A 24/7 Grace Feed

It has been a month, at this writing, since the bombs which devastated the finish of the Boston Marathon. One of the realities we are learning from such horrific events is that the human mind and spirit can be damaged by the 24/7 news feed that follows. Or, more specifically, we are learning that folks who were nowhere near Boylston Street (or Newtowne, or …) can find ourselves injured – not just by the grief and sadness that affect us all, but by having our relationship to the world distorted when we cannot tear ourselves away from the news media for days at a time.

Child experts alert parents to the need to shelter children from the drumbeat of dark commentary – but clergy and other helpers know that adults can be equally vulnerable.

The truth is that until God’s reign is fully realized – in a future that’s beyond our knowing – the world will hold such tragic and inhumane deeds. And it seems that recent times have held more than we recall from the past (though, again, our media plays a role in our impressions).

We need a living awareness of a greater truth: this world, and our lives, exist as the gifts of a gracious God.

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it…sings the Psalmist (Psalm 24).

The vicious actions of some can’t change this truth. They can’t change the message that God came to us in Christ and shed tears and suffered on our behalf, or that new life rose from the shadow of the cross, or that the response of compassion after something like the bombings is predictably huge.

We can strengthen our faith (and encourage one another) to become aware of God’s 24/7 grace feed. We can sharpen our spiritual senses to see, hear and feel it in the midst of beauty as well as in the valleys of shadows. The days of sun, budding, and blooming we have enjoyed on many days since April 15 are nature’s reminders. The church, with preaching and learning, prayer and fellowship, is Christ’s vessel for this grace.

The next time (and there will be next times) there is a devastating public event, we should remember to separate ourselves from the media coverage enough to remember who we are and Whose we are. And we can be “in training” every day.

Peace,

Rod

Whitey Graham’s Last Sermon

Our beloved member, Whitey Graham, died unexpectedly a few days before he was due to deliver the Sunday message. He had finished writing the sermon he intended to give. Here is a transcript of his sermon.

When I was asked to preach this week, I figured that I had not done this for several years, so how hard could it be! Then the reality set in, and I had to sit down and write this sermon.

I searched the scriptures and tried to figure out how to write a sermon about a King who was dancing around the Ark, or a king with mixed emotions about to behead a prophet. Great choices…

Then I looked at what I had preached about before and decided those subjects were talked out. So I guess my faith would be a good topic.

Webster defined faith as “a belief and trust in God or a religious conviction”. I think the poet Paulene Dishmon says it best:


    The origin of faith
    Is from God above.
    It’s a gift he offers
    To all in love.

    We cannot muster faith
    In a minute, an hour.
    It’s the result of belief
    In the creator’s power.

    We can build, share
    Care, plant a seed
    But faith is a blessing
    He gives as we need.

I believe we were put here for some reason, and someday my faith will point that out to me. In the mean time, I will just try to figure it out.

When I first became a Mason, I was asked in whom I put my trust. It being in God, I was told to take the arm of my Conductor, and fear no danger. My faith in God would help during my path. I have tried to follow that path all my life.

When life dealt me some bad or terrible things, I placed my life in the hands of God, and somehow or other, the bad always comes and goes. The good always outlives the bad and life goes on.

When my mother said she would like to see my children before she died, something drew me to Sears, where my future wife was working, and great things happened. First marriage, then three of the greatest kids any family would want, and an additional couple of hundred others who needed direction and help, who have become children of our hearts.

I’m sure many of you have heard this story before, but after we were married, I became a Presbyterian, and we traveled to Quincy every Sunday until Alex arrived. Jean asked why we didn’t go to the Presbyterian Church here in Burlington. Sounded good to me, so here we came, and after being chased down the hall by Mark Wells after checking the spot on the welcome pad “Interested in Joining”, we joined with another couple. And here we are some 20 years later, and still loving it.

Our faith has helped us to be Elders, Deacons, teach Sunday School (including me as a Jr. High teacher and making it through all those interesting questions of the Jr. Highers). Cooking Easter Breakfast for those 20 odd years. And my favorite is cooking for the folks at the Dwelling Place.

Every class of new members is asked about their faith journey. Mine was simple. I moved from Lexington Street to Cambridge Street, from the oldest to one of the newest churches in Burlington. Boring, but before I met Jean, my faith had floundered a bit, and she gave me some new direction.

After losing my job of 30 years, faith directed my family to caring for those 200 plus kids we’ve had.

Believe me when I say these kids can test your faith, but with prayer and the Lord’s guidance, we seem to get through it.

After Vickie died, I thought my life was over, but faith kept me going and God sent Barbara back to us, along with Ryan. Although it’s not the same, it kept us going and once again the direction changed and faith played a huge part of it.

Faith is a funny thing. Just when you think you have lost it, there it is again. Our faith has been rattled by the Commonwealth many times, but faith has kept us on track and still doing what we love to do.

Our commitment to all these kids has been unwavering and even those who tested our faith to the extreme limits still remain in our hearts.

You can really make a difference in the world, even if it is only one child at a time, and that’s what we’ve come to understand.

Former First Lady Hilary Clinton wrote the book, “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child” and she is correct. You are our village, and we thank you all for that.

You renew our faith every time we come to this village.

We seem to be continually asking for God’s help to overcome fear and resistance. At any step our belief in God has us praying all the time. It might not be the drop down on your knees type of prayer all the time, but simple requests for guidance.