Let’s Focus On Grace 7-8-24

You can listen to this reflection here. Sunday’s epistle reading is here

Murder. Beheadings. Corrupt despots. Politicians partying with underage femmes fatale. We get plenty of this in the news; must we deal with it in the pages of our Holy Scriptures? Well – yes, there’s plenty of all that in the Bible, which, after all, chronicles the movement of God in human life, and often reminds us how desperately humankind needs that gift. One of the least appealing stories of all comes up in this Sunday’s gospel: the story of how King Herod came to have John the Baptist beheaded. We can no doubt learn something from this sordid tale, but I have no wish to spend our week on it.

Happily, Sunday’s readings also include one of my top ten Bible hits – the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. This letter contains some of the most beautiful, lyrical passages in the New Testament; I actually memorized the first three chapters as a Lenten discipline one year. Paul is so effusive in his praise of God and so passionate in his prayer for this community he has heard about. Here’s how it starts:  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

Just pick out the verbs in that paragraph: blessed, chosen, destined, bestowed. In each case, God is the actor and we are the receivers – we are those blessed with every spiritual blessing happening right now in the heavenly places; we are those chosen before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before God in love. That one sentence binds up our deepest past and our farthest future – and it’s all right now, already happening, on earth as it is in heaven.

Paul writes that God destined us for adoption as God’s children through Christ – which is great for us, but also, it appears, somehow adds to the praise of God’s grace freely given us in the Beloved, Christ. Imagine: when we receive God’s grace, it further praises the giver of that very gift. So when we refuse the gift of grace, when we try to make ourselves righteous, when we shun God’s forgiving mercy and insist on punishing ourselves, when we stubbornly cling to our guilt and self-sufficiency and illusions of control… God is less praised. Who’d have thought that not taking an offered gift could have such cosmic effects?

A few weeks ago, I got to spend time with much of my wonderful human family, in which I am birth-daughter, sister, aunt. I have also been adopted into the eternal and worldwide family of God, which has made me daughter, sister, mother to so many beautiful souls, chosen with me before the foundations of the world to be holy and blameless before God in love. What an incomparable gift for me to take in the immeasurable love in which I was made and in which I live, and to pray this prayer for you as well. Thanks be to God!

© Kate Heichler, 2024. To receive Water Daily by email each morning, subscribe hereHere are the bible readings for next Sunday. Water Daily is also a podcast – subscribe to it here on Apple, Spotify or your favorite podcast platform.

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