Sermons on grace
Over twenty years ago, in a parenting book I’ve long since given away, I remember reading an account of the Transfiguration story and strongly identifying with Peter. I can’t help feeling a little sorry for Peter because I completely understand why he responded the way he did, a reluctant character in this scene that goes from comical to monumental in just a few words. Taken high up this mountain by Jesus, with only James and John for companions, the physical…
Our faith journey can sometimes feel like a roller coaster ride. There can be moments of intense excitement, awe and fear as we near a mountaintop experience, before dipping down into the depths of our soul. And there can be times when we can feel lulled into momentary complacency as we chug along the track in a steady rhythm. There can be times when all our attention is focused on a particular spot or turn when God grabs our full…
Jesus claims the meaning of being named the Son of God in today’s scriptures. We explore what it means to live in and be propelled through the gap between who we claim to be and who God desires us to become.
Wisdom, like grace, comes unbidden, often when we expect it least. We may suddenly see with clarity our next step forward that takes us beyond our own desires, our own selves, for with new eyes, we see differently our part in the emerging wholeness or completeness of a situation that previously had been beyond our reach. Wisdom, like grace, can be asked for and given to us by God, as in the reading this morning from the Hebrew Bible, when…
Because I know that Episcopalians find truth and strength in knowing when and how to take the high road, making the hard choices and seeking God’s truth expressing God’s love to all people, and working toward healing and reconciliation. This was the emphasis at our recent General Convention — addressing the problem of gun violence in our country; standing with and praying alongside the people in the border detention centers; addressing God’s call for racial reconciliation; witnessing to the #Metoo movement and calling the church to own the damage done in her name. These are hard, politicized issues that our church is grappling with and responding to – and yet, we also find truth and strength in claiming and living into the broadness of God’s love, which means we meet people wherever they are, and have the ability to hold two opposite points of view in communion. In some cases, we use such odd phrases as “both/and” meaning we don’t need to choose one or the other, but can see the truth in each position. One of the most helpful things I learned in seminary was in our pastoral theology course. Our instructor taught us to practice replacing the word “but” with “and”. For instance, instead of saying, “I hear what you’re saying, and I know you believe you’re right, BUT …” We say, “I hear what you’re saying, and I know you believe you’re right, AND, … I have a differing point of view”. It’s amazing how that word shift changes the dynamic of a conversation, equalizing the power, so people can listen to each other, without the defensiveness charging in.
When we “brush up against grace”, in all the many ways it comes upon us, we are invited into our own grief work, into our own places we need to offer or receive forgiveness, into our own truth telling, so that the resistance can melt away until we find our truth, the truth of God, the truth of the way of love, that we will take to our graves.
I know that because there was a woman who twice came through my line and actually said, “I want to have a countenance like yours.” I thanked her but found it odd. Countenance? Who says countenance? Anyway, I figured she was just glad that I was not a grumpy teenager throwing canned goods on her bread. She came through my line a third time and this time she actually said, “I know what it is. Jesus is in you.” I knew that. But I didn’t think someone else would. Most assuredly, I am not a dwelling place for Jesus, but when I am prayed up and open, he can be there for others.
We celebrate the nurturing love of all mothers, all who have mothered us, all who have mothered creatures and creation and even congregations. We celebrate their laying their lives down for new life, their self-sacrifice, their bond of love like no other that nothing can sever. We also celebrate Jesus’ mothering love today in asking God for humankind’s protection– it is as if he is standing at our bus stop on the first day of school watching us go forth on our own. Did he teach us enough? Will we remember? Will we be ok without him beside us? Will we find our way home?
God gives us the opportunity and ability to bear God’s grace to each other, to be God’s love and grace to each other. It’s a huge responsibility and a gift. It’s something of a miracle each time it happens.