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Summary: This is the second of a series on the book of Romans. It focuses on our inability in any way to achieve grace, which of course is a gift freely given through Jesus Christ.

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Last Sunday Mike and I provided the snack supper for the children and youth. I went to pick up the 10 pizzas I had ordered which Little Ceasars had given me a great deal on of $5 a pizza because I was buying them for a church function with $53 dollars in cash in my hand. The bill was $53.69. I, of course, wrote a check instead.

Coming up short.

*****

A Post Office worker, at the main sorting office, finds an unstamped, poorly hand-written envelope, addressed to God. He opens it and discovers it is from an elderly lady, distressed because all her savings -- $200 -- have been stolen. She will be cold and hungry this Christmas.

He organizes the postal workers, who dig deep and come up with $180 to donate. They get it to her by special courier the same morning. A week later, the same postal worker recognizes the same handwriting on another envelope. He opens it.

"Dear God, Thank you for the $180 for Christmas, which would have been so bleak otherwise.

P.S. It was $20 short but that was probably those thieving workers at the Post Office."

Coming up short.

*****

AT&T fired President John Walter after nine months, saying he lacked intellectual leadership". He received a $26 million severance package.

Somebody came up short in that one.

*****

A man in Orange County Municipal Court had been ticketed for driving alone in the carpool lane. He claimed that the four frozen cadavers in the mortuary van he was driving should be counted. The judged ruled that passengers must be alive to qualify.

He came up short in his passenger list.

*****

According to the Knight-Ridder News Service, the inscription on the metal bands used by the U.S. Department of the Interior to tag migratory birds has been changed. The bands used to bear the address of the Washington Biological Survey, abbreviated, "Wash. Biol. Surv." until the agency received the following letter from an Arkansas camper:

"Dear Sirs: While camping last week I shot one of your birds. I think it was a crow. I followed the cooking instructions on the leg tag and I want to tell you it was horrible."

Somebody came up short, but I’m not sure who it was - the Dept. of the Interior or the camper.

*****

Its amazing some of the things we can do to ourselves and to one another. It is unbelievable the number of these funny but sad stories that exist out there. Yet the stories become even more sad.

*****

A story is told about Fiorello LaGuardia, who, when he was mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and all of WWII.

One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself.

Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. "It’s a real bad neighborhood, your Honor." the man told the mayor. "She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson." LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said "I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions--ten dollars or ten days in jail."

But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket. He extracted a bill and tossed it into his famous sombrero saying: "Here is the ten dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Baliff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant."

So the following day the New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, fifty cents of that amount being contributed by the red-faced grocery store owner, while some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the mayor a standing ovation.

Coming up short.

*****

Over the summer our Monday night worship service is taking a trip to Rome. We are traveling the Roman Road to Salvation with Paul.

These stories and the countless others out there ilustrate Paul’s words:

“All have sinned and fallen short of the gory of God.”

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