This Sunday marks the end of our summer sermon series "God's Grace in the Life of ____." I hope you have enjoyed this look back through the Old Testament as we have examined God’s grace in the lives of Jeremiah, Esther, Rahab, Daniel, Hannah, Joseph and Enoch. This week we get up close and personal as we consider God’s Grace in YOUR life. Where have you seen the hand of God working in your life, providing unmerited favor? Where is God working now? To what acts of faith is God calling you?
Our first Scripture reading for Sunday is Psalm 23: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long” (NRSV).
When I read this beloved psalm, I imagine the Good Shepherd caring for me even before I call out, even before I say a word. Yahweh is the shepherd that watches over the flock, over us. What strength can we gain from such knowledge? What difference does it make in our lives? I invite you to read Psalm 23 each day this week. Read it and then sit quietly meditating on the words. How does it speak to you? What words strike you as important to your faith journey? How does it speak of God’s grace?
Then take a few minutes to look at our reading from Hebrews 11:1-16 and 12:1-2. Chapter 11 is often called the Hall of Faith. If you read the entire chapter, you will certainly see why. Here the story of our ancestors is told through the lens of their faith. They believed in what they could not see, which is, of course, the very definition of faith. In the end, even those for whom things did not turn as expected on this side of eternity, still they looked toward the good that God had promised. They held tightly onto their faith in God who is greater than any human expectation.
The interplay of grace and faith continues. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NRSV).
God’s grace is evident throughout Scripture beginning in the beginning when God’s creation, Adam and Eve, reject God’s love and God’s plan for their lives. Yet God takes out a needle and thread and becomes God the Tailor, making clothes to hide their shame. God’s grace is woven in and out of Hebrew Scriptures and into the New Testament, which tells the story of Jesus and the redemption and hope he provides. The story lives on through Revelation that ends with words of hope: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.”
The story continues in the lives of each of us who have been called for kingdom service. As Presbyterians we believe that it is not just the Pastor or the Elders who “work” in the Body of Christ. It’s all of us and it’s all kinds of work. So, dear Saints of God, I hope you will be able to attend church this Sunday for the Blessing of the Hands. During our worship service, as a symbol of hands in service to Christ, there will be an opportunity (for those who choose) to receive an anointing of oil on their hands. The anointing will serve as a symbol of God’s grace poured out upon us, blessing us as we continue in service to Christ.
I hope to see you Sunday. Grace and Peace, Glenda.