By Pastor Jeff Fox-Kline
Ephesians 2:8-10: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
Full confession – I’m writing this a week ahead of time. I’ll be on vacation by the time you’re reading this (though it’s a staycation for all of you who want to try to burgle my house). I’m going to relax – go to the zoo, ride a bike, maybe even read a book! So if this in any way contradicts or replicates what Charlie is going to say (has said?) in his sermon, I plead ignorance.
Growing up, there was a 90 second show that played between episodes of cartoons called “Mrs. Munger’s Class." This fact has very little to do with what I’m about to write, but I just spent way too long trying to figure out what it was called for me to not tell you. In Mrs. Munger's Class there was a character named Grace. Whenever the class would eat a meal, they would have to say grace, so they all say in unison “Grace!" which would frustrate Grace (the character) every time, and she’d say “Cut it out!” I’m not saying that this is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Grace, but it’s always lurking in the background of my brain.
But I also think the concept of grace is such a beautiful one. Something that God gives to us that we have in no way earned. God redeems us, forgives us, loves us, renews us. And why? Just because that’s who God is.
Which is great, because we are awful. Just terrible. God’s unconditional grace always sends me thinking about John Calvin’s idea of “total depravity." This is basically Calvin’s way of saying “We’re terrible." We really stink. Think about all the awful things we do to each other. We hurt each other, we abuse each other, we degrade one another, we lie to each other, we steal from each other. And when we get together we don’t do much better. Systems that perpetuate injustice, prop up unearned power, oppress vulnerable people, hoard resources.
Total depravity is always going to come into conflict with God’s grace. And the Good News that we keep talking about? Grace wins. Always.
And then we’re free! Freed from the consequences of the ways we screw up, we can then try again. It makes me think of some video games that I used to play. You were given unlimited lives, but each level was incredibly difficult. The only way to progress in the game is to fail enough until you figure out how to actually do it right. Then you get to the next portion of the level and do it over again. We’ve been given unlimited chances to do it right, which is hard, and we will fail at it. But because of God’s grace, we can keep trying until we get it right, then move on to the next thing that we can fail at. Then we can keep trying until we get it right, then move on to the next thing…
Grace and peace,
Pastor Jeff Fox-Kline