It was supposed to be a very quick trip to the grocery store; a mission of mercy for ranch dressing that we’d neglected to pick up for Red Door lunch. My goal was to get in, out, and back in time to be sure everything was being prepped with the lunch crew so that I could focus on Good Friday liturgy and not be distracted by menu details. I quickly grabbed two large bottles, and sped my way through the self-check. I was headed past the customer service counter when I remembered I was low on bus passes. On a holiday weekend, people would need and want to travel. I glanced at my watch and decided I had time to buy a few more.
“Hey, Sarah!” said a cheerful voice, snapping me out of my focused zone marking time and chores on my mental “to do” list. A parishioner, one of the regular volunteers from Red Door, was moving through the store finishing with her own shopping. I mentioned that I was getting a few bus passes for those who would inevitably want and need them at lunch. We started chatting and before I knew it, she was in line with me, tripling our purchase of bus passes, and beginning the day’s litany of giving by passing one along to a man who was waiting in line as well, who was moved and grateful.
Good Friday. I should have know then that Grace would show up.
Back at church, there was liturgy and there was lunch which needed to be set up and readied. Both were happening with some unavoidable overlap, and soon my over-attentiveness to which I should be doing when gave way to a cadence of simply being present and freely moving with that. I prayed; my eyes were moist as I knelt in a pew in the midst of those who had gathered, surrounded by those from Red Door, those from the church, those from the community just passing in. But, it was praying while kneeling beside those from the Red Door that cracked me open. We prayed in the solemn collects for the destitute and the homeless, and the gentle soul beside me (who most would easily identify as destitute and homeless) added with intention, “and the disabled” to the litany. I reached over to touch his hand and nodded, praying the same. Grace, so much grace.
I slipped out from liturgy before the Stations of the Cross to welcome guests who had gathered for our free community lunch, as they do each Friday. This day was unbelievably busy (later I would learn, a recent record of 106 people). I had handed out my original stash of bus passes before I could even greet the gathered lunch crowd; I was reassured and grateful to know there were more. I paused to welcome everyone and remind them of our Easter services. Then, heart already full and ready to burst, I saw her waving at me.
It was Grace. Grace who I have not seen in months, who gave birth to a daughter and gave her for open adoption. Grace who is barely more than a child herself, who had been living on the streets when the park closed. Grace who has already experienced more trauma and loss in life than her not-yet-twenty years should ever know. She reached out to me with both arms, giving me a huge hug, the first of many which would render my glasses unseeable by mid-afternoon. Grace had something important to convey, “I’ve come home again! I’m living at Home Again!” she exclaimed to me. We rejoiced, tears welling up. Home Again was a group home, with others her age. It was clean, and stable, and she could visit her daughter. She was safe, and no one was taking advantage of her.
Grace showed up. So much grace.
The day continued, with so many faces pressed against my glasses that at some point, I could no longer see. My glasses and my phone were somewhere in the kitchen when I saw Grace cradling another sobbing woman, giving her own shoulder of strength now to one who was breaking. I sat beside them, and the sorrow melted into a heartfelt counseling session we took elsewhere. The vulnerability, the rawness, the sheer honesty of struggle were palpable. Tears, sobbing…confession, repentance, reconciliation, absolution, grace at the foot of the cross.
Grace. So much grace.
On this day, divine love and grace have moved through bus passes, spoken psalms, second helpings, the humanness of hugs, the vulnerability of repentance and reconciliation, the power of deep and authentic connection that brings us to our knees. None of us are better, none deserving, none without the flaws of our humanness showing, whether we like it or not. Instead all are loved, lavished with love and grace beyond measure, brought to our knees and lifted, enfolded in the embrace of grace.
Good Friday. Grace. So much grace…
Living Cross, Stained Glass Window by Sarah Hall