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Grace
May 9, 2011
by Pastor Lee Hallstrom, Light of Christ Lutheran Church, Delano

Back in the year 1918, in the little Minnesota mining town of Bovey, a bearded old man named Charles Wilden entered a photography studio. He was a peddler, a poor man selling foot scrapers to clean off your shoes and boots.

The photographer, Eric Enstrom, said “There was something about the old gentleman’s face that immediately impressed me. I saw that he had a kind face . . . there weren’t any harsh lines in it.”

It happened that Enstrom, at that time, was preparing a group of pictures for a convention of the Minnesota Photographer’s Association. “I wanted to take a picture that would make people conscious of the things they had, instead of the things which they had to do without because of the war. I wanted people to see that they still had much to be thankful for,” he explained.

So, on a small table, Enstrom placed the family Bible, some glasses, a bowl of porridge, a loaf of bread, and a knife. Then, he had Wilden sit down in a position of prayer . . . before this meager meal.

To bow his head in prayer seemed to be characteristic of the elderly visitor, Enstrom recalled, for he struck the pose very easily and naturally. “This man doesn’t have much of earthly goods,” he said, “but he has more than most people because he has a thankful heart.”

Today, this picture, entitled “Grace,” hangs in homes, restaurants, and in churches across America. And in 2002, almost a century after it was taken, it was designated Minnesota’s official state photograph.

How many of you are familiar with this picture? It hung in both of my grandparents’ homes, and in the church basement, where we ate. It reminds me of a simpler time, so there’s some nostalgia connected with it, for sure. But more importantly, you get a sense that this is a person who is satisfied with what he has, and for the presence of God in his life.

This picture stands in such sharp contrast to our world today, doesn’t it? We appear to be a discontent people who simply want more – of anything . . . clothes, electronics, food, fun, “stuff.” It’s like we are all looking for something, a direction, a purpose, acceptance, some hope, and we so often are turning in the all the wrong places for satisfaction.

Sure, there are things that will fill us up for the moment, for the day; make us look good, feel good – but then, we are empty again.

During this Easter season, we remember that it is Jesus, the “bread of life,” who satisfies that deeper hunger, that hunger for meaning and purpose, that hunger you feel in the darkest of nights, when you wonder what life is all about, when you get honest with yourself.

A simple, eloquent prayer was written by a businessman in Grand Rapids to accompany the photo when it ran in the Grand Rapids newspaper decades ago. He wrote, “Lord, there may be many homes that are larger than mine. There may be tables groaning with food and drink in abundance. There may be conveniences on every hand, and there may be physical assurance that tomorrow will bring still more. But Lord, you have been with me to this point and supplied my necessary requirements. I am content. Amen.

May we be grateful people – but, most importantly, may we know the only thing that can ever satisfy our deep, deep hunger is Jesus Christ, himself, the Bread of Life.

May all joy be yours in believing!