Faith United Methodist Church, January 2013
”Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 4:8-11
On September 4, 2012, Faith UMC’s Ministry Council met and adopted a new theme for 2013, “Act of Grace.” Thinking of FUMC’s ship image, it is interesting to note that one definition of the phrase “Act of Grace” is “A royal act that pardoned any pirate who promised to cease plundering.” Grace is the active presence and power of God in our lives. The word grace appears 170 times in the Bible and is used in a variety of ways throughout scripture reinforcing that grace is not so much an abstract quality that can be captured or defined as it is an active principle which is revealed in the ways we engage and interact with God and others in the world.
“Grace is central to our understanding of Christian faith and life. Grace can be defined as the love and mercy given to us by God because God wants us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it. We read in the Letter to the Ephesians: ‘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’ (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our United Methodist heritage is rooted in a deep and profound understanding of God’s grace. This incredible grace flows from God’s great love for us.” (http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.2310047/)
Henry Cloud and John Townsend write in their book How People Grow, “By definition, grace is something we can’t give ourselves. It comes from outside of us, as unmerited favor; we can’t do anything to obtain grace. And as we see in 1 Peter 4 part of the ‘outside’ God uses to dispense his grace is other people. As people use their gifts, they are ‘faithful stewards of’ God’s grace in its various forms.”
John of Ruysbroeck (spiritual writer who lived in the fourteenth century) wrote that “We experience God’s grace in the unity of our spirit rather than through the abilities of our minds or through the things we can perceive through our senses.” It’s not enough to just know about God’s grace (information/head knowledge). “To experience God’s grace, our hearts have to be connected to it. We can certainly connect to God ‘vertically’ through prayer, but to feel his grace completely we have to open our hearts to the full expression of it ‘horizontally’ through other people.”
1 Peter 4:10 calls us to be “… faithful stewards of God’s grace…” God made us stewards over the administration of his grace. We are called to use the gifts He has given us to be a vessel of love and grace in our world.Questions for Reflection and Sharing: – What do you think of when you hear the term, “God’s grace”? – How have you seen God’s grace working in your own life to help you do what you could never have done on your own? – How have you personally experienced God’s grace through others in the church?
Prayer Focus: Pray for the ministries of our church and our leaders as we begin 2013.
Prayer: Gracious God, you call us to be faithful stewards of Your grace. Help us to surrender ourselves to you so that we might follow you faithfully into this new year, this new season of ministry. Shape us, mold us, and use us to be your instruments of grace in the world. Melt us together into one by the power of the Holy Spirit so that everywhere we go and everything we do would be the best representation of your love and grace to others.A Prayer of John Wesley: “O that we may all receive of Christ’s fullness, grace upon grace; grace to pardon our sins, and subdue our iniquities; to justify our persons and to sanctify our souls; and to complete that holy change, that renewal of our hearts, whereby we may be transformed into that blessed image wherein thou didst create us.” Means of Grace Challenge: Bible Reading: Begin the New Year by committing to a daily Bible reading plan. (Check out Faith UMC’s literature rack or websites for suggested resources.) Act of Grace: Write a note of encouragement to someone in your congregation. Sources: Teachers as Spiritual Leaders and Theologians, GBOD 2010 Today’s Devotional Bible, Zondervan 2006 The Wesley Study Bible, Abingdon Press, 2009