“Jesus’ stories about the kingdom urge people to consider how the soil of their hearts receives the seed of God’s word, how their hardness of heart may destroy relationships, why fullness of life flows from forgiveness, how being alert to the call of God at any hour is critical, how justice for the poor is required, and how social propriety and religious strictures may exclude people whom God’s love would include.  According to the Gospel of John, Jesus believed people could undergo a spiritual rebirth that allows them to “see” the kingdom at work right now and live in it, even in a world filled with injustice, sorrow, and suffering (John 3:3).”
    -Robert Corin Morris, Provocative Grace:  The Challenge of Jesus’ Words
    
As disciples of a living Christ, we are called to see through the eyes of Jesus that we might serve with his heart and hands.  “Seeing” with kingdom eyes, if you will, invites an openness to all the people, places, things, and situations around us as opportunities to experience the presence of God and to participate in holy work.
    Gearing up for the activities of the fall means preparing not only ourselves and our programming ministries to reach out with great invitation, it also means preparing our buildings, both at Ridgeview and the Center of Grace on Harrison, for the intense use they will get through the course of the year.  Our parking lot at Ridgeview has finally been repaired and renewed.  The carpet in the sanctuary has been replaced and a different wood-like surface placed down the center aisle and on the chancel area.  The new sound system has already received kudos from musicians, listeners, and speakers, and the professionals are still tweaking the settings and working with balancing the sound throughout the room.  At Center of Grace, the Gym ceiling has undergone renovation as has the floor.  The air-conditioning transformation and underground piping are in process – a long-term fix for an ongoing challenge.  Why?  Because the folks coming in for food, clothes, ESL classes, the Boys and Girls clubs, medical equipment, and worship need to know they have a safe and healthy environment as a reflection of our love for God and for all God’s children.
    We might wonder what all this building stuff has to do with ministry – and yet if we open our eyes to “seeing with kingdom eyes” we might realize we are increasing the accessibility for all people to experience a relationship with God through Christ in an environment of welcome and hospitality that relaxes the senses rather than
assaulting them!  Our thanks go to the myriad of volunteers as well as professional staff who are doing wonderfully marvelous and sacred work in making our physical spaces both useful and welcoming.  They are most often unseen, and yet the product of their hands is invaluable to our continued journey as a faithful community of God’s creation!  Many thanks to each of you!
    Over the coming months you will also notice internal changes evolving through our traditional worship services.  How best are we “Loving God”, that first phrase of our focus statement as a church that centers us in Worship and prayer? How is that part of our church life working to reach out to more and more people with the good news of God’s love and grace?  The hearts, lives, and souls of our community and our nation grieve, become overwhelmed, wonder, wander and fill so easily with anxiety about the complexities of violence, terror, divisiveness and hate.  PEOPLE WITHIN AND OUTSIDE THE CHURCH NEED THE GIFT OF GOD’S PRESENCE AND LOVE SHARED WITH THEM BY OUR FAMILY OF FAITH CALLED GRACE!  How best do we make our community open and inviting and accessible?  I very much believe that is the vision God calls us to move into in these most complex days.
     We have much to share in our understanding and living of the gospel – we must continue to find more and expanded ways of reaching out with service and invitation to those who do not yet have a church home – loved by God, but have not yet found a loving community, a place to call home.
    I am glad to be back home at Grace, more than you may know.  And that is a gift I share with you for the world.  So may it always and in ever-expanding ways, be!
See you in worship!
 

Words of Grace