This column was also featured as a nationally syndicated column with Gannett.
You never know how a sermon will turn out, but I knew the one on December 20th was going to be good.
My message was framed around the metaphor of a tiny Christmas cactus that sat in the windowsill of our guest bedroom. It had, that very week, produced a wee pink bloom—a sign of life in the darkest days of December. It was the perfect illustration.
But as the old saying goes, we plan, and God laughs.
The day I had to record the sermon, I walked into the church holding the tiny cactus like a newborn baby bird, its bright pink bloom dangling precariously off one of its branches. Placing the cactus just out of the view of the camera, I hit record on my phone and began: “The title of my sermon is . . . .” I was six words in when all of a sudden, the little pink blossom detached itself from the cactus branch, dropped to the carpet, and lay lifeless next to my foot.
I hit pause on the camera and stared down at the pink dot. My entire sermon was lying on the floor. Panic began to creep in. What was I to do? I couldn’t rewrite the whole thing. The only thing I knew to do was pray.
“Dear Lord in heaven, please make that blossom fly up and reattach itself.”
The lord heard my prayer, for when I opened my eyes, I spied the Scotch tape.
Praise baby Jesus.
Quickly taping the blossom back on the cactus, I hit record and finished the sermon.
In that moment, I couldn’t help but think of the old saying: “held together by duct tape, bailing wire, and the grace of God.”
Amen. Ain’t that the truth?
We’re all just trying to hold it together by any means possible. Whether you’re a teacher trying to hold a virtual classroom together, an essential worker trying to prevent a hospital from falling apart, a government leader attempting to keep the seams of America from ripping apart, or a human being trying to maintain your sanity, we’ve all been pushed to the breaking point. Many days, like that little blossom, we feel like we just can’t hang on.
The grace of God is all we have left.
Here’s the good news: That holy tape is stronger than you think. As Colossians 1:17 teaches, “In him all things hold together.” If we hold on to God, we can be sure that God will never let go of us.
Bottom line, we have two choices:
We can admit defeat, let go, walk away, and allow the forces of evil to run roughshod over all things good and true.
Or we can pick ourselves up, Scotch tape what we can back together, and keep moving forward. If we choose this path—if we fight to hold it together—eventually our strength will return. Our hope will come back. Grace will take over, and things will start to blossom once again.
Trust me, I know. A few days ago, and several weeks after the sermon, I noticed the tiniest stain of pink on the end of another branch of my Christmas cactus. It was so faint that I had to put my face right next to the plant to see it, but it was there . . . just barely peeking out.
Sometimes you have to Scotch tape things together until hope peeks back out again. And it always does. Granted, we may not see even the tiniest stain of hope on the horizon right now, but with a little faith and patience, righteousness will overcome. In the meantime, if we hold it together with a little duct tape and bailing wire, the grace of God will do the rest.
— A trial lawyer turned stand-up comedian, and Baptist minister, Rev. Susan Sparks is the senior pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City. A nationally known speaker and preacher, she is the author of four books, including her new devotional, “Grace-Filled Gratitude: A 40-Day Joy Journal” available on Amazon. Contact her through her email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or her website, www.SusanSparks.com.