February 4, 2019
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
was blind, but now I see.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #779]
The lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, February 10, 2019, the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, are as follows
Anne Lamott is one of my favorite authors. Her books are quick reads - conveniently so for me - hilariously funny, yet profound, and a veritable treasure trove of quotable gems. Some of you may find her language a little salty and at times, unbecoming of a Christian author, so be forewarned. But I can almost assure that you will find her books helpful or, at the very least, entertaining.
Among those quotable gems is this: "I do not at all understand the mystery of grace -- only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us."
I couldn't help but recall that quote as I studied this week's lectionary readings. Grace is the common thread that ties the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Gospel lessons together.
In the OT, Isaiah fears that he is, "a man of unclean lips," and lives among a people of unclean lips.
The apostle Paul, in the first letter to the Corinthians, regrets that he is, "the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because [he] persecuted the church of God."
And Simon Peter panics when Jesus points them to a miraculous catch of fish, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!"
All three fallible human beings realize their shortcomings when encountering an infallible but merciful and loving God, yet eventually become the people that God and Christ would intend them to be - leaders by grace.
God's messenger takes a live coal to Isaiah's mouth and says: "Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out." From there Isaiah answers the call of the Lord to go into the world and proclaim God's glory.
Paul, who goes on to become the greatest apostle, declares, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain."
To Peter, Jesus says, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people."
Jesus does this over and over in the Gospels, meeting people where they are, bending down to talk to them, embracing them, forgiving them their sins. From there they are set free to be leaders and carry out God's mission to the world.
In much the same manner, God speaks to us personally, individually, in ways tailored to our own lives.
Lamott's life is well documented in her writings, which are mostly autobiographical. Growing up in a dysfunctional household, the daughter of alcoholic parents, she herself became sober in her 30's. But Lamott has a God-given gift - the ability to put words on paper in such a way that others find engaging and riveting. She has used this gift to bring hope and healing to those who read her works, in books (18 at last count), and random posts on social media. She is not shy about attributing her faith, and the numerous people that God placed in her path, as guideposts toward overcoming addiction and altering the course of her life.
Lamott's latest book, "Almost
What makes her so popular is that she has taken her own real-life experiences and shared them with the public in hopes they will see a little of themselves in her situations. One risks vulnerability in such honest disclosures, but they can also be encouraging to others who are grasping at anything that will bring them some glimmer of promise. That is grace.
With Jesus meeting us where we are, we have a wonderful opportunity to experience God's grace. We do not have to be perfect in order for God to want to be in relationship with us, to set us free to share our faith with others, to declare what God in Christ has done for us.
Grace meets us where we are, but it doesn't leave us where it found us.
What would that be like for you? How would you respond?
On a somewhat related note, the combined Stewardship, Mission Interpreters, and Discipling and Evangelizing Tables are in the process of planning our Spring Bishop's Gathering. The theme for the gathering will be:
I Love to Tell the Story, But...Equipping the Baptized to Talk of Their Faith.
The date is Saturday, May 4th. More details to follow, but please save the date on your calendar.
I was blessed to worship with the saints at Israel's Lutheran Church in Paris, Ohio on Sunday. Again, it was immensely enjoyable to be a pew-sitter and take in the sights and sounds of worship, and especially to sing (which I love) with all the people of God.
This coming Sunday, however, my mini-vacation from preaching comes to an end for the time being. I will be with the people of God at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Warren. I look forward to leading worship and bringing them the word.
This week and always, may you give thanks to the Lord with all your heart, and sing of the ways of the Lord, that the glory of the Lord may be known throughout the earth.
+Bishop Abraham Allende