Years ago we got new neighbors. The huge backyard pool was a danger to their small kids and something of an eyesore. So the mom ran a classified ad, ”Free above-ground pool. If you haul it you can have it.” She got nary a call for a week. So she changed the ad, “Above ground pool $500. You haul it.” She sold it the first day and built a cool swing-set with the cash.
“Wonder what’s wrong with it?” is always our first question of big ticket items priced so low; ‘free’ sounds plain suspicious. In real life, everything worth having costs something and we are used to paying. If truth be told, we like to pay. We like earning, producing, providing and the sense of worth we gain with it.
When earning is a virtue and anything free is suspect, how will the gospel be received? Will it be received at all? Too often and too easily have preachers slipped into language that seeks to sell the gospel, suggesting that seekers and believers must pay in order to receive; pay with strong faith, obedience, righteousness, etc. However well intended, such preaching soundly fails the gospel every time.
If only we were brave enough to tell the the truth every time - God’s love is not for sale at any price. It cannot be bought, only taken. It cannot be earned, only received. It cannot be produced or provided, only shared. And only when we are wise enough to take it for the endless gift it is will divine joy and peace be our everyday reality.
This past Sunday during children’s sermon, kids were invited to a giant candy bowl and told they could have as much as they wanted. They hesitated, but only for a moment. As they filled their bags, the bowl kept getting refilled too. When they were finished, candy was all over the table, the floor and the bowl was as full as when they began. “You can’t take too much. It will never run out. No one else can take it from you. As much as you want, as often as you want, forever and ever and ever.” I think they got it, if only for a moment. I pray they keep it, and the rest of us as well. peace & prayers, pastor annette