"A Sanctuary in the City… Living Faith"

Grace We Can Understand

There is much goodness in life. In the vitality of our world. In loving relationship. In moments of beauty and joy that arise far beyond anything we’ve planned. If only we have eyes to see. And there is much we don’t understand—why did it happen? How did we get here? Where are we going? In faith we try to use words to express those experiences and make sense of our purpose in life—like, “grace.”

Grace. What is “grace,” really? We say a dancer is graceful. A friend or stranger is gracious. For me, in terms of faith, “grace” conveys the source of goodness manifest in and through all of life, at its best. Grace flows through holy love to empower life in others and all creation. By definition, divine grace is beyond our ability to create or control. By implication, we receive grace and gratefully try to pass it along, graciously empowering others.

My thoughts about grace this week arise in part from a church group discussion of the book Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger. After a series of tragic and beautiful events entwine, a father tells his son: “drop by drop upon the heart … comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

“Awful?” the son replies.

“I don’t think it’s meant in a bad way,” says the father. “I think it means beyond our understanding.”

The son concludes, “I guess there are graces I like better.”

It seems we’re all trying to understand grace in our lives. Where does life come from? Where is it going? What I am doing as part of it all? Christian ideas like the Trinity developed as ways to try to express / explain / inspire how divine grace works in our lives—creating life, redeeming life, sustaining life. And often, even our doctrines remain a bit confusing as inherently limited language can never fully express what ultimately remains an awe-infused mystery. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try! I enjoy such conversation … as long as we remember theology is far more poetry than scientific principle!

And I always want to get practical. I get the desire for “better graces” we can really understand. Maybe it’s a dancer or a kind stranger, inasmuch as we see God as the source of all beauty and goodness. Maybe it’s a word of forgiveness instead of revenge. Maybe it’s simply time spent with someone in need. Maybe it’s medical professionals and teachers and social workers and laborers and business people in myriad forms, inasmuch as we all try to empower abundant life in others. Maybe it’s reflection on our life in the past or present that brings joy and gratitude and peace amid all our imperfections. Maybe it’s the earnest longing to keep pursuing fullness of life in peace.

We prepare to celebrate Trinity Sunday in worship this week. We’ll read stories in scripture about Isaiah’s awe-filled vision of the Holy One in the Temple; and about Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night longing to understand God’s presence and power in him. Through our moments of awe and confusion, as we open the eyes of our hearts to holy love, I wonder, how do we see ordinary graces? May we recognize gifts of goodness. May we cherish glimpses of beauty. May we savor moments of joy and peace. May the holy source and spirit of life flow through us, in our everyday routines with other people and all creation. Grace … and peace … to you.

Grace and Peace,