First Congregational Church
July 20, 2014
6th Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
“Patience, Growing and Being”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
So Ole was having dinner one evening and his son, Einar came in and said, “”Hey Pop, I just discovered something. I just did a survey of the farm today, and it’s not in Minnesota. It’s in Wisconsin. Ole said, “Oh that’s a huge relief. I couldn’t take another Minnesota Vinter.”
It seems that there is a parable pattern being revealed in the morning lectionary passages - with a little, tiny obscure link to the weather. Last week it was the parable about the four different soils - the hard ground, the gravel or rocky dirt, the weedy places and the good soil. It’s interesting that this week’s passages follow last weeks, seeing as how this week’s sort of focuses on one of the four soil types.
Like last week, the gospel writer, Matthew, inserted a pericope, fancy for a number of passages that make a complete thought. Last week it was a section about a fulfillment of an Old Testament Prophecy in the middle of the parable and this week it is two other little parables that contribute to the larger subject of “The Kingdom of Heaven is like….” But for today….
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 NIV
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
Thank you, Judy. Like last week, there is a plethora of obvious questions about this story. How is the farmer so quick to make the accusation about the enemy sowers - did he have someone in mind? Farmers back then were generally people of means, which translates that they had slaves or hired help that would do the planting. So why is this farmer planting? Is Jesus - or Matthew - assuming details that the listeners would understand - even linguistically? Jesus tells about the “end of the age,” but he doesn’t say when it’s to come, so would that be called cruelty or is it not so important to the plot? And why does he give the disciples the explanation, but leaves the crowd, still strewn all over the hill, in the dark? I’m guessing that the more we all think about it, the more questions we could find. But here’s what struck me this week.
Anglican priest, professor, theologian, preacher and author Barbara Brown Taylor points us a different direction for our questions. She “reads parables not as direct answers to direct questions that we all have and want answered (clearly and specifically). Instead, she says, they deliver "their meaning in images that talk more to our hearts than to our heads. Parables are mysterious....Left alone, they teach us something different every time we hear them, speaking across great distances of time and place and understanding”” She also says, “As soon as we "know" what a parable means, we're probably mistaken. But if we're made uncomfortable by the challenge of a parable, we're probably getting a little closer to the heart of its meaning.”
In all honesty, I don’t know about anyone else, but before Jesus even explained, I “get” that these passages present ripe opportunities for delineating the “us” from the “them.” That course, however, requires a judgment, and I don’t know about you, but every last time I think I can get on my “higher than thou” horse, it seems that I find myself being reminded - in rather uncomplimentary ways - that my horse is more like a muskrat or a warty toad.
Besides, having to cast judgment requires a great deal of responsibility, and frankly, some days, I’m rather happy to let God do that part. Other days, when my righteous indignation flares, God help me from publicly revealing how small I can sometimes be.
Insert transferred memory of one of my seminary professors, the one I most respected, Dr. David Clark. He said, “It is rarely ever “either/or;” it is nearly always “both/and.”” Add that idea to the fact that Jesus had just talked about God’s crazy sowing of the Good News on to all the types of soils, maybe the point, at least for today, is less about “who is what seed? and more about “how is my field?”
Yes, there are places in the Bible that let us know that dialoguing with one another - in love - has a definite place in the life of the church. But - even in this passage, God’s timing and our patience are important aspects of relationship tone-setting. In fact, I think one of the points about this parable is that it gives us an idea that God has a purpose even for the weeds - to be used as fire tinder. Sometimes, tho, we aren’t so willing to trust God’s judgement and/or timing, because we can do a much better job, thank you, very much.
Regardless of what we think or don’t think, God gives us this life to live, and you know, despite all we do to keep it free of weeds, sometimes they descend on us like a plague. At other times, it can feel like we are in a field of weeds, rather than a field of good seed. Either way, in our mixed field, our job is not about weeding as much as it is about minding our own business, so to speak, our business being the reconciliation of the world through the practice of unshielded love. Yeah, so it was Barbara Brown Taylor’s line, but it’s so good: “our job, in a mixed field, is not to give ourselves over to the energy of the destruction of the weeds, but to be about the reconciliation of the world through the practice of unshielded love.”
Practically, loving our enemies, practicing unshielded love, those are hard things. Funny how sometimes what seems to be hard is only so in appearance, because the easy things may end up being much more work. Maybe it’s easier to accomplish unshielded loving of enemies when we remember that "God sends both sun and rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike. If God shows such generosity of spirit, can [we] do any less?”
It is interesting that the directions are to leave the weeds be - until the harvest. In other words, be patient. God is working behind the scene, doing the growing, so let the plants be. Changing people's hearts is a quiet and gracious business more than a noisy and forceful affair. So don’t get all anxious or worried about just “being.”
Maybe worry and concern is wired into our dna. It’s so easy to get caught up in the future - and the past - for that fact. Those are much easier places to dwell than on our present lives, and maybe that sort of focus requires more patience.
If we are holy folks, then whenever we see something we think is less-than-holy, it’s easy to think we should attack it. We can get easily turned around, thinking that total purity is about the here and now, rather than the future. So we get anxious to pour some theological Ortho Weed-B-Gone on all that feels wrong with the world. But maybe we have more to learn from the weeds in our midst. Maybe we need to do some praying for what we deem to be weeds. There is a small bunch of pansies in the front garden of the church that came up again this spring - that would normally have been pulled up last fall. But perhaps the early winter allowed for a sermon illustration that I couldn’t have made up any other way. Those pansies needed patience, and to be left alone, so that their beauty could shine for us this spring. It’s hard to leave weary pansies alone when we yearn for a picture perfect garden.
There are times when there is a need for speed and quick action, like when you’ve got a lunker walleye on the line, you need to grab the net quick. And now that the good weather is finally here, when it’s not raining or there is threat of frost, we want to squeeze every drop of delight out of da light.
Be patient - with yourself, with others, with God. Grow. Flourish. It doesn’t matter who or what is growing around you. Just grow. And be. Don’t add the adverb after the word “be.” Just be. Breath. Allow the Holy Spirit to wash the dust off your soul and water the field you call your heart. Admire the beauty of the fields around you - in all their varying patterns that happen as the Holy Spirit blows over them. Do your job. God will do God’s job. So let us begin by doing what we can, in this moment, together.
God of all creation, we thank you for the beauty of the growth we see around us. It’s hard sometimes, especially in the winter months, to remember that you are the Master Gardener, with patience for even those times - events and people - that look like nothing is happening. When we have questions about our own growing, encourage us to ask for the experience of others, that we not look on those times as weakness, but of strength and the desire to do well at harvest time. Let us see the lessons of this parable for this coming week - all of them - even the ones that have been left unspoken. Grow us, in your holy patience, into the wheat that can feed your people - physically, mentally, spiritually, as all your people say, Amen.
First Congregational Church
July 13, 2014
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
“God, the Crazy Farmer"
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Why shouldn't you tell a secret on a farm? Because the potatoes have eyes and the corn has ears! Why did the scarecrow win the Nobel Prize? Because he was out standing in his field! Did you hear about the magic tractor? It turned into a field! What kind of things does a farmer talk about when he is milking cows? Udder nonsense!
There are some here this morning that don’t have a track record with me, so I’ll ask you to reserve judgment about the sermon title until the end. For those who have a track record with me, well, I guess I don’t have anything to offer you, except this.
When you sit in the middle of Upper Herring Lake, facing south, you get a most beautiful panorama. To the left is the low swampy area that holds one of my favorite pieces of property in Benzie County, where the creek comes into the lake. A little closer toward the center, there are a row of houses on the water that never seem to have too many people there at one time. To the right is another wetland area, but with higher vegetation, more along the lines of the places where I will be fishing in a 13 days, 19 hours, and some 30 odd minutes. A little closer to the middle, still on the right, are about three really long, wood docks that go way back to some homes, I suppose. But smack dab in front of you is a beautiful field with an orchard next to it. There is a rise to that field and orchard, seeming to come right up out of the lake.
If we knew that Jesus would be coming to town tomorrow, I’m guessing that not only would most of us, but most of Benzie County and the surrounding counties might do their best to be there to see him. Since none of the buildings around here would accommodate the crowd, if the planning were up to me, I’d suggest that he speak from a boat, on the water, to the crowd that would fan out over that field and orchard, right there in that natural amphitheater on Upper Herring.
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 The Message
1-3 At about that same time Jesus left the house and sat on the beach. In no time at all a crowd gathered along the shoreline, forcing him to get into a boat. Using the boat as a pulpit, he addressed his congregation, telling stories.
3-8 “What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.
9 “Are you listening to this? Really listening?” (At this point, the Gospel writer Matthew inserted an interrogation of Jesus by the apostles, about the point of parables. But for today, we’ll just skip right on to the rest of the lesson.)
18-19 “Study this story of the farmer planting seed. When anyone hears news of the kingdom and doesn’t take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so the Evil One comes along and plucks it right out of that person’s heart. This is the seed the farmer scatters on the road.
20-21 “The seed cast in the gravel—this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.
22 “The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it.
23 “The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.”
Thank you, Carlisle, Peyton, Kyah and Reagan. Looking at the crowd before him, and looking off to the side, maybe catching sight of a farmer in the field, it makes sense that Jesus would come up with this parable.
Even back in Jesus’ day, farmers were careful with their crop planting. Any farmer worth their salt would teach the next generation how to stay away from the hard, compacted ground, the gravel and the weeds. If you think about it, there may have been more than a few folks there that day, wondering if Jesus had spent a little too much time in the woodshop, not knowing what real farming was all about. Maybe that’s why Jesus asked the crowd if they were listening - really listening.
Maybe we need to really listen, too, because maybe this parable isn’t about the soils, but about the farmer - The Farmer - God, the Crazy Farmer. Maybe the “seed” is the Good News of the Gospel, and how we care for our hearts - are the soils. The Good News would be seeds of love, and mercy and grace and joy and all the other seeds that contribute to the health and well - fare of this world. God has no limit to those seeds, so God sows them, willy-nilly, in the most unlikely of places, because even a dandelion can grow between asphalt and a building.
We could get all snobby about human soils, pointing out this group or that individual and how they refuse to open their hearts to God and God’s love. But when was the last time you took a good look at the soil of your heart - not for what every one else sees, but for our own good? Sometimes we don’t realize we’ve built hard-packed roads in our hearts, veritable highways that have gotten too packed down by the busyness and worries of life. Not only does God’s Good News bounce off our hearts when they get that hard, but so can the seeds of concern and compassion for people.
Sometimes, when we forget to pay attention to our hearts, they can become shallow. Our get-rich-quick, instant gratification culture is not the cause for shallowness. It is us, when we fail to take responsibility for who God calls us to be. It is we who are responsible to keep our hearts from becoming abrasive, gravely and sandy.
Even when we’ve paid attention to our hearts, sometimes we forget to do the thinning and cleaning out that is necessary for good growth, or they become too full. I think the tiger lilies in the front of the church need thinning, because there are merely a few blossoms with no promise of late bloomers. They need room to grow, like our hearts. Sometimes it’s not that our hearts get calloused or shallow, but that the best seed of God’s love and grace and joy gets crowded out by important matters like financial futures, community involvement, political involvement and/or our own families and health. We need to be concerned about those topics and more. But we have to remember to tend to our hearts, that we are growing what we know God would have us grow.
Good soil is broken soil. The good soil is soil that is tilled and turned, soil that has cracks and ridges where seeds can drop down and take root. And we are, each of us, in our own ways, broken soil - turned over and over in all kinds of ways throughout our everyday lives. And this brokenness, which we often so desperately try to hide, this brokenness that we think disqualifies us from God's love - this brokenness - is the very thing that allows the seed, the Good News, God's love to take root in us.
The other day I came across a little video called Drive-By Compliments. Some guy with a megaphone hopped in the passenger seat with a friend at the wheel, and went around giving people unsolicited compliments. He’s yell out, “You have beautiful hair.” “Sir, you are a very handsome man.” “You have a lovely dog.” “Love the shirt.” “Those pants work on you, sir. They look good.” “Lookin’ good in the suit, sir.” “You two are a cute couple.” “Have a good day, sir.” “I wish I could play sports, too.” “I like your glasses. They’re pretty cool.” “You guys deserve a balloon, you’re so cute. Red!” “Miss, you are very pretty.” “Red is your color. It looks good on you.” To a guy reading some papers on a wall, “You’re an excellent reader, sir.” “Looks like you’re havin’ a good day.” To a guy that many might have described as a little nerdy, “You’re very cool. Yeah, you. You rock.” “You are a lovely group of ladies.” “Keep up the good work.” “I like the mustache, sir. Looks good” “You remind me of a daffodil.” “You’re very pretty. Just to let you know.” “Thank you for being a bus driver.” Nearly all the comments got a double-take, at least half got a smile and some got a thumbs up and a thank you.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear. She who has ears to hear, let her hear. Maybe that’s why God, the Crazy Farmer keeps lobbing seeds at even the unlikeliest of targets. It’s not that the farmer doesn’t understand the long odds. It’s just that when you’re talking about planting and saving the world, it’s not finally about the odds but about the persistence of the Holy One who won’t stop. Ever.
What an unlikely idea, that we can become agents of God, the Crazy Farmer, scattering the Good News of grace, mercy, forgiveness, love and joy into the unlikeliest of places. Jesus spent most of his time with people and in places that would have been considered bad soil in his day. He consorted with despised tax collectors, the ritually unclean, the sick, Samaritans, women, and rough fishermen turned disciples. These were not the spiritual elite. They were not good soil by most any measure. But Jesus walked with them, taught, and healed them, without a megaphone. Jesus showered them with mercy and love, and they did indeed bear much fruit.
We are called to follow Jesus and his example of loving all kinds of people, all kinds of ground, trusting in the power of God's Word and Holy Spirit to transform even what appears to be barren or broken soil. It is a job that calls for prayer, so let’s get to it.
God, you Crazy Farmer, thank you for reaching out to us in ways that can seem absurd. Thank you for your endless love and grace and mercy and joy, that can grow to unimaginable magnitudes, if we are willing to remember that you bring life in the midst of brokenness, resurrection out of death, healing out of loneliness. Help us to tend the soil of our hearts, that we not become hard-hearted, shallow or weed-chocked. Remind us that we can water the hearts of others with even the simplest of gestures. For the goodness of your sowing, and the limitless stores of your Good News, all your people say, Amen.
First Congregational Church
June 6, 2014
4th Sunday after Pentecost
2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
So van day Ole vas riding a Moped and pulls up next to Sven’s grandson Einar at a street light. Ole looks over at the sleek shiny car and asks, 'Vat kind of car ya got dere, Einar?’ Eniar replies, 'A Ferrari GTO. It cost half a million dollars!’ 'Dat's a lot of money,' says Ole. 'Vhy does it cost so much?’ 'Because this car can do up to 180 miles an hour!' states Einar proudly.
Ole asks, 'Mind if I take a look inside?’ 'No problem,' replies Einar. So Ole pokes his head in the window and looks around. Then, sitting back on his Moped, Ole says, 'Dat's a pretty nice car, all right. But I'll stick with my Moped!'
Just then the light changes, so Einar decides to show Ole just what his car can do. He floors it, and within 30 seconds the speedometer reads 100 mph. Suddenly, he notices a dot in his rear view mirror. It seems to be getting closer! He slows down to see what it could be and suddenly WHOOOOSSSHHH! Something whips by him going much faster!
'What on earth could be going faster than my Ferrari?' Einar asks himself. He presses harder on the accelerator and takes the Ferrari up to 120 mph. Then, up ahead of him, he sees that it's Ole on the Moped! Amazed that the Moped could pass his Ferrari, he gives it more gas and passes the Moped at 150 mph and he's feeling pretty good until he looks in his mirror and sees Ole gaining on him AGAIN!
Astounded by the speed of this older guy, he floors the gas pedal and takes the Ferrari all the way up to 180 mph. Not ten seconds later, he sees the Moped bearing down on him again! The Ferrari is flat out and there's nothing he can do! Suddenly, the Moped plows into the back of his Ferrari, demolishing the rear end.
Einar stops and jumps out and unbelievably Ole is still alive. He runs up to the banged-up older guy and says, 'I'm a doctor. Is there anything I can do for you? Ole whispers, ‘Can you please unhook my suspenders from your side view mirror?’
Part of the hilarity of that joke is when you apply the whoosh-catch-up principle to other areas - like the seasons. A lot of folks felt like we’ve been on the moped since last fall, and since May, whoosh and it’s July 5th! Now that this weekend is here, we’d love for the rest of the summer to slow down and let the rest of the world go zooming by, so we can relax and relish our time before we whoosh to changing out the swim suits for parkas. Of course, there are some folks still wearing their parka on occasional days this summer, but that’s a horse of a different color.
As I thought about it, you can see a bit of that whoosh-catch-up principle when it comes to realizing God’s grace and even in our scripture passage for today. It comes from the book of 2 Corinthians, letters Paul wrote to his troublesome, urban, problem-child congregation in Greece. Just before our passage for this morning, Paul was writing the Corinthians about false apostles and about his own sufferings, to encourage them in standing on their own feet and serving the people around them.
2 Corinthians 12:1-10 The Message
1-5 You’ve forced me to talk this way, and I do it against my better judgment. But now that we’re at it, I may as well bring up the matter of visions and revelations that God gave me. For instance, I know a man who, fourteen years ago, was seized by Christ and swept in ecstasy to the heights of heaven. I really don’t know if this took place in the body or out of it; only God knows. I also know that this man was hijacked into paradise—again, whether in or out of the body, I don’t know; God knows. There he heard the unspeakable spoken, but was forbidden to tell what he heard. This is the man I want to talk about. But about myself, I’m not saying another word apart from the humiliations.
6 If I had a mind to brag a little, I could probably do it without looking ridiculous, and I’d still be speaking plain truth all the way. But I’ll spare you. I don’t want anyone imagining me as anything other than the fool you’d encounter if you saw me on the street or heard me talk.
7-10 Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
Thank you, Sonia. Sometimes it’s interesting and even edifying to take an in-depth look at a scripture passage, because you uncover layers of meaning and understanding that just can’t always happen on a Sunday morning when the water, golf course or recliner is calling your name. So it would be interesting to look into the the first part of this passage and Paul’s visions and revelations. And oodles of time has been spent on guessing what Paul’s affliction was. But launching into such a study on this passage would be more akin to the moped as the Ferrari speeds by.
Cutting to the heart of the matter, I’m guessing that when our moped whizzes past the Ferrari of life, and we’re stopped in suspended animation for a bit, sometimes we can take a better look at Paul’s point: “My grace is sufficient for you.” So in this moment of lull before the next big event of the summer, we have the opportunity to sit in that suspended animation as we look at the word grace.
When we use the word grace in ordinary conversation, we tend to downsize the word. We’ll say things like, “She’s a very graceful person,” and we mean she dances well. Or, “He’s a very gracious host,” and we mean he says nice things at dinner parties. We tend to use the word grace in small ways. But when the New Testament uses the word grace, it uses it in a very big, powerful and amazing way. In fact, it’s so powerful that sometimes grace can be quite uncomfortable.
When the New Testament uses the English word grace, it’s actually the translation of a Greek word, charis, which means “gift.” Over and over, the New Testament uses the word grace - not in reference to a punitive judge or scolding parent sort of god, but God who gives gift after gift after gift. That’s grace.
I don’t know how many favorite preachers I have, but one of them is preaching professor, Presbyterian minister and author Tom Long from Atlanta, Georgia. He tells of speaking to a mother with an eight year old daughter about this idea of grace. The daughter came to her one day and said, “Mommy, if you’ve done something bad and say you’re sorry and you really do mean it, can it be okay?”
The mother, not knowing exactly what her daughter meant said, “Of course, if you really mean you’re sorry things can be okay.” And in those heart dropping words parents sometimes hear, her daughter said, “Well, you know that piece of furniture that you really love?” Her mother did know that piece of furniture. It was a family heirloom, a sofa she had inherited from her great-grandmother: “Yes?”
The little girl said, “Well, yesterday I was so angry at you, mommy, I took my crayons and I wrote, ‘Stupid mommy, stupid mommy,’ all over that sofa.” The mother groaned inside. That was a family heirloom, but she loved her daughter and so she said, “Because you are very sorry about it, it can be okay.” And they went and got a bucket of water and some rags and they gently scrubbed that sofa and restored it to the way that it ought to be. (I should write Tom Long, for the name of this woman, for the name of the wonderful product they used to get crayon out of fabric, because it just ain’t that easy!)
The mother went on and said to Tom, “You know, I think that’s a metaphor for how God treats us. In grace he cleans us so that we are made like new. It’s grace.” And when we have experienced this kind of grace it can be uncomfortable because it lets us know down at the depths of our being that we are not self-made people. Everything that we are, everything that we have comes as a gift as the grace of God.
The Rev. Dr. Long finished his sermon with another story about a luxury apartment building in a very fancy housing district in Atlanta. It was discovered that some of the residents of this apartment building were actually on public assistance. When that news came out, the homeowners in that very fashionable section of town were outraged. They didn’t want their property values coming down so they demanded and got a public hearing. In that hearing, the first person to go to the microphone was a young mother with a baby on her hip. Her story was that when she got pregnant, her boyfriend took the car and left her - with nothing. After the baby was born she managed to get a job as a maid in one of the local motels, and if she didn’t have the apartment, she couldn’t have the job, and if she didn’t have the job, she couldn’t feed the baby. So she begged for the assistance to continue. The next person to the microphone was a homeowner who said that he and his wife had poured their life savings into their home and they wanted their investment protected. He turned and looked at the young mother with the baby and he said, “I understand how you fell, but I earned mine and you’re going to have to earn yours.”
Then Dr. Long threw out the challenge. He said, “When you have experienced grace, you can never look another human being in the face again and say, “I earned mine, you’re going to have to earn yours,” because everything we have is a gift of God. Everything is grace. Everything.” On that note, we should definitely pray.
Gracious God, was are grateful for all your gifts - the ones that we can recognize in the moment and the ones that sometimes go flying by us. We are also grateful for the grace you have bestowed upon us, grace - free - amazing - undeserved, and yet sometimes we think what we are able to do is because of our own achievements. Thank you, thank you for the abilities you give us and for those opportunities that allow us to achieve great things. But in those moments of reflection, help us to see how rich and blessed we all are. For all your gifts, most especially for your love and grace and joy, all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.