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A place where words fail

Valarie Englert, Senior Pastor

Grace Is Not A Blue-Eyed Blonde.

So read the title of a book that sat on my parents’ bookshelf when I was a kid.

As a seven- or eight-year old, I was attracted to the book by its title.

But when I pulled it off the shelf and opened it, it didn’t look interesting at all – just a book with lots of words on white pages.
When I asked my dad about what the title meant, he responded with something like, “Grace is a gift from God. It’s God’s love given to us when we don’t deserve it.”
I accepted my dad’s answer without much understanding, and I certainly didn’t understand why a blue-eyed blonde would have anything to do with it.

As Pastor Caroline shared in her First Reflection last week (No strings attached, January 24, 2019), grace is often difficult to understand. 

As we grow in faith and belief, we learn words to help us talk about grace: “unmerited,” “prevenient,” “justified.”

But the whole notion of God’s grace can seem elusive and hard to describe in spite of the lofty vocabulary.
Until we experience that grace deep within us in a place where words fail.
One place I often experience God’s grace is at the communion table.

The words we say as we celebrate communion – the Eucharistic prayer – pave the way for the experience of communion itself.
We speak of Christ’s body and blood, and that night of the Last Supper becomes real and present.
There is a subtle “pop” of the bread when the loaf is torn, and a release of yeasty aroma.

The grapey dark purple of the juice stains the bread when dipped.
Somehow we are drawn into communion together, receiving these grape juice-stained bits of bread.

Sharing those bits of food and drink raises us into a shared experience of God’s Spirit that can only be acted out and practiced.

The sharing can’t be adequately described with words; the experience is too deep for such.
We are gifted by God’s grace in the partaking of the bread and cup, pure and simple, deeply and profoundly.

That grace mysteriously ties us together into one, arching over difference and division, weaving us together into God’s Spirit.
And there’s not a thing we do to bring this about.

We just receive it with open hands, and offer gratitude for the grace that falls on and around us.

No strings attached

Caroline Noll, Associate Pastor and Pastor for Children and Families

Confirmation Class has begun!

I always look forward to this season with our students as they enter this portion of their faith journey.

This year is especially joyful because we also have youth and (very soon) adults entering their own confirmation experience.

I am thankful that our students and families carve out time from busy lives to be intentional about their life in faith.

Inevitably, some portion of each Confirmation Class involves a short vocabulary lesson.

There are words we use in church that we just don’t usually use in the rest of our lives.

In our building we have the narthex, chancel, sacristy and, of course, the one and only Schreiber Hall.

Christology, pneumatology, ecclesiology, eschatology and many other fancy -ology words.

Some I still pause to remember which is which.

Then there are the ones from our current worship series on “Grace Alone.”

Like Prevenient. Who else but Methodists use that word?

Sanctify and sanctified and sanctification.

I’m pretty sure I heard a question in staff this week about whether or not we were making up words when we conjugated that one.

And the big one for me. Five little letters. Grace. 

Grace. It’s one of those churchy words we speak every Sunday, sing in dozens of hymns, lift up in prayer.

As a kid and a youth, I had absolutely no idea what it meant.

I gathered it was a good thing and had a lot to do with God, but beyond that I didn’t know.

It seemed like everyone else knew, but I was too embarrassed to ask.

I didn’t want to seem stupid or foolish.

Back then, I couldn’t ‘google’ it.

So I just kept my eyes and ears open, hoping I would be in the right place at the right time when someone finally let me in on the secret.

So here it is, in case you’ve been wondering, too.

It’s love. God’s absolutely free gift of love. Given to you, to me, to all.

We don’t have to work for it, buy it, earn it, take it or go get it.

It’s a gift, generously and abundantly given to us by God.

No strings attached.

No strings, but an invitation. An invitation to receive this love freely given.

An invitation to let this love transform us. An invitation to let God’s love grow in us.

An invitation to move from brokenness to wholeness, from fear to freedom, from isolation to communion with God and neighbor.

May the grace of God fill you and encourage you on your journey.