Hello my friends,
As the holiday party season officially begins (and we can finally begin singing Christmas songs in my house), I want you to remember that you are already at the party!
Along with family gatherings, pie-eating and gift-giving, this season may also bring unmet expectations, unresolved conflicts, and moments of sorrow. Being aware and thankful for the gift of God’s grace will help sustain you through the stress and turbulence ahead.
Jesus shares some odd stories about God’s grace – stories that didn’t make much sense to me until I dove into them a little deeper. These stories are about the absurdity of grace and God’s invitation to the best party ever. I invite you to take a fresh look at them – and to see the abundance of God’s grace that is yours, always.
Let’s begin with the story about the workers in the vineyard – the one where the owner of the vineyard hires some workers late in the day and they get paid the same rate as the workers who labor for the entire day, even though the late-comers only work for one hour. It is such an odd story – one that goes against all we have learned about fairness. This story of God’s grace made no sense to me. We live in a transactional world where there is no such thing as a free lunch. You need to work hard and pull yourself up by your bootstraps in order to succeed. Why does Jesus share that one? What is Jesus trying to show us about God in that story?
And what about the lost son, the one who left home and blew all his money on carousing – a real sinner, that one. When he finally comes to his senses and comes back home to ask for a job as a hired hand – what happens to him? What kind of trouble does he get in? What retribution does the father require from him? No trouble whatsoever. Nothing. He gets a new cloak, new shoes, a ring on his finger, and a party?? It’s like he never left. What is that father thinking? What are we supposed to realize about God in that story?
And the older brother who never left home – the story shows his resentment about the father’s reception of the younger brother. The father invites him into the party, but does he accept the invitation? Would you?
Jesus portrays the vineyard owner and the father – both intended to represent God – as the one who loves us with an abundant love. God never stops loving. God is always waiting expectantly for our return. God isn’t interested in keeping score. These are strange ideas for us if we operate out of a scarcity mindset – it is hard to imagine that there is no end to God’s love for us. How can we understand these stories of abundant grace if we were raised with a strong emphasis on earning rewards for being good and fearing punishment for being bad? Is Jesus telling us that we can stop trying to earn our way to heaven?
This is the absurdity of God’s grace. You are invited to receive God’s gift of free and unmerited favor. You are already at the party! The only question is whether or not you will accept God’s grace and join the feast that has been planned for you from the beginning of time.
God’s way is different from our way. The good news of the Gospel turns all of our understanding upside down and announces a new way of living, one motivated by gratitude and founded on love. I have been listening to Rob Bell’s series called “Jesus H. Christ” on his RobCast. He brings me a fresh understanding of how God works in the world. Give it a listen while you are baking pies or running errands or commuting to work and let me know how it resonates with you.
God’s absurd grace is something to be thankful for!