Many years back came the story of a New York City man who had been kidnapped. The kidnappers had contacted the man's wife with the demand for a $100,000 ransom.
The wife, however, was able to talk the kidnappers down to $30,000. Side question: Who knew that such ransom demands are negotiable? (Side note: Eventually the kidnappers were apprehended, the husband returned unharmed, and in general it was a happy ending.)
The columnist who reported the story, Calvin Trillin, went on to imagine what the negotiations must have been like between the wife and the kidnappers: "You want $100,000 for that old guy? He's practically worn out - you ought to be paying me to take him back! So, $30,000 is my top offer." The kidnappers must have thought she had a point, since they agreed to the discount bargain ransom.
In the gospels we read of a woman who anointed Jesus’ feet in lavish fashion with an expensive perfume. But nowhere are we told that she calculated the cost. She wasn't looking for a 70% discount bargain. And she wasn’t wondering if maybe she had a smaller jar of perfume lying around somewhere. Instead, she pours it all out.
She gives it all and holds nothing back. And in so doing, she gives us a prophetic picture of what Jesus would do on the cross: hold nothing back. A few days after this hold-nothing-back anointing, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior would go to the cross, holding nothing back and pouring out everything for us and for this world.
Madeleine L’Engle, author of Wrinkle in Time, put it this way: “To believe that the universe was created by a purposeful, benign Creator is one thing. To believe that this Creator took on human vesture, accepted death and mortality, was tempted, betrayed, broken, and all for love of us, defies reason” (source: Plough Publishing).
It certainly defies reason, but it cannot defy love, and most certainly not the love of our God. Your salvation and mine and that of the world has never been a sale item. It has never come out of a bargain bin. It has never been offered at 70% off. Instead our salvation has always been and always will be nothing short of the full, immeasurable, fathomless love of God for the world, for you, and for me. Amen.
May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith. And together with all God’s people, may you have the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is, and to know this love that surpasses all knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (from Ephesians 3:17-19).
In 1993 the film “Groundhog Day” played in movie theaters around the nation. If you know the story, then you know that Phil the weatherman is dispatched to Punxsutawney, PA to broadcast the weather report from the center of Groundhog Day celebrations.
But Phil the weatherman gets caught in a time loop, endlessly repeating Groundhog Day over and over and over again with the same things happening over and over and – you guessed it – over again. At first he thinks only of himself and rearranges his routine for his own benefit. But then something unexpected happens: he is awakened to the fruitlessness of a self-centered life, and a transformation takes place. He begins thinking of others and serving others.
Whether they knew it or not, those filmmakers took a page right out of the Bible. Actually they helped themselves to many pages (but the Lord doesn’t mind). They took that Bible page that tells us it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
They borrowed that Bible page that teaches us to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13). They helped themselves to that page of the Bible that speaks to us of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
And they took seconds on that Bible page that calls us to love another: “God sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins; since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God’s love is made perfect in us” (I John 4:7-10).
So, for Groundhog Day this year, take a page from the movie “Groundhog Day,” and help yourself to as many Bible pages as you can. God Bless and Be with you this Groundhog Day and all the other February days too,
United Methodist Pastor, Child of God, Follower of Jesus Christ.