Week 4, Day 3: Grace
READ: PSALM 23
The year before he passed away, I had the privilege of meeting a very frail Gordon Cosby. In case you’re wondering who that is, his obituary in the Washington Post in 2013 begins:
The Rev. Gordon Cosby spent much of his 95 years bucking mainstream Christianity, first by welcoming women, people of color and the poor as leaders and then by creating a hugely influential church with no actual physical church, no denomination and very few people.
In the 1940s, Gordon, his wife Mary, and a few others started Church of the Saviour in Adams Morgan, one of the first interracial churches in Washington, DC. When the church grew to over a hundred people, Cosby would see it as a sign that a new mission group was ready to be formed.
Over time, several dozen groups were founded, including many that serve in our city today: Jubilee Housing, Jubilee Jobs, Potter’s House, Christ House, and Samaritan Inns. Cosby’s faith was vibrant and active; it was at the same time both deeply personal and deeply social. And I love the way he describes the welcome of God, with an excitement and enthusiasm I saw even in his final years:
When we hear the invitation to claim our membership in God’s family, it’s like we’ve stumbled onto a Grace Party. We can hardly believe our good fortune. The sights and sounds of it are pure delight. Abundance characterizes the whole shindig. The most delectable manna is falling everywhere, and wine flows as though from an Artesian well. Everyone is eating and drinking endlessly yet not being harmed because this food and wine are not of the world but New Life.
And get this: everyone’s invited! That’s the really good news. No one has to crash this party, and there’s no limit to how many of my friends I can bring along with me. Or my enemies, for that matter. It’s such a blast that I want everyone to come — those with wealth or not a penny to their name, those who are down and out or who thought they had some power. I do notice, though, that the so-called ‘nobodies’ seem to be having the most fun. It takes the others awhile to lay down everything they brought with them and start to play. ...
This is simply the nature of a Grace Party. None of us is here because we deserve to be. We haven’t earned any of it. And although some of us might keep turning down the invitation, the host will never stop inviting. And neither will we who have decided to stay. We’ll be spreading the news of this unbelievable feast everywhere we go. Come to the party! It won’t be the same if you’re not there.
We were made to live by grace.
For Christians, grace is most commonly understood as unmerited favor, particularly in the gift of Jesus Christ for our salvation and redemption. Perhaps the most famous hymn of all time highlights that truth: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” Salvation most certainly is grace, but when we treat grace as a one-time thing, we shortchange God and miss out on the rest of the gospel. Grace is much, much more: grace is God’s activity in our lives, accomplishing what we couldn’t do on our own. God designed us to live by grace every moment of our lives.
The apostle Paul began his letter to the Roman church with “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Romans 1:7) and closed it by saying “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (Romans 16:20). In fact, many of his letters were bookended with grace. For Paul, and Christians throughout the centuries, grace is the foundation not only for the salvation we received but also the life we are invited into. Author Richard Foster describes it this way:
In the terrain of life with God, grace is not a ticket to heaven, but the earth under our feet on the road with Christ. It grounds us in reality and guides us along the path of discipleship. Grace saves us from life without God — even more, it empowers us for life with God. … Saving grace is how we begin inhaling the breath of God — after that we continue breathing deeply and intentionally, taking in great lungfuls of sustaining grace like a 747 jumbo jet consuming fuel on takeoff.
Grace changes everything.
It transforms the ways by which we look at life and the world. Just as we are called not only to accept Jesus as our Savior but submit our lives to him as Lord, we are called to live by grace — from the moment we become aware of God’s favor until the moment we are called home to be with him fully.
What would it look like for you to live in the knowledge that God is already at work in your life and in the world, and will accomplish through you what you could not do on your own? Would it make you more open-handed, less anxious, more at peace, less dis-eased, knowing that God has got you in the palm of his hand?
Grace — and the generous, trustworthy God who gives grace so freely — is at the heart of Psalm 23. It speaks of the provision of God, the protection of God, the providence of God; and of the safety and security we find in him. This is not to say that we will not face difficulties or trials — the psalmist still talks about “the darkest valley” — but that in spite of it all, the good God watches over our souls and our lives, and will work his good through us.
REFLECT & RESPOND
Head: How does grace fit into your life? For example, do you see grace only as “amazing grace,” the thing that saved you, or is there more to it than that?
Heart: How do you feel about the idea of grace — that God makes available to you everything you need to live life fully with him?
Hands: In what ways can you more fully live by grace? Take a picture of something that reminds you of God’s grace.
Ask God to help you live more fully by grace. Meditate on the word ‘grace,’ and write down what God puts on your heart.