Greetings and welcome to Corona Sabbath. This is one of the ways the church is endeavoring to offer spiritual support during these challenging days of COVID-19. We appreciate your feedback and suggestions.
In this summer series on the theme “Grounded” we turn to one of the foundations of faith – grace. We listen to two scripture lessons that speak of grace.
Psalm 104 tells of the wonders that surround us in creation and provide for our well-being.
And a well known story from the gospels reminds us of the grace that sustains us each and every day!
Read from Psalm 104:24-34
Adonai, what variety you have created,
arranging everything so wisely!
The earth is filled with your creativity!
There’s a vast expanse of the Sea,
teeming with countless creatures,
living things large and small,
with the ships going to and fro
and Leviathan whom you made to frolic there.
All creatures depend on you
to feed them at the proper time.
Give it to them – they gather it up.
Open your hand – they are well satisfied.
Hide your face – they are terrified.
Take away their breath – they die and return to dust.
Send back your breath – fresh life begins
and you renew the face of the earth.
Glory forever to Our God!
May you find joy in your creation!
You glance at the earth and it trembles,
you touch the mountains and they smoke!
I will sing to you all my life,
I will make music for my God as long as I live.
May these reflections of mine give God
as much pleasure as God gives me!
And now from Matthew 14:13-21. A story of a meal offered freely to everyone. No questions asked. No charge.
When Jesus heard about the beheading [of John the Baptizer], he left Nazareth by boat and went to a deserted place to be alone. The crowds heard of this and followed him from their towns on foot. When Jesus disembarked and saw the vast throng, his heart was moved with pity, and he healed their sick.
As evening drew on, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late. Dismiss the crowds so they can go to the villages and buy some food for themselves.”
Jesus said to them: “There is no need for them to disperse. Give them something to eat yourselves.”
“We have nothing here,” they replied, “but five loaves and a couple of fish.”
“Bring them here,” Jesus said. Then he ordered the crowds to sit on the grass. Taking the five loaves and two fish, Jesus looked up to heaven, blessed the food, broke it, and gave it to the disciples, who in turn gave it to the people. All those present ate their fill. The fragments remaining, when gathered up, filled twelve baskets. About five thousand families were fed.
Grace. That’s what we call what we say before meals. We say grace. We have several graces that we use at our house.
Sometimes we say:
Come, Lord Jesus, be thou our guest,
Our morning joy, our evening rest,
And let these gifts to us be blessed
And we to thy loving service.
Another one we say is:
One is God made the sun. God made the sea. God made the little fish. And God made me.
Thank you for the sun. Thank you for the sea. Thank you for the little fish. And thank you, God, for me.
I like the hand motions for that one.
And sometimes we sing –
We give thanks. We give thanks. We give thanks for food and friends.
In my husband’s family, they have a grace they chant based on the Psalm that we read called “The eyes of all wait upon the Lord.”
And we have a new grace in our house we have learned in the last few months:
Blest be the hand that plants the seed.
Blest be the earth giving all that we need.
Blest be the food that we share among friends.
Blest be the love that never ends.
We say grace before meals to give thanks for the food before us knowing that we did not produce the meal on our own. It took dirt and water and sun and seed and labor and energy. We did not provide all of that. It came from many sources. And it did not come from human hands alone.
We don’t produce water or air or sunlight or seed. We don’t produce the cells that hold the capacity for life and the bearing of fruit.
Since I eat a plant-based diet, my twenty-something-year-old son tells me that I’m not to say vegan anymore, it puts people off, so, since I eat a plant-based diet, I’m only going to comment on the plants that have been provided so that we have food to eat. They are amazing. We should say grace!
We listened to the story of Jesus and all of those hungry people! Poor Jesus. Heartbroken at the death of John, going off by himself to grieve, but being confronted by the needy crowds. And does he tell them, Leave me alone? I need a day off? No. He’s distraught, but still he is able to respond to their needs. And there are leftovers. It’s grace. Everything needed and more.
I asked someone recently, what is grace? The answer. “Free lunch.” Just like this story. What is needed is given.
Grace is part of the foundation of our faith. We are grounded in our knowing that there is this amazing capacity for us to be sustained physically, spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically. There is this power. This gift. Grace.
It doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen. They do happen. There are accidents. Tragedies. Violence. Illness. Heartache. Injustice. And when these things happen, and they will happen, it is grace that sees us through.
I try to imagine if I was informed that one of my sons had been killed by the police. How could I ever go on? And yet I see these mothers. They do keep going. And they are passionate. It’s testimony to grace.
So much about our lives – we are just given. And it is so “amazing.”
Notice, I said “given.” One of the radical aspects of grace that makes it so powerful and so important, is that grace is not transactional. Grace is gift. Free gift. The whole concept of grace helps get us out of the mindset of transaction: Of buying and selling. Of trading. Of earning. Of meriting. Of recompense. Of the whole transactional view of reality which is so prevalent in our culture and is integral to a capitalist economic system. We live in a world that is all about transaction which puts a value, even a monetary value, not only on goods, but on people. Grace is not about transaction. It’s simply about gift. And it undermines the whole premise that anything can be had for the right price. Grace is an antidote that we need to keep our perspective and our balance in a world where everything is commodified.
We want to remember that our faith is grounded in grace. So much is being given to us all the time. We don’t have to live in fear or scarcity or hold on to our power or privilege as if we’re going to be bereft because we believe there is always grace to sustain us. What is needed will be given.
Sometimes what is needed is change. Transformation. And grace can be an avenue of transformation. Grace accounts for the sometimes inexplicable ways that we find ourselves changing, our feelings changing, our attitudes being transformed. Sometimes to be sustained, to live fully and freely, we have to change. And grace makes it possible for this to happen.
I was in a Zoom this week and we were put into small groups to talk about story and language. There was a man in my group that shared part of his story which he is seeing much differently than he used to. He told us that he thought he had done what he was supposed to do – go to school, work, get married, have a family. That is what was expected. And he did it. He felt he was a self made man according to the dictates of the society around him. Only now, as an elderly white man, he is seeing that he was born into circumstances that made all of that possible. He now sees how much was simply given to him, not as a result of his own choices or efforts, but simply because of the circumstances that he was born into. He is seeing all that he has benefited from that he did not recognize in the past. And he finds it bemusing and he is grateful. He is seeing all of the grace in his life that he hadn’t noticed before.
This weekend, we celebrate Father’s Day. If you have a wonderful father or have beautiful memories of your father, that is just how you happened to get born, who you happened to be born to or who you were given as a dad. And how beautiful is that? It’s simply grace. And if your experience with your father was more complicated, there were difficulties, if it was problematic, it’s grace that has brought you through that.
Whatever our circumstances, we are beneficiaries of grace. Take a breath. That is grace. We did not create the air. We did not design the lungs or the respiratory system. So much is simply given to us. In these times of uncertainty and challenge and change, let us remain grounded in grace which has the power to sustain us whatever life may hold.
On this Father’s Day, we give thanks for those who have had a fathering role in our lives. We give thanks for those who are fathers and have been fathers, offering themselves to the care and nurture of others.
You are invited to watch the video which follows featuring pictures of fathers contributed by the church family and accompanied by music from a father, son, and spouse trio!
Let us pray:
We give thanks for those who have shown us fathering love. We are grateful for those who have nurtured and provided for us. Those who have comforted us and helped us to grow. Those who have taken joy and delight in watching the circle of life continue!
We are mindful that so many who want to be fathers and share their fathering love are not able to do so. We think of those who are separated from their children, those who are in prison, and we remember the many fatherless children in our land and in our world.
We pray for those children who have had their father’s taken from them through violence or death.
We give thanks for neighbors, teachers, uncles, pastors, friends, who share their fathering love with children.
May we help to nurture into being a society that values all fathers and father figures and their importance in the lives of the others. May all children and young people know the support and nurture of fathering love. Amen.
(Click HERE if you wish to see the post containing the video of this text.)