I sure am grateful that God's mercy and grace isn't measured by downs (or ups for that matter). What matters is that God's grace is extravagant and more than sufficient, if we open our hearts and minds to the very depths of God's love. It really is all about love, you know.
When I attended the School of Congregational Development in St Louis in August, Bishop Schnase, in his keynote address, shared one of the loveliest definitions of grace that I have ever heard. After his talk I asked him if it was in print anywhere and he directed me to his book, "Five Practices of Fruitful Living" Here is an excerpt from the chapter 'receiving God's love.'
Frequently, we view God as some cosmic entity existing beyond our experience, removed from daily life, an abstraction of the mind. But the God we see revealed in Jesus Christ is not some passive general benevolence that leaves things alone. The God we see revealed in Jesus is the God of grace, an active, searching, embracing, asserting love. It is a strong, persevering, gritty grace that gives Jesus the power to embrace untouchable lepers, sit with outcast tax collectors, visit with forbidden strangers. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is the steel courage to intercede against the violence and injustice of angry authorities on behalf of a woman accused of adultery. It is an earthy, practical grace that causes Jesus to kneel before his friends, take a towel from his waist and wash their feet, daring them to do likewise as a way of life. It is an unrelenting and irresistible grace that never gives up on either the hopeless and despairing or the rich and powerful. It is the disturbing, interruptive grace that overturns the tables of the cheating money changer in the Temple. It is the perceptive, affirming grace that notices the widow with her two coins, a father anxious abut his epileptic son, a farmer pruning vines. It is the compassionate grace that embraces the victims of violence, and the persistent grace that steps into cell blocks with prisoners. It is the challenging, correcting, indicting grace that confronts unjust judges, self-justifying lawyers, unsympathetic rich people, and haughty religious leaders. It is the costly, sacrificial grace that dares to absorb the violence of humiliation, unjust persecution, and tortuous death to reveal the depth of God's love for humanity...
Grace is God's loving activity embracing our lostness, brokenness, hurt, and rebellion, so that we may experience forgiveness, reconciliation, and liberation, which come only through our receiving this love into our lives. A radical encounter with the grace of God may not solve everything overnight, but many things remain beyond our ability to solve until we at least take the first step of accepting the grace of God and inviting God's love in. (Five Practices pages 23-24)
For years I have been fumbling around trying to articulate what grace means... I drove my seminary professors kinda crazy asking each one what grace means. I knew in my heart, but finding the right words to define grace has always seemed illusive.
Thank you Bishop Schnase for explaining grace so eloquently! Now let's live into this amazing gift from God!
in Christ, together,