Sunday, 1 June 2014

Magnum Opus

My life is a witness to 'vulgar' grace – a grace that amazes as it offends. A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five. A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party no ifs, ands or buts. A grace that raises bloodshot eyes to a dying theif’s request–’Please, remember me’–and assures him, ‘I will’ A grace that is the pleasure of the Father, fleshed out in the carpenter Messiah, Jesus the Christ, who left His Father’s side not for heaven’s sake but for our sakes, yours and mine. This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It’s not cheap. It’s free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility. Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough. He is enough. Jesus is enough.”

Robert Capon Farrar.

Wisdom is all about harvesting riches, wherever they are found.
Thanks to Jim Mc Neeley's excellent book, the Romance of Grace, I've been re-thinking a number of things of late in regards to how life and truth are meant to marry. Jim writes at the beginning of the book about the parables of the treasure hunter and the pearl collector (Matthew 13:44 - 46) , who gained their deepest desire by giving all to gain what they discovered. The wonder, of course, is that these were people who found something rare and truly worth everything to them, and the items discovered are gained by means of costly purchase. We often think, perhaps, in terms of our giving everything to gain a spiritual reward (the kingdom of heaven) when we read these parables, but, in truth, we are not the ones doing the buying!

In the first chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul begins by writing of the fact that in God's Son, we have been blessed with every blessing (vs 3), and he then goes on to tell us why. Long before the Lord made the storehouses for wind and snow, or caused the stars to burn in space, Paul tells us the He predestined us to be adopted in love through His beloved Son (vs 4 &5). It was through His Son that we would be given redemption from a world gone mad and the forgiveness of all of our sins, purely because of His amazing grace, which, Paul says He richly  'lavishes upon us' as He makes known to us the splendor of this purpose - to untie all things, in Jesus Christ, by this grace - all things in heaven and earth (vs 8-10), that everything might express this glory (vs 14).

Because of evil and sin, we don't see ourselves as we truly are. The universe has been tarnished by calamity, but amidst the deepest darkness - at the very point where there is only the weight of alienation, just condemnation and death, it is there, at the finality of a cross, that we find Jesus Christ, dying in our stead, carrying our sin, and our judgement, and telling us "it is finished" as He dies and rises again to life, purchasing us as the treasure, the pearl, because of the Father's great love for us, before anything had even begun.

Paul goes on to the Ephesian Christians that his desire is that they might truly revel in the glorious splendor of the immeasurable goodness that has been given to them in God through Christ (vs 15-19), for by this alone (2:8), we have been brought from death to life (2:1-6) that we might share in such riches of grace forever (vs 7).

If there's a great theme for us to dwell upon today, surely it is this. Before all that we know was, there was a Father who already loved us, and a Son who would, by the power of the Holy Spirit, do all to show to us and all of creation, the heights and depths of that love, which has become our inheritance, forever.

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