The theme that our Centennial Committee has selected for the month of June is “Grace.” If ever there was a topic broader or deeper, I don’t know what it is! For it is indeed the “amazing grace” of God that draws us together and that brings us into fellowship with Him in spite of our shortcomings and even rebelliousness. Every one of us needs the grace that God extends to us – and we need an echo of that grace from other human beings to reach over those moments when we all fall short of the mark.

The term “grace” has a variety of meanings, but they are all connected in some way. We might say that a dancer moves with “grace” meaning that her movements are smooth and flowing and beautiful, and not awkward or jolting. We say that a person is “gracious” when they extend themselves to us in hospitality or in overlooking a less-than-gracious action of our own. We say “grace” before a meal, because we are thanking God for the grace of the bounty we enjoy.

Ultimately, “grace” is about kindness and understanding even in moments when it is not earned or deserved. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he spells out the most dramatic example of grace: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus weaves a story of grace for us in the parable best known as the “Parable of the Prodigal Son.” In spite of the younger son’s poor judgment and ungracious behavior, his loving father waits patiently for him to come home so that he can be welcomed with grace and love. Indeed, theologian Helmut Thielicke insists that the traditional title of the parable has entirely the wrong emphasis: that we should refer to this as the “Parable of the Waiting Father.”

When we speak of grace, of course the hymn and story that most comes to mind is that of John Newton and his hymn Amazing Grace. It is a remarkable story, one I hope to put on film one of these days soon. It is a story of unearned and undeserved redemption, a slaver and one-time slave himself who found grace and ultimately became a crusader for the abolition of slavery. Our personal stories may not be as dramatic as Newton’s. Most of our stories would not make good movies. But if you have found the wonderful grace his hymn speaks of, your story is just as much a miracle as his, just as much a wonder of God’s patient love and gracious redemption.

- Pastor John