Sunday’s Scripture ~ Romans 5:1-11
John Wesley employs the image of a doorway or threshold to teach about justifying grace. The movement of prevenient or preventing grace – that grace that goes before us and prevents the natural consequence of living life outside of God’s will – stirs the sleeper to that moment of awaken-ness. That awakened moment is pivitoal because the sleeper has a choice: (A) to return to the ways of the world and continue existing in life that ends in death or (B) move towards that conversion moment, that moment of repentance of sins and choosing to live a new life in Christ.
Prevenient grace moves us from God’s porch to God’s doorway of justifying grace, a place where we (1) feel God’s forgiveness, (2) claim our identity in Christ, and (3) express how we have been saved by faith in Christ. This moment is a vulnerable one. It is inwardly focused. It beckons us to go inside ourselves, to recognize God’s presence within us, to evaluate how our life choices have and have not been becoming of Christ’s gospel, and to ask for forgiveness as one of the first steps in working out our salvation. In working out our salvation, we grow in love and knowledge of God and God restores us to the image in which we were made.
You may have noticed a new addition on or next to many of the doorways at the church recently. There are framed “Top Ten List” signs on how to secure and leave each room at the church as a reminder to everyone who uses our facilities to help us in our goal of being the best stewards of our facilities. These past few days I have been reflecting on those signs, not because of their content, but because hanging the signs was one of the last gifts of service that Gil Hyde made to our church family. Many of you know that Gil and Phil – our dynamic duo of handymen – dedicated so many hours to projects around the church. They gave of their time and their talents without ever seeking praise or recognition. They served because they enjoyed one another’s company and they shared a call to steward their talents for God and you, their church family, as an expression of their faith.
Whenever Gil was working at the church he would make his way to my office to say hello. He was always so courteous and afraid he was interrupting me…I always thought he came by because he could smell the smoke pouring from my ears and wanted to make sure the curtains were not on fire! Gil would speak very softly, but he spoke with purpose. When Gil had something to say, I wanted to listen.
When I showed him the “Top Ten List” signs that I wanted hung on the doors, he took time to receive my opinion on exactly where they should go. “Eye level,” he suggested, “we want people to see them. This is an important message. It is said with care. Following it is a way for everyone who uses the church to be neighbor to the group coming behind them. And the first place our neighbors come in is through the door.”
Neighbors come in through the door. We come in through the door. We are welcomed through God’s door as the gift of God’s justifying grace.
In our Scripture lesson this week Paul affirms, “Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). God’s love surrounds us and nurtures us through prevenient grace. God’s love is poured into our hearts through justifying grace. Gil’s heart was so full of God’s love – love that he shared with his beloved Lee, with their children, and with his church family. May we think of him and be encouraged to share God’s love through our service each time we walk through Tuskawilla’s doors.
Prayer: “I heard and old, old story, how a Savior came from glory, how he gave his life on Calvary to save a wretch like me; I heard about his groaning, of his precious blood’s atoning, then I repented of my sins and won the victory. I heard about his healing, of his cleansing power revealing, how he made the lame to walk again and caused the blind to see; and then I cried, “Dear Jesus, come and heal my broken spirit,” and somehow Jesus came and brought to me the victory. I heard about a mansion he has built for me in glory, and I heard about the streets of gold beyond the crystal sea; about the angels singing and the old redemption story, and some sweet day I’ll sing up there the song of victory. O victory in Jesus, my Savior forever! He sought me and bought me with his redeeming blood; he loved me ere I knew him, and all my live is due him; he plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.”* Amen.
*”Victory in Jesus,” The United Methodist Hymnal 370.