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A Lenten Look at The Least of These

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What’s the good word. This Sunday I begin a series at my church entitled, “The Least of These”. Following that, we will launch a series on Easter entitled “Grace,” based on the book by Max Lucado. Let me start this post with a statement that is sure to be an underlying theme of the 40 days of Lent and then heading into the Grace series: grace isn’t fair. We like to think about grace as this good and wonderful thing, and it is, but it also isn’t fair. Here’s what I mean:

When I was growing up there was this chair at my grandma’s farmhouse that I loved to sit in when we went up to the farmhouse during my summer break. It was an old recliner. Every morning my grandmother and I would go up to the farmhouse for a portion of the day and I loved sitting in that chair. Grandma didn’t like it so much that I sat in it, because technically it was her chair. I think about that chair often. I have a new chair in my movie room and while it gives me the satisfaction for a while of that chair at the farmhouse, there’s nothing like the feeling of those moments in that chair. It made me appreciate what I had.

In the book of Deuteronomy there comes a point when Moses is telling the Israelites  that if they forget a sheaf they should leave it and not go back for it. They should leave it for the poor, the widowed, and the orphaned. He goes onto say that after the olives have fallen they shouldn’t go back and beat the branches a second time because they should leave it for the poor, the widowed, and the orphaned. He doesn’t stop there, he goes on to say that once they have picked the grapes in the vineyard they shouldn’t go back for the ones that they missed, but leave them for the poor, the widowed, and the orphaned. Why? Why is that fair? How is that fair because I am the one who has done all the work and it’s my vineyard!

Perhaps Moses was letting them know that it wouldn’t always be this way. They wouldn’t always be in the position of want and need. That once they got to the promised land they would have vineyards, and olive farms, and have plenty of sheaves left in the fields. Perhaps they were not to forget those times. Because what happens is that we loose a sense of gratitude for what we have been given. Perhaps that’s why so many folks give up something for lent. When Jesus speaks all those times about serving and giving during his ministry, he’s not saying those things to give us a long list of things to do, but perhaps he is telling us to serve and give so we are reminded of what we have had all along. Rob Bell once said, “Your overflow is someone else’s necessity.” When we leave that corner of our sheaf we help someone else’s suffering and perhaps we too find ourselves being saved- saved from indifference, from the inertia of inaction, from taking what we have for granted.

Jesus said, “Whenever you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me.”

And that’s the good word for today! 

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