The Love and Grace of God
Over the next several weeks, I will be fleshing out the Brief Statement of Faith of the PCUSA. It appears last in the PCUSA’s Book of Confessions, as it is the most recent. I hope my meditations will help you, dear reader grow in faith in God and deepen your walk with Christ. Even if you don’t consider yourself Presbyterian, I think they will help you. As always, it is my hope that my reflections will nourish you no matter what you are, even if you are of no faith.
Last week, I reflected on the first line, on how we belong to God.
This time I will look at the second part of the first section of the Brief Statement of Faith.
Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, we trust in the one triune God, the Holy One of Israel, whom alone we worship and serve.
This is describing the kind of God that we belong to. What does it mean to belong to this specific God? The Statement of Faith will go into more detail of who this one triune God is and what each person of the godhead means to the person who trusts in Him. We will develop our reflection as we go along, but for now let us look at the key words in this section.
Salvation comes by grace only, not as something earned. Salvation is an unearned gift from God through Jesus; God acts alone to save the sinner. The responsibility for salvation does not rest to any degree on our actions or belief, but comes from God freely through Jesus. Jesus died on the cross to reconcile all of creation to God. In the resurrection, God showed his love for all and the promise that death is not the end of the story that God will save all. Grace is a gift we must accept in order to be transformed in and through it. God gives, we respond.
Grace is powerful and life transforming. This is not anything we could ever do. On our own, we are not much, but with God, all things are possible. All our striving and doing and working will not gain us a single inch, but the moment and some may argue that even before we turn to God we have everything. God grants us what we could not earn free of charge with no strings attached. God loved us first. Even this turning, this act of faith is not what we do, but what God works in us. A person surrendered to God’s grace is humble, loving, and accepting. We are accepted and loved, so we accept and love others.
Living by grace is a deep trust in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ in our lives, knowing that we are a beloved child of God that God is present and at work in the world at all times. Trusting God is to stand in child-like awe and openness in the mysterious and gracious love and acceptance.
Love of God
Love starts with God and everyone who loves is a child of God. God showed his love among us. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another, to show love to everyone. It’s by our love that we are followers of Jesus. If we claim to love God, yet hate a brother or sister, we are a liar. Anyone who does not love brother and sister, who they see cannot love God, who is not seen. Anyone who loves God must also love brother and sister. (See 1John 4:7-12, 20-21)
God loves me as I am, but loves me way too much to leave me that way. He loves each of us powerfully personally. This transforming personal love is the heart and soul of the universe. I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it, not that I ever could. Sometimes, I am assaulted by the love of God. I will be walking down the street, browsing at the city library, writing my blogs, or talking with someone and this overwhelming sense of being loved by God will smack me between the eyes. Even in my most dark and depressive moments I feel loved. This presence of love is inescapable. Sometimes, I must stop and just revel in the goodness inherent in the universe. In these times the sure saving knowledge that the universe is conspiring for my good or to put it in more biblical language God is good and with God all things are possible.
The Lord’s Supper connects us to everyone in every part of the world, regardless of our denominational and personal theological beliefs. The implications this has for our life how we can and should live it out in real life. Communion lasts only a moment, but ripples out way beyond that single moment. We are celebrating today our unity with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ across the planet. Even if we can’t completely understand, what communion is all about, we can experience God’s empowering and unifying presence with and within us that binds and sustains our fellowship.
Our lives should reflect our coming to the Lord’s Table. Each of us should be a visible sermon that preaches Christ crucified. Each time we let go of past hurts and failures to embrace the hope and grace of the future we renew our commitment to Jesus. Each time we say yes to life risk being hurt, we enter more fully into the Kingdom of God in the messy beauty here-and-now. Each time we open ourselves to the love and grace of God and deny ourselves we more fully embrace the way of Jesus. As we participate in the remembering of Jesus, we acknowledge that Our Lord is different, our life is different, and our identity is found in and through the Kingdom of God. We are God’s people to be a blessing to the world.
I have not always embraced the concept of Trinity and still I don’t fully embrace it. Yet, I am open and eager to learn more and explore the various meanings and implications of the Triune God.
Let me sketch what some of those meanings and implications are.
A God whose love for us knows no bounds and who wants to share with us the Trinitarian life that is a great dance of unchained communion and intimacy, fired by a passionate, self-giving love and mutual delight. This life, the life that God calls us to in Christ is unique, good, and full of music, joy, blessedness, and peace. God’s love is the womb of the universe and of humanity within it. My trust in a God who loves, saves, and blesses is wrapped up in and can only be completed in and by the Trinity.
By embracing the Trinity, I see this God who is much bigger and too good to be true, but is the loving reality at the nexus of the universe that changes everything that blesses and saves. By embracing the Trinity and the transformative new work that Jesus launched and is still in motion today, I discover and become part of this mission to save and bless this world here and now that will stretch on into eternity. The Trinity is the path or at least part of my journey to become part of God’s revolutionary community of radicals who trust and proclaim that God is good.
Worship and Serve
Worship and Service are signs of God, the very embodiment of love expressing through us. We are given many occasions to worship and serve to experience love and joy. Worship is not just what we do Sunday morning, but what we do with our lives, time, and money. We need to help our needy brothers and sisters to find the love, joy, and hope we ourselves crave. We can offer our time, energy or money in worship. In any situation, especially in crisis we are to respond in and with love, to be Jesus to the world. Bad things will happen the key is to love in spite of it all. Hate and despair are realities, our role is to offer love, joy, and hope to a world that desperately needs it. We can extend love instead of hate, hope instead of despair, and joy instead of sadness. We can always do something to show the love and grace that has been lavished on us.
More can be said and needs to be said about these aspects of the Christian life. For now, I will leave you to contemplate what I have written. I hope my words are help that they both comfort and trouble you. We need to live our faith more and more; so many others will see the surpassing worth oft life with Christ.
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