Have you ever tried to give away ice cream? A few days ago the boys and I spent part of a day in a park in the other side of town. As we got more and more hot, we decided to walk to a nearby shop and pick up something to cool us down. This isn’t as simple as it might seem.
I don’t know about where you live, but in the UK, if you want to buy a box of ice lollies (popsicles) or ice creams you are struck with a bit of a conundrum. Not only are you confronted by a vast array of choice but they all come in boxes of differing quantities. So, even if you are able to come to a decision about a type of ice lolly that everyone in your party would like, you might then discover that it comes in a box of 8 or 6 or 5 or 4 or 3.
If we’ve found ourselves in these circumstances in the past, we have tried to give away any extras. (What else can you do?) This time, however, we decided to do it on purpose. The boys finally decided on Cadbury Buttons ice cream cones, which come in a box of 5. They ate 2 so we had 3 to give away.
As we walked back to the park, we decided that we’d offer them to anyone we met, but not to children on their own (we didn’t want to get arrested). A woman of retirement age passed us and we offered her one. She was very nice about it, but didn’t want one because she was going out to dinner with friends. We happened to see someone we knew. She just laughed and shook her head. One man walked past us as if he hadn’t heard us. (We were pretty sure he did.)
We went back into the park over to the basketball court where two 20ish year olds were looking very hot and sweaty. They and their friend gratefully took all three ice cream cones. They didn’t even seem to act as if it was weird.
Now we’ll need to do more field trials before we can come to any conclusive discoveries based on this research. But based on this experience alone, something is quite obvious: the people who felt the hottest were the people who accepted the ice cream.
I’ve been thinking about a story that Jesus told about giving things away. He told this story to people who thought that they were in God’s good books to show that they might be surprised to discover who actually accepts the invitation to come to God’s party. In the story, a man invites people to come to a banquet but they are full of excuses as to why they can’t come. So he decides to find the people who are actually hungry, and these turn out to be the people who are living on the streets or who are too poor or infirm to normally get invitations. They know a good thing when they see it and they come to the party.
What about us? Are we hungry enough for God to accept the invitation to the party? We fill our lives with lots and lots of things to distract us from this core longing. Is there a chance that we could put them down just for a moment and be open-handed enough to accept God’s free ice cream?