Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
Throughout our years in Wisconsin, right about this time of the winter, we would spend a couple of nights at a nearby indoor waterpark. Less than an hour away, was the self-described waterpark capital of the world in the city of Wisconsin Dells. Two years ago, after we moved out east, we were excited to see that we were now about the same distance away from similar indoor options up in the Poconos of Pennsylvania. Our family’s winter waterpark tradition could continue! Yet recently, I was slapped upside the head by significant sticker-shock when I went to check on the pricing for a quick 1-2 night getaway that worked within our kid’s school schedule. For a basic standard room, during a time when I would not have to pull the kids out from school, the cost was $980 per night. Add on taxes and fees, and a 2-night venture would have cost over $2,000. However, if I were to book a reservation one week later, on a Monday and Tuesday but thereby needing to have the kids miss school, the cost—for the same exact room—went down to $222 per night. Same hotel. Same room. Same number of beds. Same amenities. $758 more expensive per night! Despite my attempts to chat and schmooze with a “reservation agent” there was nothing they could do. They are a “dynamic pricing” resort. The costs are not negotiable. I received only their apologies and encouragement to keep checking their website for occasional price drops and future specials.
So why do they charge like this? Because they can. If not me, they know that still another family will end up reserving the high-priced rooms. The more money they make, the better. Plain and simple, it’s all about the dollar. They don’t care about the sad stories of families trying to make memories if it cuts into their gain. If you’ve purchased a new car within the last couple of years, you probably found yourself paying an extra “fee.” Whatever they call it, they will attribute it to a variety of different things like shortage of computer chips, pandemic hangover, worker shortage, or reduced inventory. Hogwash! According to a handful of people I talked to in the car sale industry, it is essentially the “just-because-we-can” fee to increase their profit. They assume that if people really need the car, they’ll pay whatever is on the ticket. It is certainly not like there are cheaper options elsewhere. For the most part, I suspect this is the same reason gas prices remain high and the cost of a carton of eggs continues to climb. Sure, there may be several other factors involved, but corporate greed undoubtedly plays a role. They know we need it; hence they’ll charge us more. I never took a business or economics class, but I believe this is the very definition of supply and demand. The more the need, the higher you can price your items. Business bigwigs don’t care about family budgets; their decisions are based on the numbers. They know such things like gas, milk and eggs are a necessity of the consumer; thus, they hike up the prices and watch people pay, grumbling the whole time. Why? So, they can continue to pad their pockets and increase their profits.
Reflecting on my waterpark getaway-less frustration, it brings me great peace to know our God deals with us in a drastically different way. Can you imagine if He functioned similarly? Can you imagine if He preyed on our desperate need and lack of options?
“You need salvation?
You want forgiveness?
Interested in an all-inclusive stay in the heavenly mansions?
How much are you prepared to pay?
This is really going to cost you!”
Thanks be to God that our gracious, heavenly Father does no such thing. In fact, this is the beautify of the Gospel. We are not restrained by exorbitant costs, hidden fees, or inflated prices. We are set free from it all. There are no barriers. There are no obstacles. The Bible tells us, “Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19) The cost is covered. The bill is paid. No reservations are required, or online booking needed. Our room is ready. The blood of Jesus that poured forth from the cross becomes the magnificent means by which we are assured of our place in His eternal kingdom. Definitively and thankfully, we will never find ourselves in that awkward position—with a desperate need that can only be met by satisfying the demands of a selfish, greedy tyrant. Instead, we find ourselves as beloved recipients of God’s great gift. Jesus paid the price. And because He did, we are the beneficiaries that have “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, and riches of His grace.” (Eph. 1:17)
Therefore, my friends, whether at the grocery store, gas station, local restaurant, or on Amazon… do not let the wretchedness of climbing prices overwhelm you. Do not take out your frustration on workers who do not control the bottom-line pricing. Try not to secretly curse those getting rich on overpriced eggs and butter. Instead, let it be a moment where you thank God for His material blessings. Greater appreciate the abundance of your daily bread and be assured that thrill of our heavenly paradise will be better than any earthly waterslide or wave pool. Take that Kalahari! 😉
“Better it is to have little with righteousness, than great revenues with injustice.” (Proverbs 16:8)
“Better to have little, with fear for the LORD, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil.” (Proverbs 15:16)
Yesterday morning, while walking past the sanctuary, something caught my eye. It was enough to pique my curiosity and stop me in my tracks. Where was the brightness coming from that flashed as I quickly shuffled past the big class windows? As I peered into the church, I noticed that our baptismal font was glowing. Not literally, of course. But the way the sun was pouring in through the stained-glass windows, it was hitting the marble font in such a way that the whole thing just radiated. I tried to capture it, but the picture doesn’t do it justice at all.
As I sat down in the pew to appreciate it, the words of our Old Testament reading for this Sunday came to mind. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you…” (Isaiah 9:2-3)
The image of light and darkness is common throughout the scriptures; and in these words, the prophet Isaiah declares that although people have been stuck in darkness (without salvation), when the Lord appears He will bring light (salvation) to all who trust in Him. The Lord is promising a joyful, new life to all who trust in Him. He is promising to remove them from the fear and scary shadows of darkness, where there is so much that is hidden and so much that is unknown. In its place, the Lord assures us that there will be joy. This is the very same promise we receive in baptism as well. In fact, we can point to our baptism as the very moment where God removes the darkness and places His light within us. It is more than appropriate then, that in this picture, we see the font just below the cross. The beauty and benefits of baptism flow from the sacrifice of the cross. It all starts with Jesus. Because of everything Jesus has done for us, on the cross and in the empty tomb, we know that we have joyful, new, and eternal life to look forward to. On the cross Jesus wins and finishes God's redemptive plan; and, in our baptism, He delivers all the blessings of that redemption to us. Just as water cleanses our bodies, so the waters of baptism cleanses our souls. Baptism is the means by which we are brought out of the darkness and deadness of the grave, and re-created into the light and life of being a beloved child of our Heavenly Father. The slums of sin and the druthers of death are drowned. At the font of, we are brought into the Lord’s most glorious light; we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. God is light, and in Him there's no darkness at all. In other words, when God shows up for us in our baptism, He pours out His grace into our lives and all darkness in us is scattered. (cf. 1 John 1:5) Goodbye shadows and sin, hello new creation!
So today, give thanks for your baptism. Lord Jesus, thank You for Your gift of life through Baptism. This day and always, drown out the sin in my life and raise me up to live with You in joy and peace. Amen.
Pastor Steve Vera