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A Little Grace

Message 1

“All you need sometimes is just a little grace... God's grace... and all our problems seem to go away… and it doesn't really matter how God does it. Are we simply to enjoy the benefits? Or question His ways? But because he said "my ways are not your ways", and that my friends, is what he is telling us, "I'm mysterious. Live with it." This quote is from “Keeping Mum” an unlikely comedy movie starred by Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean), playing as a district vicar, Reverend Goodfellow. He was preaching on God’s mysterious ways. The intention of the script was somehow misdirected. Grace was personified as excessive and including all that is good and collateral evil. Yet my attention was brought to the phrase how “a little grace” means in life. I wonder if this is not the crux of our global malfunctioning in this age.

The danger of our neglect of the importance of “a pause” like the reverend did to get a sudden awakening is to live in unending deadlines. He turned attention to his family, to his prime mission. If not it is likely that you just pass by all meaning. And the “little grace” necessary to give meaning to all life just slips.

Man’s life in this world has been a history of disappointing excesses and threatening calamities. A good deal of messages and signs were sent to us to elicit “a turn around” for good. Yet most hit into deaf ears. No matter how excellent technologically our generation advanced into, we still suffer the tragedies of hatred, degradation and manmade socio economic mishaps. All for lack of “a pause” and a “U turn”!

That is what Isaiah was constantly calling in his seemingly simple messages of “turn ye to me”.
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
       call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
       and the evil man his thoughts.
       Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him,
       and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
       neither are your ways my ways,"
       declares the LORD.
Isaiah 55:6-8
  God looks desperate to invite us towards himself. When the prophet is given audience in the Holy throne despite his sense of sin; when King Hezekiah was rewarded with fifteen more years: when the stem of Jessie was promised a branch of hope, when the suffering servant was to justify many; when repeatedly prophetic utterance of complete washing away of sin was made; and when the promise of a reign of peace was uttered it was God’s invitation for our turn around. He is giving us a beacon of hope which is available all because of the nature of God.

Mark you! “Seek the LORD while he may be found” rings throughout this book.  This is a key in understanding God’s message in the Bible. It sounds odd, is there a time when God is far? Does he withhold his mercy at other times? Looking at man’s history there seems to be times when the Bible says “the God who hides himself”. Is he then pulling himself out of the lives of men? Even looking at what Bible scholars call “Dark Ages”, the case for God’s withdrawal seems compelling.

But if we study the Bible closely, we end up rather with an ever present and intimate God. Though the passages of prophetic warnings fill the Old Testament, God is always frontline with His chosen.  

In all their distress he too was distressed,
       and the angel of his presence saved them.
       In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
       he lifted them up and carried them
       all the days of old.
Isaiah 63.9

Isn’t this the truth? It is rather that men tend to determine the degree of relationship with the Lord. We physically oriented men after the fall are inclined to perceive a pantheistic God who is quarantined into our actions. When we feel saintly, we perceive a nearer God and the reverse. This kind of outlook towards God is strange to the Bible. Impersonality is all that the Bible is not. It is not a book concerned with objectivism no matter how such kinds of books are acclaimed nowadays. It is all about life, living and relationships. And God relates as we read in the above verse.

It is Adam who left his position and not God after the former sinned. And this reality repeats itself in the drama of mankind. We sin and try to avoid the Lord and everything that is his. We tend to pacify ourselves by indulging into more and more. This in turn widens the self-created chasm between us and the Lord. Remember this chasm is in our perception. The welcoming father however is never an inch away from where he was.  Is it strange that he disciplines us? But his motive was always fatherly:

For this is what the high and lofty One says—
       he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
       "I live in a high and holy place,
       but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
       to revive the spirit of the lowly
       and to revive the heart of the contrite.
I will not accuse forever,
       nor will I always be angry,
       for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me—
       the breath of man that I have created.
I was enraged by his sinful greed;
       I punished him, and hid my face in anger,
       yet he kept on in his willful ways.
Isaiah 57:15-17

This is God’s recurrent initiative to search us and find us.

Now if his personal nature is not that we should fear him as to avoid him when is he near? For any practical reason, avoidance is the risk commonplace. But here the notion of nearness is the notion of probability. God is in effect saying come back “before it is too late” “before it is less likely”.

I tell many friends who say “Just pray for me, but as for me it is not the right time.” “If I am to come to the Lord’s house, I have to first straighten myself.” These are the defense mechanisms people entrench themselves to avoid the Lord. They don’t understand that they are in fact widening the chasm and narrow the likelihood of a turn around. And that is one of the gravest sins of unbelief – avoiding God! It is just saying “it’s good when I don’t remember God and everything his”!

Against all these the simple act of faith, i.e., returning to God wonderfully changes everything. It is this glimmer of hope that has been echoing from Mosses to the Apostles, the Blessed Hope that ushers Jesus Christ into our hearts. That is what smashes a mountain of fear and entrenchment. Isaiah declares it as a prophetic enigma “unto us a child is born” (9.6 KJV). Until it makes into our hearts, however, the hope has a tendency to be confused for a novel.

I believe it is not too late for those who are fed up with tragic dramas of life. Though even those busy with seemingly comedies of life have the chance to turn around, I think only time will tell. However, there must be a way to look at the beacon of hope, the child of Bethlehem who will soon re-appear as the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

Narrowly speaking, this message converges into that “little grace” so filled with resignation towards God. But it changes the course of one’s life like the Road to Damascus. Though it is a little resolve, it is as magnificent as the difference between with and without God.

My friends let this be said concerning your lives, as the tiny spark of life makes it way to your hearts:    
The people walking in darkness
       have seen a great light;
       on those living in the land of the shadow of death
       a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
       and increased their joy;
       they rejoice before you
       as people rejoice at the harvest,
       as men rejoice
       when dividing the plunder.
Isaiah 9:2-3
It is your response to the call of “little grace” that may amount to this glorious experience!