Grace, up close and personal.
We continue our foray into grace, inspired by the grace of the folk in the Antioch community in Acts 11. With God as the originator--the source of all grace--we can participate in it through the grand experience of our lives.
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Practically speaking - what does grace look like? Like on a personal level, how might we 'trade' in grace?
Well, I remember a time I took note of grace in a couple different settings. Our first venue for grace was in a most unusual setting ... in the backyard of a home where we met for women's Bible study. (Why was it unusual? Because groups of women are often the last place one will find grace!) It was a day or so after a recent state election, and there had been some light talk amongst the women that 'we Californian's were in for it-with Jerry Brown once again going to the governor's mansion'. No one thought anything about the 'harmless' banter-at least for a while. And then it happened. Just before my friend, Adele, led us in discussion about our study question, she quietly and somewhat nervously said, 'First, I have something to share, and it is kind of difficult for me. 'Cause see when ya'all were joking about Jerry Brown, well, I once again felt like an outsider, which is not all that unusual in Orange County, because it is so Republican, and so politically conservative; however, I am not. And it hurt-I do not want to feel like an outsider in the place where I should feel and experience the love of my Christian sisters.' Yes, you could have heard a pin drop-even though we were outside.
What a wonderful teaching Adele blessed us with when she nervously told us how she felt; you see, we can think we are grace-givers when someone confesses a sin, or apologizes or.....but do we exhibit the same sort of grace toward someone who lines up on the opposite side politically....or racially....or God forbid, in sexual preference? Because in each of these circumstances, you and I, Christian, are called to be grace givers.....first and foremost. And then something else happened. Another sister said, 'Adele, I would like to apologize, and ask your forgiveness. 'See, I think that I give grace to people, but I never thought of grace in this instance-I posted my feelings of despair over the election results on Facebook, never thinking anything about what you are saying...' GRACE. Now, this sister hadn't even been present for the banter, yet she owned it. The lesson on grace that day-first from one, and then from the other-far exceeded the lesson I taught, for the lesson of grace was lived.
And then too on another day-this time on the mean streets of Long Beach. Ali, a brother, who lives in Lincoln Park, was waiting when I pulled up to the curb of the Sanctuary, where our group gathered. Thrilled to see Ali again, I jumped out to hug him and welcome him back. His return meant he felt accepted in our midst, or he would not have returned a second time. Why? Ali is a Crip, who lives on the streets, has led an openly gay lifestyle, and is now HIV positive. It is no secret.
On this clear, cool Tuesday morning, the Sanctuary is where he wanted to be. He was looking for hope, he was looking for answers. He was looking for grace. I knew he was desperately hurting, and wanted to know where he could find God...again. So I had us turn to Zephaniah 3.17, and asked the Duke of Earl if he would please turn to Ali, and read it to him. Duke donned his reading glasses, cleared his throat, and said, 'All right. "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."' Well Duke didn't even get to the second sentence, before Ali burst into tears. I got up from my seat, crossed the circle, and reached out to hug him; at that point, he was wracked with inconsolable, guttural sobs, so I held him, while all around the room, eyes filled with tears. It was a holy moment.
My dear ones, when the children of God can be alongside someone in his pain, and just be still in reverent silence, God is present. A holy moment indeed. When I went back to my seat, Duke put his long arm around Ali's shoulders, and protectively supported him until he could compose himself. Duke extended grace to Ali. And through the life-giving Word of God, Ali received grace in the form of a God who delights in him, a God who will quiet him with his love, and rejoice over him with singing. Ah, the look of grace.
The drippings of grace ... longing for a scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard,
news from a country we have never yet visited. - C. S. Lewis
How about you and I look for ways to be grace-givers today?