The day before Chris and I left on vacation about 10 days ago, I drove out to Indiantown Gap National Cemetery to bury Olive House, a long-time member of this congregation, and driving out on Route 78 west of Allentown, I found it to be a surprisingly religious stretch of highway. There were billboards, there were messages on the side of barns, there were religious messages on the back of trucks. One of the billboards I found mildly alarming. It said, “You will meet God,” and I thought, I surely hope that’s true, but not today, not on this stretch of highway. There were reminders to pray, to love our enemies, to trust in God’s mercy.
I found myself reflecting for quite a long time, though, on the words that I saw on back of a Walmart truck that was in front of me for a while. It was simple but profound, I thought. It said, “Save money. Live better. walmart.com.” And I thought, live better. Living better is our fundamental purpose as Christians. That’s what it’s all about. But our Christian concept of living better is so very different from the Walmart concept.
The Walmart concept of living better is, we’ve got lower prices so you can have more stuff. You can have some nice deck furniture, or a bigger TV, and that is so much a part of our culture that I think we lose track sometimes of how very contradictory that is to what the Christian concept of living better means.
The Christian idea of living better is all about grace. Grace is the lived experience of God’s love, it’s the thing that makes impossible things possible, it opens the way for us, it strengthens us for the journey. It is our inspiration, and it’s the thing that keeps us going. And grace is so closely linked to the ideas of hope and mercy.