You can get used to the idea of grace. It’s God’s undeserved love. It’s getting a gift you never earned and could never repay. And I pray you hear it every week in church. After all, that’s the center of the Christian message: While we were still sinners, Christ Jesus died for us. And it’s nice, but… our sinful natures reduce the reality of grace to the idea of grace.
You can get used to the idea of grace. But the reality of grace always, always overwhelms.
I had a pastor’s car. It was… not in the best shape. Old by most measures of cars, the sedan had seen better days. In fact, the driver’s window had been replaced by plastic sheeting, so it was obvious just looking at it that it was not in the best shape. I didn’t mind so much. Retaping the plastic every week or two was a pain, but not the end of the world.
A member said he’d work on it; I accepted his offer. He came. Took the door panel off to see what he could see. Told me it was more complex than he could handle; he’d have to come back next week.
Not a problem. I’m pretty patient with these types of things.
And then… then God laughed.
I have a member here. She’s ninety-seven years old. She decided that maybe she should stop driving. And she… she gave me her car.
And this isn’t junk for Jesus. She bought it new off the lot in 2003. She drove it to church and the grocery store. Once she drove it to Wisconsin, she confessed to me with a guilty look. The thing has fifty-six thousand miles on it.
This is a car literally only driven by a little old lady to church on Sundays.
And now… she gave it to me.
Excuse me a moment.
What the hell? You don’t just give away vehicles. I blue booked this – it’s worth a fair amount yet! And sure, I wouldn’t balk at a deal, to pay less than value, but she wanted to make it a gift. And when I say thank you, she waves it away and says she’s happy to give it.
I can’t. What? How does? This doesn’t. I can’t. What?
And here in my driveway sits a new-to-me car. It’s in pristine condition. She had it taken to the dealership to make sure everything was in tip-top condition before handing it over.
And I have done nothing. Nothing. Nada. I don’t deserve this. I haven’t earned it in any way. I have not cared for her in any amazing way. I’ve visited her, sure, but that’s part of what I’m supposed to do. It’s not going above and beyond the call of duty – it’s the call of duty, period. The minimum!
And when I see the car sitting there… what do I do? This is a gift! It’s not just a gift. It is a lavish outpouring of generosity I cannot fully comprehend, and yet here it is.
I can’t type the nonsense syllables emanating from my wordhole right now.
And this is grace. No, it is not God’s grace, but it is grace nonetheless. It is love undeserved. It is generosity overflowing to someone who has never earned it. And my response… this is the human response to the reality of grace.
And if this is how I respond to a car – such an amazing gift, but something I could earn with enough hours put in – if this is how I respond to such a gift here… how could I respond any less to the cross?
I have not earned Christ’s favor. I stand in awe, like Paul in Romans 11: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”
I stand in awe. Once more, the nonsense syllables emanating from my wordhole cannot hold my vast wonder at God’s mercy on a sinner like me. If a car makes it so I can’t even, with God’s grace… how can I anything?
And here, a human kindness, a human generosity, shows me a picture of my marvelous Jesus. Here, the reality of grace takes me and holds me down and shows me that Christ is no simple god to pin down and hold in my brain, but he is a God who bursts anything I could possibly consider. He overwhelms me to the point that I can only stand in silence, for he is God. I am not.
I want to stand in the idea of grace no longer. No. I want to savor the reality of grace, to be this overwhelmed forever, to praise the Lamb as I stand before the Throne. To him be glory forever and ever!