Ministering Grace and Love

If the links don’t work for you, here is Nick’s video presentation Esther and Be Bold

Todays reading is Luke 10:25-37Open Link in New Window

Here is today’s reflection by Ian.

Over the past three weeks, we have been thinking about how we can be ‘fruitful for God’ on the frontline of our lives 7 days a week. I started the series with an introduction—that we all have a frontline—the place where we spend most of our time—home, office, hospital, community or wherever. It may be that some can think of several frontlines in your lives.

We thought about the foundation of our fruitfulness—the knowledge of God’s overwhelming, never-ending love for us, the springboard for our own lives of loving and living for others, and how being fruitful brings glory to God—a glory reflected in a world made different, whole and beautiful by love.

We moved onto thinking about different ways we can live this out. Gaby spoke about ‘Modelling godly character’, and last week Sam spoke on ‘Making good work’. May I encourage you to re-engage with these talks, or see them for the first time? The joy of being online is that it is easy to pop back in whenever we want to. Others not online will have paper copies to re-visit and think about.

Today, we are thinking about ‘Ministering Grace and Love’.

Not long ago, a friend of my wife popped round with a beautiful bunch of flowers from her garden for Deborah. There was no special occasion, no specific reason. She didn’t have to, but she did. It was a simple act of love that cheered and moved Deborah.

During this time of lockdown, someone locally has regularly sent an email to me, just checking how I am, asking how the family is, and giving a few words of regular encouragement. They didn’t have to, but they did.

Quite a few years ago, when we were at theological college in Cambridge, we had a personal sadness in our family, a bereavement. It was extraordinary how many people, lots of whom we didn’t know, turned up with meals, offered help and encouragement for our two young children, or simply sent messages saying they were thinking of us, praying for us and loving us. They didn’t have to, but they did.

As Mark Greene says in his book, ‘Grace doesn’t have to. But grace does. Love doesn’t have to. But love does. Grace and love are on the lookout for opportunities, alert to possibilities.’

Perhaps take a moment now to think about this for yourself, about what a difference simple acts of unconditional loving kindness make—how it feels when you both receive and give.

The story of the Good Samaritan in Luke’s Gospel is well-known. But it can often simply be read as some sort of moral charge to ‘do good’ to those who might be our enemies.

Jesus is saying much more radical things here.

At the beginning of the passage, the ‘expert’s in the law, try to ask Jesus difficult questions. In essence, the context here is the question ‘What does God ask of us in our lives?’

Jesus points to the central action—that our lives are shaped by acts of love, towards God and to people around us—our neighbour. He also expands his response to the question ‘Who is my neighbour’? Jesus widens it to include people who his listeners would not have expected. The man in the ditch received grace and mercy from the last person he would have expected—someone otherwise considered to be an enemy, despised by his culture.

‘Go and do likewise’, says Jesus. Go and love God with all that we have and love our neighbour—but be aware that our ‘neighbour’ could be someone very unsettling for us. Go and show mercy, grace, love and forgiveness to those who might not expect it—to those we don’t know as well as those we know, those who feel marginalised or excluded. Go and minister grace and love to those who would least expect it from you.

You and I know what a blessing it is to receive such love ourselves—not because people have to, but because they want to. If you are having a dreadful day working on the till in a supermarket, with impatient and sometimes rude and unfriendly people coming past you, what a difference it makes when someone takes the trouble to smile and say a friendly word.

Three questions to take away today and think about:

  1. What does it mean for you, in the place where you are, to love unexpectedly? Your neighbour is anyone—including your own family.
  2. What does it mean to you, to minister grace and love in the daily acts of your life to the last people who may expect it from you?
  3. What does grace and love look like for you in the different frontlines of your life—home, family, community, work, social? And what might stop us from acting with grace and love?

The Good Samaritan offered grace and love to the last person who might have expected it. In doing so, he also used his own resources to help support this person back to health. Sometimes we feel we just don’t have what is needed or what it takes. But remember, when we ask Jesus Christ into our lives, God comes to be present with us, filling us with his Holy Spirit. So we don’t have to depend on our own resources alone. Live lives rooted in the vine that is Jesus, and you’ll share grace and love in ways that you couldn’t have imagined possible on your own. God’s Kingdom come; God’s will be done. God didn’t need to love us in the way that he does. But he did. ‘Go and do likewise’, said Jesus.

Ian Tomkins.

There will be a video version of the service and a podcast of the sermon.

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