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Have you ever been just the right person that did just the right thing for someone when they needed it most? One of those beautiful moments when everything just happens to line up and you say the thing they needed to hear or do the thing that changes everything? Maybe it’s risking a hug or making them laugh when it seemed impossible or just keeping your mouth shut because it turns out all they needed was someone to sit with them in the silence and just be. In my experience those moments are never planned. They come out of nowhere, and you just luck into them.

And there’s a difference between what I’m talking about and “being in the right place at the right time” for things. I was in Boston, this was years ago, my first time in the city, and I was with some friends for a day trip. At the end of it we all went our separate ways, getting onto different subway cars and whatnot, and I had never been to Boston before and the T was a little more complicated than I had assumed. Y’see I needed to make it to South Station in time to catch my bus back to wherever it was I was going—probably my grandmother’s house in New Hampshire. Turns out the Green Line has a lot of different cars going to a lot of different places, and I ended up… not where I was trying to get to when the car I was on reached the end of its line. “Last stop, this car is being taken out of service.” It’s very intimidating for a first-time-alone-on-public-transport-and-it’s-nighttime-and-I-don’t-know-where-I-am. So I panic, I head through the turnstile, and I try to explain myself to an MBTA official with a Santa Claus beard who really couldn’t care less. He pointed—literally pointed out the door into the night and said the place I was trying to get to was that way, and if I went past that building I’d find a street I could follow to get me to the bus station.

So I, genius that I was, did the thing. And almost immediately it didn’t feel right. There were all kinds of streets all kinds of places. So I call my dad on what amounted for a cell phone in those days and in desperation begged him to MapQuest me a route to the station. And I’m hustling at this point, because I’m gonna miss the bus. So we Abbot & Costello our way through the streets of Boston and I find myself running down a dark alley. Yeah, I was right there with you, these stories never end well. So I’m running and I go past this long glass window situation with dim blue light pouring out and I can make out the vague suggestion of dancers and… poles… and I keep running and talking to my dad on the other line and as I reach the end of the windows I say on the phone “I don’t think I’m gonna make it in time.” And just as I open my mouth and start saying it a door sort of recessed in the darkness opens up and a guy—who I never saw—without a moment’s hesitation replies to me, “Run Forrest, run!”

And that was my way of saying that being in the right place at the right time isn’t always super helpful.

But there is such a thing as a moment of grace. A moment where someone is just the right person for the job—someone who says something or does something that is exactly what you needed most in that moment, even if you didn’t know what you needed.

I’ve spent a good percentage of my life trying to seek out those moments of grace. I got hooked, really, ever since the first time somebody told me I had said just what they needed to hear. When the universe lines up and you luck into doing the right thing or your dumb words tumble out in just the right order and pull someone out of the darkness. Being able to do that for another person is a huge part of what drove me to the work of ministry, and I thank God every time God lets me be that for someone else.

Once, when I was interning as a hospital chaplain, I was making a routine visit to a room I had chosen at random from a floor I was responsible for, and I entered to find that the patient inside had been informed ten minutes before that his best friend in the world had died last night on the other side of the country. He was a shambles.

The patient and his family were so surprised that I was there, and kept trying to figure out which one of them had called the chaplaincy department, because there someone was, when they needed a strong, caring presence the most. My last visit of the day, chosen at random, because I turned right when I got out of the elevator instead of left like I usually do. And I spent probably an hour there, listening to this man tell stories of his friend, and helping him and his family make joy—and even a little bit of sense—out of this moment. I say this without ego—because I was not in charge of that moment… I was the right person doing just what these people needed the moment they needed it the most.

And I hope no one ever finds the security camera footage of the hallway outside that room because after I left and closed that door behind me I was a mess.

The thing about these moments of grace is that like so much in this world it takes two to tango. So often in our lives… probably more often… we find ourselves on the other side. The side of the person in need of a miracle.

Think about the widow from our story in Luke today. A woman who had already lost her husband some time in the past was now mourning the death of her only son. The loss this woman had to face in her life. Think about what she must have needed in that moment. She probably couldn’t have put words to it.

There are so many moments in our lives when we are in those places of need. Places of loss, or darkness, or suffering, or desperation.

And what we need, is a little grace. A moment that what we require is right there, finally.

For the widow, that was Jesus, someone who was there by chance, entering a town at just the right moment when the funeral procession was on its way out.

I wish… I wish we could do what Jesus did. I wish that we could bring people’s loved ones back to life. We don’t have that power. But think about what else He did. The words of Luke: “When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her.”

This moment of grace hinged on a person seeing someone in need and having compassion. All of a sudden, Jesus was just the right person for this woman in this moment… and thanks to God’s grace Jesus did just the right thing.

The widow’s miracle was the resurrection of her son; my patient’s miracle was discovering tangible ways to carry the spirit of his lost friend into every day of his life. And in all the moments of our lives when we are in deepest need we each need something different. We need a miracle, of some kind. And we probably don’t actually know what form that miracle should take. We might think that we know what we need, but we’re not always right, are we?

And like I said… it takes two to tango. Our miracles are out there, with their eyes open, looking for that moment when their compassion is most needed. So we, each of us, are also called to be open to those moments we can’t predict. Those moments when someone needs something. Anything. Whatever we can bring. We can’t revive the dead—for some paramedics that might be their miracle—but for the rest of us, we trust that when those moments of grace appear in our lives, God will line up the universe so that we can be just the right. So that we can be the miracle in someone else’s life.

So we keep our eyes open.

And thanks be to God for that. Amen.