Summary: PENTECOST 17, YEAR A - It’s one thing to receive God’s grace, it’s another thing to offer God’s grace. Grace can be difficult at times.
Life is filled with all kinds of people! Some good and some bad. Have you ever known a person that you find difficult to be around? Perhaps a family member, or a co-worker or someone here at church. Justin K. Fisher tells the story of his great aunt Grace. who didn’t quite live up to her name. He hated when she came to visit his family because she would always end up fighting with his grandmother like "cats and dogs". To make matters worse, for a strict Methodist family, Aunt Grace was considered to be a big sinner. She had been divorced, drank an occasional beer, smoked and cussed. As his grandmother used to say when Aunt Grace’s visit had mercifully come to an end, "Grace can be difficult at times." It can be, you know. Grace can be a difficult gift to give and receive. I’ll bet the disciples thought so too the first time they heard Jesus tell them the parable of the laborers. Jesus tells them a rediculous story about a man who has a job, and then pays everyone a flat rate. Those who work hard all day, get their reward. But then those who worked less get the same reward. And at the end the owner asks the inane question, “Are you jealous of my generosity?”
“Well….yes", I want to answer truth be told. I am a bit jealous of such generousity, because for the life of me it smacks of being unfair." What about that puritan work ethic thing, what about seniority, what about our “just due”. Heh! What about me! This story flies in the face of everything I have been taught. But then it is not a story about what I have been taught. It’s a story about grace. And, to quote Justin Fisher’s grandmother, "Grace can be difficult at times…" Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind it when God is generous with me. When he’s extra generous with loving me in spite of my shortcomings, then I’m all for grace. I love it when God plants a big surprise in my life that eases my heavy burdens or rewards me unexpectedly with a gift that came out of nowhere! I especially love it when God smoothes over a disaster and I didn’t even see coming. And ...... I don’t even mind it when God is generous to you, too, as long as he doesn’t overdo it, of course. After all -- fair is fair. But what bothers me about God’s grace, is when I sense that God has been more gracious to you than he has to me. And, especially when I sense that God expects me to be as generous as He is, especially towards those I don’t feel deserve it. Oh! Grace can be difficult at times.
You know what I am talking about, don’t you. It can be difficult to understand that God loves the pregnant high school girl, as much as he loves the morally, upstanding girl who’s never gotten into trouble. It can be difficult to understand that God is as concerned about the neighbor who never goes to church as he is about those who never miss a Sunday. It can be difficult to understand that God loves the Muslim terrorist as much as he loves the people they murdered. Yes!!!!! grace can be difficult at times. In fact it is, as Paul said, scandalous! So are you mad yet thinking about it? Are you steaming? over such indiscrimate mercy, such foolhardy kindness? It would only be natural if this blatant generosity got under your skin, it certainly got under the disciple’s. But in response to their grumbling Jesus had the audacity to ask, "Friend, I am doing you no wrong, Do you begrudge my generosity?”
So tell me, how would you feel if you knew that God had chosen to forgive Ben Ladan, or Hitler, or Attila the Hun, or ....... YOU? Yet that is the way grace. Grace remembers Jack the Ripper and Charles Manson, Adolf Hitler and Osama Bin Laden. God loves them just as deeply as He loves you and I. Yes, grace can be difficult. But then, grace really doesn’t make any sense until it is poured into our lives. Grace reminds us that our salvation is not something earned but something freely given. Grace assures us that there is nowhere we can stray from God’s love or concern. Grace is, after all, grace. From the hand of God we get what we get, not what we deserve. And for that reason alone, we should be forever grateful. The wages of our sins is death, but through faith in Christ we have been forgiven. Not because we deserve forgiveness, but simply because God has chosen to offer us forgiveness. Yes! Grace, that unmerited favor, that divine pardon. God’s abundant goodness freely given to all who would receive it. Even to us. Grace can be difficult at times. But when we catch the truly amazing nature of grace, it changes us forever.