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July 12, 2024

Beloved in Christ,

My apologies for not writing last week. Between recovering from the General Convention, dealing with the Internet being out at the Church (due to a squirrel’s nest in the equipment box!), and the 4th of July holiday, I was too distracted to listen to the Holy Spirit for inspiration.

I feel the need to start with a public health reminder that COVID-19 is still prevalent. There were over 100 cases reported after people attended the General Convention – fortunately our Diocesan deputation was not affected.  We’ve had a couple of people connected with St. Peter’s also come down with it. Fortunately, I do not believe they were at church when they were contagious, but it is a good reminder that if you are not feeling well, please stay home.  If you have not received the latest booster for any of the vaccines available, please consider getting them for your benefit and for those around you.

I was reminded this week about the gift of grace.  "Grace" is one of those church-y words that we love to bandy about but don’t always know what we mean by it. Grace is the gift of God’s love that we do nothing to be worthy of receiving; grace is freely given. However, there is a "cost".

The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer coined the term "cheap grace" by recognizing that we humans want all the benefits of grace without admitting the cost. Usually, it is at the expense of our ego.  We must admit we need assistance, that we need something more than we can provide for ourselves and must look toward God and our neighbor.

This is one of the reasons I love that our response to our Baptismal Covenant vows is, "I will, with God’s help." All that is asked of us in our Baptism is more than we can accomplish on our own.  We would be setting ourselves up for failure if we thought we could do all those wonderful things on our own.  We need help!

Following God’s will and way can be difficult, especially when we do not get what we want, or it takes more time than we thought it would. We need God’s perspective to see beyond our own limited understanding. Not that our needs and wants are unimportant to God, but that they are not more important than any of God’s other children’s needs and wants.

We also must look to our neighbors for help as well. It is a myth that we can survive on our own.  Self-reliance is both lonely and impossible.  Being mutually supportive is beneficial and adheres to Jesus’s command to love one another as he loves us.  The "cost" is that we are vulnerable to each other by admitting our limitations and weaknesses. I admit that that is scary and many of us have learned to avoid such situations because we have been hurt.  Trusting our neighbor can be even more challenging than loving our neighbor.  As Jesus told us, we do need to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

Being graceful – or grace-filled – does require us to be vulnerable and trust that our needs will be met in life-giving ways. Having a community full of supportive fellow believers offers us (God-willing) a great place to start practicing being graceful, which hopefully makes it easier to be graceful with those neighbors beyond our church.

As with anything, practice makes any discipline easier.  Try practicing being graceful by identifying what you need and seeking the help needed to accomplish it.  It can be a one-off instance or an on-going situation, like seeking peace amid chaos. I am always available to offer support and guidance – you just need to ask.

In Christ,

Rev. Valerie+

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