This year for Lent we studied several different ways that ‘grace’ is lived out in our lives and the life of this worshipping community.
We focused on the message of GRACE that Jesus lived and taught, so I would like to review several aspects of God’s Grace in our lives, in the life of the church, and in the world.
We began our discussion by trying to define Grace. One of the definitions was, the ‘UNDESERVED mercy of God.’ Another was, ‘an unearned gift’ – ‘A blessing.’ Lewis Smedes mentioned that forgiveness as a form of grace. Grace is a word that identifies the CHURCH. Church should the one place you should be able to go to experience GRACE, unfortunately, far too many times people do not find grace in the church community.
C.S. Lewis stated that the one thing that distinguishes Christianity from ALL other religions is the concept that God is a GOD OF GRACE! The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. Other religions have systems that have a balance [good is rewarded and bad is not] but only Christianity states that God loves you unconditionally!
Grace seems to be something that is NOT natural for us. Our society does not run on a system of grace. Civilization does not run on a system of GRACE, but GOD does! It is hard to understand or really believe that no matter what you do: GOD LOVES YOU.
In our Lenten study, we had some good discussions about grace in terms of ‘forgiveness’. We looked at the act of forgiving and what happens to a person when forgiveness is present. Forgiveness changes both the person who is doing the forgiving, and the one who receives the gift of being forgiven.
The Greek word for forgiveness is translated, ‘to release’ or ‘to hurl away’ or to ‘free yourselves.’ The person who forgives, is freed from the burden of carrying anger. The person who forgives, is released from the power of the oppressor or the one who has wronged you. WE gain strength and health by letting go of times we have been wronged, or by releasing wrongs that have happened to us. By forgiving, we are free from the power of hatred and control.
This worshipping community on the hill is commissioned. We are ‘sent out’ to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world, that takes a lot of energy and bravery. ‘Being neighbor’ looks different to each one of you, and your call to respond, is lived out in different ways. May you move into this spring with the directive from Jesus to ‘go and do likewise,’ showing grace, living with honor and justice, and meeting each person you come in contact with, as being the person Jesus identifies as your ‘neighbor.’
May God bless each one of you as you live out God’s call to be ‘the voice’ or ‘the action’ of grace in the community. And as you live this out, may you know that your strength comes from an almighty God of GRACE!