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The Rev. Jennifer L. Adams – March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday: Isaiah 58:1-12, 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

According to the prophet Isaiah we’ve just been granted an amazing opportunity.  Now this won’t sound very Lenten but we’re being given the opportunity to allow our light to break forth like the dawn. To allow the healing for which we long to spring up quickly!  According to Isaiah, this very moment is an opportunity to become like a watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.  Right here and right now – or at least over the next forty days and forty nights – we’re being invited to be known as the repairers of the breach, the restorers of streets to live on.  Sound good?  I think so too.

So here’s what it will take.  We need to share our bread with the hungry, bring the homeless poor into our homes, and give clothes to the naked.  Well, all-righty then!  I for one find that challenging but relatively good news.  Because everything on that list is really quite doable – and we’re already on to it here.  Certainly here at Grace we could do better, and hopefully we continue to grow in each of these categories of “outreach ministries” – the feeding, the clothing, the housing. . .But we already Feed America, we have two homes in the Partnership, we hold the warmth drive every year, and many of us clear out our closets at least annually, passing on whatever we don’t need to those who do.  Isn’t our light shining yet?  It’s not like we’re all caught up in public prayer like Matthew spoke against, so we must be OK.  It’s not like we’re walking around in sack cloths and ashes beating ourselves up in the name of faith for heaven’s sakes.  Are we the repairers, the restorers we hope to be?

Well at the end of that list of feeding, clothing, and housing, Isaiah added an interesting almost summary phrase:  “You need to stop hiding from your own kin,” he told them.  Which was such a powerful way to put it – feed each other, house each other, clothe each other – but more than that, maybe to heart of all, see each other as family, family of God that is. In other words, the problem isn’t just that that that man doesn’t have a coat, it’s that we don’t see him as brother.  The issue isn’t just that that child is hungry, it’s that we don’t treat her as our own.  The problem isn’t just that that woman is homeless, it’s that she is not sister to us.  And so the work is not simply about distribution of resources – although we need to be ALL ABOUT THAT- but at another level it’s also about transforming how we see one another, in this place, in our neighborhoods, out in God’s world.  Lent is an opportunity to reclaim the kinship given us by God.

And so I wonder how many of us know any of the names of people who come here seeking food?  How many of us know the names of people whose plates we fill at Community Kitchen?  Try it – introduce yourself. Shake hands and talk.  Stop hiding from your own kin!  How many of us pray for the kids in the Grace houses as if they were family to us?  Start by talking to those at Grace who mentor with these families and learn that those houses aren’t only shelters we provide, they are homes to real people with real struggles and real stories.  We need to stop hiding from our own kin!  Even within these walls, what might happen if we began to see each other more fully, more truly as brothers and sisters in Christ?

And so maybe this season we can practice kinship. Eating together.  Walking together.  Praying and singing together.  Talking about real things in real sorts of ways with each other and all those who come through whatever door at whatever time through whatever program they happen to come.  We could learn names. We could talk. . .And there is so much more.  Come up with your own ideas too.

This Lenten season is a holy sort of opportunity opportunity.  What we’ll discover if we’re not too careful is that none of what we do is actually outreach.  The walls fall quickly when that “other” becomes sister or brother.  Keep feeding, keep housing, keep sharing your clothing, keep caring. We’re on to something here.  And our light is soon to shine.

Amen.