Hurricane Homework

We may just be sitting for awhile without electricity, so here is your homework.  Use it if you’d like.  This Sunday may actually be a true sabbath – a day of rest, a day of making sacred, a day without pursuing, doing, or achieving. (Actually a pretty ingenious part of the plan on God’s part!)

Reading: Read the selection below on “Grace.”  (Print it out if you would like before Sunday due to possible power outages)

Questions: After reading, answer/ discuss the following questions.

  1. When you hear the word “graceful” who do you think of?  Who do you consider “grace-full?”
  2. How do you see “grace” connecting to empowered forms of “humility?”
  3. Where are you most prone to “cheap grace?”
  4. Where have you experienced or witnessed “true grace?”
  5. What does it take, for you, to move from one to the other, from “cheap grace” to “true grace?”

“Grace”: Cheap Grace vs. True Grace

Dietrich Bonhoeffer warned of “cheap grace”, a grace we bestow on ourselves.  This is where he believed many Christians had gone astray.  Faced with the cultural pressures to simply “get along” with the Nazi regime, a regime that was promising and delivering economic and political security, as well as scapegoats on which to focus the source of all problems, many not only gave into the Nazis but were actively complicit in the party’s rise, war, and the Holocaust.  Grace for many of these individuals became cheap grace with no cost attached, without a price.  Theology then becomes hollow.  One author spelled out this challenge, one which institutionalized faith faces often.  What occurs is that “We largely stop reading the Bible from the side of the poor and the oppressed. We read it from the side of the establishment and, I am sorry to say, from the priesthood, instead of from people hungry for justice and truth.”  Church then simply settles into a convenient game – one that asks nothing, and is used to add a religious patina justifying acts of oppression and violence.

What then of real grace?  Real grace is “true”, “free”, and comes with a cost.  The price is a willingness to give oneself to the process of life.  Restated, cheap grace is grace without the process.  Real grace is turning oneself over to the process. Bonhoeffer phrased that turning over to process out of which true grace grows this way….

“I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world. That, I think, is faith.”

The miracle growing is a blessing – a blessing in which we discover “the Lord’s presence and grace.” (Heavenly Secrets)  Bonhoeffer’s imagery is deeply profound – of living completely in this world, living unreservedly in life’s dues, problems, successes and failures.  That is not obviously giving oneself over to hedonistic pursuits, but something far more profound – giving oneself over to God.  That is living into Incarnation theology.  Think of this in light of what Bonhoeffer felt were some of the most profound teachings in Christianity – the Beatitudes.

    • Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    • Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
    • Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
    • Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
    • Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
    • Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
    • Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons and daughters of God.

Beautiful stuff!  And please note, the life we talk of with true grace is a life of real joy.  It is not dour.  This is a life of full engagement and deep purpose.  And we are fully engaged, fully present to life’s textures, involving ourselves in deep purpose, a place in turn where our joy will be full even in the midst of great suffering.

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