Grace Upon Grace

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Sunday, the last day of Hutchmoot, found me sitting in the third pew from the front, on the left hand side of Redeemer’s sanctuary, participating in the service. This was my first time worshiping through a traditional liturgical style, and I was amazed by its vibrancy as I stepped into the current of listening and speaking, sitting and standing, singing and keeping silence. I was carried through praise, confession, repentance, and celebration. The congregation was not an audience, but rather participants in the service. One of my more poignant memories is of us together singing, “Shepherd me, Oh God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life,” as a chorus during a  reading of Psalm 22. We not only received the Psalm, but entered into it.

When it came time for communion, Thomas McKenzie broke the bread, declaring, “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us.”

“Therefore let us keep the feast. Alleluia,” came the response.

Shortly thereafter, I hesitantly made my way up to receive communion, not knowing the exact protocol, and–at three rows from the front–lacking exemplars. But up I went, and knelt. Another priest was giving out the bread. As she extended her hand, she looked me in the eyes, their light of love and conviction beaming into me, and admonished, “The body of Christ, broken for you. Take and eat.” A man followed her, bearing the wine. “The blood of Christ shed for you. Take and drink.” I partook, paused a moment in reflection, and then turned to find my seat and observe the church come forward–individuals, couples, families with children–in two single lines.

As I sat down, I found myself in tears, the gently flowing kind which still surprise with their intensity. A profound sense of gratitude and of joy accompanied them, along with the realization that, somehow, I was more truly receiving grace–recognizing it for its full beauty, glory, and joyful abandon–through this sacrament than I had before.

When I think back to Hutchmoot, many moments come to mind, of laughter and conversation shared, of sad tales that shone of hope, of spoken truth that glimmered with beauty, and music that drew our hearts to desire the kingdom come, and yet my mind keeps coming back to this moment of communion. In Andrew Peterson’s song, “My One Safe Place,” he writes the following line to his wife, “You are a sacrament God has spoken through.” I can’t help but extend that image to all of those whom I encountered through Hutchmoot. They, in their service, their speaking and listening, their presenting, their creation of meals, their kindness…They themselves are a sacrament through which God has spoken His love and grace into my spirit. And therefore it is fitting that this moment of communion, this deeply symbolic, sacramental feast, is the point where all the divergent experiences packed into four days converged. It was all grace. Grace upon grace upon grace. An undeserved gift given simply to be received.

[A note on the image–a different feast from Communion, but a feast of grace nonetheless, in the form of a Victorian, Anne of Green Gables-themed, tea]

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