We watch the heroics of the reticent Moses as he is called and sent, speaks truth to power and leads his people to safety. His faith leads him forward and God gives him wisdom and guidance, even with the pillar of smoke and flame to show the way. In this story, we see a God who loves and cares for the people who are being trod upon, leading them through the impossible to a better life. We also see the God who washes away the oppressor, those who uphold the law of the powerful.
In order to overcome our shortcomings, we must love. In order to attract a new generation of Jesus disciples to transform the world, we must love. In order to bring the church’s message of grace to a hurting people, we must love. In order to overcome the hatred that has become so divisive in our land, we must love. In order to bring light into the darkness of our times, we must love.
So I want to ask another pointed question: If you are holding anger or hate, what is the pain that is hidden underneath? What pain is keeping you from being loving toward your neighbor or toward someone who disagrees with you?
Today we talk about Sanctifying Grace, this is the grace that forms us, teaches us, and shapes us over our lifetimes and helps us heal from the brokenness that we’ve experienced simply by living in a painful world.
Today we are talking about the second part of Grace, as Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, taught. Justifying Grace is the experience of being forgiven and adopted into God’s family.
Prevenient Grace definition: "It is divine grace that precedes human decision." God starts showing love to us before we are ever aware of our connection to God. We could also call it "preceding grace" because it precedes anything we have ever done to "earn" grace, salvation, or liberation.
Just like God’s hug for us through one of our community angels, God’s love for us in these rituals offers us an opportunity to experience God through all of our senses. We see God in the elements, we hear God in the words of institution and the sounds of pouring water and tearing bread, we taste and smell God in the taking of communion and feel God’s kiss upon our skin in the waters of baptism.
We are to, everyday, every moment if we can, show to the world a new way of being. One where love is more powerful than drones or protocols. Where compassion holds more sway than polls or pontificating. Where a hug holds more hope than a catchy campaign slogan. And where the grace of the Holy One is more compelling than the propaganda of the Empire.
"Going on to perfection" doesn't mean that we don't make mistakes, it means we are learning to love perfectly as God loves us. It means that when we make mistakes we apologize, seek forgiveness, and try to make up for our errors. It means that we learn to allow God to love others through us even, and especially, when we are having a hard time being in the same room, or - let's be honest - on the same planet, as the other person.
Perhaps you, like me, carry a sadness through this season of holiday bling and charming carols. Maybe you feel the weight of a forgiveness withheld from an estranged family member or old friend. Or you hold a grief, old or new, that leaves you raw each time you experience a nostalgic moment of Christmas. Maybe you are simply missing someone who lives far away and wish that they could be safely home again. Whose voice do you wish you could hear just once more this Christmas? Do not be afraid; for see--I am bringing you good news of great joy…