E-pistle February 26

Grace Like a Snow Plow

After this month’s blizzards 2.0 and 2.1 the street where we live was a mess. The township was to blame and we lazy residents were to blame. The township plowed the street maybe once, just a single pass around the loop that makes up our development. When it became clear that that was all the plowing we were going to get, some of the neighbors got to work and shoveled and cleared the street in front of their houses right to curb. Others shoveled their own driveways, but left slushy ice piles in the street. Some folks simply powered their way through the snow drifts and during the two weeks before blizzard 2.2 hit yesterday, they became more and more comfortable parking on the ice as close to the curb as they could get, which wasn’t all that close. It was a mess.
A few days ago, before 2.2, one of the neighbors, for sure one of those clean the street to the curb types, stuffed a letter in each mail box in the development in which he told us, in a very nice way, that some of us are a little lazy and thoughtless. He reminded us of the township ordinances about parking our cars out of the way of the snow plow. I thought it was a pretty good letter. Of course, I’m one of those clean the street to the curb types.
He also reminded us that we are taxpayers and he gave us the phone number and email address of the director of the township’s road department and said, “Please feel free to contact him and voice your concerns.” I’m pretty sure the director of the township’s road department was really happy about that.
But here we are in the middle of blizzard 2.2 and while I was out shoveling snow this morning, the township’s snow plow made the loop through our development four times, he cleared the street curb to curb – well, almost curb to curb; I still did a little shoveling in the street. The director of the township’s road department must have gotten some calls. If the street where you live is a mess, I’m sorry, but the township’s snow plows were busy over in our neighborhood.
Sometimes we seem to think of God as the director of some cosmic service department with Jesus as his customer relations guy. In our best moments we are pretty understanding. God has lots of services to render and some pretty messy situations to deal with. We can see how he might forget us from time to time. But when the mess is on the street where we live or in our lives or the lives of those we love, we expect the service we deserve. After all, we pay our pledges at the church and volunteer in the community every so often. We are owed more than one pass by the snow plow. And when the snow plow doesn’t come we start complaining and praying all the more and ask our friends and neighbors to join in. Isn’t that what a prayer meeting or a prayer chain is all about? We deserve more than we’re getting. Squeaky wheel and all that.
In fact, Jesus said that it is like that in a way. He told a story once of a fearless judge and a persistent widow who demanded justice. The judge was not particularly inclined to hear the case and did so only because he got tired of the widow’s nagging. The parable teaches persistence in prayer, not badgering God until we get what we want.
Prayer itself is a richly complicated thing. David and Paul, Peter and John; the Lord Jesus himself, have much to say about it. In so many ways, prayer is not about what it gets for us. It about what it does to us. It’s not about what we deserve because we’ve paid our dues. It is about what are to become because Jesus has paid the price for our redemption.
Jesus doesn’t call us customers, he calls us friends. Friends take joy in each other’s company and do things for each not because it’s owed but because there is such joy in the giving. Indeed, only God could make the terrible cross a beautiful reminder of joy, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
I suppose those of us who live in our development were owed the clean sweep the snow plow made this morning. We are, after all, taxpayers. I’m not owed an answer to any of my prayers. But for joy God answers every single one of them. Sometimes “yes,” sometimes “no,” sometimes “wait and see.”
See you Sunday