"The Sphere of God's Grace"
By Rev. James A. Splitt
Sermon June 7, 1998 - Trinity Sunday
Romans 5:1-5 John 16:12-15
How well do you understand the theological concept of GRACE? This morning, I will address the topic of GRACE for the purpose of developing a greater spiritual awareness of this important concept of our faith. By
understanding GRACE we are better able to understand and know God. Our faith is has greater depth when we recognize and affirm the presence of
God's GRACE in our own lives.
We are introduced to God's grace in the Noah story in the book of Genesis
(Gen. 6:8), "Noah found grace in the sight of the Lord." And we conclude the reading of scriptures in the book of Revelation with a benediction from the author, John. "Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come ... " (vs. 1:4) .... and later in the very last verse "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen" (Rev. 22:21).
Throughout scripture, Grace refers to what happens to us by the act of God's love. Grace is fully experiential.. It is not an intellectual idea of some theological abstract phenomena. It is something we can feel and fully realize.
Kathleen shared a story of an event that occurred at Children's hospital. An 8 year old was struck by a car. While the child was not seriously injured, the event was significantly traumatic not only for the child who was hit, but also for his parents and the woman who was driving the car. The driver showed up at the hospital to check on this child and Kathleen was present to facilitate what might be a difficult situation with the parents and the driver who accidentally hit their child. Kathleen asked the parents what feelings they might be having about the driver, realizing there might be anger or even rage toward the driver. The mother said quite candidly that she could feel for the driver understanding how a tragedy like this can happen. Kathleen mentioned that the driver was at the hospital and would like to see their child. The mother and father both opened the door and were able to allow the driver to be GRACED with their understanding and acceptance. Grace is the absence of ill-will or hostility. Grace has no defenses, hostilities, or purpose to accuse, blame or find fault. Grace is openness, and acceptance of human vulnerability. Grace embraces and affirms our humanity.
I had been pastor of Blissfield, MI about two months. It was my first pastorate and Dick Glaser appeared at my office door one morning. Dick had been at choir the night before. He was our neighbor and lived diagonally
across the street from the manse. At choir practice, I had made a comment
that he found insulting and offensive to him, and he was in my office to let
me know. Dick was a retired business man and presented himself in a manner that showed me a great deal of dignity and pride. He explained his concern to me, directly and to the point. I felt really awkward and ashamed of my indiscretion. He made it clear that he didn't want me to get off to a bad
start and wanted to clear this up and not let it fester. I expected a
letter to the session and an inquiry and all of the worse case scenarios,
but Dick had a better idea. He invited me to lunch and said if I get to
know him better, I would be wiser in the way I would speak to him. From
that point on, Dick and I became close friends. I would often seek him out
if I need to know how best to handle certain situations.
God graces us into being better at loving God. When we are ignorance and naive about how to be faithful and obedient to God, we are confronted by a loving God that wants to see us affirmed not condemned. Grace moves us beyond judgment. Grace allows us to move through feelings of guilt to the renewal of minds. We are strengthen by God's grace to overcome weaknesses and shortcomings. Grace completes us, matures us, and honors us.
Grace is a central theme in Pauline theology as it was a central experience in his life. Paul walked directly into God's grace on his way to Damascus. Blinded, Paul was asked by Jesus, "Why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4) In that moment of Grace, Paul gave his life to Jesus. Paul's theology reflects
upon Grace as "an event coming from Christ's salvific death and resurrection." [Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J. Paul and His Theology: a brief sketch. Englewood Cliff, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1987, p.38.] Paul also speaks of grace as a gift.
"For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith." (Rom 3:22-24)
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this in not your own doing, it is the gift of God -- not because of works, lest any one should boast." (Eph. 2:8-9).
We are called into faith by grace, sustained in faith by grace, and granted
salvation all through God's grace. In other words, grace is the full experience of realizing how much God love's us. As we begin to understand this faith happens, we believe. We begin believing knowing God loves us. We continue to believe as we deepen our appreciation of God's love. The spiritual development of our lives happens when we honor God's grace and affirm it in our lives. The ultimate gift of salvation has already been won for us by grace. It is faith that makes the grace complete. Faith is our response to God's grace. Without faith, grace is a gift wasted and denied. We lose God's gift of salvation, when reject God's grace and fail to respond to God's love with the devotion of our lives. Grace keeps seeking to restore us in faith. Recall the story of the prodigal son, and the grace the father gives to the son who returns and seeks forgiveness and restoration. Grace is always an open door calling us to salvation.
Grace is the mystery of our communion. By Christ's gift of his life for us, we are promised, assured of a place in heaven. Christ only seeks to be remembered. Our sins are washed away by his blood, and we are brought into full participation in His body the church. It is the supreme aspect of
We live within the sphere of God's grace. We are loved. We are nurtured and matured in the sphere of God's grace. We are challenged, forgiven and restored to faith through grace. As we are graced by God's love, so we can grace others with the love of God dwelling in us. Grace is forever the blessing for the saints. Amen!