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PACE: Where do ‘glimpses of grace’ appear in your life?
Lyn Pace
Lyn Pace - photo by Special Photo

Do you ever have moments that capture your attention or call you to focus such that they linger with you throughout the day? Moments that inspire you to be your best you and truly love your neighbor as much as yourself? I had a friend who called these “glimpses of grace.”

Last Sunday, I caught my son gazing at the wooden rafters in church not long after we had settled into our pew for worship. “What are you looking at,” I whispered after I saw him do it again during the opening hymn. “I’m just looking around.”

It felt like more than looking around, though. He seemed to be immersed in a particular moment, drawn in by the vaulted ceiling and the church organ belting out the easy-to-sing hymn. By the second time, I was caught in the moment too as I watched him take in the beauty of what seemed like a holy moment.

In many church traditions we spend a lot of time talking about sacraments. My spouse grew up Catholic, and she teaches us about the seven sacraments she learned about and observed in her childhood. I am Methodist and we recognize two sacraments – baptism and holy communion. 

A sacrament is “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” In Eastern churches it is often referred to as the “sacred mysteries.” These are visible signs of the reality of God and channels of grace. Ultimately, I prefer my friend’s phrase, “glimpses of grace.”

That’s what it seemed like I was seeing on Sunday as Sam gazed upward around the space of that beautiful church. I asked him about it later that day, and he said he was mostly looking at the choir loft where the organ and piano reside, not to mention the one or two singers allowed to sing right now during these pandemic days. This is, after all, the same space where he receives weekly piano lessons from the church’s music director. His affiliation with her and that space is a sacrament for him. Later that evening, he admitted that he was “kind of bored” so that was also why he was looking around. Honesty, that could be a sacrament these days too.

I don’t believe sacraments should be relegated to the church or even Christianity. Religious leaders and adherents don’t have the market on glimpses of grace, and glimpses of grace happen without knowing the confines of church or religious tradition. Those moments, experiences, and symbols that bring beauty into our midst only need a willing eye, ear, mind, heart – indeed a body – to come alive in our midst and remind us of the meaning in the everyday. 

It even happened to me recently on a Zoom webinar. As a way of introduction, the presenter asked us to type into the chat three things. She asked us to give the town or city we’re coming from, the room in our house or apartment or office building we were currently inhabiting, and the material below our feet. Responses poured in, including mine: Oxford, work office, carpet. In the same way we bring our body into a room for a meeting, she reminded us, we also bring our bodies into a Zoom space. I especially appreciated thinking of the material below my feet, the ground on which I am standing. Seeing all the responses from people connected across time and space virtually reminded me of the holiness in that moment. A glimpse of grace.

Life is a sacrament. Friendships, education, sunsets, a lover’s touch, caring for the dying, vaccines, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – all have the potential to be a sacrament. Paying attention is holy work, and I find myself coming back to it again and again as a key to living a life fully alive. A life that renders “glimpses of grace.”

The Rev. Dr. Lyn Pace is a United Methodist minister and college chaplain who lives in Oxford with his spouse and 8-year-old.