Today’s Word from Pastor Tom

A promise made is a promise kept. I remember my dad uttering those words while he quietly wept. Some business partners had, years before, made a promise on a handshake, and were now reneging. Through hard work he had kept his side of the bargain, and now they were backing out on their commitment; only the second time I ever remember my father weeping.

Those were different days, I guess. Those were days when a handshake was more than a simple gesture of greeting; it was a sign of your word. A promise made is a promise kept. When we retired and moved to the island our house (my deceased parent’s house) was in serious need of upgrading. Our contractor, after setting the terms of work/cost/billing said, “If we do this, it’ll be by a handshake.” He was saying his word was his bond and we will settle the terms by a handshake.

To be honest I was a bit shocked. I didn’t think anyone even thought in those terms anymore. I quickly agreed. He kept his word. The work was done and we were thrilled. And we upheld our side of the bargain; even though, of course, it cost a third more than we had initially planned for. Upon reflection, I still find it almost shocking — the power of a physical sign… a handshake… a promise made, a promise kept. Does anyone believe that anymore?

When we take the Lord’s Supper, the bread and the wine (or juice in pandemic days), do we have a sense of the promise made and kept in this simple meal? Or, when we gleefully watch Pastor pour water over an infant’s head in Baptism are we convinced that in this simple act God has made a promise to this child that cannot be taken back? Water, bread (even tasteless wafer bread), and wine are physical signs of a promise made, promise kept.

Signs of grace. Romans 5:8 has long been a cornerstone of my faith as well as a wonderful benchmark when it comes to explaining what grace physically looks like.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

This is an amazing confession, actually, startling. Imagine yourself at a moment in life when you were at your absolute worst. In the midst of that moment, you are most ashamed (we all have them). You are not only in the midst of your worst moment in your life but you are enjoying that worst moment, and have absolutely no desire or inclination to change your behavior. Metaphorically, your back is turned to God. It is at precisely that moment, a moment without remorse or repentance, that God says, “I love you so much I am going to die for you now.” It’s really quite stunning when you think about it. There is no quid pro quo, no “Well, I need to at least say ‘I am sorry,’ to enter into this bargain in order to make it official.” Me, at my worst with no inclination to change my ways, and God says I love you enough to die for you now.

Apparently, God believes that love is enough to change the course of humanity. Love without a bargain from us. And water, bread, and wine are holy signs of promise made, promise kept — still struggle at times to get my head around that one.

I wish you the best. Go love as God has loved us… well, as best as you can. God will have to handle the rest.

Pastor Tom