5 February 2021
Hands Face Space. We’re now very familiar with what we need to do to help protect the NHS and to save lives. We’re to wash our hands regularly, wear a face covering and maintain social distancing. And someone has suggested that we add a fourth word: Hands Face Space… Grace.
That’s come home to me through two recent incidents, both when I was out running. In the first, a man said I should be wearing a mask. In the other, a woman told me I shouldn’t have crossed a bridge while someone else was on it. In both cases, I could feel my hackles rising and my inner lawyer getting to work as I began to justify my actions. Thankfully, I managed to control myself and didn’t say what I was thinking.
It showed me how much we need grace at this time, and at all times. And we need to show grace to one another. I didn’t know what pressures these people might be under, what bad news they might be processing, what fears for their own health, what bereavements they may already have suffered. We need to show one another grace, to be gentle and patient with one another, to show each other kindness. And we need grace ourselves if we’re to do that. It doesn’t come naturally to self-centred people. It’s the fruit of the Spirit.
The Lord’s Prayer has shown us how dependent we are on our Father’s grace, and how ready he is to show us grace, more ready to give than we are to ask: to give us daily bread, to forgive us our sins, and to deliver us from evil. Have you noticed how Paul typically ‘meets’ his readers with grace at the beginning of his letters and ‘leaves’ them with grace at the end? So, at the start of his letter to the Philippians we read, Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. And at the end, The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
In a similar way, we aim to begin our Sunday services with thanksgiving and to end with blessing, acknowledging that all is grace, from beginning to end. As the hymn Amazing Grace puts it, “’tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” We need daily to realise the truth of the saying, “There, but for the grace of God…” What comes next? But for the grace of God we would be nothing, and have nothing.
Father, it’s only your grace that has brought me safe thus far, and only your grace that will lead me home. Thank you for your grace. Please keep me in it. Amen.
Chris Hobbs, Senior Minister