He came into the office talking, and stopped only to take a quick breath, after which he continued sharing the details of his plight. All was punctuated by pulling up the front of his shirt and revealing the most painful looking herniated intestine that I have ever seen.
Several attempts to direct the conversation and get some sense of what might help stabilize his financial situation only resulted in more details about his circumstances, and more views of the cantaloupe size knot on his stomach. I wanted to get some idea of what could be done to help him until his disability check started. He wanted whatever I was going to do to be done right then.
He may have wanted more, but what he got was $25.00 worth of gas. Back in the day, we used to give folks like him a fill-up. That policy changed the last time gas prices rose to over four dollars a gallon. The new policy works well. I spend almost no time worrying about whether or not someone requesting help deserves it or really needs it. I would much rather give some who did not deserve it $25.00, than fail to help someone who really needed it because I perceived them to be unworthy of help.
He seemed happy with $25.00 worth of, not gas, but diesel. I bought him diesel because that is the kind of fuel that one puts in a Mercedes. Granted it was an old and beat up Mercedes, but a Mercedes nonetheless. Truly, there is so much story to tell and just not enough time or paper for all the details.
After a quick trip up the street for fuel, I am back in the office reflecting on what just happened. Without thinking, I find myself somewhere in the vicinity of Matthew 25. You recall the passage, don’t you? “Lord, when did we see you in need of fuel and purchase for you $25.00 worth of gas?” The King replied, “When you bought fuel for the least of these my brothers and sisters, you bought it for me.” I felt good because I had just done something for the least of these. I would not have wanted the goat question stuck in my head. “Lord, when did we see you in need of fuel and not purchase it for you?” The King replied, “When you did not do it for the least of these my brothers and sisters, is when you did not do it for me.”
So I felt as good as you can feel when you buy $25.00 worth of fuel for someone who needs a lot more than $25.00 worth of fuel. What I did not feel so good about and, if fact, what was a little disturbing to me, was how desperate this man had been. The man who had reminded me that to help was to help Christ, had been almost frantic for help, and almost overjoyed with $25.00. He was desperate and frail, and his desperation and frailty quickly reminded me of Christ in the garden praying for the cup to pass; and Christ on the cross praying for the forgiveness of those who nailed him to the cross.
We like for our heroes to be big, strong and larger than life. We expect them to be able to face down any challenge and overcome any obstacle. Yet our salvation comes not from Christ’s willingness to be a larger-than-life human being, but from his willingness to be a real life human being. By his wounds, we are healed. In his brokenness, we are made whole. It is not his strength that saves us, but with his frail vulnerability that he invites us into the Kingdom of God. Whether at the manger in Bethlehem, the cross at Calvary, or the fuel pump at Weigel’s, he invites us to embrace him, to touch him, and meet his needs as we experience the power and the presence of the risen Lord.