Over the past few Sundays, we’ve been looking closely at the concept of “grace.” The word in the New Testament is translated from the Greek word “charis” which means “gift, benefit, or favor.” We’ve defined grace as the free gift of God’s unconditional love and presence.
The author Philip Yancey tells about a time that he and his wife went to Rome. Following a friend’s advice, they walked to St. Peter’s basilica early in the morning. Yancey writes:
“Rome was just beginning to wake up… We were the only tourists; our footsteps on the marble floor echoed loudly in the basilica. We admired the Pieta, the altar, and the various monuments, then climbed an outside stairway to reach a balcony at the base of the huge dome designed by Michelangelo. Just then I noticed a line of two hundred people stretched across the square. “Perfect timing,” I said to my wife, thinking that they were tourists. They were not tourists, however, but a choir… They filed in, gathered in a semicircle directly beneath us, and began singing hymns. As their voices rose, reverberating around the dome and blending together in multi-part harmony, Michelangelo’s half-sphere became not just a work of architectural grandeur but a temple of celestial music. The sound set our cells vibrating. It took on substance, as if we could lean on it, or swim in it, as if the hymns and not the balcony were supporting us.”
Yancey’s story gives us a feel for the ethereal, surprising, and sometimes fleeting quality of grace, where God’s presence is suddenly revealed to us through nature, or insight, or the words or actions of others. It is like coming upon a spring or a lake in the desert, or like finding a $20 bill in an old jacket.
Grace is a gift because it is unearned, unexpected, and freely given. If we are to be “grace-ful” people we will offer love, strength, encouragement, and forgiveness in the same way. I hope you’ll join us throughout the month of March, as we discover how a deeper understanding of grace, will influence every aspect of our lives, our relationships with others, and our journey with God.