Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Given this Beauty,
Grace or Law,
For which do you think God created the universe?
For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, so that I may not cut you off.
2 Timothy 1:9
God saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.
Words of Grace For Today
It is a marvellous thing that God does for us, saving us and calling us (as God’s children) to a holy calling.
God does this for us.
We do not earn it, or deserve it. We can take no credit for it, not in the least.
With Jesus’ life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension we encounter God in a new way; yet God did not change to meet us in this new way, living the life of a human being. Indeed God’s Grace made so clear in Jesus’ story, was God’s Grace for us since the beginning of creation.
Why does God do this for us?
God does this because God chooses to do this; God defers God’s anger, restrains it toward us, so that we and the whole creation can sing God’s praise. Dead people do not sing. People who receive Grace have every reason to sing and sing at every opportunity!
Pastor Erin from Trinity Edmonton preached a sermon 15 November 2020 on Jesus’ parable of the talents given to three servants, and the condemnation of the servant who hid his talent in the ground, instead of investing it. Her point was that the traditional interpretation of this as a parable about ‘investing’ our gifts in order to return even more to God is wrong. Instead it is a parable about denouncing the greed and avarice of the owner that demands unfair use be made of millions given to the servants. The owner’s condemnation of the servant who ‘plants’ his owner’s talents in the ground is all wrong; in fact that servant rightly refused to participate in the avarice of using wealth against others to multiply one’s wealth. But Pastor Erin insisted, since the parable was told by Jesus long before capitalism it was not a parable against capitalism. She said the point of the parable was: we need to subvert systems that take advantage of poor people. We must tear down these systems and replace them with ways of being equitable and fair to all people.
Which is interesting if poorly stated. What’s missing is that as Lutherans we proclaim that we are saved by GRACE, and Grace alone. We are not save by what we do, or how we think rightly, or how we subvert unjust systems … nor MUST we do anything. Trouble is so many pastors are ready to ‘tell us’ what we ‘must do, think or believe.’
Worst of all, what Erin and others preach is simply another form of telling us what we must do in order to please Jesus and God and thereby earn God’s favour. It is a futile exercise in the ‘power’ of the office of ministry entrusted to a pastor. This is all Law, in the most destructive, subversive way: debunk traditional interpretation of scripture and then point to what Jesus ‘said’ with a parable (interpreted through one’s own eyes/history/perspective/drive/hates/self-chosen-life-purposes) we must do as Christians, so that people will make changes to the perverse and evil world order that we live under.
God, fortunately, does not wait for us to subvert unjust systems, as just as those actions may be; God acts first, not by overpowering or undercutting or destroying unjust systems and the people who support them and benefit from them. God acts by graciously forgiving, renewing and guiding us, all of us.
Therefore we are free to think differently about unjust systems, and in thinking differently we change how we interact with them; which forces the systems to change in response to us.
Jesus tells parables in such a way as to shock his listeners into imagining that something can be different, that God enables us to be different, that God enables us to be God’s Grace for all people. (That’s what any good sermon has at it’s core.)
God gives us ‘talents’ (i.e. gifts of a great variety) in an overabundant quantity and quality. Like money, we get opportunities to ‘invest’ our gifts in God’s kingdom. Our investing in God’s Kingdom (unlike investing in the unjust money systems humans always have had, which Jesus slams in his parable) reaps great increases in our gifts, of which we are only stewards All we are, have and can believe, think and do belongs to God. We ‘have’ it all only by Grace.
Wasting Grace by reducing life to what we must do, whether that is to believe the right things, to maintain a particular piety, or to work in whatever ways to subvert injustices, is a waste of the Grace given to us; it is like burying a great treasure in the ground, instead of using it to do God’s work in this world.
Why does God do anything for us? Why does God chose to exercise Grace for us?
Because God so chooses.
How can we respond?
By giving God thanks and praise!
Once we do that whole-heartedly, then God can use us in new ways to share God’s way of being, to share God’s Grace for everyone with everyone.
Why us? Because God so chooses! Despite our deserving only God’s anger.
Thanks be to God.
Now let us get on with giving God thanks and praise, by sharing Grace with all the people we meet … even if our pastor has forgotten the beginning and end of God’s Word is always GRACE.