Living Out Grace

Alfred C. Krass

Alfred C. Krass

In his book, Evangelizing Neopagan North America, Alfred C. Krass states that Evangelism will arise out of the community, which lives out the message of God’s grace.  At first glance this statement seems obvious.  “Of course we live out the message of God’s grace!”  But do we? If we do how do we know that we are doing so.  What does it look like?

 The word evangelist means one who bears good news. It is always used in a context of joy, at least from the point of view of the messenger. Here we gain a significant clue.  Grace always travels with her companion joy.  Grace is the good news that salvation of God in Christ Jesus is free!  It is a gift that cannot be earned.  It can only be accepted never gained by any effort on the part of humanity.  As one reflects on the mystery of such love joy is the authentic response of the heart’s delight in the love of God.  Joy is the state of being of one who has experienced the message of grace.  There is movement in the imagination of the soul and such movement produces outward effect.

Joy makes the bearer of good news attractive and draws the hearer.  Joy comes from the heart and communication from the heart will penetrate the shell around other hearts.  I have always be suspicious of those who felt it was their duty to inform me of God’s law and the consequences of not receiving their “good news” on their terms.   No

Grace imparts joy and grace plus joy = gratitude.   If we want to know how we are doing in our soul’s journey we need only ask, “Are we grateful?”  For gratitude is the sign of grace and joy. .

Note: The angels appearing to the shepherds in the Christmas gospel bring news of great joy.


Why do we come here today? What is there to say after such a powerful reading? Do we come to do a memorial service for Jesus as we can do for any number of long dead heroes? No. Nor do we come to feel sorry for poor Jesus, who suffered and died. Christians do not gather year after year on this day pretending that they do not know how the story turns out. What we come to do is to remember — remember with power — the sort of remembering that transforms.

We are like a person who suddenly remembers that they put a hundred-dollar bill in a secret place in their wallet. Suddenly his circumstance has changed. The memory opens the way to a way of being, impossible only moments earlier. The memory is a memory of power because putting the hundred-dollar bill in the wallet is an event in the past the effect of which is going in the present.

We come to remember in this way the saving acts of God in history. The acts we celebrate this day are rooted in history: Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem on a donkey, a real, razor backed, little, donkey. He is acclaimed King. He is arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to die on a cross. For Christians this is the event which changes everything: The Son of God came in the flesh and was willing to suffer and die in order that all people for all time could be restored to authentic humanity. His coming among us in the flesh has made the difference. Why did He do this?

Paul writes to the Christians in Philippi: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross….”

Here Paul quotes what may be the oldest known Christian hymn. God was and is continually self-giving. That is the whole meaning of creation. Creation is only possible because God decided to no longer be all that there is. The Jews call this Zim Zum: or the contraction. God limited Himself in order for creation to freely exist.

  • Equality with God cannot consist in self-promotion.
  • Equality with God cannot be born of privilege.
  • Equality with God cannot be exercised with power and status.
  • Equality with God is self-giving.
  • Equality with God is self-regulating
  • Equality with God is the limitation of self for the sake of others.
  • Equality with God is becoming immersed in the created world.
  • Equality with God is becoming a servant.

It is this equality with God that Jesus displayed on the Cross. It is this equality with God that marks authentic humanity. This equality with God, He shares with those who believe in him.

Gregory of Nyssa (fresco in Chora Church)

Gregory of Nyssa (fresco in Chora Church) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism, p. 500, v.5, Post Nicene Fathers. “…This is the very thing we learn from the figure of the Cross; it is divided into four parts, so that there are the projections, four in number, from the central point where the whole converges upon itself; because He Who at the hour of his pre-arranged death was stretched upon it is He Who binds together all things into Himself, and by Himself brings to one harmonious agreement the diverse natures of actual existences.

This Cross brings all things into the order and balance that God intended in creation. As Joseph Campbell says in THE POWER OF MYTH, (p. 116) “The sign of the cross has to be looked upon as a sign of an eternal affirmation of all that ever was or shall ever be. It symbolizes not only the one historic moment on Calvary but the mystery through all time and space of God’s presence and participation in the agony of all living things.”



Today we come to remember, remember with power that life comes through death. Today we come to remember that regardless of what is wrong in us, between us, around us, that the Cross reconciles all of it. We may not see the evidence of that in the way that we want. But we believe that such wholeness is ultimately the end of all things.

Therefore if we believe this then let us live like it. Today and everyday let us live as if all will be well. The past year I have been slowly reading the prayers and poems of a woman named Julia Esquivel. She is an exile from her native Guatemala, where she is a target of the death squads. Her book is entitled, THREATENED WITH RESURRECTION.


  • I am no longer afraid of death,
  • I know well its dark, cold corridors
  • leading to life.
  • I am afraid rather of that life
  • which does not come out of death,
  • which cramps our hands
  • and slows our march.
  • I am afraid of my fear
  • and even more of the fear of others,
  • who do not know where they are going,
  • who continue clinging
  • to what they think is life
  • which we know to be death!
  • I live each day to kill death;
  • I die each day to give birth to life,
  • and in this death of death,
  • I die a thousand times
  • and am reborn another thousand
  • through that love
  • from my people,
  • which nourishes hope!

– Julia Esquivel, desde el exilio

  • We are here to remember:
  • – who He is –
  • whose we are –
  • – and
  • that in the end
  • that
  • is what makes all the difference.



Our God Makes Leaders Out Of Cowards And Elders Of The Deceitful

Recently I found a new title on Dove Booksellers, “Forsaken Firstborn” a study of how God seems to choose the “wrong” one rather than the one that should be the heir. We find this pattern in the Old Testament. God chooses Isaac over Ishmael. Jacob is chosen over Esau, his twin, even thought he is a stinker. Judah is chosen over his older brothers to be the father of the principal tribe of Israel. Joseph is chosen over his older brothers to be the one to deliver his family even though his brothers reject him. Jacob then blesses the younger of Joseph’s sons to be the chosen son.

Jacob Blessing his Grandsons - C V Vos

Jacob Blessing his Grandsons – C V Vos

As an oldest son I hope that senior birth order is not always the source of perdition and divine rejection. However this does seem to point to the spontaneous, creative and even, if I may say, playful nature of God who makes leaders out of cowards and elders of the deceitful. It gives me hope. Then a thought seized me that I had never thought before. Jesus, the first born, the beloved, was abandoned on the cross. Here the divine pattern is played out in a cosmic way. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” is the cry not just of Jesus but also of all the forsaken firstborn.

We are the descendents of Adam the firstborn yea even the forsaken firstborn alienated by sin. Jesus became for the forsaken firstborn. If that were the end of the story it would be a tragedy. But it is not the end of the tale. Jesus is not the forsaken firstborn he is the firstborn of those that sleep. His resurrection is for the forsaken firstborns and all those who have wasted their inheritance (and we all have) in the far country. The good news is that like Jacob the heel grabber who was reconciled with his forsaken older brother Esau, we too are reconciled by the death of Jesus who died as the forsaken firstborn, risen from the dead that we too might not be forsaken but have not only life in the age to come but life and that life full in this present time. Praise be to God who gives us the victory.