Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Grace Upon Grace

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

God does great things beyond understanding, and marvelous things without number. - Job 9:10

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. - John 1:16

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 145:8-16; 2 Kings 18; Acts 5:17-40

I've always liked John's phrase, "grace upon grace." God piles on the undeserved blessings of love, beyond our understanding. We find one blessing, and think that's the end, and then, surprise! there's another.

There's another stark contrast today, in how Jerusalem is treated. In 2 Kings 18, the Assyrian king, probably the strongest political and military leader of the world at that time, sends messengers to threaten the king of Judah and the people of Jerusalem. What God can stand against us? Surrender or die! Safe to say, this is the opposite of grace. Boasting, might, arrogance, self-focused pride. And it can never last. Spoiler alert: by the end of the next chapter, the Assyrian king will be dead and gone, and Jerusalem will be safe from his threats.

On the other hand, in Acts 5, the power of God is shown in Jerusalem through a handful of ordinary people who faithfully proclaim Jesus as Lord and extend Jesus' compassion to people in all kinds of need. The authorities in Jerusalem are again shocked and afraid at this threat to their power! But this time, it's God who is coming to take over the city and the world, with the reign of the risen Jesus, a reign of peace and mercy and love, grace upon grace. The followers of Jesus are not warriors - and yet no power of the authorities can stop them. When imprisoned, the bars can't hold them. When called to testify, they go peacefully, glad for the opportunity to tell the story again. In this story, the spoiler is the next verse after today's reading ends, v.41: "They rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name."

What I take from all this is that power and honor always have to be considered by God's standards, not the world's. God chooses to come with humility, patience, mercy, gentleness, love, grace upon grace. And God finds ways, even where human eyes can see no way, for this reign to expand and be made known. As I think about the way we regard power and honor in the world today, in many different ways, I realize that I have a long way to go in being able to see and trust in God's grace for everything in all situations, even when there's risk of danger or dishonor by human standards. But as I seek to take a step or two forward on that long way of learning trust, I know enough to be confident that God will walk with me all the way, guiding, leading, teaching, forgiving, providing. That's just how God works, grace upon grace!
A few gifts of grace

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