Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Pull of Grace

A week or so ago a friend forwarded this video to me of Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber at the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was originally posted over at Rachel Held Evans' blog.

Quite a few of my friends found that her story really resonated with their own stories. In some ways, it's a familiar story of someone pushed to the margins by others and even by herself, and then finding herself unexpectedly and sometimes even without intending to do so finding God as a source of life and hope. Then, in an also familiar sequel, she finds that many in faith communities still view her as an outsider, but God with God's great sense of humor and justice, broadens and deepens the life of the faith community through the gift of this former-and-somewhat-continuing outsider's ministry.

I like this story. I especially like the way it describes the beautiful irony of grace (even while it shows up the tragic cliquishness of churches).

About 4 minutes 20 seconds in, Nadia says,
But when that happened, it didn't feel like I pulled myself up by my spiritual bootstraps. When that happened it felt like a completely rude interruption from God. I was on this path towards destroying myself, and it's like God reached down and plucked me up and went, 'That's adorable, but I'm going to put you over here.' Now I know what that is, that's the grace of God. At that point I didn't have that language. All I knew was that it was a gift that was given and that I didn't earn. And just tried to live in response to that gift.
I feel this great "Amen!" welling up in my heart when I hear these words, even while I know that this is nothing like my experience of God's grace.

Nadia's image of grace is being pulled out of something destructive. Our church-community the last few weeks has been listening to Pau's letter to the house church at Colossae. In 1.14, Paul says we've been rescued from the dominion of darkness and relocated to the kingdom of God's beloved Son. We were pulled out a world enthralled to the domineering rule of sin, destruction, and death. And we're given new life--inheritance, Paul says--as a gift.

In my own story, however, I've felt this more as pulling into something, a pulling deeper down into this same world to embody the hope that's rescued med. I think Nadia speaks to this further on in her talk.

Mission, it turns out, is also a gift, also a grace. Ever since my late teenage years, I've felt that having a purpose to live for is just as critical for me as being rescued from the self-defeating, self-destructive habits that would otherwise clothe my life. I think scripture often uses language of sending for this aspect of grace, like in Jn 20.

So the pull of grace is at least two way. Out of something, and deeper into something. Grace may pull in other ways as well. How have you felt the pull of grace in your story?

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