The Sheer Magnitude of Grace
Few stories paint a more perfect picture of a church community working better together than the one told by a person named Shelly Duffer. She had what seemed to be the perfect family. Her husband was the student ministries pastor at their church and they were the parents of four young children.
Then the sheriff’s department arrested her husband and a nightmarish story of numerous sex crimes this pastor committed against young people was revealed. He was ultimately sentenced to 17 years in prison.
Shelly struggled on how she should respond. She did divorce her husband and wanted to remove her children from the community for their own wellbeing and to avoid all the news media. She was planning to join her children several hundred miles away to also escape, but she had one more Sunday to appear in that church. Shelly described what happened next on that Sunday:
I wanted my church to know that I was going to be alright, so I decided to attend one last time. I arrived after worship began, using a side entrance, to avoid interactions. I stood in the wings of the sanctuary and wept. I planned to exit right after the sermon. I would leave and never see them again. But that was not God's plan.
At the end of the sermon, an older couple approached me. Then a student. Then others came. Some spoke, others slipped money into my trembling hands. I shook, not just with tears, but with the sheer magnitude of grace. The line stretched down the aisle and around the sanctuary. They expressed grief and concern for me and my children. Some said nothing at all, but just held me.
Thus began the slow, tedious journey toward healing. Some days were terrifying. Yet this church never left our side. They provided us the parsonage to live in and gave me job leads. They gave my children food, clothing, and Christmas presents.
They didn't push, but allowed us to heal at God's speed. For a long time, that meant just allowing us to attend church quietly, our hurting souls being fed by preaching and corporate worship.
In the aftermath of the arrest, our church brought in experts to help us legally and biblically address the situation. Care was given to the victims and the grieving, confused teens. We re-examined policies to better protect the youth.
I am still in touch with the victims. I ache for them every day. But I also marvel at their strength and their desire to live courageous, beautiful lives. I am amazed at the resiliency of my children. We are thriving because of the gospel, because of grace. I have learned that God is more real than I could imagine, that He truly is the God who sees and knows (Ex. 2:25). And that His grace is felt every day in the warm embrace of His people.
This is an example of the church being the church that Christ desires for all of us. We do not run from problems and people. Rather, we move alongside people with the love and grace, and “embrace of His people” to help provide healing and restoration. We have seen that displayed here at Calvary and I thank you for your kindness.
As we journey together in our new series, Better Together, from the book of Ephesians, we want to learn, grow and apply those same principles of grace that Shelly experienced in her church.
Please join us this Sunday as we examine how our heavenly Father models for us pure unconditional love that draws us into His eternal family. We will see His hand of power and grace shape our lives through Jesus Christ. He loved us first so we can be loved and love others.
Come experience His love and blessing in your life as we worship in Celebration at 8:45 and Elevation at 10:45.
David Mitchell | Senior Pastor
p.s. Come connect with others in community and grow in your faith on Wednesday nights this fall at Calvary. Lots of great ministries kicking off tonight!