Lord, I crawled across the bareness to you with my empty cup, uncertain in asking any small drop of refreshment. If only I had known you better. I'd have come running with a bucket.
--Nancy Spiegelberg
Ten years ago now, while the world was just becoming acquainted with spam. A rancher in Powder Bluff, Colorado got a preview of the power of mass mailings via snail mail. A computer malfunction at a company that handles a number of magazine subscriptions sent him exactly 9,734 notifications that his subscription to National Geographic had expired. While unintentional, this ploy met with success. The rancher travelled 10 miles to the nearest post office and renewed his subscription, along with a note that said, “I give up! Send me your magazine!”
In 1998, 40-year-old Reynaldo Tovar-Valdivia was arrested for possessing methamphetamines with intent to distribute. Upon pleading guilty, he was sentenced to ten years in prison. In January 2000, his conviction was overturned when it was discovered that police had conducted an illegal search on the man's property. U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs signed an order releasing Tovar-Valdivia.
Somehow the order was misplaced, so Tovar-Valdivia was incarcerated for two more years. In March 2002, Tovar-Valdivia wrote a letter to the judge calling attention to his oversight. He wrote: "I would like to humbly request that this court make an order invalidating my conviction. Thanks for your time, and have a nice day." A few weeks later the judge, impressed by the polite letter, facilitated the prisoner's request.
If Jesus were preaching today, I think he’d like both of those stories. After all, He did tell a story about a widow who pesters a judge into giving her what he wants. The moral of His story and the moral of these others stories would be the same: It never hurts to ask. In fact Jesus was fond of saying it this way: “How much more…”
With these two stories, he’d say, “If a computer malfunction can get a man to fork out his hard earned cash, how much more will your Father in heaven give to those who ask?” Or, “If a prisoner can get released just by sending a polite letter, how much more eagerly will your Father in Heaven release you from your sins?”
Either way the message of this Sunday’s text is deceptively simple: “Ask and you will receive.” Simple? Maybe. Easy? Not always. The question for us is do we have the audacity to simply believe this bold promise?