Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Everything I know about Grace v. Works....... I learned from the Kimberly Elementary School lunchroom lady

Each year, as I begin again the annual back-to-school routine, I can't help but think back to my own school days. So, for the next few posts, I'm going to re-run a few Kimberly Elementary School stories. For those who've "tasted" these already, I hope you won't mind "seconds." For those getting their first taste, I hope you enjoy.
Kimberly Elementary School was a square, brick building with six grades crammed into four classrooms. The way they managed that was to put the "smart" 2nd graders into the 3rd&4th grade classroom and the "smart" 4th graders into the 5th grade classroom. No matter how smart 1st graders were, they got stuck with the "dumb" 2nd graders. (There was no kindergarten--maybe that's the reason for all those "dumb" 2nd graders.) Sixth graders had a room all to themselves; probably because the 6th grade teacher was also the principal...You know what they say, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."
When you walked through the doors, you landed in a wide, tall hallway with wooden floors burnished to a dull brown from wax, dirt and chalk. The walls were painted a puky shade of "peppermint," with water fountains on the right and stairs on the left. These stairs led to the basement, which contained the girls' and boys' bathrooms, the furnace room and the lunchroom.
From this lunchroom, the smell of Sister Lee's yeast rolls wafted up those stairs and into those four classrooms every day of the school week. Like me, Sister Lee went to the Kimberly Church of God. (I still believe this denominational tie garnered me some of her biggest and best yeast rolls.)
But, of all the feelings stirred by her food's delicious tastes and aromas, the most delicious feeling was the knowledge that she loved me. Every day, as she ladled out heaping helpings of rolls, mashed potatoes, mounds of sticky, white rice--all loaded with gravy, she would say, "Hey, baby, Sister Lee loves you." And, even though she said this to every child who went through that line, you somehow felt you were the most special, perhaps even her favorite.

And, you knew she meant every word. After all, she woke up before 5 a.m. every school-day morning to make sure the poorest children in Kimberly--the ones who qualified for "free lunches" (and breakfasts)--started their school day with a hot, delicious breakfast. She never settled or scrimped--her breakfast buffet included homemade biscuits, hot oatmeal, bacon, sausage, eggs. It was the breakfast of champions. Sister Lee's breakfasts were so delicious that, even those of us whose daddys were too proud to let us get "free lunch," would beg our mamas for the 25 cents that bought you a "ticket" to Sister Lee's breakfast.

These days, when I hear really smart people trying to explain the differences between grace and works, I find myself wishing they could have gone through Sister Lee's lunch line. You see, she didn't wake up before 5 a.m. for the pitiful little salary she made. (If so, we would have had old, dry toast, and no one would have begged their mamas for 25 cents.)

Nor was Sister Lee trying to earn love. She did what she did because she loved--she simply loved Jesus--and her sweet love for Him just flowed out on us, the blessed ones.

I don't know for sure what the "wedding supper" of Jesus is going to be like, but I sure hope it includes Sister Lee's yeast rolls (and maybe even some of her mashed potatoes with gravy).
"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!...
This is the message you heard from the beginning:
We should love one another....
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue,
but with actions and in truth...
We love because He first loved us."
(1 John 3:1, 11, 18; 4:19, NIV)

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