Grace and Mercy are such attractive qualities when you experience them first hand. I’m glad I don’t have to tell you all the foolish and sinful things I have done in my lifetime. I will say they are many and dark and they make the message of the cross very sweet to me.
There are those who, when they see your faults and failures, take advantage of them to drive you down. There are others who, when they see your faults and failures, take advantage of them to lift you up.
There were at least three couples or individuals in one of my early pastorates that lifted me up when they could have driven me down. They could have discouraged me out of the ministry if they had not been simple Christian people with unusual grace and mercy.
I want to tell you one of those stories today. If we get to know each other better later, maybe I’ll tell you the others.
In an early pastorate our income was modest but adequate but we had not learned to live within it and control our expenses. We lived far from our parents so we had an inordinately large phone bill every month. One month the phone service in the parsonage was cut off because we could not pay the bill on time. We hoped no one would call until we could collect our pay on Sunday and get our service restored on Monday but at least one couple in the church found out what happened. They paid us a visit.
One morning Elmer and Esther Brandon drove into our driveway. Elmer stepped in to talk with Lois and Elmer asked if I could talk with him outside. I stepped out.
“Pastor, because Esther works at the phone company we found out that the phone was cut off. We want to help you.” He handed me a check to have the service restored. He said, “Just consider this a gift from us. If you ever have that problem again, please let us know. Be sure you don’t let them cut off the phone. We will help you.”
A few minutes later this gracious couple got in their car without of word of condemnation or reproof and drove away. I don’t think they ever told anyone about it. If they did, I never knew. They could have caused a stir in the church. They could have started a scandal in the community. They could have rejected my ministry to them. They could have called for my resignation. Instead they acted in quiet love toward us. They demonstrated grace to me when I needed it. They showed mercy.
What beautiful qualities. Elmer and Esther Brandon are two of the reasons I am still in the ministry today, twenty-three years later.
Riverfront Character Inn
June 30, 2004