"Never place a period where God has placed a comma." – Grace Allen
This was the key quote in my recent sermon titled “Comma Faith.” Gracie Allen left this note for her surviving spouse, George Burns, to discover after her death. George was 68 when Gracie died. She wanted him to live on and indeed he did live on, vitally, for another 32 years.
I've gotten several positive comments about this sermon so I'd like to share a little further about the importance of this image, this metaphor, this understanding of faith in the United Church of Christ. A comma faith is important for the necessary evolution of faith and for the persistence of hope in the face of the difficult.
While it's not exclusive to the UCC, a comma faith is essential to our evolution and we have at times excelled in it (as well as failed). I believe this comma faith is the reason that we have on many occasions been able to see, as John Robinson told his Pilgrim followers in 1620 before they sailed to North America, that “God has yet more light and truth to break forth from God's holy word.” So the UCC and its ancestors of faith have been first in many important moments of social and theological evolution, enough times that I couldn't read them all during the sermon. (Read the list here.) I value this greatly in the UCC.
And a comma faith is also important during times like these of great anxiety and foreboding, whether in our personal lives or our shared life as a church, nation, or world. Here’s one experience of mine where I learned the value of a comma faith. I can still remember at age 30 (the most difficult year in my life) where I wasn't sure if I could go on living. I was divorced, living alone, driving a beater car, working menial jobs (despite two masters degrees), and feeling very lost and disappointed. Yet, somehow, a message of faith that I had shared with others as a hospital chaplain intern came through to me: to keep a flicker of a hope that someday I might have hope again. That's all I had, the hope of hope someday.
I wonder how the caterpillar finds a comma faith as it moves into the chrysalis, trusting life through such a profound loss of its familiar and known form to emerge as a butterfly.
Still learning this kind of faith,......