Third Sunday of Lent - "The Grace In Which We Stand"

Today is the Third Sunday of the Season of Lent. 

Lent is a word that originates in the Latin word for 40. It is connected to a significant "Forty" in the Scriptures, namely, the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness after he was baptized and before he began his ministry. 

Throughout the Scriptures, "forty" is a number that signifies preparation, testing, working through challenges, and being made ready. 

During this season of Lent, we will be focusing on what it means to be prepared to follow Jesus wherever Jesus leads.  And to be prepared to follow Jesus, we need to learn to Live Differently, which is the title of our Lenten sermon series. 

And during this series, we will focus on The Counter-Cultural Calling of Christ—What keeps us from becoming fully alive? What is the actual cost of discipleship in our current culture?  How do we live differently so that others might be drawn to Jesus? 

Today we’re going to explore how living differently is possible because of grace, which leads to peace and hope. 

Let me ask you a question... 

What does grace look like?  How do you know what it is?

The word "grace" has a lot of meanings. 

This is one that we typically think of when we talk about grace in a church setting: 

n. (in Christian belief) God's free and unmerited favor, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

But what if it's more than that?  What if grace is deeper than we ever imagined?

Let's look at some other ways that we have come to define the word grace: 

1. n. simple elegance or refinement of movement.
"she moved through the water with effortless grace"

2. n. 
courteous goodwill.
"at least he has the grace to admit his debt to her"

3. n. a period officially allowed for payment of a sum due or for compliance with a law or condition, especially an extended period granted as a special favor. "another three days' grace"

4. n. a short prayer of thanks before or after a meal.
"before dinner, the Reverend Newman said grace"

5. n. used as a description or address for a duke, duchess, or archbishop.
"His Grace, the Duke of Atholl"

6. n. (in Greek mythology) three beautiful goddesses (Aglaia, Thalia, and Euphrosyne) are believed to personify and bestow charm, grace, and beauty.

7. v. do honor or credit to (someone or something) by one's presence.
"she bowed out from the sport she has graced for two decades"

8. v. (of a person or thing) be an attractive presence in or on; adorn.

How can one word come to mean so many different things?  And what is the thread through these definitions that might help us understand grace in ways we may not have ever thought possible?

This is the thread, and I can sum it up in one word. 


Think about it.  Those definitions we just listed encompass nearly every aspect of life. It's almost like, as humans, we knew deep inside that grace permeates everything, so we used the word to apply everywhere. 

Grace is all around us.  

And let me get even more specific:  God's grace is all around us. 

We are surrounded by the grace of God; it's literally everywhere, permeating all of Creation... it is the very ground upon which we stand.  To coin a phrase from theologian Paul Tillich, it is the "ground of all our being." 

And the realization that grace is everywhere should ultimately skew how we view ourselves, others, and the world around us toward hope.  

In fact, that's exactly what I want us to hold on to today: 


Let's take a look at Paul's epistle to the Romans chapter 5:1-11, which is our lectionary text for today: 

Brief background--Paul was writing to the Christian community in Rome that included both Jews and Gentiles.  There was some controversy regarding what they were taught by outside teachers from Jerusalem. And there were issues related to power dynamics as well.  

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

This passage speaks to a new reality because of the work of Jesus. The key words: “The grace in which we stand…” All-encompassing 

And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

“Glory in suffering…” because of what it leads us to and teaches us.  We don't seek it, but when it comes we see it differently. 

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Paul makes a case for living differently grounded in grace, the unmerited, all-encompassing favor of God, the restoration of "rightness." 

9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Wrath--another poor translation.  It has to do with the otherness of God and our inability to grasp just how much God loves us, like a parent to a child.  The same with the word enemies--more like in opposition to, but also due to a lack of understanding. Grace is wider than we think—before we are aware of it, it’s upon us. 

When we choose to live differently in order to follow Jesus, we discover that grace is not only the means by which we follow but also the very way we follow. It’s everywhere. 


We live differently when we open our eyes to see. 
        Where can we see grace in our own lives?

We live differently when we open our ears to hear. 
        What words of grace are we able to hear?

We live differently when we open our hearts to hope. 
        How do we respond to life's challenges?



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