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"A Baloney Sandwich"

The following story by Bob Benson provides an illustration for life as Christ intended it to be lived versus life as we often find it being portrayed in our culture, community, and sometimes in the church. When we enter into the spirit of sharing what we have, we open ourselves to the surprising blessings God has prepared for us. “A Baloney Sandwich” [1] Do you remember when they had old-fashioned Sunday School picnics? I do. As I recall, it was back in the “olden days,” as my kids would say, back before they had air conditioning. They said, “We’ll all meet at Sycamore Lodge in Shelby Park at 4:30 on Saturday. You bring your supper, and we’ll furnish the iced tea.”

But if you were like me, you came home at the last minute. When you got ready to pack your picnic, all you could find in the refrigerator was one dried up piece of baloney and just enough mustard in the bottom of the jar so that you got it all over your knuckles trying to get to it. And just two slices of stale bread to go with it. So you made your baloney sandwich and wrapped it in an old brown bag and went to the picnic. When it came time to eat, you sat at the end of a table and spread out your sandwich. But the folks who sat next to you brought a feast. The lady was a good cook and she had worked all day to get ready for the picnic. And she had fried chicken and baked beans and potato salad and homemade rolls and sliced tomatoes and pickles and olives and celery. And two big homemade chocolate pies to top it off. That’s what they spread out there next to you while you sat with your baloney sandwich. But they said to you, “Why don’t we just put it all together?” “No, I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t even think of it,” you murmured in embarrassment, with one eye on the chicken. “Oh, come on, there’s plenty of chicken and plenty of pie and plenty of every­thing. And we just love baloney sandwiches. Let’s just put it all together.” And so you did and there you sat, eating like a king when you came like a pauper. One day, it dawned on me that God had been saying just this sort of thing to me. “Why don’t you take what you have and what you are, and I will take what I have and what I am, and we’ll share together.” I began to see that when I put what I had and was and am and hope to be with what God is, I had stumbled upon the bargain of a lifetime. I get to thinking sometimes, thinking of me sharing with God. When I think of how little I bring, and how much God brings and invites me to share, I know that I should be shouting to the housetops, but I am so filled with awe and wonder that I can hardly speak. I know that I don’t have enough love or faith or grace or mercy or wisdom, but God does. God has all of those things in abundance and God says, “Let’s just put it all together.” Consecration, denial, sacrifice, commitment, crosses were all kind of hard words to me, until I saw them in the light of sharing. It isn’t just a case of me kicking in what I have because God is the biggest kid in the neighborhood, and God wants it all for himself. God is saying, “Everything that I possess is available to you. Everything that I am and can be to a person, I will be to you.”

When I think about it like that, it really amuses me to see somebody running along through life hanging on to their dumb bag with that stale baloney sandwich in it saying, “God’s not going to get my sandwich! No, siree, this is mine!” Did you ever see anybody like that—so needy—just about half-starved to death yet hanging on for dear life. It’s not that God needs your sandwich. The fact is you need God’s chicken.

Well, go ahead—eat your baloney sandwich as long as you can. But when you can’t stand its tastelessness or drabness any longer; when you get so tired of running your own life by yourself and doing it your way and figuring out all the answers with no one to help; when trying to accumulate, hold, grasp, and keep everything together in your own strength gets to be too big a load; when you begin to realize that by yourself you’re never going to be able to fulfill your dreams, I hope you’ll remember that it doesn’t have to be that way.

You have been invited to something better, you know. You have been invited to share in the very being of God.

Prayer. Dear God, in this Christmas season help us to be freshly aware of the abundance, generous grace, forgiveness, mercy, and kindness you offer to us in the birth of your Son, Jesus Christ. We confess that we are so filled with ourselves at times that there is little room for you. Fear would cause us to hold on to the little we have, when letting go would help us to receive the abundance you have for us. Help us to open our hands and hearts, O God. Help us to receive your treasures today. Help us to learn to be joyful and generous with all you have entrusted to us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

[1] Bob Benson. Come Share the Being. pp. 68-69.



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