I am smitten. I may even have fallen in love a little bit. I wasn't going to do it. I was careful about the way I gave my heart. I set all sorts of boundaries and was careful to remain in control. And yet, when I sit on the pulpit side of the chancel and look out over my sweet interim congregation, my heart softens and it is through the gooey eyes of sugarlumps and wagging puppy dog tails that I see them.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...for they have accepted me exactly as I am (even as the ex-wife of a former beloved pastor). For they accept what little pastoral care I can give as grace. For they can sit with one another in a Sunday school classroom and respect the differences amongst themselves with neither fear nor anxiety. For the welcome they grant new visitors, flocking to them and surrounding them with interested questions and hearty hand-shakes. For the "mistakes" in worship which end up being holy hilarity and for the freedom they feel in their laughter. For the candor they share in the joys and concerns time, when simple joys like using a new snowblower are celebrated. For the melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon rolls that age-worn and gnarled hands have kneaded to sell at the local fair and which raise money to send to their sister church in Nicaragua. For the honest way they yearn to be followers of Christ.
This morning my eyes scanned that sea of expectant faces as I stood up to preach and I thought, "I am not worthy of this." And the hush in that room said, "Christen, this is what grace is."