December 2020 Connection

Exercising Grace: Hard Stop

So, you may have caught on by now that this December newsletter article would be about the church’s mission and vison statement again! In fact, it’s the last one on this topic, and then we’ll switch to something else come January – I’m thinking about something that elicits warm and cozy feelings. You know, in order to fend off the Michigan winter cold! Today’s key word is “grace.” We find it right there in our mission and vision statement:“ Friends in Christ Exercising love, hope and grace to enrich all lives.” So, what does it mean to exercise grace?
“Grace” is a word that we probably use way too often! Kind of like “love,” come to think of
it. “I love pizza!” “I’d sure love for my flight to take off on time.” “I just love how the
Hallmark Channel has Christmas movies on 24/7 during from October to March!” (yes, I
have a bit of a soapbox to stand on when it comes to Hallmark Christmas movies, but that’s
for another time, I suppose). Just like that word “love,” we also say the word “grace” a lot,
don’t we? It’s what we call the prayer before a meal. It’s the word we use to refer to
manners and social skills (“She has such grace!”). But we also talk about grace when it
comes to God, so let’s make that the focus of our time here.
God’s grace is profoundly important to the Christian faith, but also profoundly confusing!
It’s confusing, because it doesn’t play well with our understanding of what it means to earn
or deserve things. In our world, we receive a paycheck for work done competently. We
receive goods and services when we pay for them. We get things because we’ve earned
them. The opposite is also true. When people receive things that they don’t earn, we get a
bit frustrated, if not downright angry! We call it “handout” and demand reform! So, it’s no
wonder that we get a bit confused when we talk about grace: an immense love and promise
shared with us by God regardless of our deservedness!
You see the problem, don’t you? God promises me grace, just as God promises grace to the
person who is serving a life-sentence in federal prison (if we’re made uncomfortable by this,
then my point is well taken). Grace makes us uncomfortable because there is nothing we
need to do to earn it, deserve it, take it, or anything like that. We simply need to be open to
it and stop worrying about why we get it. God loves you, and there is nothing you can do
about it!
Let’s go back to our original question, “what does it mean to exercise grace?” If God loves
me and pours out this amazing thing called grace upon me, regardless of anything I’ve done
or have not done, am I permitted to just hold onto it? Is it mine to store up? Do I get to
determine who get’s a share of it? Who else deserves it? Of course not! Instead, God
invites us to extend God’s grace to others regardless of being deserving! We are to extend,
share, and exercise God’s grace to everyone! There is no checklist for who gets it. There is
no test or pop-quiz to determine who gets more than someone else. Let’s put it another way:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” -Mark 12:31
As a church, we have the remarkable invitation from God to share the gift of grace with the
community and world around us. That’s it! There is no small print! There is no
determination to be made. Share God’s love and grace with the world. Hard stop.
Peace, Pastor Brian
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