The grace of God made known in Christ Jesus is central to my being. Grace is what makes Christianity unique and sets us apart from all other religions, and I am convinced that this is precisely what makes Christianity so difficult for the world to embrace. The grace of God contradicts human reason, which puts the self first, and challenges us to live generously and selflessly, even dangerously and vulnerably.
Yet this is how God is with us: outrageously generous. That’s how I describe the one who gives us the gift of life itself; who gives us the earth and all its beauties; who gives us friends, family, and neighbors with whom to share the essence of life; who gives us minds which are inquisitive and imaginative; who gives us hearts which are compassionate, being in the image of God.
In Jesus Christ we see the face of God. A face that is unquestionably approachable and compassionate, yet a face that is scandalous to the human eyes of political gain, personal power, and self-survival. It’s the scandal in Christ that drove us to attempt to silence him in death and persecution; yet it’s the love of Christ that rose victorious over all the pain and sin and evil in the world. Christ was willing and able to bear the pain of betrayal, mockery, and death, all for our sake, so that we would see clearly the face of grace – a grace beyond all human understanding, a grace that gives us the confidence to put aside human reason and live vulnerably in the love and community of Christ.
The sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism are visible signs of God’s grace – signs which are not visible apart from the community of believers. The power of communion is precisely that – remembering, believing, affirming, and celebrating together the reality of Christ. In the same way, Baptism gains its power and purpose in the nurture and support of the community of faith.
The gifts of life and grace are not meant to be private affairs. In fact, grace cannot exist but in relationship and community. From the beginning of time, God, who is the essence of relationship and community (three in one), created us to be living in relationship with God and with each other. The power of the Holy Spirit is always made manifest in our togetherness.
The depth of that holy togetherness transcends the here and now; we unite with the communion of saints both past and those yet to be. We come to know the Word of God (the nature, will and action of God) revealed to us in the Holy Scripture “as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.”
In community we are responsible to and for each other. We are the arms and legs of Christ offering compassion and care when needed, encouraging each other and challenging each other to be all that God intends. The Church is the community of Christ in its fullest form. The work of the church is to proclaim the Holy Reality of the Kingdom of God, working, hoping and praying that the Kingdom may come on earth as it is in heaven.