October 4, 2010
Dear South Main Family,
Grace may be the single most defining characteristic of Christian life. We read about it in the Scripture, “for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God – not of works – so that no one can boast.” We sing about it in worship, “Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound that saved a wretch like me.” We say grace before a meal and ask for grace to be excused from a place. Grace makes everything it touches beautiful: dancers are graceful; manners are gracious. As a child I learned to define grace as, “unmerited favor.” In my growing up, I am less convinced I can define grace. I have grown to prefer a description to a definition, “a gift which costs the giver everything to give and the receiver nothing to receive.” Lots of Christian words have been sullied in a secular context: charity, once considered the greatest love one person could offer another has become a thing which, in order to receive it, one must have failed; pious, which once pictured a life rooted in faith, has become a byword for a person who is snooty or hypocritical. But no matter how much the world touches grace, grace holds its wonder. There is something both incredibly strong and amazingly gentle about grace. And still I wonder – how much does grace characterize the living of our days? Do we live in the gracious bliss of gratefulness for the grace we have from God? Does having received grace make us more gracious? What would our lives look like if we who have received grace were to Give Grace?
This fall we are going to take the month of October to Give Grace. Each week in worship we will examine a grace event. We will read about grace together from the pages of Philip Yancey’s book, What’s So Amazing About Grace?. We will Give Grace in acts of mission. Each of us will have an opportunity to reflect on God’s grace in our own lives and in our interactions with the people in our lives. And in all these things I pray we will develop a stronger sense of the grace in which we stand and that newfound sense of grace will shape the way we talk our talk, walk our walk, and grace God’s world. I look forward to the month and the way that living it changes us.
Grace and peace,
Steve Wells, Pastor, South Main Baptist Church
March 5, 2010
By Erin Conaway, Associate Pastor
I went to a luncheon for SEARCH this week—that’s an organization here in midtown that was started by several congregations (South Main was one of them) many years ago to help the homeless in a variety of ways. It’s a great organization and you can read more about them on their website. At the luncheon we watched a video and one of the clients was sharing his story and he talked about being married and having a home and all the things you would think comprise a “normal” life and then his marriage fell apart and he got a divorce and he said, “After my divorce…I just sank into myself.” It brought tears to my eyes to hear him articulate his depression so poetically and vividly. He found at SEARCH a welcoming place and it changed his life.
Every Sunday morning, we gather in the North Parking lot, out by our tower on Main Street and we engage in a ministry we call “Manna.” Basically, we meet with our homeless sisters and brothers to share a cup of coffee and our stories. We talk about our prayer requests and we pray together. We share a reading from Scripture and we sing “Amazing Grace.” We also pass out “manna bags” that have things to eat now or later—crackers and peanut butter, granola bars and a bottle of water and sometimes a new pair of socks—when you’re homeless, new socks feel incredible!
Manna comes from the story in the Bible when the Israelites were wandering around in the dessert all grumpy about missing watermelon back in Egypt where they were slaves and God told them that God would take care of them and when they woke up in the mornings there would be this stuff on the ground that they called manna which basically means “what is it?” and they could gather up enough for the day and cook it and eat it. God told them not to save any of it except on the day before the Sabboth, because they needed to learn to trust that God would provide. So each day, they would wake up and there’s all this manna around to make flatbread for the journey. God threw in some quail too, but that’s another story. So they found what they needed in this serendipitous blessing of the morning.
That’s what we find at Manna on Sunday mornings. We don’t call it that because we’re giving people enough stuff to get them through a day—although that is true. We call it manna because we, both the people here at the church who participate and our homeless neighbors find enough in our fellowship to get us through another day. It is truly beautiful and surprising and a wonderful way to start a Sunday—with the serendipitous blessing of meeting our neighbors and sharing life together…it’s good Church.