Practice in Small Things

I just had a chance to read the sermon delivered this past Sunday at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Minneapolis by the Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde. (I receive her wonderful sermons by e-mail each week.).

She began her sermon with several stories as a way of trying to explore what Jesus meant by asking us to be perfect as God is perfect. The one that resonated most with me was the opening paragraph of Jane Hamilton’s novel, A Map of the World. The book begins

I used to think that if you fell from grace it was more likely than not the result of one stupendous error, or else an unfortunate accident. I hadn’t learned that it can happen so gradually you don’t lose your stomach or hurt yourself in the landing. You don’t necessarily sense the motion. I’ve found that it takes at least two and generally three things to alter the course of a life: You slip around the truth once, and then again, and one more time, and there you are, feeling for a moment, that it was sudden, your arrival at the bottom of the heap.

Rev. Budde’s point in using this illustration was that “if we are ever to love as God loves, it will take daily practice in small things.” That is, we don’t just wake up and say, “Today I think I’ll love like God,” we don’t have the capacity to will ourselves to turn the other cheek in every situation, always walk the extra mile, etc. Instead, she observed, “Love in great ways in only accomplished through sustained disciplines of simple kindness. Similarly, prejudice and mean-spiritedness don’t come over us all at once. Our falls from grace typically happen, as Jane Hamilton describes, gradually, without our awareness.”

That is a very helpful observation. Loving like God seems like such an enormous task. But surely we can all practice love in small things; that is not too daunting a task. So think about what you might do today.

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