Almighty and gracious Lord, pour out Your Holy Spirit on Your faithful people. Keep us steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and deliver us in times of temptation, defend us against all enemies, and grant to Your Church Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
When you are a pastor you learn that God calls all sorts of people to faith. Some are loud and brassy; others are quiet. Some are smart; others are not so intellectually gifted. Some are competent at fixing the church’s water heater, others not so much. God loves them all, so preachers had better get used to loving them all too. I have found over the years that God has a way of surprising me with people, opening my eyes to things which I, in my educated arrogance, had never imagined.
Had you seen her; you would have found her easy to overlook. I did, at first. She was not an assertive person by nature, the sort of woman who did not say much in a Bible study or voters meeting. She liked being on the altar guild, coming on Saturday to prepare the altar for worship, the sort of job that was behind the scenes. In a larger parish, I think she would have simply been one of those faces who regularly stared back at me from the pews while I preached, always there but unremarkable. This was not a very large parish. I came to know her better through her family. It was an interesting bunch which involved several early morning phone calls to help resolve crises. Her children and husband were, to put it mildly, not a terribly wholesome lot. But they managed, in large part, because she was always there for them and with them, even when they were foolish and difficult to love.
God had answered this prayer for her. She was steadfast in grace and truth. That meant loving people who were at times hard to love. A quiet person by nature, I also discovered that there was a steely and resolute devotion to the truth in this woman. She was dedicated to the truth that God loved her and her family. That meant she expected the truth from them and would settle for nothing less. She could make them squirm under that unflinching expectation. I discovered that she made an excellent presider at council meetings.
How does God answer this prayer for you? It will be different for every human life and yet behind all these blessings stands the same Jesus who is the Truth and who graciously gave himself for you and your justification.