Monday, March 9, 2015

Last Wednesday's Reflection

March 4, 2015

Holden Evening Prayer
Lenten Reflection

Gathered in Grace…Forgiveness
Luke 15:11-32

Please pray with me,

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.  

At the Lenten Fair on Sunday, our Sunday school kids were learning our mission statement.

Called by Christ, Gathered in Grace, Joyfully Serving. 

Sitting in with the 5th & 6th grade class, they asked, what is grace? 
Good question.  At first I tried to define it….and if asked again, I would say, it is forgiveness in the place you least expect it. 

But in the moment I shared this story...
Last month during a sermon I was preaching on healing, the congregation was invited to come up for the laying on of hands and a prayer of healing and peace.  As I went around to different individuals at the altar railing, I said their name as part of the prayer.  Towards the end of a line of people, I placed my hands on Chris' head, blessed her and went on to the next person. 
It wasn't until I got back to my office, well after worship, that I realized it wasn't Chris, it was Sue.  I felt horrible.  I sent her a note that week apologizing for my mistake and how I had hoped that by getting her name wrong that I had not made the experience unpleasant for her. 
When I saw her in worship the next Sunday, I said, "I am so sorry!"  She said, "You are amazing." 
She said, "You were going down the line and saying everyone's names and getting them all right, and I thought to myself, she's getting them all right, she's perfect.  And then you messed up my name and I thought, phew, she's human." 
What is grace?  Forgiveness in the place you least expect it. 
Maybe you've seen it in this place, too.  During communion, sometimes little ones come up with their parents or grandparents and the kiddos are grumpy, they may have tears on their faces and you can see the unhappiness at the communion railing…yet all the while, those children of God, too, receive the blessing, the meal, the love of God…..whether we or mom or dad think they deserve it in that moment or not….it is given. 
What is grace?  Forgiveness in the place you least expect it. 
In the story of the prodigal son….
It is when the father rushes and runs out to meet the son, wraps him in a warm embrace and treats him as royalty. 
We don’t always understand who is forgiven and why….maybe that makes us more like the older brother on some days…being disgruntled about why this reckless younger brother has been welcomed home with open arms. 

But then that leads us right back to this railing…where all are welcome.  All are loved and all are forgiven.  And isn’t that the challenging piece for us…that called by Christ, gathered in grace, we are called to forgive as we have been (and continue to be) forgiven. 

That’s what makes this place different than the real world…not that we are special, non-sinners who are perfect in God’s eyes and will never, ever do anything wrong, and that we are better than those people who squander their families riches and come running back with their tail between their legs….no, we are just like the younger brother…we have squandered things, made mistakes and sought forgiveness….and so we too, are called to forgive those who have wronged us, who have hurt us and with those whom we disagree. 

That’s not to say there won’t be consequences for our actions or the actions of others, but we are called to forgive, not to ignore, or exclude, but to forgive with the power of God’s grace and love. 

Think about a time when you did not expect to be forgiven….how did that grace moment feel? 

Think about how a word or action from you could be the same feeling for someone else. 

This is an amazing gift that we have been given by God. 

My prayers continue that we are able to receive the grace of God….and gathered in that grace, that we are free to forgive others as God continues to forgive us. 

And now may the peace which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen.