Trinity 3, 2019

The Epistle – 1 Peter 5:5-11

The Gospel – St. Luke 15:1-10

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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Commentator on today’s theme for this Sunday notes, “We are apt to speak and think of grace as a thing, whereas it is the attribute of a person, and its object must be a person.”[1]

 

He says we are apt to think of grace….when we hear the word grace, we think of it as a thing.  But it isn’t. Grace is not some-thing.

 

 

A popular definition of grace is, “unmerited favor.” Meaning that someone favors you but you haven’t earned it. You haven’t earned their favor, their positive disposition toward you.  They have been favorable to you or been gracious to you apart from you doing anything.

 

A joyous passage to hear comes from St. Paul in Romans 3:23–24

 

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, [24] and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…” (ESV)

 

All of us have sinned. All of us are sinners in need of saving. And Christ has redeemed us (saved us) as a gift.

 

He didn’t have to do it. He was gracious to us because He favored us or had love for us, despite us being very unlovable.

 

This is grace.

 

Here is a longer passage that says pretty much the same thing,

 

“Ephesians 2:4–9

 

“…God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—[6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [8] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (ESV)

 

This is grace.

 

Paul tells us here that God is so rich in mercy and kindness and love, that He sent Christ to save us. This is grace.

 

It is unmerited favor.

 

We were dead in trespasses and sins.
There is no merit there.

We were helpless. We were poor, blind and naked.

There is no merit there.

But, because God is gracious, He saved us.

 

Paul emphasizes over and over that this is a gift of God. We did not earn it.

 

Not one person ever did anything that would make God stop and say, “Now you have done something so extraordinary that I am now feeling obligated to do something in return.

 

All things come from God, even our ability to praise Him and do good works as a response to His grace. It is all of God and His grace.

 

Grace is an extension… of God’s love.  Love is said to be the eternal fountain and grace is the stream that flows from it.

 

When God is gracious toward us, and inclined by love toward us, that is when He is working for our good, showing us what He has done for us, guiding us by His Spirit. Leading us into a life of obedience and holiness.

 

It is interesting how it functions. We have a hard time speaking of it NOT as a thing.

 

In the famous and well-loved hymn Amazing Grace, we sing,

…through many dangers, toils and snares

I have already come.

‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far

And grace will lead me home.

 

But grace here is not a power per se.

Grace is the working of God favorably to accomplish something.

 

In the case of John Newton, he tells us how God was working in his life.

God’s grace operated in power, but by directing the events of his life so that he would eventually give up being a slave runner and become a Christian.

 

He lived, and we live today, though many dangers, toils and snares, but if we get through them and remain faithful, it is because God was gracious to us.

 

He guided and directed all events in our favor to accomplish a certain end.

 

A few examples from our own Prayer Book liturgy and then we will get into the texts for today.

 

In the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church grace is mentioned down when we pray, “Give grace O heavenly Father, to all Bishops and other Ministers….why? 

or how?...that they may, both by their life and doctrine set forth God’s true and lively word and rightly and duly administer His Holy Sacraments.”

 

When the ministers of God are doing what they should be doing, it is by God’s grace, acting in them by His Holy inspiring Spirit to carry out their functions as they should.

 

After communion we prayer the Prayer of Thanksgiving. There we ask God to “…assist us with thy grace….so that what can happen?... “that we may continue in that holy fellowship… and do all such good works as He has prepared ahead of time for us to walk in.

 

 

 

So, if we are walking in good works. If we are continuing in fellowship with one another…it is because God’s grace is operating in us and through us.

 

It is not a thing.

It is not a stuff.

Grace is God doing for us and directing all things for us, without us meriting it or deserving it.

 

This is why Paul says it’s a gift. If salvation were given to us for something we have done, then it is no longer a gift. It is no longer of grace.

 

So, today, Peter in the latter part of this section we heard, calls God the “God of grace.”

 

And one might think, well yes, God is a God of grace. But what does Peter say that leads up to this?

 

Imperatives. Things that are required of us. Doable only by God’s grace, but still required of us.

 

He says…

Clothe yourselves with humility.

Cast all your anxieties on God.

Be sober-minded. Be watchful.

Resist the devil.

Stand firm in your faith.

 

Not things to do to earn merit, but things we do because God has been gracious to us.

 

 

 

After all of this difficulty that Peter talks about us going through, he says, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

 

God, because of His grace, allows us to go through all kinds of trials and turmoil. But we get through trials and turmoil because of His grace.

 

His grace supplies the strength. But again, grace is not a stuff or a power or a thing. Grace is an attribute and attitude of God directed toward us.

 

All of these things Peter reminded his readers of that they were well aware of and were going through was because God shows His grace through them.

All of God’s actions it seems here are an expression of His grace…worked out in carrying us through trials, temptations and turmoil.

 

It sounds like a stuff or a thing when we read passages like,

“By the grace of God, I am what I am.”

“Receive not the grace of God in vain.”

“God gives grace to the humble.”

 

So, grace is sufficient.

Grace makes us what we are.

Grace is given.

And, grace is received.

 

But these are all the result of the outworking of God.

And what else but Grace do we learn of here in the Gospel for today?

 

Jesus offers two back-to-back parables on grace.

 

The tax collectors are all coming to Jesus for they are drawn by His message, His compassion, His miracles.

 

The Pharisees and Scribes…the ones who supposedly know God’s Law, and how to live by it, are grumbling, resenting and hostile to Jesus.

 

Jesus sees this. He sees the envy and disgust that the Pharisees are showing toward those they look down on ….and Jesus is receiving.

 

So, Jesus tells them how they are wrong and how the Kingdom of God’s grace works.

 

 

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? [5] And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. [6] And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ [7] Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

 

The grace of God in action in the pursuit of lost sinners. This is analogous of Jesus’ pursuit of us, finding us. Risking danger….in His case the danger of the hatred of the people and the wood and nails of the cross, all to rescue lost sinners.

 

He offers a second shorter parable with the same meaning and the same result.

 

“What woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? [9] And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ [10] Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

 

Commentator – “As God is love, so Christ is grace, or love manifested to men.”

 

Like the fountain and the streams that flow from it, God emanates love and Christ is that emanation.  Christ is the grace of God personified.

 

Speaking of those sinners who were drawn to Christ, Scott says, “They drew near to Him because they were drawn by Him, finding in Him one whom they understood and Who understood them. He spoke lovingly of love. He offered them what their spirits needed, pardon, restoration, and holiness.

We can have no better definition of grace than “that in God which receives sinners.”

 

That in God which receives sinners. That aspect?...that disposition? …that which God possesses and is by nature…love…. is how and why He receives sinners…like you and me… because of His grace…or by His grace.

 

These two parables tell us a lot about God’s grace toward us.

 

They tell us of how God knows us each individually. One sheep in 100 strays and is lost and yet He seeks that sheep out and makes sure it is returned to the flock.

 

One coin is lost, and the house is turned upside down to find it. And when both sheep and coin is found there is joy in heaven over that one thing that is found.

 

As mentioned earlier, grace is unconditional. There are no strings attached, one might say.

 

The sheep does nothing toward the shepherd. He wanders off.

The coin is inanimate and just lies there hidden waiting, but not asking to be found. Not even knowing it is lost, since it has no concept of it.

 

 

Commentator - “That which inspires grace is not human merit, but human need.”

 

Both parables tell us that man cannot return on his own power. He must be found. He must be sought out and found and brought home.

 

And there is even a perseverance in God’s grace. Notice in both parables, Jesus says, “until He finds it” …speaking of the lost sheep… and “until she finds it” …speaking of the lost coin.

 

In both cases, since the parables are one….in both cases, here is God’s grace in action. God seeks out lost sinners until He finds them.

 

He doesn’t look and then give up.

He is assigned these human attributes to make a point…to help us understand.  The man and the woman in these parables both signify God.

 

Both search diligently and both find what they sought out. God does the same. Each of us here is a Christian because God has sought us out.

 

Many if not most of us were baptized as infants and this makes His seeking even more real, as, when we are children or even infants we cannot seek for God.

 

Baptism is God saving sinners before they can even have a thought of saving themselves…something we conjure up and try to work out as we get older.  

 

 

As we grow in age and grow in grace, that path of life becomes more… one in which we are to grow into… and less and less one that our parents worked to keep us in.

 

It becomes one that we must then take a hold of ourselves and by God’s grace follow in and remain in.

 

But behind it all, as we can see here in this short time, we can see that all that happens in our lives is a work of God’s grace.

 

Common grace to all living. Special grace to us who are Christians, called out and separated out to live under the fountain of God’s love and in the streams of His grace.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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[1] Excerpt From: Melville Scott. “The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels.” Apple Books.