22 Oct 2017
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

15 Oct 2017
This Too Shall Pass

8 Oct 2017
The Simple Truth: Head, Heart and Hands

1 Oct 2017
Humility – Staying close to the ground

2 Jul 2017
Welcoming the Silence

25 Jun 2017
Always Uniting…

18 Jun 2017
Are you ready for harvest?

11 Jun 2017
Don’t Blame it on the Snake

4 Jun 2017
Words Beyond Words: Breath Beyond Breath

28 May 2017
Seeing with new eyes

14 May 2017
Grace, Gracious and Graceful

30 Apr 2017
A Time for war and a time for peace

23 Apr 2017
Faithful Doubting

16 Apr 2017
God became human so that we could become divine!

12 Mar 2017
Wind of the Spirit

12 Feb 2017
From the Mountainside: The Impossible Dream?

22 Jan 2017
Grounding our Life and Faith

25 Dec 2016
That Humanity should become Divine

11 Dec 2016
Joy is for Everyone

4 Dec 2016
The Mingling of Water and Spirit

27 Nov 2016
Living Fully in the Present Moment

16 Oct 2016
Persistence and Justice

9 Oct 2016
Gratitude and Thankfulness

2 Oct 2016
Standing in the Tragic Gap

25 Sep 2016
Rich Man, Poor Man

4 Sep 2016
The Gift of Freedom

21 Aug 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

14 Aug 2016
We all need wise words to live by

31 Jul 2016
When Less is More

24 Jul 2016
Developing Healthy Relationships

17 Jul 2016
Died Wise

10 Jul 2016
Meeting Strangers on the Road

3 Jul 2016
On the Road Again

29 May 2016
Faith is the Answer

22 May 2016
The Way of Wisdom

15 May 2016
Icons and Stained Glass Windows – Inner light

8 May 2016
Unity and Oneness

1 May 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

24 Apr 2016
Lest we forget: What?

17 Apr 2016
God became human so that we could become divine!

3 Apr 2016
Thank God for St Thomas!

27 Mar 2016
Living life’s great contradictions

20 Mar 2016
Message of Peace

13 Mar 2016
Living Fully, Loving Wastefully

6 Mar 2016
Come Home, all is forgiven

28 Feb 2016
Simply, leave it alone

21 Feb 2016
Why do we “kill” our prophets?

7 Feb 2016
Keeping your Head in the Clouds

Sermons

Grace, Gracious and Graceful

14 May, 2017 Romans 5:1-11 Easter 5 By Rev Dr Christopher Page

When we recognise the virtues, the talent, the beauty of Mother Earth,
something is born in us, some kind of connection; love is born. ~Thích Nhất Hạnh

 

Introduction:
“There but for the grace of God go I.” Some may have assumed that it is a quote from the Bible. In fact, it is from a mid-16th century statement attributed to English reformer and martyr John Bradford, who in reference to a group of prisoners being led to execution said, "There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford." The meaning is of course that others' misfortune could have been mine if it wasn’t for Divine fate, or God’s graciousness toward me. Most often it is a statement of humility that my destiny is not entirely in my own hands and that factors outside of my influence have played a part in my life. Ironically John Bradford was executed for his “reformist” views some years after this statement.

Grace
The idea that grace comes from God preceded both the Christian and Hebrew Scriptures. In the ancient world grace was the sustaining power necessary to turn suffering into wisdom and character. We hear the echo of St Paul’s message to the church in Rome some 500 years earlier in the words of the Greek writer and philosopher Aeschylus (ɛskɨləs). He wrote:

He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.

And as read earlier Romans Chapter 3:

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

So the Christian belief is that it is the Grace of God that sustains and supports us in the living of our lives. It is the sense that the Divine, the ground of all being, visits us with unmerited favour. It is that sense that the God of the Universe is for us and not against us. That is what some have called an “enabling belief.” It means that you can get on with your life and live with the belief or perhaps more accurately the feeling that this world is an hospitable place.

Perhaps the most important aspect of Grace is that there is nothing we have done, or can ever do, to earn this favour. It is a gift. And all you must do to receive it is to put out your hand and accept it.

Elie Wiesel the Holocaust survivor said:

For me, every hour is grace. And I feel gratitude in my heart each time I can meet someone and look at his or her smile.

That is what some have called living in a state of grace.

Graceful
This leads to what we might call a grace-full life. While the word graceful has shifted in its meaning and is now more commonly used to express a sense of elegance or a smooth flow and even refinement or stylishness, yet there still remains at its core the notion that Grace is what sustains us, forms and shapes us. To return to the Greek philosophers, Aristotle is quoted as saying:

The ideal person bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances.

It reminds me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s poem Who am I?, written in prison not long before his execution:

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a Squire from his country house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though they were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Later in the poem Bonhoeffer goes on to wrestle with his doubts and uncertainties, but his identity is ultimately secure, because who he is at the centre of his being is held by a loving God. It is maintained, nourished and nurtured by a God of Grace and mercy. Hence we can all live a life filled with Grace - a Graceful life.

Gracious
I don’t think we should underestimate the importance of living with the sense that God is for us and not against us. Too much of Christian history has been dominated by the notion that the creator of the universe is punitive and judgmental, which has often created a punitive and judgemental church. And we know that it is still alive and well in the world today.

But when we are formed and shaped by Grace, then we can become gracious and willing to practise hospitality toward those around us. Grace is how the relationship between us and the Divine is maintained. There are other ways of maintaining a relationship. Law and duty bind people together. Or fear and favour are ways we keep each other in line. But Grace is different and starts with the premise that only love can truly be the basis of our relationship with God and with others.

It is Mother’s Day today and I want to recognise the importance of Grace as we can experience it from our parents and even by being parents. There is, I think, a Thai saying that goes something like "Look at me the way a mother looks at her child, with soft eyes." It is also used in terms of contemplation which can be called “the loving gaze.” I am well aware that mothers and fathers do not always do the best for their children. I suggest that you Google the poet Philip Larkin and find his poem about parenting that has a very rude word in the title.
However, we all have seen or experienced that unconditional love that a parent, a mother, has for her child. It is in fact a state of Grace. There is nothing that the child needs to do to win this sustaining and nurturing love. In fact, children often test this unmerited favour through misbehaviour and disobedience. But, pray God, love wins in the end.

It is interesting that graceful and gracious are more often associated with women then with men. Not exclusively but frequently. Given what we observe between a mother and a child, why don’t we in the Christian faith refer to God as Mother more often? Perhaps it is because we are shaped by the Bible which was produced in a patriarchal society. While there are mothering images in relation to God in the Bible, a cursory reading will clearly show that Father and male images win hands down.

Mothering is a very helpful way of understanding Grace. We can even see this in our references to Mother Earth; this place that nourishes and sustains us. When we are born, we are given the gift of life and a place to live. We do not earn it. While it does come with the responsibility to live with love, respect and justice, nevertheless, the creation, the earth, the universe is an act of graciousness and we respond with gratitude and by living grace-full lives.

Amen.

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