THE PATHWAY TO GRACE
This month we are exploring the idea that there is an urge in each of us to transcend the mundane to experience:
higher levels of being,
higher levels of thinking, and
higher levels of behaving in this human experience.
This desire is fueled by an underlying urge to experience our oneness with the Divine. Or, said another way, we all aspire to live the Spiritual Truth that we are.
We are being supported in this quest each week by looking at a different Pathway of Transcendence, each one taking us deeper and leading us higher. We've looked at the Pathways of Power - Clarity - Enlighten-UP-ment.
Today we are going to talk about a Pathway we really can't talk about. Now, when we say we can't talk about it, I don't mean we "shouldn't" talk about. I mean we really can't - are not able to. Because it is part of the awe and mystery of God and as soon as we put words to it, we confine it, we restrict it, we limit it, we make it finite. And it is something that cannot be confined; it is something that cannot be restricted; it is something that is not limited nor is it finite.
While we cannot really adequately talk about it, today we will try. Today, our Pathway of Transcendence is the Pathway of Grace -- the Grace of God. My guess is that each of you has a preconceived idea about that word, a set of mental parameters about its meaning, which have already bubbled up for you. Am I right? Some of you may think grace is always a good topic because it is a word of comfort. But for others, it might be a far off concept with which you have had little experience therefore the word has little personal relevance. For still others, it may bring up feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy and undeservedness. It all depends on your personal history and relationship with the concept of grace.
Today, realizing that words are inadequate, I hope to bring us all to a greater heart understanding of the amazing concept behind this word GRACE and the power of GRACE to call us into transcendent ways of thinking, ways of being, and ways of behaving in this world of trials and tribulations in which we currently live.
To get us on the same page, let's begin by trying to define that which is indefinable.
1. GRACE DEFINED
I always enjoy looking at the etymology of a word - it's origin. The word "grace" comes to us from an ancient root word meaning "favor or benefit."
Our dear friend Daniel Webster put a definition to grace in his most famous book - the dictionary. According to it, God's grace is: "Divine love and protection bestowed freely on people."a
Psalms 45:2: ". . . grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever."b
The Apostle Paul wrote: "By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not our own doing, it is the gift of God - not because of any works, lest any man should boast."c
Ernest Holmes wrote in the Science Of Mind textbook: "Grace is the givingness of Spirit to Its creation."d
If we were to summarize just that handful of thoughts about grace, we could say that grace is . . .
God's Divine love -- freely given to all,
God's eternal protection -- freely given to all,
God's ever-present blessings -- freely given to all,
God's complete givingness -- freely bestowed upon all,
God's gift of absolute favor and benefit -- freely given to all.
These are all ways to define God's grace, inadequate though they may be. And you caught, I know, the ending phrase on every one of those descriptors, right? FREELY GIVEN TO ALL.
Grace as divine favor, grace as the eternal loving-kindness of God, is working for and through us constantly. You do not have to earn grace; it is not something that is paid out only to the good or the deserving.
Grace is not something to work for, to develop, to build up, to cultivate -- it simply is. God's favor, givingness, love, blessings and protection come to us simply because we are.
Ernest Holmes wrote in the Science Of Mind textbook: "God loves all alike and causes the rain to fall and the Sun to shine alike upon all. In arms which are all inclusive, Divine Love encompasses everything."e Isn't that an amazingly beautiful statement? In the arms which are all inclusive, Divine Love encompasses everything.
To me, that's the definition of grace. Right in this moment, then, if you are one whose preconceived notion about grace was either indifference/ inexperience or if the concept of Grace brought up feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy, right now breathe in this new way of looking at grace.
For those of you who already had a pretty good relationship with grace, stop for a moment to reaffirm it, to reconnect with it, to renew your relationship with it.
Because the relationship we have with grace is key to our wellbeing.
We have probably all said or heard the statement at one point or another: "There but for the grace of God go I."
What's going on for us when we say that? Usually, we are feeling quite relieved that we are not in a situation similar to the person to whom we are referring. Right?
There's a gigantic "whew" and a wiping of the brow! And there is also a gigantic error in that statement.
And after our conversation so far this morning, you see the gigantic error don't you? It implies that somehow God's grace has been bestowed upon you, but it missed that person. When God was handing out grace, that person was at the refreshment stand!
That is incorrect thinking if we believe - which I do - that God's love and protection are bestowed freely on all people.
2. GRACE ACCEPTED
What's the difference then? We must receive it. We must accept it. We must open our hearts, our minds our very lives for God's grace to have its way with us!
At his rational best, Holmes wrote in the 1926 Original Science of Mind: "Grace is not something God imposed upon us, but is the logical result of the correct acceptance of life and a correct relationship to the Spirit."f
Ramakrishna said the same thing a bit more poetically. He wrote: "The winds of grace are blowing all the time; all we have to do is raise our sails."g
There is a wonderful illustrative story from the Hindu faith . . . A great devotee of Krishna was once challenged by some powerful men in his village who didn't believe in Krishna. They said to him: "Prove to us that Krishna is a God. Make this dead cow come back to life."
The devotee said, "This is no problem for Krishna... but give me three days." He spent the next three days in agonizing prayer. Day and night, night and day, praying to Krishna to bring the cow back to life.
Finally, at the 11th hour, the cow came back to life and all the villagers rejoiced and believed that Krishna is a God. The man, of course, is grateful and relieved.
A short time later, he became very depressed and sad, and Krishna came to him and asked why he is so sad. "Lord, why did you make me desperate when you could have brought the cow back to life immediately?"
Smiling, Krishna said, "It is you who gave me three days time!"
Ernest Holmes: "The only reason we are limited is that we have not allowed the Divine within us to more completely express. . . How much life can we experience? As much as we can embody. . . . We grow in grace, as it were. We grow in power . . . But right today we can expect to demonstrate or to have our prayers answered according to our belief and the embodiment of that belief. God's grace is like a vast ocean. We can sit on the shore and collect shells.
We can go further still and catch a fish. Or we could dive deep and bring back a pearl."h The deeper we dive, the more we align with the Divine Presence and the more we are in the flow of Grace.
At John 15:4-5, the Scripture reads: "Remain with me and I with you. Just as a branch cannot give fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, even so you cannot unless you remain with me."i
Of course, it is through our spiritual practices - prayer, meditation, etc. - that we remain connected. That we dive deeply.
Joel Goldsmith, The Art of Meditation: "There is an area of consciousness revealed in meditation through which we are instantly one with God . . ., and through which we find all forms of good instantly available. This area of consciousness has been described as a Sea of Spirit, the universal or divine Soul, the Father within. In achieving conscious contact with this Sea of Spirit . . . ., we find divine Love pouring Itself into expression, so that we no longer live by personal effort alone, but by grace. Rather than seeking our good from persons or things, we tap this universal Soul and become beholders of Its activity, pouring forth as the ideas which become the human forms of good necessary to our present experience. It is only as we learn to look within to this Infinite Invisible that we begin to understand the nature of grace."j
So let take a moment right now to begin to understand the nature of grace by turning to look within to this Infinite Invisible. Let us right now tap into this universal Soul, this Sea of Spirit, Divine Father/Mother God.
If you would close your eyes . . . we are going to do a prayer ending with a poem that describes perfectly how the touch of grace can instantly lift us into higher levels of being, higher levels of thinking, and higher levels of behaving in this human experience.
Father/Mother/God help us to remember who we truly are so that we may open to all the Grace that You are willing to share with us. We don't need 3 days' time for the Divine to manifest in our lives. We open and accept it right now, knowing that it is God's hand that always guides us . AMEN.
"Twas battered and scared, and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But he held it up with a smile.
"What am I bidden, good folks," he cried,
"Who'll start bidding for me?
A dollar, a dollar - now who'll make it two --
Two dollars, and who'll make it three?
"Three dollars once, three dollars twice,
Going for three . . . but no!
From the room far back a gray-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet,
As sweet as an angel sings.
The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said: "What am I bidden for the old violin?"
And he held it up with the bow;
"A thousand dollars - and who'll make it two?
Two thousand - and who'll make it three?
Three thousand once, three thousand twice
And going - and gone," said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried,
"We do not quite understand -
What changed it's worth?" The man replied:
"The touch of the Master's hand."
And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and torn within,
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd.
Much like the old violin.
A "mess of pottage," a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on,
He's going once, and going twice -
He's going - and almost gone!
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd,
Never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul, and the change that's wrought
By the touch of the Master's hand.k
And that hand, my friends, is the hand of God's Infinite, and most amazing Grace.
dErnest Holmes Science Of Mind textbook, p. 597
eErnest Holmes Science Of Mind textbook, p 430
fErnest Holmes 1926 Original Science of Mind, p. 285
hErnest Holmes Science Of Mind textbook, p. 279, 280
jJoel Goldsmith, The Art of Meditation, p. 9
kThe Touch of the Master's Hand by Myra B. Welch