Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Prevenient Grace

I am working through a series of sermons on Methodist Grace- not that Methodist grace is really any different from any other grace. It’s just that the great Methodist emphasis on grace is central to everything for us.

Grace is gift. And, of course, the grace of God is given to us in many ways but primarily through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, talked about grace as a process of salvation. So, beginning last Sunday I will preach on the three graces: Prevenient, Justifying, and Sanctifying.

Last Sunday we began by working with the notion of Prevenient Grace. This is the grace that comes long before we can think or choose for ourselves. From the first moment of our birth, God’s Holy Spirit is present to us and “wooing” us toward the time when we can choose to accept God’s grace for ourselves.

When we baptize a baby, a precious child of God, we are claiming that child for Christ, and acknowledging that that child has God’s grace already. So, we promise, we parents and congregation, to do all in our power to nurture and teach the child, cooperating with the Holy Spirit, toward the day when the child can accept Christ for him/herself. Baptism is entrance into the church for us, not salvation. Salvation comes as a result of the child’s decision to accept grace for him/herself. We generally call that time Confirmation.

John Wesley said that every human being born into the world has grace, prevenient grace, the presence of God. There is nothing that any person can do either to earn this grace or to lose this grace. It is a gift of God. A person might in fact be before Christ, but no person is ever before grace.

The old English word behind prevenient is the word “preventing” which means preparing.

Now, we Methodists know that none of us would ever be able to accept Christ for ourselves were it not for the preparing grace of God. We can suppress it or ignore or push it away, but grace is always pursuing us, wooing us, loving us, reaching out to us.

Of course, there would be no need for grace were it not for sin. Were not every human being a sinner, born into sin through the human family, and therefore hopelessly about going after our own salvation, and being our own god, then we would have no need for grace.

The grace of God comes to us when we are most helpless and lost, before we can think or choose for ourselves.

St. Augustine says that when you look back over your life it at first appears that the patterns of your life are like the footprints of chickens in a chicken yard, going in all directions at once. But, if you look again, you can discern a pattern, a direction, a guidance, a wooing.

Look back over your life. Can you see prevenient grace moving you to where you are now? Next week: Justifying grace.

Dave Nichols

1 comment:

  1. As a Lutheran pastor, I appreciated your post.




Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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About Me

A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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