As we come around to yet another Easter, my Lenten journey to the cross and eventual resurrection has taught me that I do not pay enough attention to the daily action of God in the world and in my life. It’s not that I don’t believe God is active…heavens, I see God all over the place. But rather, like many of us, I become leery of God’s goodness.
Last year, I was a part of a small group of people who met weekly to support one another. None of the participants knew I was a priest much less a Christian. After about five weeks, I came in wearing my collar. A woman in the group exclaimed: “Oh, so that’s why you are so kind!”
What’s the point here? Simply this: We are suspicious of goodness. To quote The Reverend Carol Cook: “At what age did we learn to think that good things don’t count?”
Are we suspicious because we are a society of broken promises? Think about it:
- we build escape clauses into our contracts,
- look for loopholes in our agreements,
- insert weasel words into our guarantees
- or hold out for renegotiation
No wonder we look at God’s goodness and say “It’s only a matter of time before the other shoe drops!”
But that’s not who God is! Author Frederick Buechner in his book Wishful Thinking and reprinted in Beyond Words says the following beautifully:
Grace is something you can never get but only be given. There's no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good looks or bring about your own birth.
A good sleep is grace and so are good dreams. Most tears are grace. The smell of rain is grace. Somebody loving you is grace. Loving somebody is grace. Have you ever tried to love somebody?
A crucial eccentricity of the Christian faith is the assertion that people are saved by grace. There's nothing you have to do. There's nothing you have to do. There's nothing you have to do.
The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you.
There's only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you'll reach out and take it.
Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.
Ah, there’s a catch to all this goodness: We need not only to perceive it, and acknowledge it as good, but embrace it and take it. God offers all the good my life could ever use (Actually more than I could ever hope to exhaust) but I or rather we must engage in receiving it. How do we do that? The Christian life is not a quick fix but rather a life-long process. I leave you with the prayer for your journey, trusting that as you pray, God will change your heart and life. Here is “Remember” by Steve Garnaas-Holmes:
God, I am often so sloppy or lazy at my prayers, or, even worse, my prayers are lovely and pure and the next sixteen and a half hours are a mess.
I do not pray to become holy,
but simply this: to remember.
To be mindful of your goodness,
to remember that you are here,
to be present in the moment you grant me,
to look around me, to listen...
to remember. Amen.
From Unfolding Light by Steve Garnaas-Holmes, October 27, 2014.
Yours for the reign of God,