Grace

A Christian Perspective

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Grace
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About the Author

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

The Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes is the Minister of Maple Grove United Church, and is a member of the Interfaith Councill of Halton. A chatty extrovert with a conversational preaching style, a multi-tasker who is a “multi-worrier” when it comes to caring about people’s problems, and a leader who treasures teaming with the lay people in her church, Morar says that at Maple Grove she has experienced “a deeper level of ministry than I thought possible.” Anyone who has personally received Morar’s deeply compassionate caring and wise counsel will testify to what an inspirational, healing and encouraging ministry it is.

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Remember

the ridiculous case of the first sign that Jesus did at the wedding in Cana? How he turned about 600 litres of water into wine?
or that story about the father who recklessly gives his second son half the value of the family farm; and when he comes crawling home asking to be a slave, the father runs to meet him and throws and throws a giant party in his honour?

It seems like nonsense. It is so foreign to our ways of seeing and doing things.

And the single theme that runs through these stories is grace.

Over the last few weeks, we have looked at words you hear in church: Demons, Amen, Atonement, Glory

And now Grace — also a word with complex meaning.

In trying to understand what grace means, there are some preachy folk out there who aren’t much help. For instance, a Church of Christ minister wrote, not so helpfully,

“Our God is the God of all grace because He is gracious and extends His grace.”

Well thanks for this.

With a complex word, we need to kind of build the meaning.

Let’s start with the dictionary.

Grace in secular terms is

  • literally means ‘favour’
  • simple elegance or refinement of movement.
  • do honour or credit to someone by one’s presence.

From other faiths, we add to the meaning:

For Hindus, grace is the key required for spiritual self-realization

For Muslims, God’s grace is the means by which Paradise is attained — One cannot earn it by deeds alone, but by the Grace and Mercy of Allah. God’s unearned favour

In our own tradition, let’s look at the roots of the word:

In Hebrew,

Grace means to bend or stoop in kindness to another as a superior to an inferior. The Hebrew word for grace is the source of the name Hannah.

In Greek,

Grace comes from from the root word CHAIRO to be cheerful, happy.

For Christians, grace is described as the free and unmerited favour of God.

It has all this complexity of meaning:

Elegance, honour, spiritual growth, how we get to heaven, God’s unearned favour,
unconditional kindness, cheerful, happiness.

We learn from the Christian story God’s Grace most particularly in the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of God’s blessings.

God, stooping down to us in kindness, reaches us in our need, and blesses us with a benefit.
But the action of God does more than just make us feel good; it releases God’s power into our lives.

“In God we live and move and have our existence” Acts 17:28

Grace is God’s influence upon your heart and its reflection in your life.

It’s not controllable. We think we understand, when we experience those indescribably beautiful moments in birth, in nature, in beauty, in harmony, in people being unconditionally kind to one another.

But God’s grace is, as Andy has written, present even in the most difficult of circumstances, “Even a tomb, on this darkest of days, becomes touched by the presence of grace.”

I can’t say anything that will convince you that God’s grace exists. I can only identify the moments when I experience it.

Grace is that moment when I’m forgiven when I have done or said some doltish thing.
Grace is that moment when I am beyond exhaustion, but I am filled with what I need to respond to yet one more demand..

Perhaps for you, grace is that moment when grief lifts enough for you to laugh at a memory of the one you have lost.

Fortunately we don’t have to rely on my experience or even your experience. We have Our Story.

The story of the birth of Jesus is the story of grace. And standing at the bed of a newborn in a manger, we don’t have too much difficulty saying, ‘yes, that;s grace!’

Here. today, as we stand on the sidelines, watching the parade as Jesus enters Jerusalem, seeing the happy faces, the waving branches, we can again say, ‘yes, that’s grace!’ John 12: 12-16

But, as the events unfold in the days after the parade, it’s harder to see God’s grace.

  • the plotting of the chief priests and scribes
  • the betrayal by a friend
  • the last meal with his friends
  • the angst in the garden of Gethsemane
  • the sleepiness of friends

Even before Good Friday, it’s hard to see God’s grace in Jesus’ life.

Except, here it is: Mark 14:1 – 9

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head.

In this moment, grace comes from an unexpected source. It’s a small moment when God’s true purpose is broken open. Jesus knows this is God’s grace:

She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.

Grace means that when the best things happen, it’s not because we planned it and worked it out and saw it coming. God enters in.

The best things happen because God gives them to us.

Sometimes we expect the worst, and God redeems it. Sometimes we expect something good from one direction, and something better comes our way from another direction.

In those moments of Grace, we experience the elegance of God, whose unearned favour falls around us, who honours us with love. whose empowerment of us raises our spirits and causes us to feel happy.

What is Grace?

  • God, forgiving our sins, and saving our souls: that is grace.
  • God giving us what we need to know how to live: that is grace.
  • God giving us hope in the midst of the chaos in the world, in the midst of whatever chaos we call our own lives: that is grace

“And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.” I Peter 5:10-11

Andrew King has a poem called All of Grace. In it, he reflects on the breadth of God’s grace:

Let none begrudge the width of your embrace which reaches from the safe to those adrift. We learn at end of day it’s all of grace. … At end of day, we praise: it’s all of grace.

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