People living into grace...

Today our worship felt lighter - brighter - more hopeful. Part of the reason has to do with new people playing new roles that honor the past but aren't trapped by it either. Another reason is that it is autumn and everything feels more crisp and beautiful: the sun, leaves, air and our moods. Still another has to do with different settings being used on the pipe organ. But the biggest reason, at least for me, comes down to this: as a faith community we are learning how to live from a place of compassion and gratitude - not form or history or even right doctrine - just honest and deep sharing with one another (and the world) out of our encounters with grace.

The Franciscan, Richard Rohr, says: "Unless and until you understand the biblical concept of God's unmerited favor, God's unaccountable love, most of the biblical text cannot be interpreted or tied together in any positive way. It is the key and the code to everything transformative in the Bible. In fact, people who have not experienced the radical character of grace will always misinterpret the meanings and the direction of the Bible. The Bible will become a burden and obligation more than a gift."

That's a big change for the oldest church in the town to take. Oh I suspect that those early Pilgrims understood grace 245 years ago. Dear Jonothan Edwards certainly did dispite his overly Calvinist perspective because for him his encounter with beauty and joy - grace - colored everything he did and wrote. Somewhere - and I am clueless where or how - this was lost, however, or at the very least it had been forgotten. And not by everyone, to be sure, but by enough so that grace and joy realized from the inside out was not how this congregation understood their faith. But that is beginning to change - not all at once and not completely - but authentically. Deeply. With a sweetness that is palpable. And today I saw two signs:

+ First, before worship began there was a whole gaggle of teens and tweens hanging out in the balcony of our Victorian sanctuary. They were laughing and leaning over the edge a bit (not unsafely) and their demeanor said that they wanted to be there. Two other 12 year old boys were in another part of the balcony watching the new organist in awe. For the first time in 14 months this place felt "kid friendly" to me. Like the spirit of hope and new life was in our veins and there was safe space to be truly ourselves in all our messy humanity.

+ Second, after worship and conversation and some GREAT goodies ended, I gathered this year's CROP walk for Church World Service. We walked 5K to raise money and awareness of world hunger and appropriate techonology issues in our community. I took this over at the last minute and wasn't able to really organize people to participate the way I would like but still there 25+ walkers and we raised $1,000! It was a gorgeous fall day and we had great fun praying and walking, talking and laughing together with a neighbor congregation. Next year, we said like a Passover seder, next year there will be more!

Grace is nurtured. Grace is spontaneous and needs safe space to take root. And grace has to be noticed - like a mustard seed - and named and honored lest those serious people all around us snuff it out in the name of religion. Robert Bly's poem, "People Like Us" comes to mind:

There are more like us. All over the world
There are confused people, who can't remember
The name of their dog when they wake up, and
Who love God but can't remember where

He was when they went to sleep. It's
All right. The world cleanses itself this way.
A wrong number occurs to you in the middle
Of the night, you dial it, it rings just in time

To save the house. And the second-story man
Gets the wrong address, where the insomniac lives,
And he's lonely, and they talk, and the thief
Goes back to college. Even to graduate school,

You can wander into the wrong classroom,
And hear great poems lovingly spoken
By the wrong professor. And you find your soul,
And greatness has a defender, and even in death
you're safe.

Sometimes it all seems so random until there is a small epiphany and grace puts life back into perspective. This prayer/song by Mary Gauthier is just about the most perfect way to bring this day to a close...


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