Having recently experienced a national convention of the church body of which I am a part, I am sad to say that it was not obvious to me that “abundant grace was upon” us all. There was posturing, harsh debate, challenges, discord, and all too much rancor. Any amount of rancor would be too much. And although I was assured by several who attended the previous convention in 2016 that “this was much better.” I am sad to say that grace seemed to be in short supply. Sad.
I was glad to return to Texas and the people of God at St. John Lutheran Church where I serve. I was thankful not only because there was a grand celebration of the 40th anniversary of my ordination the Sunday following the convention, but because I sense a great deal of grace upon us at our church.
Having said that, however, there is need for grace in every situation. Perhaps the need is greater in a national convention than in any other churchly place. When tempers flare, arguments erupt, frustration swells, and discord becomes obvious grace is not only needed, but most precious. And the fact that we still survive after years and decades of such conventions might give evidence to the abundant grace of God.
Sad thing is that it is remedial grace rather than provisional grace that shows up in times of distress and discord. How wonderful it is! When we need it, God gives grace to forgive, heal, provide for, and sustain us.
But there is that other kind of grace that is precious as well: provisional grace. It’s my own term and has to do with God’s favor being poured out on his people in the midst of their work together. It’s not provisional in the manner of being ready for a time when needed for failure and distress. It’s provisional in that it provides for our effective ministry and life.
We need God’s grace all the time. We never do not need it. Sometimes we need it because we are in trouble. Sometimes it comes in the form of God’s favor during times of joy and outward blessing. In either case God’s grace is the precious gift that allows us to carry on.
I’d rather not ever need God’s remedial grace, but I do. Daily. I am deeply thankful for God’s provisional grace. Truth be told we need both all the time. And God gives it. For Jesus’ sake. For our neighbor’s blessing. For his glory. For our good. What a beautiful gift!