You know how these days are. The cold, low clouds creep in and cover the land; the rain falls in small showers like stinging nettles. On these days grace even in small doses is warmly received, like a hot cup of tea placed in open hands.
So, when my cell phone rang today and I saw the screen display the name “Tebbe” on it, I gladly parked my truck on Franklin Street and pressed the “receive call” button. Tebbe, you see, stands for Matthew Tebbe, an old college buddy that I had not talked to in over five years, which meant we had a lot of catching up to do.
Over the course of about thirty minutes, Matt and I shared with each other the highlights. We talked about being dads; we found out what had happened ever since I went off to Los Angeles and he to Chicago. We laughed; we listened. Then, after asking each other what we were doing for Thanksgiving, we paused … and we prayed. We thanked God for the way He has been at work in our lives.
And you know by the time we finished praying, it was perfectly clear in my mind and heart: even though time or distance may separate us from very dear friends and family, God is able to keep us together. It was so enriching to sense that even though much had changed for and between Matt and I, much was the same. The central part of our friendship was still the same: one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one common desire to love and serve Christ Jesus.
The fact that God wonderfully and mysteriously keeps us connected in Christ is one of my great comforts as a believer. I latch onto the places where Paul speaks about Jesus as the head and his believers as the body. I cherish those passages – hold onto it especially when I remember a dear friend far away.
I also think connection is one of the deep longings we have within us. It makes sense. God has created us to live in relationship; we are created in the image of God to interact, to know, to share.
In fact, every time I log onto Facebook I remember just how deep this longing for connection is. I remember it because something within me wants to find out what is going on with Sandi or Marilyn or that old high school buddy I played football with. And, apparently, I am not the only one because millions of people have this same desire. Within just a few years a whole network of connections has been made … networks of people wanting to remember, to rediscover.
So, there is this deep longing (to connect, to relate), and you can see how this impacts all of us whether we are logging on to Facebook after dinner or looking forward to our next meal together at Asbury Towers. We want to know our lives are part of something bigger … and – yet – also something personal.
This is also where the promise comes (God longs to bring us together; God wants to make true connections). And with that promise comes another cherished comfort: for those of us looking for connections, God has given it to us through Christ.
This is the graciousness of it. We want connection. God makes it possible … God makes it a reality.
Grace – in fact – is where our desires intersect with God’s provisions.
Grace is when an old friend calls and at the end of the conversation your heart is full and alive.
Grace is whenever you really sit and listen to someone and they listen to you, and you – together – allow God to speak through and with you.
Grace is what we will experience with this Sunday’s Harvest Dinner: with offerings of food, around tables, face-to-face, and side-by-side.
Grace is family and friends on Thanksgiving.
In other words, grace is the Church, which sometimes gathers in a building …
And sometimes meets through cell phones … in a light drizzle … on Franklin Street.
All in the name of Christ Jesus.