O God, the source of all that is just and good, nourish in us every virtue and bring to completion every good intent that we may grow in grace and bring forth the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
He was not a nice man. If we want to be charitable, we might say he lacked certain social graces. If we want to be totally honest, we might say he was a jerk. There were people who avoided any interactions with him. He regularly told himself he liked that, but in truth he was lonely. Some people questioned his mental stability sometimes. He had driven a lot of people away, but he really did not know any other way. Perhaps he had once known gentleness and kindness, but it had been a long time. There was one bright spot in his life. A daughter, a little girl who had captured his heart in a way he never imagined could happen. He wanted what was best for her.
That desire and intent for his daughter’s well-being eventually led him to enroll her in a Lutheran school, and, when she asked him to come, to darken the doors of the church for the Christmas program in which her first-grade class was singing. He cast a wary glance upward when he came in, both to see if the roof really would fall in as he had sometimes joked but also to avoid the eyes of the people staring at him. It went alright. Afterwards, while he waited for his daughter, people shook his hands and said they were glad he had come, even some folks who had never willingly spoken to him before. It was like he had a break from his past inside these walls. He brought his wife and little girl to church that next week. He wanted that sense again, that perception that he was not only defined by his abusive and angry past. The last I saw of him, he was serving on a board at Church, laughing with friends.
We pray in this prayer that God would nourish every virtue, a virtue like a father’s love for his daughter, and bring to completion every good intent that we may grow in grace and bring forth good works. God answers these prayers often through little things. A handshake and a greeting at church might be just the tool he will use. A smile and a welcome rooted in the willingness to believe that sins really are forgiven has great attraction and power to bring forth a new person from the ashes of the old. Thank God for all the times he has done this to you. Praise Him that He invites you today to be part of doing this for someone else.