Experiencing God’s Grace at AUMC

The following is a transcript from a brief sharing I was invited to give at our church, Arapaho United Methodist Church, and can be found on the church’s live stream from 6/29/20. I was answering the question, “How have you experienced God’s grace at Arapaho?” The transcript may have slight differences from the talk but I mostly followed my script:

In the beginning of 2017, I was slowly emerging from a second season of postpartum depression with my second daughter. I had been in survival mode and everything had felt hazy and blurry, with days and nights rolling into each other in a way that almost seemed indistinguishable at times. My daughter had recently turned 1, and at the very beginning of the year, on my birthday, January 2, I felt like I suddenly woke up. As God so often does, God got my attention through suffering and the sense I was trying to make of it. 

I started to practice trusting my own experience of God, which as a 6 on the Enneagram, will be my life’s work. As I began to experience God for myself instead of just what I was taught or what I read about God, I was surprised to find how good and compassionate and expansive and gracious God was. God was so much better than I had realized. 

Experiencing God in this transformative way gave me a desire and a passion to put my faith into action, with a specific calling to the work of racial justice. In Austin Channing Brown’s book I’m Still Here, she talks about a white friend who is newly awakening to the problem of racism. She quotes her friend, who says, “Doing nothing is no longer an option for me.” That’s the place that I was in but I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it or who to do it with. 

I experienced the grace of God in finding a community of people to come alongside me and help me put my faith into action. Sanctifying grace is the ongoing work to conform us to God’s  image in a way that leads to restoration within us and through us.

In her book Native, Kaitlin Curtice says, “If we cannot go into our faith spaces proclaiming a narrative that is inclusive for everyone, how are we supposed to, throughout the week, proclaim a narrative of love that is for the poor, women, immigrant, tired, queer, or abused? If we stand on Sunday and sing songs about personal sins, how are we to go out and challenge institutional systems of hate? The answer is that our communion table, a gathering place of community, must really be a table of communing.”

My experience of God’s grace at Arapaho is in being a part of a community that is doing the work to allow God to transform our table into a real table of communing. The grace is sanctifying because we remember that we haven’t arrived and this is an ongoing, imperfect work but we are doing it together. 

We are doing this work when we take a stand against systems of oppression while reflecting on the ways that we have been complicit in those same systems. 

We are doing this work when we affirm the imago dei, the image of God, in ourselves and in every other person. 

We are doing this work when we attempt to disentangle the true meaning of the Gospel from the harmful ways our cultural lens has caused us to interpret scripture. 

I have experienced God‘s grace in countless ways great and small at Arapaho. I have experienced it in the smiles at the door when we come in and in passing slippery pumpkins down a human assembly line. We talk and laugh and swap stories and sell pumpkins in support of Navajo farms in New Mexico. 

I saw it when we voted as a church to be fully inclusive of the LGBTQ community because we agree that all means all. 

I’ve seen it in our Sunday school class where difficult questions are allowed and invited.  The wrestling leads to a more refined, robust faith, and questions are not a threat but an invitation to engage with God. I experience God’s grace when others say, “I used to think this and now I think that;” “I’m not sure;” “I don’t know. What do you think?” “I’m really struggling with this idea;” “What do you think this means?”

I’ve seen it extended to and then pouring out of my children. I saw it when my four-year-old daughter used Chapstick to make a cross on the back of my hand and said, “You are blessed to be a blessing.”

I’ve experienced it through hearing my husband’s report about the training for LGBTQ allies. 

I’ve experienced it through a group of people working together to understand the concept of whiteness and how it has contributed to the oppression of people of color. 

I experience God’s grace in ongoing conversations with the pastors at the church about how we can better promote racial justice. 

I have experienced the grace of God through Arapaho in finding a community that is committed to continually working to become a place of belonging. When everyone belongs, we get a fuller, richer picture of who God is. We are awe-struck and inspired to worship this Mysterious Divine who is so much greater than we knew. As we worship, we are transformed to go back out and do the work of restoration, which again enriches our understanding of God, and the cycle continues.

I will close with a quote by someone who can say it better than I can. In Tattoos on the Heart, Father Gregory Boyle writes, “Mother Teresa diagnosed the world’s ills in this way: ‘We’ve just forgotten that we belong to each other.’ Kinship is what happens to us when we refuse to let that happen.” 

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