Grace is such an old fashioned word. Short. Evocative. Beautiful. It is beautiful as a name or as a way of life. And even though it conjures up images for all of us, it is so hard to define. So hard to find.
I had the rare gift to live with a man born with natural grace. That is not to say he was graceful like a dancer. He could not dance. His grace emanated from a core at the genetic level, like his Mom. His grace enveloped him and everyone around him.
If asked how he was able to draw people in as he did, there was no answer. Like an angel tread in the spaces between him and other folk, breathing their shared air, binding them. I would watch on the sidelines countless times as he learned the life stories of people newly met; connecting. All high speed, no dial up.
For 25 years I had the privilege to watch him work grace into daily life. Then in the blink of an eye, grace was eradicated from my life. I struggled with the mere will to breathe, let alone deal with the absence of grace. Grace I knew would never come to me again.
In the days leading up to his death I had begun a quest looking for a larger connection to help us heal. It was unfortunate that I did not find it. Over 60 days after my fall away from grace, I wandered into an old church on the west side. Beautiful architecture. Atmosphere cool, introspective, calm. I was juiced about the beautiful interiors, wondered about the acoustics. What would it be like to blow the dust off of pipes 25 years in moth balls in this kind of space? Would he be listening? Would HE be listening?
I have gone to quite a few “new” churches. Churches peopled with those too remote to make eye contact, smile, greet the outsider to those where you couldn’t leave unless you had confirmed instant salvation. I did not want to be luke warm at risk of being spewed, but I knew my way was somewhere in the middle. I was looking for a community of the spiritual, those who walked the walk. Those who recognized that salvation came in the many small moments of bringing grace to the lives of others, gestures without drama, but filled with humanity. And I also worried, if I found it would I have the right stuff?
My first visit set the bait. People were friendly and warm. The music was good. There was a sense of community. And my, oh my, could Pastor Sherry lay on a sermon. I had to return, had to know was this accident repeatable?
And return I did. And return and return and return. A hook has been firmly set in my lip. Every time Pastor Sherry speaks, I am sure she has read my journal. At the risk of being too James Taylor, I bet she thinks this sermon’s about me. With uncanny precision, the troubles of my heart become the words on her lips, and I have to ask how does she know? And I know how she knows.
I know because greater grace has been working in my life since well before the death of my beloved. Grace that kept me employed, grace that plugged me into invisible networks, grace that positioned me in a neighborhood and a community of good people. Grace that can only come from one source, grace that has stayed my hand when the light has gone out in the world.
Dust is being blown off of rusty pipes as I write. Rusty, clogged, a few dents and dings. But grace is also there in the patience of those who know that air has to be pumped out of the brakes for the system to work.
Last Sunday, for the first time in over 25 years I sang with the choir. Singing being open to interpretation, but they were my grace notes. I am hoping for many more.
Thank you Grace United Methodist Church. Happy 200th.