Good morning all!
2 1-6 It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.
7-10 Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.
I was recently preaching on the nature of truth (you may remember just a couple of weeks ago) and I mentioned that someone once told me that truth and grace should be separate. My entire premise was that it can’t be either/or, it has to be both/and. Truth and grace are co mingled in the whole life of faith thing. After the worship service, a person came up to me and had a realization. She didn’t really know what grace was in her mind. Now, this is a life long United Methodist. She hears grace all over the place. It is part of being part of the UM church. And in that moment she realized….do I really know what that is? Or do I just throw around the term?
What a great thing to ponder! The letter to Ephesus is struggling with just such a notion….what is grace? And how has it saved us? Most scholars agree at this point that the author this letter was not Paul after all. Most likely it was a disciple of Paul trying to continue on Paul’s theology to these churches that are starting up. We can tell this is a later letter because no longer is there as much urgency that Christ will come back tomorrow (which was a thing by the way…they really thought he would show up any second) to living as though Christ is alive in us. Do you hear the minor shift?
The people of Ephesus are trying to figure all of this out in light of not actually meeting Jesus Christ. And they are realizing that they might be around for a while longer…so how do you live into God’s call? The answer lies in grace. We are saved (from what exactly seems like another blog….) by grace. Grace is showered upon us and causes us to be a living people, not a stagnant people. How can this be? Well, right away this means that God’s grace is a living and changing thing. It is constantly around us and moving. It is not a stagnant dry place but a living breathing moving thing. God’s grace is so active it has the power to create with us. John Wesley really was all about grace. There were a few different parts of grace for John but over all there was something he called prevenient grace. This means that this is grace that comes before….before everything. Before us. Before our decisions. Before our very ground of being. This kind of grace allows us to recognize God. It is a divine spark that begins it all.
So what is that then? Frederick Buechner defines grace as this….”“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you. There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.”
I like that definition. Grace is all part of the world. It allows us to not be separated from God. It is full of love. And it is a gift. At another point Buechner calls grace, “God’s givenness.”
A colleague of mine describes grace as the underlying river to all that we do. It is ever present just below the surface but every once in a while it finds an outlet to spring up. It is fluid and always moving. It is constant and surprising all at once. I like that metaphor as well. It speaks to me.
Grace is…givenness, love, fluidity, comfort, surprise, mercy and blessing…and it saves us from ourselves according to Ephesians. It enlivens us and calls us to walk with Christ.
Where is grace working in your life? Do you see it? What definition would you use?