isaiah 6:2).

This icon helps us to understand that the Trinity is not merely a theory that has little impact on our lives, but a profound reality that invites us to participate in its mystery. God’s love is necessarily poured out in relationship; God is relationship and love! Out of love the Son became flesh and suffered to save us. We too, are called to share in this invitation to extend divine love to family, friends and even strangers.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's really interesting..although I'm going to have to print out this page to go over it again to keep it fresh in my mind. Thanks for sharing!