Evidently, it was on this day (May 15) in 1940, that Maurice and Richard McDonald opened a little drive-thru restaurant in San Bernadino, California, that would become a worldwide addiction. Now, this may not be good for the pastor to admit, but for quite a while during my younger years, McDonald’s was the only reason why I caved into the whole church thing on Sunday mornings. Because, after the sending hymn was sung and the “Go in peace. Serve the Lord.” was spoken, my mom would take us a few miles down the road to the most-beautiful-for-me Golden Arch. It was the same Happy Meal for me for the longest time: 4-piece chicken McNuggets, small French fries, sweet-and-sour sauce, and a Coke. It eventually grew to a 20-piece and super-sized fries, when I was under the impression that my stomach could handle absolutely anything. It wasn’t necessarily needed to get me to praise God on the Sabbath, but I guess it was just part of the nice wholesome (maybe not health-wise so) routine.

It reminds me of a book we had to read for an education class in college, called Punished by Rewards. The idea was that, understandably so, we may not always go in with the best of intentions or do whatever aspects of living whole-heartedly, when we are only in it for a Happy Meal or a sticker or whatever the adult-equivalent would be. Perhaps such things are unavoidable, especially as parents try to figure out how to lure acting-their-age children into worship or anything else they wouldn’t necessarily look forward to participating in at all. Come to think of it, how many youth would actually participate in children’s sermons if there wasn’t a possibility for a snack at the end?

Now, one of the adult…equivalents could be argued is heaven itself. How many children of God base their day-to-day living (or, at least, as much of the day-to-day as they can remember to do so) on wanting to make sure they reach the Golden Arch Gates of the eternal realm? How many still wonder if they have to behave a certain way or need to get baptized and confirmed and better attend so many worships and memorize so much of Scripture and pray infinite amount of times to be on the Almighty Judge’s good graces? How many do the whole living thing hoping for the best reward of all? And if so, how much guilt and anxiety and shame and worry and fear run absolutely rampant amongst not only the adults, but the children, too?

We do our best to push forth the whole grace thing, but the opposite end of that church operation spectrum is so incredibly powerful, and has been long before the McDonald brothers came along. Granted, there’s plenty of Scriptural support to push forth the “Do this or face the hellish consequences!” And organized religion thrived off of using all that guilt and anxiety and shame and worry and fear to their full advantage (let’s be honest, many church operations still do, sometimes subconsciously so). It led many of us to not be overly thrilled in participating in any of it unless there was a decent reward (tasty or otherwise) at the end.

So, we still got some work to do for the children who prefer McDonald’s over the nourishment we offer (or more so what God offers, of course), and the adults who know about the whole grace thing, but the opposite remains so incredibly powerful, and everyone else in between. After all, the radicalness of God is placing the reward of Jesus Christ with all the love and hope and compassion and mercy and grace at the starting point of our being. It’s not something you have to work up to or earn after so many seemingly infinite hours of churchy whatever. And you’re not punished by it if you don’t live up to Son-of-God standards. Rest assured, this reward of Jesus Christ will never be taken away from you, and from the whole world. Thanks be to God, indeed!

In Christ,
Pastor Brad