Each Wednesday evening a small group from rural Grace Church in Dayton, Washington assembles for Compline, usually at a ranch house about five miles out of town. It sits in a fairly narrow valley along the Touchet River where it comes down out of the Blue Mountains. I don’t think there can be anything as pleasant as praising God and giving thanks at the end of the day while gathered at a ranch on the banks of a mountain stream surrounded by evidence of God’s blessings. Just down the road toward town are fields of orchards. Their fruit will be on tables before the year is out. Out in front the pastures are dotted with cattle. A three day old calf explores her new world, bounding from place to place with tail held high. She will be butchered one day. Her life will nourish our lives. Wheat fields roll up the hills across the road, the grain they produce will most likely be exported to feed the hungry in lands that cannot raise enough for themselves.
A friend raises wheat on a couple thousand acres of rolling foothill land. He’s got a spot up on top of one of the hills that he calls his church. Looking out in one direction are mountains and in the other are the treeless, rolling hills of the Palouse. In one direction it’s national forest, and in the other it’s dry land wheat, cattle and horses. He says that prayer is mostly a matter of worrying with God: worry about whether the seed will germinate, whether the rains will come when they are needed and stop when they are not, whether the grain will ripen, whether the harvest will go smoothly, whether the price will be good, and then start the prayerful worrying over again.
None of it happens all by its self. It takes more than hard work, it takes intelligent, well educated hard work, but it’s hard work that engages at a very basic level with God’s creation. It’s hard not to recognize the holiness of it that affects the blessing we say at meals. It’s not just the food on the table for which we give thanks. There is a certain Eucharistic quality to it. Not only is God’s spirit of creation present in all that lies before us, but so also is the creative work of human beings who have labored to make it possible.
I wonder if those who have never spent time in the country can truly appreciate that? What do you think of when you say grace? Do you say grace?