We were meeting with Monica's old work friends from over 35 years ago. The last we had been together was a little over two years previous. Since the Royal Oak Brewery worked well then, we decided to meet there again. It was 6:00 p.m. when we parked, so we did not even look at the meter.
The stories that were shared - catching up on life and remembering all of the old times - were great. I am sure we all have friends where, no matter how long it has been since being together, it feels like it was only yesterday. This group's story begins the years before we moved to St. Louis. We were together every day - and many a night. Then I went to the seminary. Just one year later, when Monica and I returned, every life had changed - and none of them would ever work together again.
I am sure that our shared faith is the bond that truly unites us … or, more properly, Jesus who is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12.2). Throughout the evening we were marveling at how our lives - and the lives of people we know - intersect in so many ways. Then, somehow, in the midst of the conversation, an item on the menu got our attention.
One of beers on this microbrewery's menu was named "Jeremy Altbier". When the hostess stopped by to chat, we asked her, "By chance, is your brew-master named Jeremy?" The affirmative response confirmed our suspicions … he was the same Jeremy who grew up across the street from our home in Detroit … and whose grandfather now is at STL most every Sunday. Amazing! Not surprisingly, every staff member we talked to about Jeremy had only great things to say about him.
Our Lord Jesus is so good. He comes to us - opening door after door - inviting us, over and over again, to "taste and see" (Psalm 34.8) how good he is. Here we were, on an otherwise nondescript summer evening, receiving blessing after blessing ... being lifted up and encouraged in so many ways. And being given the opportunity to do the same to others. But the evening was not yet done!
As we walked out of the establishment, I noticed that the label on the parking meters read "enforced until MIDNIGHT." When we walked around the corner we could see a parking enforcement officer on a segue. He was parked next to our van, and was writing a ticket. By the time we said our goodbyes and had walked to our van, he was writing another ticket - for the vehicle parked in front of us.
Taking our ticket from the windshield, we entered into a conversation that went something like this. Me: "Officer, I guess we got back to our vehicle just a few minutes late." He: "Looks like it. It is only a $10.00 fine." Me: "Are the instructions for paying it on the ticket?" He: "Yes, everything you need is in the envelope." Me: "Thank you. I hope your survive the heat over these next few days."
Once we were in the van we did three things. We started the van, to get the air conditioner going. We read the ticket, to make sure we understood the instructions. And we opened our navigational app to be sure of our way home, for we had taken some back streets to get there during rush hour. It was about then that I noticed the officer coming back to our vehicle. I rolled down the window and asked if everything was OK. He simply said, "Give me your ticket." I handed it to him and he cut it up. saying, "All I ever get is people yelling at me. You were so nice. Have a good evening." With that he, and the parking ticket, were gone. It is amazing in our angry, harsh and confrontational world, how far a few kind words can go.
In true wisdom our Lord instructs us through St. Paul, "Brothers and sisters, whatever is true. whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable - if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy - dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4.8-9) In simpler terms Jesus himself says, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." (Matthew 5.7). So, now I am wondering, how will God's amazing grace be shown to ... and through ... you this day?