Grace in His Calling

Serious exegesis includes looking for key words or concepts that are repeated within the particular biblical passage that one is studying. It’s an interesting exercise to listen to Paul begin to articulate his concept of the Good News. My language and my frame of reference for faith is immersed in nearly sixty years of religious education and sermons. By consequence, certain constructs become less impacting not because they are outdated but by the familiarity with which they have been cast into the arena of discourse, by the sheer number of times I’ve heard the word grace or some other term.

But if you read closely to Paul’s first chapter of Galatians you hear two very important concepts that have invigorated Paul towards Christ and away from his religious heritage.  A heritage, by the way, he now deems worthless if it doesn’t glorify Christ.  The first is Jesus is the author of Good News.  Dare I say, not just good news; GRReat news (homage to Tony the tiger here).  It is THE good news.  The good news that renders all other news not only useless but perverted if it detracts from THE Good News.  The Good News that fits every station of life, every twist in the road, every storm on the horizon.  Whatever the substance of the human condition is, Christ is the active ingredient that catalyzes the glory of our species.

The second important point that has struck Paul is that this news did not come from what a historian would call a ‘secondary source.’  It came from a primary source, from God himself. This is important to me for two reasons;  First,  when you experience the love of God in the first person no one else can tell you it wasn’t real.  I mean they can try. and God knows, many people do try.  But anyone who has received the affections of another knows that this experience is indescribable.  It lifts you above the challenges of the day and most certainly gives anyone who receives that kind of affirmation a nearly superhuman ability to face the challenges of the moment.  I’m not talking about just warm fuzzies here but the total confidence in the relationship to go the distance against difficulty.

The second incredible truth about the gift of the calling is that it is exactly that; a gift.  There is no compatibility check or interview required to receive this gift from the Most High. No IQ standard, no tests, background checks or fingerprints, no sobriety tubes to blow into.  God knows exactly who He’s getting when He picks us.  The simplicity of His call on our life is so sweet and simple that many can’t believe it’s true.  For me, that’s the hardest part about being a Christian. It is difficult to see so many trying so hard to be qualified when they can already receive the love and grace that they need.  THE Good News.

Grace filled Eastertide

The Pauline letter to the Galatians was one, if not the earliest correspondence to the Christian community that was emerging after the resurrection of Jesus and the subsequent birth of the church.  The introduction puts focus on Jesus’ work as the essential ingredient in what Paul calls God’s rescue plan.  It is that “rescue” visual that propels Paul to cascade the message and work of Jesus into what we’ve come to know as the gospel.  Translated more closely these days as the Good News.

For me, growing up in an unchurched family meant that the meaning of the gospel took on several iterations as I bumped around the concept of faith. I clearly remember as a child repeating the questionable prayer of children; “Now I lay me down to sleep….”  Any thinking child would reason out the words of that prayer and it didn’t take me very long to let my imagination run wild with the implications of; ‘if I die before I wake.”  Many nights I lay awake imagining all sorts of reasons that might exist for how I would not survive the dark soul of the night. Early on faith and hope were found in needing confidence against the fickle nature of the universe, at least to a eight year old.

Tomorrow’s message will survey how my growing, changing sense of faith moved from this fire insurance gospel to the “being seen, being heard” gospel of adolescence and then to the success and significance stages of development. Though my stages of faith have all had flaws, one thing remains true for the most part; I am continually tempted to add more to the Good News than what was already offered by God’s grace.  I scarce can believe that His love for me is sufficient cause to release me from my own wickedness and self-interest.

For some reason I can see when others try to add some requirement to the gospel and thereby require others to work their way into heaven. I have little patience or tolerance for that kind of bondage.  I have constantly challenged others who would bind my friends or parish with unnecessary elements that serve as requirements for their faith experience. But for all my discernment on behalf of others, I must admit that I can’t always shake the same requirements for myself.

My personal prayer is that during the weeks of spring and early summer I can be further moved into grace-filled living by the message of good news found in Galatians.