Cosmic Grace

The hymn, Amazing Grace. It’s one we all know. Maybe even the story behind it, how John Newton, once a slave of sorts himself, later captained slave ships. How during a storm that threatened his life and all the lives on his ship, Newton saw the light of God and the darkness of his heart. Somehow that light pervaded him, an enlightening grace so amazing that it was able to save a wretch like himself.

Grace changed John Newton’s life and gave us one of the greatest hymns we have, a hymn that even the enslaved would come to embrace in a profound way. 

The hymn describes a grace so powerful that it liberates enslavers and the enslaved alike. The Christian hope is that through this grace all will be fully free, body, mind, and spirit. Only a grace cosmic in its scale and its reach can be so transformative.

Last week, we discussed this grace and its accompanying gift of gratitude. In that sermon, I recited 2 Timothy 1:9-10. Let me read it again as I begin a follow-up discussion of grace:

The power of God saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to God’s own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Before I get to the heart of our discussion, I would like to first say that this verse floored me when I read it a couple Saturdays ago. The Bible is powerful that way. It frequently surprises you. I am sure I’ve read that verse before. But for some reason, it’s truth really struck me. And I’ve been pondering it ever since.

Have you had any Bible verses or spiritual readings that have especially made an impression on you lately? If so, drop me a note and tell me about it.

“Grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,” 2 Timothy 1:9 says. Before time began, God’s grace through Christ was real and working and giving. God’s grace is eternal, in other words. Grace has always been and always will be. And Christ, just as eternal, is the conduit of that grace.

The word "conduit" -- maybe you’ve never heard the word conduit applied in this way. For those who are not engineers or mechanic types, a conduit is something through which or by which either fluids or electricity or even information, or something else we need, is given. Maybe you know the prayer known as the St. Francis Prayer. That prayer’s first lines are sometimes translated as "Make me a channel of your peace." There is a hymn that uses this translation. Well, we might also translate the first line originally in French this way –

Make me a conduit of Your peace
Where there is hatred, let me bring Your love
Where there is injury, Your pardon Lord
And where there's doubt, true faith in You
Make me a conduit of Your peace
Where there's despair in life, let me bring hope
Where there is darkness, only light
And where there's sadness, ever joy

Well, as 2 Timothy 1 tells us, Christ is the ultimate conduit of divine grace. I should say Christ is the ultimate conduit of divine peace as well. As Christ-followers, we are called to be conduits of Christ. Christ is the ultimate conduit, but we are called to in turn be conduits of Christ and his grace and peace here and now, on this earth that seems so lost. 

How are we doing as conduits of Christ? I ask this not in a judgmental way. It is a question we should always ask ourselves as a church. How are we doing as a church and as Christians in bringing grace and peace to our world?

d like to change direction a bit here and look at how grace works in the life of God.

If you are like me, I like to know how things work. And as a Trinitarian, as someone who holds that God is the plural-unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I ask how does divine grace work in the life of our Triune God?

Let me first say quickly that we often mistake the Trinity as a bunch of males divinely united. Father and son, yes, are masculine terms. But did you know that in both Hebrew, a language Jesus knew, and Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, the name Holy Spirit is a feminine term? So when we can sing and truly mean the hymn Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee:

“Thou our father, and our mother,
All who live in love are thine.
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.”

God is both masculine and feminine. Thank goodness!

Anyway, have you ever considered that the Trinity is in essence defined by a relationship between the Three?  Father, Holy Spirit, and Son, they are not strangers to one another. They are not three strangers passing in the night. How could there be unity if the three were separate, autonomous, and unrelating? 

Now, the Trinity uses familial terms to point to the fact that the Trinity is marked by a relationship, by a relating to one another, by relationality.  And what unites the family, what defines the family relationship, whether it be an earthly or heavenly family? Love. Love is what unites Father, Mother Holy Spirit, and Son Christ. 

When we read in scripture and in turn repeat the three words, God is Love, that is what we mean. At the center of the Trinity, as the hub that makes the holy family of Father, Mother, and Son turn, at the foundation of the holy household, if you will, is Love. Love unites the Trinity and moves the Trinity forward. Love is what moves God to create and, in turn, relate to what is created. 

And what is grace? Grace is the fullest expression of love. Grace is the language of love.

John 1:3, says this, “All things came into being through Christ, and without him not one thing came into being.” In other words, Christ is the conduit of creation itself.

Through Christ comes creation. But before creation, before the beginning of time, grace was, grace existed.  Before creation, Grace was, and it moved through Christ and outward. Creation eventually resulted.

We might ponder these rather wonderful truths as we come to a close – Grace created us. And Grace saves us. 

What grace created, grace will not give up on. We are God’s creation, created in God’s grace-filled image, and God will not give up on us. 

Yes, we fall. Yes, we do not live up to the grace that created us. But the greatest truth of all is that the same grace that created us will keep reaching down, keep expressing love, keep lifting us up. And in the end, thanks to Christ, all of creation will be received back to her Creator.

So, here we are. Grace… It makes the world go ‘round and it will bring us all around in return to God. 

What are we to do with this amazing grace? What will our response be to the immense gift we’ve been given?

Yes, gratitude is an important response. But in our gratitude for God ‘s grace, something else is required. That we follow the way of Grace. We pay forward God’s grace toward us to others. God’s grace must be lived out in us. 

Karl Barth, renowned Swiss theologian in the Reformed Church, put it nice and succinctly: “Grace must find expression in life.”


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