Gobsmacked By Grace
Our neighbor grew up in England, and whenever he is astonished or astounded by something, he uses “gobsmacked” to describe how he feels. That is how I feel about God’s grace. While I have been a Lutheran my whole life, the ten commandments, the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, holy baptism, confession, and communion had been more the focus of what I had remembered being taught than grace. All of these are covered in Luther’s Small Catechism. Somehow, I missed what he wrote about what the Ten Commandments mean. He said, “…God promises grace and every good thing to all those who keep these commandments.” And about baptism, “…. with the word of God, it is a baptism that is, a grace-filled water of life….” Then I enrolled in the East Central Synod Lay Ministry School. My “gobsmacking” soon began.
While my favorite “class” was Beer and Theology, (a question-and-answer session hosted by a professor, held at a local craft brewery); the session prior to that changed everything for me. Systematic Theology was the scary title of that class. It was the first night we read, “God reveals God by interacting with us in history, coming onto the scene in judgement and grace.” And then, “God is fully revealed in a person: Jesus Christ.” In Jesus, “the Word became flesh-the word who was in the beginning with God and who is God, through whom everything that exists was created.” (John 1:14) the professor then said, “So in other words, Jesus wasn’t Plan B.” As Jesus himself said in John 3:17; “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
There is an old quote by an unknown author that sums this all up:
“Justice is when you get what you deserve. Mercy is when you don’t get what you deserve. Grace is when you get what you don’t deserve.”
One of my favorite definitions of grace is found in Crazy Talk, A Not-So-Stuffy Dictionary of Theological Terms. It reads, “Grace - the free gift in which God gives everything – eternal life, forgiveness, purpose, meaning - to human beings, who respond by trying to earn it.”
The Apostle Paul describes it in my favorite Bible verse, Ephesians 3:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”
In our lay school class about the New Testament, we read in Baptized We Live Lutheranism As A Way Of Life, “…. that even our trusting in God is entirely the work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, even our faith is a gift. We are justified by grace through faith.” So, after we accept these gifts, we are empowered to change (repent) and use the gifts of the Holy Spirit, also gifted to us, to spread this Good News.
Still “gobsmacked” after all these years,