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Sunday Message for February 25, 2024


Today we are talking about Grace. How many of you could define Grace? Everyone seems to be familiar with the term, but most of us would be hard-pressed to actually define Grace.

The Holman Bible Dictionary defines Grace as undeserved acceptance and love received from another.a

Elwells Dictionary says that its meaning is that of undeserved blessing freely bestowed on man by God, a concept which is at the heart not only of Christian theology but also of all genuinely Christian experience.b

"You must pay for everything in this world one way and another. There is nothing free except the Grace of God. You cannot earn that or deserve it."c Charles Portis wrote in True Grit

This is the gift. The gift is yours from God simply because you are God's child. You didn't have to earn it, and you don't have to prove you deserve it. It is yours unconditionally. It comes with being part of creation. It is the gift of grace.

In metaphysical teachings there are many practical principles. Each plays its role in our quest for transformation, and each one is a law on which we can utterly rely. Some of the things we've discovered along the path together: the law of mind action, forgiveness, love, prosperity, faith, and so on. If you practice them, they work. It's as simple as that. Not that it doesn't take dedication and some retraining of oneself to make the necessary changes. That may not always come easy, but the principles themselves are simple to understand and simple in the way they function.

Not so with grace. There doesn't seem to be a set of rules for the concept of grace. There is no way to get more nor any way to accept less. It is the consummate by-product of God's perfect love. We deem it mysterious or elusive because we don't understand it. Yet grace is quite probably that unknown part of God's law.

Grace is so called because it is common to all mankind. Its benefits are experienced by the whole human race without discrimination between one person and another. The order of creation reflects the mind and the care of the Creator who sustains what he has made. God upholds the universe by his word of power. God's gracious provision for his creatures is seen in the sequence of the seasons, of seedtime and harvest. Thus, Jesus reminded his hearers that God "makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous."d as it says in Matthew 5:45. The Creator's sustaining care for his creation is what is meant when we speak of divine providence.

In a nutshell, grace is God's goodness given to you in greater proportion than you give of yourself to God.

In the book When I Was a Child I Read Books Marilynne Robinson writes, "I experience religious dread whenever I find myself thinking that I know the limits of God's grace, since I am utterly certain it exceeds any imagination a human being might have of it. God does, after all, so love the world."e

The universe is rigged on your behalf, which means that no matter how far you reach to find God, God will reach further, no matter what you may do to connect with God, God will automatically do more. You can never outgive God.

The most beautiful example of this law of grace is Jesus' story of the prodigal son. To us, personally, it is the most powerful and poignant of all the parables.

No doubt you are familiar with the story recorded in (Luke 15:11-32) There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, "Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me." So, he divided his property between them.

A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need.

So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.

But when he came to himself, he said, "How many of my father's hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.'"

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.

Then the son said to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son."

But the father said to his slaves, "Quickly, bring out a robe--the best one--and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!" And they began to celebrate.

Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, "Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound."

Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, "Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!"

Then the father said to him, "Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found."

So, a father had two sons, one of which stayed home and devoted himself to serving the father and his estate. The younger son asked his father for his inheritance, left home, and squandered the entire fortune in a far country. He ended up feeding swine and suffering great despair. He realized that even the servants in his father's house were better off than he was. Ashamed and feeling very guilty, he nevertheless turned away from the misery he had heaped upon himself and headed toward his father's home.

When the remorseful son, who had wasted all of his inheritance, was still some distance from his father's house, the father saw him from afar and ran out to meet him! Ecstatic at having his son come back to him, the father threw his arms around the young man and kissed him and ordered a great feast to celebrate his return. He lavished fine gifts on the son and enfolded him at once back into the household.

There are many powerful lessons in this story, but the one which is most obvious is that the prodigal son did not have to journey the full way back to the father's house. He only had to be headed in that direction so that the father could see him and rush out to meet him. This is grace.

We do not have to go the full distance in order for God to rush out to meet us. We only have to be headed in the direction of that Divinity within us and be desirous of making contact with It, in order for It to find us. We do not have to earn grace. The nature of God cannot help itself from going the extra mile and lavishing upon us every wonderful gift that is God's to give.

Grace is the most beautiful expression of our Creator's love for us. God loves us so much that everything in the kingdom is automatically ours.

By practicing the other universal laws, by sincerely seeking to know, love, and serve God, you do not have to worry about being perfect. It is enough that you are a human being, headed in the direction of the Father's house.

If there is a magical quality to grace, the magic lies in its absolute simplicity. While its workings may be enigmatic, its effects are utterly pure and basic, so pure and basic that we may tend to question it. We often like to make things complex, believing that they are then more important or profound. However, grace is the most simple act of the Creator. We are infinitely loved, and so we are given all.

The heartwarming story of the prodigal son is so human. It is easy and comforting to relate to God as our Father, who showers us with blessings no matter what we have done as long as we turn our eyes back in God's direction. God is always there awaiting our return, and the decision to return is enough to trigger the flow of grace.

Yet this is not entirely the whole picture, for God's grace is active even during those times when we are not heading in the direction of "the Father's house." The truth is that we are always given more than we give. God is always there, keeping us from reaping the full harvest of any seeds of disaster we might have sown. It only takes a brief recalling of some of the incidents of our own lives to realize that maybe things "should have been" worse than they were!

To common grace, then, we must thankfully attribute God's continuing care for his creation, as he provides for the needs of his creatures, restrains human society from becoming altogether intolerable and ungovernable, and makes it possible for mankind to live together in a generally orderly and cooperative manner, to show mutual forbearance, and to cultivate together the scientific, cultural, and economic pursuits of civilization.

There is a more cosmic view of grace than the human story of the prodigal son. This more universal way of looking at grace is the understanding that there is a Creative Process in this universe (which we usually refer to as God), which by Its very nature has no choice other than to push toward more and better expressions of Itself. There is an eternal Principle longing to prove Itself through each one of us because we are Its major means of existence!

From this perspective then, grace is simply the natural and unavoidable drive of the Creative Process to create more of Itself and to know more of Itself. The universe is in the process of becoming. This process underlies everything, especially humankind, for it is in us that the Creator invests the most potential, the most hope.

It is important always to remember that the operation of God's grace is a deep mystery that is far beyond our limited human comprehension. God does not treat men as though they were puppets with no mind or will of their own. Our human dignity as responsible persons under God is never violated or despised. How could it be, since this dignity is itself given by God?

It might help you to think of grace in this way. Picture yourself rowing a boat downstream, going with the current. The flow of the stream moves you along faster than the rate at which you are rowing. Since you are moving in the same direction as the stream, the impetus of the water carries you along faster than merely the result of your efforts.

Also, since you are rowing in the direction of the flow of the water, the extra speed and motion come as unearned "gifts." It is not simply the result of your rowing, but rather the result of your rowing in the right direction! You cannot help but be swept along by the flow. Come to think of it, even if you pulled in your oars and no longer rowed but merely kept your boat pointed in the right direction, you would still be moved along with the current.

Conversely, when you try to row against the flow, it is extremely difficult, requiring much effort. You won't get to your destination without the feeling that you are "rowing against the tide," which, of course, you are. You will always feel the pull of something trying to bring you back to the right direction.

The flow of the Creative Process of the universe is always in motion. All we have to do is head ourselves in its direction - dip our oars in the water, so to speak - and we are instantly caught up in the flow of God's grace.

It's a marvelous thing, this grace. It could well be God's most unique gift to us.

So, to recap:

  1. Grace is God's gift to you, simply because you are part of God.
  2. Grace cannot be earned.
  3. Grace is God's goodness given to you in greater proportion than you give of yourself to God.
  4. The universe is rigged on your behalf.
  5. Grace is always active, even when you are not heading in the direction of "the Father's house."
  6. Grace is the natural and unavoidable drive of the Creative Force to create more of Itself and to know more of Itself.

aHolman Bible Dictionary
bElwells Dictionary
cCharles Portis True Grit
dMatthew 5:45
eWhen I Was a Child I Read Books Marilynne Robinson
fLuke 15:11-32

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