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IRS Agent Serves as a Parable of the Church

Christian leader Mark Labberton relates a personal story about when he had a seemingly unsolvable problem with the IRS. Labberton writes:

After several months of correspondence and legal advice, the day finally came to begin the talks in person. Those who knew the IRS suggested this would take many months, probably longer, to get settled. I went to the IRS office in Oakland. I waited. And I waited. Eventually I was escorted through a warren of cubicles to meet the agent who would assist me. The agent there listened to my case, took all the relevant paperwork, and excused herself to consult with someone else. I waited ten minutes, 15 minutes … 45 minutes but no one checked in. As far as I could tell, the agent had disappeared …
Suddenly, the agent was back. She handed me a sheet and said simply, "There, it's all done. It's settled." I assumed she was saying that she had taken the first step. What she meant was that the whole process was settled. She turned the paper over and revealed the nine signatures she had acquired all the way up the IRS ladder so the case was now closed, and closed in my favor.
There, in the midst of a warren of bureaucratic anonymity and powerlessness, I encountered a person who became my advocate, who heard my appeal and who took the initiative to do on my behalf what I could never have done for myself. She met me at a moment of isolation and fear and sent me out with resolution when I had anticipated nothing but delay.

Possible Preaching Angles: Mark Labberton comments: "For me, this has been a parable of what the body of Christ can be in the world. We are to be those who, in the vastness of the universe and in a context of human powerlessness, show up as advocates who represent and incarnate the presence of God, who is the hope of the world. We can, of course, choose instead to be bureaucrats. Show up and shuffle paper, engage very little, put in our time, and watch out for our own interests. At the Oakland IRS office, there was a system, but there was a person in the system who was ready to be an advocate. I don't know why, but she did it. And it changed everything for me."

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