Thoughts Between Sundays

Some of what crosses my mind between Sundays


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An Advent Handprint

Last week our church, through the Deacon’s Fund, helped a family here in town that is staying at the Good Neighbor Homeless Shetler.  This family is a woman and a 2 year-old that she is raising for another member of her family. Their car had broken down and the mom had no transportation to and from work.  She was walking, in the dark and cold, late at night with the toddler in a stroller until she could get her car fixed.  The auto repair place graciously fixed the car so that she could safely get back and forth to work, and released the vehicle back to her before the bill was settled.  Now the child and mom had a reliable, safe way to get to and from work – she just needed to settle the bill.  The Director of the shelter called us, which is not a usual occurance, and asked if we could help.  We paid the bill and on Monday the Director of the Shelter came by with a note for us.  The guest does not know who her benefactors are, and so she wrote a note to thank us for our generousity, kindness, and love.  Affixed to the outside of the envelope was a handprint cut from paper with the fruits of the spirit on it – Love, Hope, Peace, Faith, and Joy.  The handprint is that of the child who no longer has to be out in the dark and the cold while her caregiver walks home from work.

I am grateful for the agencies and organizations in our community that work together to care for those in need.  While a $140 car repair bill may not be insurmountable to many of us, for this family, it was.  When you are getting back on your feet and working paycheck to paycheck, every little bit helps.  Last night, our Deacon’s served almost 100 people at Friendship Table.  That is almost 100 people in our community who had a hot meal last night and some to take home with them.  They had a chance to come in for a little while out of the 41 degree, rainy weather and spend some time in fellowship and experience hospitality.  Our Deacons who had not served in a while were awed by the numbers and the folks who said “Thank you.”

This weekend at the church is our International and Community Christmas Market.  We will be open from Saturday 10-4 and Sunday 9:30-2.  In addition to the goods from 10,000 Villages, we will also have community agencies with information and opportunities to support their work in the community. In my mind, this is not as much about Christmas shopping as it is being part of a community that affirms we care about those who need us.   Jesus was not born in a hospital, but in a stable.  He was not dressed in fancy smocked outfits with monagrams on the front, but wrapped in strips of cloth – whatever his parents could find.  Last night, as I counted the numbers of men, women, and children standing in line, I had a flash of Jesus being born to folks just like those standing there.  Not only to them, but for them. One of  our calls as followers of Jesus is to care for those who may not have a place to live or meals to eat.  Not only care for them, but also care about them.  There is a difference.

Than handrpint is on my desk – I’m having a hard time letting it move to the bulletin board in our office.  In this tiny hand are the fruits of the spirit, and the messages of Christ – love, faith, hope, peace, and joy. Looking at that tiny handprint, thinking about those who stood in line to eat, and those who serve them, I see the difference  even small actions can make.  The hope offered by paying a car repair bill or offering a hot meal without questions, expectations, or judgment.  I am grateful to be part of this work, work that lets me find ways to see an infant in a manger every day.

 

 

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Grace

It was Grace that started me thinking about this writing space — not Grace-with-a-capital-G-Jesus-Grace, but grace said before meals.  A specific meal.  The first Friendship Table dinner I worked at with the Deacons left me with thoughts that seemed worth sharing and a wondering where and how to share them.  Here we are, several months later, and as we prepare for another Friendship Table meal, I am thinking about grace, once again.

I had been told that the honor of saying grace before the Friendship Table meal is served is usually reserved for 2 of the guests who come each week.  It is one of those unwritten rules.  This week, neither of the men who usually offered grace were there; I asked one of the Deacons if I should offer to bless the meal.  She thought for a moment and said maybe we could see if anyone else would like to bless the food.  I welcomed our  visitors, and then extended the invitation to those waiting in line – -“would anyone like to bless the meal?”  There may have been the sounds of pins dropping, some crickets chirping, and then a man in an orange t-shirt raised his hand and said “I would.”  I asked his name, and he said “Tom*”

“Tom, please pray for us.”

I honestly do not remember the prayer he prayed.  You could tell it was one he had learned in childhood and had been saying all his life.  Maybe it was “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest” or “God is great, God is good.”  It was honest.  It was heartfelt.  A few minutes later, I passed by his table, and he waved me over.

“It’s been a long time since anyone asked me to say the blessing.  Thank you for the honor.”

The honor of saying the blessing.  Those words are words that are still making me think.  In my line of work I get asked to pray over a lot of meals. Sometimes, these prayers can feel routine – -the room quiets for a momentary pause in conversation and then the buzz continues right where it left off.  These prayers do not mean any less than the ones I pray in worship or in hospitals or at bedsides.  But it took someone in a bright orange t-shirt to remind me that it is an honor to thank God for the meal we are eating, to thank the one who created for us the seeds that grew the grain and the people who harvested it.  There are people who are never asked to say grace – maybe they are not seen as articulate enough, or holy enough.  There are people who refuse to say it when asked – -they worry their words for God are not good enough for everyone to hear.  The thought that either of these scenarios would be true breaks my heart, and yet they are.

I also have wondered if perhaps there are ways to extend this honor to more of you.  Sunday, I was asked to bless the brunch before worship, and it was not until just now (on Tuesday) that I thought, “I wonder if anyone else would have liked to have done that.”  I wonder what will happen if I just ask someone to say the blessing?

What I learned from Tom that day was that the words don’t have to be fancy, poetic, or long.  Just honest — and not always said by the ones we expect to say them.  I have seen the the most beautiful blessings said by the most unlikely people.  Sometimes the words from childhood are the ones that say the most:

God is great.

God is good.

And we thank God for our food

By God’s hands we all are fed

Thank you God for daily bread.

Amen.

*Name changed