On this beautiful sunny summer day in June, I am thinking thoughts of grace. The letter to the Ephesians (2:8) reminds us that ..”by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…” First and foremost, grace is a gift. You can’t demand it, you can only be given grace.
During my week in North Carolina at the CREDO conference, grace was evident throughout. CREDO is funded by our church board of pensions – a gift made possible for every pastor, not just those with large expense accounts. Some of us serving smaller churches needed that grace-filled gift more than others, but we all received it. During the week, we pastors (who often are the first to arrive on Sunday mornings and the last to leave) were encouraged not to “help” in any way. Don’t clear the dishes, don’t help set up chairs, and don’t “pitch in.” Just relax, fill a glass with sweet tea, and participate in the workshops. Though I was sorely tempted to fix the sound system problem the first night, I resisted. What a gift it was to be served, to receive someone’s gift of hospitality. When have you been given the gift of being a guest? It was a true gift of grace – unmerited, unearned, with no expectation of repayment.
Thinking more deeply about the grace of God, I am struck by how our very lives are a gift of God’s grace. As Frederick Buechner writes,
“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 reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach and take it is a gift too.”
This summer as your vacations take you to places of rest and relaxation, relax deeply into these words. Your very life is a gift of God’s grace. You are here because the world needs you - the unique gift that you are and that you bring to the world by your very presence. God’s gift doesn’t end there. God desires to be with us, to calm our fears, to give our lives purpose. All we need do is reach out and take that gift of grace, freely offered. As the familiar hymn states, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
It is my prayer this summer that we may we say yes to God’s gift of grace. That we realize just how big a gift our very lives are to the world, and that we may we seek to grow deeper into who God has created us to be.
Now there’s food for thought for a summer sunny afternoon. Where’s my sweet tea?