Church was abuzz this morning setting up for our 21st annual Fixin’ Up The Thumb Servant Event. Youth and adults alike were excited for the new friends that will be made this next week and for the opportunity to serve the elderly, disabled and needy.
I’m sure you’ll hear much more about our week very soon, but right now I want to go back a few years to 2009 and tell you a story about one of the ladies we worked for on our Servant Event. Ramona came into our lives because she was having a hard time paying her property taxes and a member who sat on the city board mentioned the Servant Event to her as a way to help out with her house. Ramona was a single mom and both her and her daughter had neurofibromatosis. Neurofibromatosis caused Ramona to have many painful tumors and often garnered negative attention when she was out in public. Her daughter had come to hate attention so much that she had become almost nocturnal just to avoid other people. Ramona shared many of these very painful stories with us but was always able to find some humor in each and every situation. For instance; she said one time a man started yelling at her when she was at the beach because he couldn’t believe she would come out and “scare all the little children like that.” She said that “she had gone in the water and came out like this, and wanted to see if anyone else would go in the water!”
Despite her disease and great need, we thoroughly enjoyed her positive attitude and our week serving Ramona. On the last day of the Servant Event Ramona had one more gift to give us. She came into church, came up to me and said “I don’t have much to give you in way of thanks, but I want you to have this.” And then she unwrapped an antique plate and a letter from France. The letter was in French but when translated said “Dear Ramona, I’m offering you this little gift-very antique-1780-I hope that this will give you pleasure. –Odette Jean.” At first I tried to refuse the plate, but Ramona insisted that she wanted us to have it. Her gift brought me to tears in 2009 and just typing this again now is bringing up those same emotions.
This past Sunday in the readings a story of great gratitude was recorded as well:
Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.” Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two men owed money to a certain money-lender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he cancelled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then he turned towards the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven– for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” 48* Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50 NIV)
There are many stories in the Bible about people who were very grateful and then offered their best gifts in appreciation. However, Matthew adds Jesus’ words to this story above: “I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:13 NIV) I know that whenever I tell the story of Ramona I always include the story of her generous gift. May we walk into this next week, and the rest of our lives, with such an attitude of gratitude.