Monday, March 7, 2016

Blessings, Saints and Grace

“What is unique about a moment that has the power to bless us and the potential to feed us is not so much in the power of the moment itself, but rather the quality of the presence we bring to that moment. Our presence can change an ordinary, unnoticed moment into a moment of beauty that can feed the soul. Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary.” - Macrina Wiederkehr

BillLilCleggs  This past week Karen and I traveled to Logan, WV to attend a funeral at the First Presbyterian Church where I served as pastor from 2002-2008. A good friend and church member Lillian Clegg had passed away the prior Friday. Lillian had meant a great deal to me and Karen during our time in Logan and in the years after.

  Her husband, Bill who passed away last May were two wonderful members within the life of the church. Both served with dedication and joy in many aspects of the church's life, giving of themselves in the music ministry of the church, serving in the operation of the Food Pantry, and regular members of the Bible Builders Sunday School class for decades. I have only listed a few of the many ways they contributed to building up the common ministry of the First Presbyterian Church. Their service and influence was far and wide both in the church and community. When I was new to the congregation, Lil was one of a few persons within the congregation I could call when I had questions about the church's practices and customs in years past and getting to know the people within the church.

  Our trip to Logan was both a mixture of sadness and joy. We last had the chance to sit down and talk to Bill and Lil three years ago during our last visit to Logan and it was now a sad trip, because we both realized we would no longer have the opportunity to sit down and speak to them again in this life.

  There was also joy because we had the chance to once again renew friendships among many other members of the church we loved as we together served within Christ's church. Karen and I both loved and respected these individuals at the church and we missed them greatly. If not for health issues I had which made living in southern WV impossible I had intended to serve there until retirement.

  Our trip to Logan reminded me of the many blessings I have been given in my life. Particularly, the blessings of people God has introduced me to along my spiritual journey. In the life of each congregation I have served I have been blessed by the witness and service of those who lived out their lives in Christ, both locally, in the presbytery, synod and beyond and within their communities. Their witness as disciples of Christ taught me lessons in grace, love, mercy, forgiveness, hope and faith. They enabled me to reflect upon the important questions and aspects of discipleship while widening and deepening my faith and spiritual formation. They also provided me countless sermon stories and illustrations during the past 30+ years.

  When I was younger I had hoped that God would allow me the opportunity to serve a single congregation for 30+ years, but I discovered God had different plans. The plan to learn about God's people and their struggles, their sins, their hopes, their transformations, and how amazing God's grace truly is. God seemed to say to me, “Lee, you need to hit the road, I have got some wonderful people for you to meet” and what a wonderful trip it has been and continues to be. God was abundantly blessed me through all the wonderful disciples of Christ I have been privileged to get to call my friends. Friends who have left me with wonderful memories, amazing stories, lasting impressions on how to lead a life of faithfulness, steadfast love and grace.

  Grace refers to all those unearned blessings that help make us who we are. As a person who has been abundantly blessed I recognize that I am called to show gratitude and be a blessing to others. I, both strive and struggle with how to bless others and share the wonderful experience of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. How to share with them that life which can become deeply enriching to their lives by being surrounded by others within the community of faith. I see each day individuals who are attempting to find blessing in all the wrong places and in things in which only separate us from the love of God. My greatest hope and prayer is they will discover the opportunity to experience the same great blessings I have experienced. My joy and blessings have came to me through the honor of knowing a few of God's saints, like, Bill and Lil, Earl and Suzanne, Jack, Radine, Bea, Fazal and many others, each day they continue to bless me and one day our joy will be complete when we are reunited in the life to come.

  “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” — William Arthur Ward