Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sanctifying Grace

On Sunday August 1, we came to the last in our series of sermons on “Methodist Grace”. You remember that for three Sundays we worked on grace as John Wesley outlined it. First, we worked and worshiped around Prevenient Grace. I used Psalm 139 as the scripture which describes the God from whom we cannot escape, who knows us from birth. Prevenient grace means that long before I could think or decide for myself, God’s Holy Spirit came to me preparing me for that day when I could choose grace for myself. Prevenient grace reminds us that God takes the initiative. God loves us first; then, we love. Get the order right.

Justifying grace is the grace that gives us the ability to choose for ourselves. We are justified, made right, put to rights, with God through the gift of Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus came among us, healed, ate with sinners, taught, lived, died and was raised for us. God sent Jesus to death on a cross to show us just how far he would go to have us.

Last Sunday, we came to Sanctifying grace. Some have called it “growing” grace. When we are justified, saved, made right with God, then we are called to be disciples, to move forward, to move in our lives from utter selfishness to utter selflessness in Christ.

John Wesley asked early Methodist lay people to answer the questions: Are you going on to perfection? Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life? Now, we ask these questions of those who seek the high calling of ordained ministry. Sheepishly, we stand in front of the bishop who asks us these questions. The answer is supplied and we say: “Yes, the Lord being my helper.”

Of course, in our world and culture, we are taught to spurn the very notion of perfection. Some tell of parents who expected them to be perfect, as in “make no mistakes”. That’s not what we mean here. Here perfection means “maturing”. John Wesley says that as Christians we are called to be formed by the Spirit of God.

When we are justified, God has more in store for us. So, we place ourselves in God’s presence in worship, Bible searching, prayer, fasting, service, Holy Communion. Through these means of grace, as we place ourselves under God’s grace, putting our bodies and lives at his disposal, we are inviting God to form/shape us anew in love. Every Christian should be able to say that I know more about love today than when I first started out.

A couple standing at the altar to be married makes all kinds of rash promises to each other. They cannot possibly know the meaning of love on that day. Sure, they know it’s beginnings, but give them ten years, twenty years, and they will say: “We thought we understood love, but now after all this time together, to explore the meaning of love, to make mistakes, to grow up, now we know more about love than ever before.”

I do not know as much about love today as I hope to know tomorrow and five years from now, if God’s Holy Spirit is shaping me. I cannot do this thing alone; I need God’s Spirit, God’s grace.

Breathe on me breath (spirit) of God
Fill me with life anew
Make me to love what thou dost love
And do what thou wouldst do

Dave Nichols

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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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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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