Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Where there is grace

We talk a lot about grace in the Methodist church---that free, unmerited gift from God. It comes in many shapes and sizes: forgiveness, help, growth, peace, comfort, reconciliation…the list goes on. We give it different names: Justifying, Prevenient, and Sanctifying. But in general, grace is grace. And as Roberta Bondi told us in seminary: “Accept grace where grace is offered.” For me this has meant receiving gifts of home produce, jams, and flowers from parishioners for no apparent reason, or asking for help at the parsonage time and time again because of various issues. I need grace regularly in my relationships—forgiveness, tolerance, and understanding for my many quirks and flaws.

As a pastor, I see many offerings of grace within the church. There are gentle and subtle reminders of God’s presence and work in individuals day in and day out.

There is one particular offering of grace that has struck me for months now. We have one woman in particular in the church who is “losing her marbles” to say it in a crass way. She doesn’t have alzheimers, more accurately she has “Old Timers” though I am not convinced she isn’t having TIAs on a regular basis, but that has yet to be confirmed medically. Anyway, this woman has a lot of trouble remembering, she doesn’t always track her thoughts, and she repeats…a lot. She is also one of the most faithful disciples I have ever met. She is diligent in prayer and in outreach and gives more than most. She sends cards to everyone for their birthday, she gives gifts to the graduates, makes dried fruit for the diabetics and is constantly doing for others.

It has been extremely hard to see her lose her mind slowly. She is one of those women who is known for being “sharp as a tack” and yet everyone knows something is terribly wrong. She still sings in the choir and attends Bible study twice a week. And I see grace offered each week by other members of the class. This woman shares often, but not always a relevant story, but people still listen quietly…even to the stories they could share themselves they’ve been told so many times. They turn hymnal pages for her when she is on the wrong page, gently guiding her to the right place without reprimanding her or even teasing her.

People have been more than tolerant; they have been kind, warm, and caring. They could easily be frustrated, terse, and snippy with her, but instead they offer grace. And I am grateful, for where there is grace, there is God.

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