Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Common Grace

Tuesday, June 26
Scripture Reading—Acts 27:39-44

Sometimes, we Christians think that we find God’s grace only in holy places at holy times through holy people.  When we want to be reminded of the reality of God’s presence and power in the world, we’re more likely to turn to our sacred book, go to a church, wait for a sacred season, or spend time with like-minded people who can remind us what is important.  All these are commendable ways to draw closer to God.  But we sometimes forget that God is at work beyond the walls of a church.  God is at work, often though the unlikeliest of people in the most unusual places, to care and provide for us.  God uses public schools, corporations, financial institutions, and governmental entities for good.  To be sure, these entities often resist and obscure God’s purposes.  But either God is God of all, or God is not God at all.  Sometimes, God’s grace comes to us through people who do not share our Christian faith or hold any faith.  It’s happened to me, and I’m sure it has happened to you.  God has put some extraordinary person in your path to help you learn, to help you do your job more effectively, or to protect you from some danger.  Our Presbyterian friends call this common grace—the recognition that God’s grace and mercy is found everywhere—not just in Christian people or Christian congregations.  Paul learned this.  In yesterday’s reading, we saw how Paul helped protect the centurion put in charge of him, Julius.  In today’s reading, when the ship founders on a reef and it looks like the prisoners would escape, the soldiers planned to kill all of them.  Luke writes, however, “but the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan.”  God used a Gentile to save a Jew, a Roman soldier to protect a Christian preacher, a jailer to protect a prisoner.  We never know where, when, or through whom God’s mercy will be given to us!

 Thought for the day:  If we are looking for it, we will see God’s presence and grace in the world every day in the most unusual ways, places, and people.

 Prayer:  O God, thank you for the time-honored ways you have given us to encounter your presence and mercy.  We do feel close to you as we read the Bible, worship in a beautiful sanctuary, and share in fellowship with other Christians.  But help us to be aware that you are working for the well-being of all people, and that sometimes, we ourselves might experience your grace through people who do not share our faith.  Amen. 

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