Joan and I went to Jefferson, Texas this week for a few days. Right now we are still on shabbat shalom in East Texas, with our daughter and her family but on our way home soon. Joan and I picked out a devotional book to read and have found much comfort in reading this little book on Grace and then some passages from HolyWrit, as well. We have prayed a few times each day, asking God for helps in the rigorous days ahead.
I have tried to find wi-fi each day to keep up the story of Otis and his post-conversion adventures. His doctrine is mostly grace and he is a gracious man, as we all remember. His grace is hard grace, though, very hard grace.
What is hard grace? Preachers, you can make a sermon of this. Some of you need one for Sunday. I will not proof text it for you. Godspeed you.
- Hard grace is culturally unacceptable. Prophets deliver words of hard grace. That is why the prophet is accorded the highest spot among the lists of callings. Preacher and pastors, elders and deacons are good and needed but they are usually more accommodating. In need of affirmation themselves they generally mix with groupings of persons whom they can affirm and who will affirm them in return. Preachers can combine to change cultures but they do not often make initial changes. Their grace is not hard enough to change the durable sin. How can you know which you are, preacher or prophet, or whom you follow, preacher or prophet? If the message you hear rankles you, if it is troublesome, if it is unacceptable in your culture, then you hear a prophet(ess). If you do the first thing that comes to heart when you hear the words of a prophetess you will be ahead of your time. History will be kind to you but time will not. Bonhoeffer was a prophet, King was a prophet. They both died violently in middle age; each of them was a preacher worth killing. Each of them did his best writing in jail.
- Hard grace is intolerant of intolerance. Tolerance is a wonderful virtue but few are converted by it, or even to it. If all things are good, or even acceptable, then the logical conclusion must be the Holocaust was acceptable and the Cross was a bit extreme. Which do you believe? Abolitionists were intolerant of the racial intolerance of their day. Slaves who were slaves then might not have been comforted by the notion that slavery would die a natural death in about a hundred years or so. A century is the life time of a slave, her children and her children’s children. All would die waiting for slavery to become intolerable to enough masters that slavery would end. Washington, Jefferson and Clay, even Francis Marion, were said to hate slavery, but they all owned slaves to the day they died. Grace would not tolerate slavery if masters paid attention to grace. Grace is hard, intolerant and judgmental. Grace, by comparison or contrast, harshly judges harsh judgement. Hard grace is intolerant of intolerance.
- Hard grace will see you through life and into death. This is the strangest thing about grace I know. After forty five years of pastorate, I have watched a lot of people die. People who know hard grace, really know it, really have the experience of grace current with them, these people seem to die well. Grace comforts them, somehow, and they worship God quite into their death. Hard grace seems to open a door of light, to light, through which the light flows and the dying sinner steps. There is grace for saving, grace for living, grace that will not tolerate the intolerable custom and there is grace for dying well.
- Hard grace is just an expression. In fact, various denominations that put words, adjectives, in front of the noun grace, just try, good heartedly, to describe what grace does for them. I have mentioned saving grace, living grace, intolerant grace, even dying grace. I have seen all these graces. Each adjectival grace is yet another simple emanation from the Source of Grace, who is God Almighty. When you heart that someone suffers and the sneerer asks you where is your God in suffering, you just have experienced deep, abiding grace (more modifiers!) to be able to exonerate God. In truth, there is no soft or hard grace, or saving or dying or anything other than the universal, all present Power of God to love. Xaris, Xaris, Xaris; the sorrowful father looks for the remorseful son to come home every day.
- Grace is subjective, relative and personal. Grace exists quite apart from you, emanates from God, but is powerful only as we experience and share it. Anything that only works as we live of it is subjective, relative and personal. Grace is providential, in that it forms us to God’s shape but it can only take what we offer it. Beware of grace, for it is good but it will not easily let you go.
- Grace passage sin the Bible are particularly devoid of the word grace. They describe, that is, rather than announce or explain, only. For instance, there is, “For when we were without strength, yet, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly.” In this one verse you are called an ungodly weakling, dependent upon God. Weakling, ungodly, without strength and in need of a dying prophet’s dying. This is grace, hard or soft, saving or dying. You need it, we need it, I need it, she and he, we, you and they; Red, Yellow, Black, White, Mulatto, all need God’s grace. There is no difference. Spiritually we are a race of weaklings. We have proven it over and over again.
So, make a sermon of that bit. Be a prophet, join me in unemployment.
Otis will move shortly over to the Story Place portion Since you like stories, I will give you some more over there.
Monday I will have a bit of a surgical thing. It is no big deal and I am not sure I will even do it.