“Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound That Saved a Soul Like Me.”

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“Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound
That Saved a Soul Like Me.”

 

“It is by grace that you have been saved, though faith – and even that is not of yourselves, but the gift of God.”  Ephesians 2: 8

Growing up in the United Methodist Church, I (Candace) sat between my Mom and Dad every Sunday for worship. There were always a few hymns that they both seemed to sing louder than others and “Amazing Grace!” was one of them. In fact, for me, one of the greatest gifts I know I have received from my parents, Sunday school teachers and ordinary members of that church is the knowledge that God’s grace is abundant and it is a gift.

While we do not like to talk about or maybe even think about sin (see previous newsletter on sin), Paul states, “…since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by God’s grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 3: 24) It seems to me that we need to have a sense of our own sinfulness, our own separation from God, our own failure to hit the mark of love, in order to fully experience God’s grace.

The current MCC Statement of Faith reads in part: “Every person is justified by grace to God through faith in Jesus Christ. … Such grace is not earned, but is a pure gift from a God of pure love.”

But what is grace?

It’s sometimes too easy to picture grace as a knee-jerk reaction by God to sin.  The opening chapters of the Bible present a different story.  There, we see a God who acts graciously from the outset, and is not blindsided by human failure.

In Genesis 1:1, God has no need to create a world, but instead, created one simply for the pleasure and joy the creation would provide (Genesis 1:31), and to display God’s glory through it (see Psalm 19:1).  God has graciously made and sustains this natural environment where humanity and all creatures could flourish.  The sheer graciousness of the world we live in reminds us with every heartbeat and every new day that God’s grace towards us endures forever.

 

Detail from The Creation by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni
Detail from The Creation
by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni

 

For me (Candace), it is knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves me and desires to be in relationship with me, a relationship that impacts every area of my life and my relationships with others. I will never forget the early evening many years ago when I was standing in line at a grocery store with my bread and milk. It was the line for folks who had only a few items, so it was over toward the end of the checkout lines. As I looked over all of the people in all of the other lines, I had this incredible experience of ‘knowing’ that God loved all of these other people as much as God loved me. It was like, using a good John Wesley phrase, ‘my heart was strangely warmed.’ This feeling came out of nowhere and it changed my life.

 

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
The Return of the Prodigal Son
by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn 

 

The author of 1 John wrote: “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and God’s love is perfected in us.” (I John 4:12) So, while grace is a gift, it is a gift that we live out as we love one another. God’s gift of grace is a gift of forgiveness. And we are called to live out that gift of forgiveness in all of our relationships. Not an easy thing to be sure.

I write this on the cusp of Good Friday. So I also know that whereas grace is a gift freely given, it is not a gift given without cost. It’s just that we don’t have to pay the cost: Jesus did that for me and for you on the cross. “Abba, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

As Christian LGBT people, we who have experienced God’s grace have a gift to share with the world. Just as the earth shook when the tomb was opened on Easter morning, so, too, can we shake the world with the Good News that God’s love and grace conquers sin and fear.

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Some Questions to Consider

We’d like to hear about your experiences. Join the conversation on our Facebook page, or send your private reply to us through the MCC website. See links below.

This month, we’re particularly interested in the following questions:

  • Can you remember the time you realized that God’s love and grace were meant for you?
  • What was the experience like?
  • What impact has it had on your life?

You may also share your thoughts about the MCC Statement of Faith.

We want to hear from you!

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Thank you for being a part of the conversation. We look forward to continuing the dialogue.

Your Commission on the MCC Statement of Faith

Rev. Dr. Candace R. Shultis

Rev. Dr. Candace R. Shultis is the Chair of the Commission on the MCC Statement of Faith and Senior Pastor at King of Peace MCC in St. Petersburg, Florida (USA).

Rev. Dr. Karl Hand

 

 

Rev. Karl Hand, PhD, is pastor of CRAVE MCC in Sydney, Australia and a member of the Commission on the MCC Statement of Faith.

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