Wednesday, 7 December 2011

But for the Grace of God

Grace is such a pretty name.  It is actually the name of one of my ancestors.  I have a story for you, from long ago. Keep reading, this one does not constitute “In my day we had to walk 5 miles to school barefoot, in the snow, uphill both ways” kind of flavour! This particular family story was kept secret for many, many years, out of a sense of family propriety and shame.  Rest assured I have asked permission to tell you it. It’s ok.

Years ago, a young, yet to be married women was working for a farming family.  While residing on this sheep farm, she was raped by someone who was also working there.  Not many details are known of the story or the repercussions of this crime, other than a pregnancy. In those days, there was a huge amount of shame in being unmarried and pregnant.  The resiliency of women back then, is beyond my understanding. Even more so in these circumstances. Some of you reading this will have a little more of a sense of the historical significance than I do. Most likely she would have been the main topic of gossip, with pointing and whispers. It would have been so hard for her. This young women had tremendous faith.  How do I know this? The baby arrived Jan 7th 1881 and it was a little girl. This young mother, who did nothing to cause her own shame, gave generations after her a legacy of faith, for my Mother’s Grandmother was called Grace.

You may feel a little like me in wondering whether Grace would have been the first name to enter your head after the circumstances of this conception!!! But that is grace for you. It’s not what we deserve or what we expect.

We are all in need of grace, the beloved favour.  U2 lead singer Bono has grappled with this concept and has come to a conclusion about his own needs, as we all must do. My response along with Bono is one of thankfulness. Bono puts it this way. "Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff." Haven’t we all. 

The song, Grace by U2 has a ring of my Great Great Grandmother:

Grace, She takes the blame, She covers the shame, 
Removes the stain, It could be her name
What once was hurt, What once was friction, 
What left a mark, No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty out of ugly things.

God makes beauty out of ugly things.  Things such as our sin, our shame, our hurt, our tears, our memories, our failures.  Grace is generously offered to us. The God of grace is the God of compassion.  His love forgives, offering salvation and the privilege of having our names written in the Lamb’s book of Life.  His love removes the sting of sin. His love and grace takes a hideous crime and makes something beautiful out of it.  What has happened in your life that leaves you in pain, that causes you shame? What still stings? Maybe you were sinned against. Maybe you chose to sin. Maybe you live daily with the consequences of sin.  God can and will heal your hurt, your brokenness.  He has a cure. An ointment called Love and another called Grace.  It is not a balm to relieve the pain, it is full healing. Sin may leave a mark, but the healing and blessing is full.  Listen to what the Bible says in John 1:16-17 “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”(NIV) 

We can’t hide our sin from God, He is light. When light shines in the darkness, darkness disappears.  We have all heard that before, haven’t we?  This isn’t anything new, but you know what?  Sometimes we can reread something and it is like it is brand new to us.  Verses we have read 100 times, suddenly make sense and become new to us.  Why am I saying the same-old, same-old?  Because we all ‘get it’ at different times. The Holy Spirit reveals things to us when we need them. Today, someone needs to hear this. Someone needs to hear that grace is offered in abundance. Maybe it’s you. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Cor 9:8. (NIV) Our healer, Jesus Christ, heals with his love, compassion and grace. So that in ALL things, at ALL times, we have ALL we need, so we will abound in EVERY good work.  This is strong language.  It’s not most things or sometimes!  The verse says all things and at all times.  This is no half hearted grace. This is abounding grace, fullness of grace.  Do you get it?  This is good stuff for our souls. We need to hear this. You and I need to understand that no matter what our sin, or the hurt from being sinned against, or what consequences we carry around with us, we can abound in grace.  That felt like such an anti-climax, but it’s not.  It’s power to change the way we live.  Some of us have never had a big hurtful event to pin our pain on. Your pain may be a gradual lack of appreciation, frequent disappointment, or hurtful words. I want to say that I am not minimising your hurt, in no way am I doing that, but I guess that is what makes Christ’s healing so understated.  He knows your pain and hurt. He knows how big, how excruciating it is, yet he promises to be all you need, in all your hurts and at all times, to be all we need.

My Great, Great Grandmother could have ignored the love and grace of God, not that she sinned, but love and grace work for those sinned against just as much.  She could have responded differently. She seemed to ‘get it’. She understood that God’s grace is sufficient 2 Cor 12:8 says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  If you have a hurt that needs grace, compassion, and love, then Jesus is enough for you.  "When you have nothing left but God, you have more than enough to start over again." (Mother Teresa). Within your church community find someone who you can trust. If you don’t know anyone, speak with one of the pastors or connect with someone and share your hurt and pray together for grace and so open yourself to what you need.  Grace is given in salvation, and then some.  As if salvation isn’t a perfect enough gift, God continues to lavish gifts on us. Don’t sink into your pain, sink into God’s Grace.

Grace is indeed a beautiful thing.

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