Granting Grace

Dear Friends,

Ash Wednesday opened the Lenten Season at our church with a huge turnout for the Collegiate Worship Service. About 100 people attended worship, which included folks from Second Reformed, Suydam Street, Highland Park, and even the Rutgers Protestant Campus Ministry, as well as the Lutheran Campus Ministry. It was wonderful to hear the singing of a rather ‘full’ church, see so many faces, and to be inspired by Rev. George Bitar’s message on reconciliation.

How meaningful that message is coming from a pastor whose regular church is located in Tripoli, Lebanon – a land caught in the midst of the Middle East’s conflicts. How much closer did he bring this issue into our lives by sharing the story of how his church was set on fire by the encouragement of religious fanaticism. How significant to hear how his congregation sought and seeks reconciliation – even to this very day – through dialogues with their Muslim neighbors.

Can we even fathom this type of forgiveness and reconciliation work that they are actually living out? It is difficult to imagine how we would have to put our often demanding responses aside in order to allow a voice of peace and love to prevail. This is not our ‘normal’ reaction, though.

Rev. Bitar’s words remind us how imperative Jesus Christ’s life and message is for our world. By giving himself up to the cross, bearing that pain and death; he suffered so that we would have grace – not only have grace, but to be reconciled and enabled to grant grace, that is what we as Christ’s servants are called to do. Even if we have to turn the other cheek again, again, and again.

Stumbling through the internet for some other information, I came upon this devotional poem. I think that it describes our journey, which we are to walk; it is a long road that doesn’t just begin or end in the season of lent.

Christ speaks:
I walk this way of the cross, my friend…
And you walk it too.
We walk this path together, you and I.
Though you are you, and I am I, we are truly one,
When I walk, I walk with the little ones of our world;
The outcasts, the poor, the sick, the mourners.
I walk with those who have lost all hope.
I walk with the brokenness of the world,
And I also walk with you…you, my other self.
As I walk, I listen to the hearts of those to whom no other will listen.
As I walk, I offer companionship to those for whom no other will be a friend.
As I walk, I walk not in robes of purple, but in the garb of a servant.
It was my walk two thousand years ago,
And it is my walk still.
And because it is my walk, now, it is your walk too.
We share the brokenness of the cross, my other self,
And yet, it is only in the sharing that we can make this walk at all.

I’ll see you along the way,
Pastor Susan

About Susan Kramer-Mills

Susan Kramer-Mills' journey as a pastor has led her to a variety of places. Before attending McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago she was a Volunteer-in-Mission for two years West Berlin, Germany. After returning to the United States and graduating from seminary, she returned with her husband Hartmut to Germany. From 1990 to 1992 she was campus chaplain and registrar at Naumburg Seminary in former East Germany. With the closing of the seminary she assumed the pastorate for the yoked congregations of Stoessen, Goerschen and Rathewitz in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. At the same time she taught Religious Instruction at two public elementary schools until 1998. During this time she was assigned six additional congregations to the original three. In 1998, she received a call as Associate Pastor to Trinity Presbyterian Church in East Brunswick, New Jersey. She served in that position until 2000, when she and her husband accepted a call as co-pastors to First Reformed Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Since April 1, 2004, Rev. Kramer-Mills has also been working part-time as Classis Minister to the Classis of New Brunswick.
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