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Golgotha morphs into grace

 

            The
simplest message then of the kingdom dream of Jesus is that Golgotha morphed
into Grace. What was experienced as hideous injustice morphed into glorious
justice. Some think they can explain just how everything works and they can
keep on trying and I’ll keep on listening. But so far all I can say is that
somehow and someway that cross mysteriously morphs into grace. Somehow person
after person looks to the cross and finds forgiveness and cleansing and a sense
that they are good terms with God. Somehow person after person keeps attending
to the communion table, eating a little morsel of bread and drinking a smidgeon
of grape juice or wine and the grape itself morphs into grace.

            When
I was in Sunday School class as a kid one of my teachers taught me that grace
meant “God’s riches aChrist’s expense.” Acronyms like this are
always fun and they’re easy to remember but they rarely tell the whole story.
Grace is the word that tells the whole story for the earliest Christians. It is
the story of humans who act unjustly toward God and toward themselves and
toward one another and toward the world God has made. That injustice deserves
death. But the story goes on: it is the story of God acting for humans even when they don’t
deserve it. And it is the story preeminently of Jesus Christ, who died our
death and who was raised for our resurrection. Grace then is code word for
“what God does for us in Jesus Christ to make us his people and to restore
us to a life of love, justice, and peace.” In other words, it is the story
of the GodLife and of the kingdom dream. Tom Wright gets grace exactly right
when he says grace “is the entire story of God’s love, active in Christ
and the Spirit to do for humans what they could never do for themselves.”[i]

            Everyone
raises a hand when asked about the meaning of
“grace.”  Kathleen Norris thinks of the arch-schemer of the
Bible, Jacob, and then sees God’s grace because God “looked right through
the tough little schemer and saw something good.” She continues: “Peter
denied Jesus, and Saul persecuted the early Christians, but God could see the
apostles they would become.” Grace, she says, is about “the faith God
has in us.”
[ii] Frederick Buechner knows grace makes no sense until we see it
as a gift. Here’s how he puts
it: “There’s nothing you have
to do. There’s nothing you have to
do. There’s nothing you have to do.”
[iii] Anne Lamott says much the same: “Grace is not something
I DO, or can chase down; but it is something I can receive, when I stop trying
to be in charge.”
[iv] Grace
is God’s good gifts to us, regardless of who we are, regardless of what we’ve
done. Those good gifts from God are given to make us become what God wants us
to become. 

This is what I like so much about the apostle Paul: he saw
everything important in life nestled into the bed of God’s grace. When people
find God, it is grace; when a young woman finds a voice in the community, it is
grace; when people find a mission in life, it is grace. In fact, the gospel
itself is grace and grace is the gospel. Since grace encompasses everything, or
we are encompassed completely by grace, this chapter could go on and on, but
I’d like to mention three elements of grace that give grace legs because
grace makes things happen. Grace
is active.

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