By grace we are saved, and so are our celebrations
I am away in Door County, Wisconsin for this writing, officiating at my nephew’s wedding on Friday. We will be a congregation of 13 for William’s bayside marriage to Janay; they’re a delightful young couple.
We were to have celebrated their marriage with more than 100 family and friends at a mansion/banquet venue in Minneapolis on Memorial Day weekend, a celebration that was then deferred until early August as the pandemic began to unfold last spring. The venue closed their operations completely a few weeks ago, and version 3.0 emerged for the couple’s marriage vows to be offered near William’s parents’ home here in Door County.
Like other couples I have been meeting with, couples that had planned their weddings at Trinity this year, William and Janay have had to reach deep and call upon attributes of flexibility and resilience in their wedding planning, rolling with the punches and seeing their dream celebration reinvented. Families planning baptisms, graduation festivities and Memorial Services have also experienced the shaping of gatherings that were not as they had imagined them. One family planning their daughter’s baptism at Trinity has scheduled that celebration on five different dates since mid-March – we will finally gather for a small family baptism with them in the sanctuary after the live streamed Virtual Worship Service next Sunday.
Beyond flexibility and resilience, another wonderful attribute has been exhibited by our families as they have embraced alternative plans in the spring and summer of 2020. They have called upon the gift of grace, to find the heart to be gracious in response to their disappointments and deferments.
The Apostle Paul referred to grace as an unearned but freely given gift of God. We Lutheran flavored Christians adhere to the Pauline doctrine of “justification by grace through faith,” a message that affirms the intent of God to bless us beyond our deserving, a gift that we can only apprehend by faith. And faith itself is a gift of God . . .
With a measure of grace, we are all called upon to embrace each day as a gift, even if the day is not as we had planned, even if our dreams have been unfulfilled. Grace is God’s gift, but one that we can share.
In his book Wishful Thinking; A Theological ABC,1 Frederick Buechner writes on grace. I shared an excerpt from Buechner’s text with you on Monday, a teaching on forgiveness. Here is another little gem from his theological pondering.
“After centuries of handling and mishandling, most religious words have become so shopworn nobody’s much interested anymore. Not so with grace, for some reason. Mysteriously, even derivative’s like gracious and graceful still have some of the bloom left.
“Grace is something you can never get but only be given. There’s no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more that you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good looks or bring about your own birth. A good sleep is grace and so are good dreams. Most tears are grace. The smell of rain is grace. Somebody loving you is grace. Loving somebody is grace. Have you ever tried to love somebody?
“A crucial eccentricity of the Christian faith is the assertion that people are saved by grace. There’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do.
“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you.
“There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it.
“Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.”
I hope that the “grace and peace” salutation that I offer signing off in these communiques is well received by you, my sisters and brothers in Christ. I pray that you know a good measure of grace and peace as you weather the disappointments and deferrals of this pandemic time in our shared history.
Blessings to you, O people of Trinity. May you be safe, may you be well, and may you be held in grace, peace and a forgiving love.
It remains a privilege to serve as one of your pastors.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Bob Linstrom
1 Buechner, Frederick, Wishful Thinking; A Theological ABC (New York: Harper and Row, 1973), pages 33-34.