Our mission is to embody Grace. The parish we serve as a congregation covers the Grand Traverse Area, and we have just over a hundred and forty years of history going back to the earliest days of Traverse City.
Our mission now in this place is to be the hands and feet of God's love, compassion, and mercy. In Matthew 5, 6, and 7 we read that time and time again Jesus commands us to be towards others as God has been towards us. We are not to judge, but to forgive; not to return animosity even violence, but to offer blessings and peace. This sounds nice, but it is tough to live out. We have to be grounded in God's Word and in the long tradition, and we have to reason out how to do that here and now in a way that is healthy and balances the three loves. We have to be saturated in Grace in order to offer it to others.
So often the Church gets entangled in divisions and animosities that have no place in the body of Christ, but they are the result of an evil insistence on private "goods" over the common call to mission, to service, to love. We do not always agree politically or theologically here, but we are not called to. We do not always want to hear the voices of other members of our parish, but we are committed to being a whole community. We invite citizens of the rule of God to their full status in ministry.
Citizens are not merely holders of "rights," they are the people who have taken up the responsibilities of belonging to a community. They know that everyone's good depends on each one's faithfulness. God's rule in Christ is devastatingly simple: love God, love your neighbor as your self. To extend love when it isn't earned, isn't deserved, but given as an gift is Grace.
A good parent doesn't ask their child to earn love. It is the parent's job to give it freely, inexhaustibly, and thoughtfully, with a view to the good of the child that often the child cannot see. So Abba, God, is to us. So we are to be towards each other.
Here at Grace, we are striving to be graceful. We are working to welcome fully those come into the heart of our work. We are always making worship easier to participate in, even as it pushes us to new expressions of praise. We are digging our roots deep in study and prayer. And we continue to serve as we have for more than a century.
We are traditional, that is true. We are also giving fresh voice to that tradition. As one child said on a Sunday, "I really liked church today, it was fun and I got fed." Amen.