During this season of Epiphany, we are looking at “The Words We Say,” and thinking about how they are made manifest in the lives we lead – the words we say in this community, in our life of worship and service – and how we live them out.
Today, we are turning to these two words that we have come to say in our experience of Zoom worship: “Grace abounds.” We could say that we stumbled into those words as we stumbled into Zoom worship. Think back ten months, when all things Zoom were new to us. Back on March 16, Marin County issued its order that we could no longer meet in person, and in a matter of days, we had to figure out how to gather together – somehow – when we couldn’t gather... in person.
We found our way to Zoom. My colleague and friend Bruce Reyes-Chow down at First Pres Palo Alto – offered a crash course in Zoom worship, and I signed up. Bruce recommended that we go over the Zoom basics every time we worship on Zoom – a quick review of the major points – as a bit of hospitality – welcoming folks into the Zoom space. Bruce had a Zoom Basics slide he used, and he offered it to other pastors. It seemed good to Martha, Vivian, Patrick, and me – and so there you have it: Grace Abounds.
A few days later, on March 22, we began to say it every Sunday, as we were settling into worship – “We are all learning, we will make mistakes, Grace Abounds.” Over the weeks, it became a mantra – first in worship – when we would make mistakes in worship – when I forgot to unmute, or when a worship leader would lose their internet signal and disappear – Grace Abounds – and we kept on moving. We acknowledged the gaff, but didn’t let it stop our worship.
And then, we noticed we were saying it outside of worship – in our work together, and in our daily life – we’d make a misstep – “Grace Abounds.” I noticed it over the summer as the Moving Forward Team and the Worship Team talked about trying new things – a live baptism – things that presented challenges – we named them, the risks and challenges, and we tried them anyway, hoping that the new thing might bring new life, and trusting that our mistakes would not be the last word – Grace Abounds – it boosted our creative courage.
And in the past couple months, I’ve noticed an even deeper way that folks are using it – as an expression of forgiveness. When someone apologizes, I’ve heard, received, and offered the response: “Grace Abounds.”
“I’m sorry” – “Grace Abounds.”
What’s being expressed is forgiveness. In our culture, it might be awkward to say, “I forgive you,” in the normal course of conversation. But “Grace Abounds” – we’ve come to know what that feels like in our bones. “Alice, I’m so sorry I didn’t call you when I said I would.” “Grace Abounds.”