Sunday, October 18, 2009

Can You Say, "Means of Grace"?

A Go with God moment.

So, you know I’m a bit obsessed with keeping people close to Christ. Sorry, it’s one of my many flaws. And my other shortcoming is that if someone finds following Christ to be not-worth-the-effort, I sincerely want them to at least ponder staying with Him for just a while longer. And both groups can accomplish this by utilizing the same practice. But you might say, “Since these two groups of people (let’s call you either a faith-seeker or a faith-decliner) are traveling in such different directions, how can the same practice accomplish similar results?

How about an answer in narrative form? While I was in seminary I heard the most wonderful personal story from one of my professors. He was tenured (which means you have a job-for-life) but gave it up to go back into the local church to serve a struggling congregation just outside of Washington D.C. He preached faithfully and loved his people, but the church never seemed to grow. As a matter of fact, the move from a small city in Kentucky to the huge metropolitan area of D.C. actually created a series of almost insurmountable family catastrophes. Slowly but surely my friend/professor began to perceive Jesus differently. He was still real, but rather than powerful and active, He seemed distant and uncaring. My friend did not come to this realization overnight, but it was a slow and almost imperceptible change. Until one day, he decided there was no value in investing time in prayer; because nothing he prayed for came into being. God was there, He just did not seem to care about his family or the church he was serving.

This newly formed vision of the divine frightened my friend. He knew if he did not take some kind of action, his chilling relationship with the Lord may someday turn Ice Cold. He needed to put himself into a river that would give hope that a life of faith would return. He knew that the way to God was to practice what Wesleyan’s call the “Means of Grace.” The means of grace are simply those practices where God shows up in a tangible way with the participants. For him, prayer was the key means he would employ. Yet, he knew he did not have the personal faith to utter sacred vocabulary to reach the heavens. So, he simply rubbed his fingers across the text of the Psalms each day; reading aloud the same words that functioned as the prayer book of Israel and the hymnal of Jesus. He rubbed and recited the prayers of David until the ink began to fade from the page. He knew that walking away from the Lord was more frightening than striving with a silent Savior. So he waited, he rubbed, he prayed.

Friends, practicing the Means of Grace is simply working within the ocean currents of faith-seeking. It’s not demanding a sign or forcing a divine ultimatum. Rather, it’s being honest with oneself that I do not have all the answers or maybe I’m not even asking the right questions. So, I’ll wait like so many faith-seekers before me.

I’ll pray - even is its someone else’s prayers.

I’ll read scripture - even if today, it they seem like mere human words.

I’ll attend church - even if the singing is poor and the sermon is dry.

I’ll take Communion - even if the bread is flavorless and the wine tastes sour.

I’ll wait, for maybe in the midst of this means God’s grace will once again speak into my world.

Waiting on God is not passive, but an active endeavor. So, why not rub your fingers across the screen…Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip-- he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you-- the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm-- he will watch over your life;

the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

And what about my friend? He is indeed fully restored. He teaches once again, with a fully-orbed grace that is contagious. He is much deeper in character, more tender-in-heart, much quicker to laugh and tears up even in the midst of class. He is strikingly Christ-like. He is sold on the Means of Grace.

What about you? Any takers for the Means of Grace?

Please Lord,

We long to be like you…but are fearful of the process.

We are afraid of tarrying in silence…but know that the still small voice is hard to hear.

We know that the “fellowship of suffering” is Your call upon us…but we are taught to avoid pain. Teach us anew.

Grace us with the Means to become just like You.

Amen

Now, Go with God.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dave,

These are powerful words and advice.

Amen and Amen!

Chris Bounds

Jennie-Joy said...

Thanks for this, Dave.

Sometimes we have to be like Jacob- and just hold on until the sun rises and the blessing comes.

:) Looking forward to seeing you at IWU next month!