Monday, November 24, 2008

Saying Grace

Someone has said that the final act of grace in the life of a believer is to make one gracious. I believe that.

Gratitude is about as close as we humans ever get to pure grace. Indeed, the word “gratitude” or “thanksgiving” (eucharisto in Greek) derives from the same root as the word “grace” (charis). To this day, when you say “thank you” in Greek, you say “grace,” literally – eucharisto.

I preached a sermon series earlier in the fall titled Ancient Words, Amazing Stories. In one of the sermons I alluded to the 1991 Lawrence Kasdan film Grand Canyon. It’s a powerful story about grace and gratitude and their creative power to transform lives. In the sermon, I told about how an immigration lawyer in Los Angeles on his way home from a Lakers game gets lost in a rough part of town. When his expensive car breaks down, a gang of young thugs with nothing to lose stop and threaten to waste him right there in his stalled car. Just before it turns ugly, a tow truck driver arrives, hooks up the man’s car, and with the thugs still brandishing guns, drives off with the lawyer in his cab. Saves his life. The lawyer can’t stop thinking about it. Haunted by grace, he calls the tow truck driver, arranges to meet him for breakfast, and over eggs, toast, and coffee tells him his story.

“One morning,” he says, “I was on my way to a meeting in the Mutual Benefit Building on Wilshire, the Miracle Mile. I love that name, the Miracle Mile. I was thinking about the meeting I was going to, worried about it actually. I started to step off the curb and a stranger grabbed me and yanked me back. A city bus went flying by my nose. I mean it just filled up the world, six inches from my nose. I would have been like a wet bug stain on the front of the bus. I wouldn’t have even felt it, it would have been over so fast. I thanked this stranger, this woman in a baseball cap, but I was pretty much in a daze. When I thanked her, she said, ‘My pleasure.’ Not 'you're welcome,' but 'my pleasure.' I never got over the feeling of the sheer grace of that moment. I mean, she reached out and yanked me back from the edge, literally, changed everything for me, my wife, my son, and then she just wandered off down the Miracle Mile. I just couldn’t let it happen again. I didn’t want to let you drift away like she did. It didn’t seem right to let it happen twice. So that’s why I’m bothering you.”

As the story develops, the two become friends, and the lawyer, through an act of grace, is able to make a difference in the tow truck driver’s life too. Two families, forever different, their lives taking a different course, all because someone found the grace to say “thank you.”

Something to think about as we celebrate "Giving Thanks Day" this week.

By the way, if I haven't said it yet...
Thank you,


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