The worship service was going along as usual. At the time of the offering, I shared a
short a message on giving and invited the ushers to come to the altar table to receive the offering plates. I then began a prayer of blessing for the gifts we were about to receive. I don’t have a clue what happened next, but the first words out of my mouth were, “Lord, thank you for this food.” I heard chuckles in the congregation. Then I said, “Lord, I didn’t mean to say that.” Laughter erupted throughout the sanctuary. I tried to think of a way to connect food and the offering, nothing came. So, I just said, “Lord you know what I meant to say.” That led to more laughter.
Here I was trying to pray, and the whole congregation was laughing. As the laughter died down, I salvaged an offering prayer, but I felt embarrassed as I sat down. And if you’re thinking this happened when I was a young pastor, that is wrong. It happened last Sunday! When the service was over, I discovered what a forgiving congregation I have. Not a person condemned me or criticized me for my mistake. Just the opposite happened. People appreciated the moment of levity. A retired pastor shared a faux pas he made once while leading the congregation in the Lord’s Prayer when he veered off into the Apostle’s Creed. Other’s remarked that I had already blessed their lunch. In other words, my congregation demonstrated to me what I am most thankful for this Thanksgiving, and everyday of my life – grace.
I am thankful to shepherd a congregation that practices grace with their mistake prone pastor. But it is more wonderful to know a God whose character is grace. I like the way Pastor John Ortberg defines God’s grace: “Grace is God's choice to love, forgive, embrace, accept, and help us when we have done nothing to earn it. If grace came to us, it would most likely say, "Stop. You don't have to be any more successful than you are right now. You don't have to win any more than you've already won. You don't have to be any more talented. You don't have to look better than you do. All those things are gifts of grace from God." When I slow down long enough to consider that my Creator chooses to love me, forgive me, embrace me, and accept me even though I am a flawed, mistake prone person, my soul experiences a deep well of thanksgiving. What’s more amazing is that God, in his grace, loves me so deeply that he works within me to make me less mistake prone. I am “prone to wander” as the great hymn “Come,
Thou Fount" so adequately describes. Yet, God’s grace continually refills me to make me more like Jesus, full of love and grace for all people.
What are you most thankful for, not just on Thanksgiving Day, but everyday of your life?
Might I suggest God’s grace in which He says to you, “You can stop trying to earn my love and acceptance. You don’t need to be more than who are. I can make you into who I want you to be. That’s what I long to do. I want you to know my grace, so you can be a person of grace to yourself, and all people.”
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.