It’s that surprise of generosity you never saw coming. It’s the granting of forgiveness when you had no expectation of receiving it. It’s the quiet understanding of the person across the table from you when you need it most. Or it’s the willingness to extend mutual care and support in spite of disagreement, the gift of deep and respectful listening when it’s hardest to give it. I’m talking about grace, that exquisite experience of God’s invisible presence right in the middle of our complex lives.
Over the last month, since the announcement of the Board’s decision to sell Pilgrim Point Camp, I’ve engaged in countless conversations with people who have shared a variety of reactions. Some were grief-stricken and tearful, others angry & questioning, and still others understanding and affirming. These conversations have been hard and have required careful listening and reflection on all our parts. But they have been some of the most beautiful and truly grace-filled conversations I have had in my ministry with you to date.
Grace – the giving and the receiving of it – is such a precious gift in our lives together as people of faith. It’s a necessary ingredient in our congregations, in our relationships, and in our ministries. It’s also a fragile and subtle thing that can easily be snuffed out in our rush to be right or prove our point. Making room for grace requires intentionality, a big dose of humility, and a steady impulse of extravagant love.
Jesus extended grace constantly and generously. It showed up every time he reached out to someone who others shunned, every time he granted forgiveness in the face of someone’s shame, every time he withheld judgment and instead offered blessing. Jesus was grace personified.
My prayer is that the grace we have received as pure gift through Jesus Christ is the same quality of grace we offer to each other in our congregations, our families, our communities, and our Conference. Let the presence of grace overwhelm and surprise our most difficult moments and challenges, and may lavish grace remind us often of who and whose we are.
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister