It started out like any other day at the Kroger deli counter. Janet and I were standing in line, waiting our turn to be served, and the lady to my right was next in line. When asked what she wanted, she replied by ordering a pound of pastrami and several other items. She completed her order by saying, “please…and thank you!” I was kind of surprised – not by her manners, but at the fact that she uttered both “please” and “thank you” in the same sentence. Of course, this isn’t the first time I have heard this, but it struck a cord with me.
I acknowledged her unusual comment and then told her about one group of kids that came to our home on Halloween. As they approached the door, several of the older kids were speaking with one another and as I opened the door, they just held out their bags, barely noticing me and not wanting to stop their conversation long enough to say “thank you.” As they were turning to leave, I said, “you’re welcome” to see if it would trigger anything from them. They stopped in their tracks and turned to look back at me.
I told them that it was customary to acknowledge a “treat” and if they couldn’t find time to pause their conversation long enough to say “thank you”, I would appreciate them returning the candy that I had placed in their bags. It was clear that they were surprised that I had the audacity to say anything to them, but all the younger kids in the group had been quite polite and each had thanked us for the candy they had received. For a moment, I thought we were going to have a stand-off, but then each of them deferred and said, “thank you.” I guess that was preferable to returning stuff to me.
I was particularly impressed by several young visitors to the house. Three girls were actually ready to ring the bell and then, at the last moment, they all took off running back down the front walk. When they returned, I asked why they had turned around. They let me know that the mail carrier was at the bottom of the driveway and they thought it would be nice to share their candy with her. So… they each took a handful of candy and gave it to the carrier. I was really impressed – so much so that we replaced several handfuls of candy in each of their bags. There is still hope for our younger generations! They were filled with gratitude and let us know how much they appreciated the extra “portion” they were given.
And then there was our smallest visitor, a pint sized Spider Man complete with some web maker attached to his wrist. I am not usually one to be impressed, but he was covered head to toe and gave me sound affects and everything. And he couldn’t have been more polite – thanking me several times before he made his way back down the walk. His Dad was at the sidewalk and asked if his son had thanked us for the treats. I assured him that all was well.
I guess that I have been fixated on manners lately. Back at the Kroger deli counter, the lady I was conversing with told me that her father would have punished her if she forgot her manners. I assured her that I grew up in quite the same environment. Of course, Janet’s parents were the same way – expecting that their three daughters would demonstrate good manners wherever they were.
The “please…and thank you” comment reminded me of a Bible verse. You see, usually “please” is at the beginning of a conversation and “thank you” closes the conversation, but this woman wanted to make sure that the deli worker, clearly having a hectic day, knew that she was appreciated throughout the entire exchange. Jesus did a similar thing when He announced that He was the beginning and the end. It almost seems like an oxymoron – how can you be first and last?
But Jesus used a linguistic tool in his pronouncement. Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last letter. So, when Jesus announced that He was the first and the last, what He meant was that He was there in the beginning (first) and also would be there forever (last). What most folks don’t really understand is that it also means that He will be there for everything in between. That’s right – Jesus is there first, last and always!
Clearly, our verse for tonight is the verse I have just spoken about. The apostle John, the author of Revelation, tells us the words of Jesus in Revelation 1:8, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Notice that it says, “who is”? We already know that He was, in the past, and will be, in the future, but most of us don’t realize that Jesus is also there every step of the way in between the beginning and the end.
My encouragement this evening is that God wants us to know of His love for us and that He is there with us every moment. My prayer is that you will use this knowledge to make sure that you appreciate and consult with the Lord of the universe on a daily basis. After all, He is the Alpha and the Omega, and everything in between! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…