Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tricked by Grace (My 200th Post!)

This is my 200th post on this blog, created in 2011 to encourage and enhance the spirituality of progressive Christians. Thanks to 500 subscribers and an additional 3000 monthly visitors from all over the world! And thanks to Metropolitan Community Churches for including it among the denomination’s Emerging Ministries in 2012.

Please consider a gift to support this ministry today, either as an individual or a congregation. Your tax-deductible contributions are its only source of funding. Thanks to this year’s donors of nearly $1200 to date!

A few weeks ago I was reading one of Southern writer Flannery O’Connor’s last short stories, entitled “Revelation,” published posthumously in her collection All That Rises Must Converge. She takes the book’s title from Teilhard de Chardin, whose writings as both a scientist and a mystic she greatly admired.

The story is written from the perspective of an older woman who finds herself in a doctor’s waiting room, looking from person to person, engaging in small talk. Her judgmentalism is in high gear as she silently evaluates their appearance, their interactions and lack thereof, as well as sharing aloud the foibles of people in general with another woman. I was especially put off by her frequent use of the “n-word.”  In that brief story I saw the unabbreviated word more often than I have seen it in recent decades.

Needless to say, I too was frothing with judgment (of the protagonist) as the story came to a surprising twist. Without giving the story away, something happens that upsets her certainty about things, and later, watching the sun set, she has an unsettling vision of what was to come: all the people she routinely judged marching nonetheless toward heaven, “battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs.” The story continues: 
And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right. She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away. 
I cried with recognition. I was her. Flannery O’Connor tricked me, even as grace tricks us all. We think we will be saved by our many words—prayers, sermons, posts—or our many deeds—charitable, political, religious. But it’s grace that really saves us. 
In the woods around her the invisible cricket choruses had struck up, but what she heard were the voices of the souls climbing upward into the starry field and shouting hallelujah. 

Copyright © 2014 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved. 


  1. And since i have no problem realizing I am already one with ALL, the trick for me is to realize that for some reason---it becomes less apparent to me viscerally if i can't share that or see it true of other people. While i know "hell" does not exist-----i can imagine "wanting to be alone" and that "want" somehow being honored?? Help me out with verbabalizing this, Chris??

    1. Thanks, Chuck, I partly understand, and partly don't, so not sure how to help verbalize your sentiments. As an introvert, I enjoy my solititude and being with a few people. The idealized eternal party would wear me out. But every vision of what's to come can only serve as metaphor for our own hopes for the world and its redemption. I do like this vision that everyone is welcome, including those who enjoy solitude. In biblical terms, the prophetic future is more about what we hope for the present--our deepest yearnings, our greatest loves. In her book "The House of the Soul," Evelyn Underhill uses the metaphor of getting our own house in order, but always with the understanding that it is part of a neighborhood and a community. The upstairs of the house is given to solitude, but with one window looking out at the grandness of God's creation and the other window looking at others the way God sees them. In Christian understanding, prayer may be personal but offered as part of a global community. So "alone times" are both needed and welcome. Not sure this is what you're getting at, but these are my initial thoughts.

  2. Kelley P SutherlandDecember 10, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    Holding a warm cup on a chilly morning. Can't decide which is more bracing going down: the tea or your blog? Appreciated, and congratulations on your 200th post.