HUMBLING ADVENT GRACE -
Late yesterday afternoon, I received a phone call from a parishioner. He is a child of the 60's, in his 60's, had been a youth group leader for 20 years, has a developed faith, always asks interesting questions in Sunday school and is a communion assisting minister. Each time he assists, he kneels behind the altar when I serve him and it humbles me to no end. Perhaps, because with my knees I am no longer able to kneel except in my heart. Usually, the other assisting ministers just stand - which makes us more on equal footing, so to speak. But this one, this one kneels and I feel almost unworthy to serve him, but I do. I cannot help but to share the love, the grace, the mercy, the forgiveness, the hope, the peace, the union of our Lord and Savior with him, with all who come to the table.
He called to thank me. Totally unexpected and unanticipated. He thanked me for visiting the shut-ins and those in the nursing homes. He thanked me for the study of Revelation (Bruce Metzger;'s Breaking the Code) that I am leading and for the grace and hope I point out in God's Word even in the midst of some distressing and terrible things that are mentioned would take place. He thanked for taking on a confirmation class - two boys, one in 8th grade and one in 7th - even though it is only once a month and very laid back using Luther's Small Catechism. He thanked me for my preaching, for what I seem to bring to the Table and how he sees in my eyes something of holy grace in the sharing of communion.
I was totally floored and totally humbled. I've done so little here at only two days a week. I do what I can. I honor the tradition of this congregation and denomination - oh, I do throw in a few words to warm what I experience as some coldness in the liturgy. I say, "Beloved of God, lift up your hearts" in the communion liturgy. No one has complained and I like to remind the congregation that they are one of God's beloved. Who doesn't need to be reminded of that? Usually, I don't plan most of those extra words, they flow out of the sermon and scripture of the day.
He told me what a gift and grace I was and that any congregation would be so blessed to receive all that I have to give.
What does he see that I cannot? What does he see that interviewing committees don't see? ( I really don't interview well, but once past that, folks do respond well to me.)
I am just a simple servant of the Lord, flawed, faillable, and in need of grace every moment of the day. It was ever so humbling that he would take time to call, to express his thanks. There was no other motive. (he is married and is so good with his mother who he brings in her wheelchair to worship).
I wish others would see what apparently he sees. What I have forgotten, what I, in my lack of self-confidence, fail to see. Perhaps, then I can keep hope that eventually, when the time is right, another position will open up for me. Perhaps, he was a messenger of God, assuring me to keep faith, to keep hope that I am not a total failure in ministry. That some things do shine through me to others. I felt, coming from him, who gets it (faith), that God was showing himself to me, the Great Silence, speaking through one who so humbled me. The Great Silence suddenly, unexpectedly on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, speaking in volumes I was overwhelmed to hear and could scarce take in. The Great Silence making himself known to me all over again - after such a dark night, and parched desert. In this Advent, in this season of awaiting God's coming, God has come in the form of a faithful layperson and spoken words of hope, healing, promise, assurance and yes, love. All this time of waiting, of praying, pleading, beseeching, longing, yearning, discouragement, disappointment, and serving in the face of the Great Silence, only to receive words of grace that I was unworthy to receive. how truly and utterly humbling.
I thank my Lord. I thank my Lord, for this parishioner, for his kind, generous and gracious words. I thank my Lord, for making himself known to me again. I thank my Lord,
for answering my prayer, "Come, Lord Jesus."
And I smile at the joy and gift I plan to offer the congregation and to this parishioner this Christmas Eve. I will once again, wrap a loaf of bread in linen and lay it in a manger (made by a parishioner of another church I served as an interim) of straw. And with the extra words of invitation and prayer of thanksgiving will offer to them all the "Bread of Heaven given in love for you." And I know, this one will get it - the Living Bread, the gift of God's very love and grace in the body of Christ who has come to us on this Holy night and every time we break bread and share the cup. And in the holy hush of this Christmas Eve, He comes to us and breaks open our hearts to receive him and all he has come to give us. I am so looking forward to Christmas Eve and sharing this gift of love and grace, hope and peace and joy with all who are here.
In the meanwhile, I will treasure these things in my heart and ponder them some more.