The Grace of the World

Randall Tremba
March 11, 2012
Third Sunday of Lent
Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church

Psalm 19
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork. In the heavens God has set the sun. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; nothing is hid from its warmth.

I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars. Og Mandino

* * *

What a difference a week makes. What a difference sunlight makes. What a difference community makes. What a difference love makes.

As the Apostle Paul put it (1 Corinthians 13): Now abideth faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love. It’s true: love is the greatest but faith and hope are really, really great, too.

Despite our son’s tragic predicament, Paula and I are hopeful. We are hopeful and grateful because there is a lot of good in the ruins and there are many lending him and us hearts, hands and shoulders to rebuild out of the ruins.

It takes a village to raise a child. And it takes a village to resurrect one.

Our future is still uncertain. Formal charges, hearings, prosecution, judgment and a probable sentence lie ahead. But things are less troubling today than they were a week or so ago.

It was a cold, dark, and rainy day when we brought our worn and frazzled son home the morning after his arrest and arraignment. I will not soon forget February 29—a week ago Wednesday. Dark clouds filled the heavens. Sorrow and condemnation fell like hard rain upon our heads.

We drove up the driveway and pushed open the car door. Our two dogs spied Jonah and just like that they bounded off the deck, down the steps, their tails flapping madly. Dogs, of course, are limited in the gifts they can offer. But if they could I’m pretty sure our dogs, Lucy and Rita, would have offered Jonah a silk robe, a golden ring and, of course, the fatted cat for dinner.

The grace of the world. It’s a beautiful thing.

The very next day, morning broke. The sun came up. Birds tweeted and chirped. Blue bells, daffodils and crocuses bloomed.

The grace of the world. It’s a beautiful thing.

My email inbox and Paula’s filled with notes of sympathy and support. As you can imagine, phone calls at that time would have been awkward for most people to make and for us to take. What a wonderful thing email proved to be. Not a single one trite or perfunctory. I’ve never known email to radiate love but there it was in high definition.

The grace of the world. It’s a beautiful thing.

One phone call, then another, one card in the mail, then another and another and another. Just tell me what I can do. We’re here for you and your son.

The grace of the world. It’s a beautiful thing.

Although he could face a stiff sentence, our son is nevertheless totally relieved to be out of what felt to him like prison, an increasingly dread filled way of life harder and harder to escape. As it turns out, such intentions, such desires—spoken or not—are a form of prayer. Somehow or other the Beloved found our son, brought him out of the house of bondage, through the sea and into a wide open wilderness, an uncharted place that can and may, just may lead to a promising future.

The grace of the world. It’s a beautiful thing.

Maybe that’s why we sing: Morning by morning new mercies we see. All I have needed Your hand has provided.

According to the mythic tale in Genesis from the Great Ancestors, life arose out of darkness. It’s a myth, of course, which is to say: it never was, but always is.

At the dawn of creation the Spirit brooded—and still does—broods like a bird over chaos and darkness. The Spirit broods, broods like an artist over her palette, broods like a poet over his page, broods like a hen sitting upon her egg, as if to say: not by violence or by force but by invitation life arises.

In the hour of darkness she speaks words of love and wisdom: Let it be. Let it be. Let there be light.

And there it was. And there it is. Light out of darkness.

And, you know, sometimes that’s all we can manage in a given day. We glimpse a ray of light in the darkness. It isn’t everything. But it’s something. A beginning.

Behold, morning has broken. Like the first morning. Again.

The light was called Day. The darkness Night.

I’ve known this Genesis story for a long time. However, it took me a long, long while to notice something that the Great Ancestors saw long ago: darkness was not eliminated from the world. Darkness was named. And sometimes that’s all we can do. We name the darkness that haunts us and let it be. We endure the darkness for it shows us the stars.

Let it be, she says again, and just like that the earth appears in the midst of the waters. And just like that we stand on solid ground with our head above water. We breathe again. We are resurrected.  We arise into a new world where we flourish within the fabulous web of life. We get another turn in the sun.

And wonder of wonders we ourselves are invited to be creators. We get a chance to make something beautiful in and of our lives, something beautiful that blesses others and mends creation.

Behold! It is good. Not perfect. Just good. And on most days that’s good enough.

This mythic tale is a story of rebirth, re-genesis and resurrection again and again. It’s a promise of light out of darkness. Beauty out of ruins. Life out of death, one breath, one step, one hug, one email, one day at a time.

The sun sets. The sun also rises. The tide comes in. The tide goes out. The moon waxes. The moon wanes.

Each day awakens to a rising morn. And each day is bathed in love from one end of the earth to the other. With and without words the Beloved proclaims day after day, night after night: I will never leave you nor forsake you. Through the storm, through the night, I will be with you for you are mine.

Open you eyes. Listen. The grace of the world is a beautiful thing.