As I was preparing for this week’s message, I was remembering a Friday last spring. My neighbor has a son who is Marcus’ age – and so periodically we watch each others’ children for one another.
In fact – over the last 3 years – our houses are so close – that when the children were younger we could turn on the baby monitor in one house and walk across the street and still hear it.
So on this particular Friday – I was watching both boys all day – and in the afternoon, I had just walked over across the street to put CJ, the neighbor, down for a nap.
Now, it seemed that things were all well and good.
Up until this time, I was under the impression that CJ, who was 2 at the time, was still too young to be able to open his own bedroom door.
So, when I heard some noises begin to come through the monitor – I wasn’t concerned. After all, he was in his room. It was probably just him reading some books or maybe even playing with his toys. Nothing to be concerned about – right?
And then – it was QUIET. Aah. I though. He must be asleep.
About 45 minutes later, I heard a loud crash.
I came in to find CJ in the living room of the house. Things were strewn around the entire house. Puzzles, games, and toys dumped onto his bed. INCLUDING toys that he had retrieved from the garage.
CJ himself had stripped off most of his clothing and was wearing only a shirt – proud of himself for the poop he had made in the bathroom – that almost stayed in the toilet.
And the crash itself – had been caused by a giant ceramic bowl that CJ had managed to retrieve and fill with ice cream that he had gotten out of the freezer.
And served himself.
It’s a good thing there wasn’t a car in the garage – because who knows how far the little guy would have made it. J
I felt terrible.
I was SO embarrassed.
Mortified might be a better word.
How could I have let this happen? Why didn’t I go and check on him?
I felt like an utter failure and a completely negligent parent.
Why would anyone trust me ever again with their child or any child?
Thank goodness he was OK.
When his mother made it home, I couldn’t stop apologizing.
I will do ANYTHING. ANYTHING to make this right.
But to my surprise.
She was filled with grace. She wanted to make sure we learned from the experience, but she wasn’t mad. She was actually laughing about it.
And as I continued to apologize, she simply looked me in the eyes and said -
It’s OK. Don’t worry about it.
We have this concept in the Christian tradition called grace.
Grace is an unmerited gift.
And we talk about it and we sing about it in really pleasant terms typically. Our song today is a good example.
And if we are honest -
Grace is a bit scandalous.
Because in grace - we forgive someone who does not deserve to be forgiven.
The king in this story – is doing something absurd.
If we were to meet him in the real world – we would call him a fool – a person who has LOST HIS MIND.
This man owes him the equivalent of 4 billion dollars. It is such an enormous amount of money that even in 50 lifetimes, the man would not be able to pay him back.
But instead of putting him on a payment plan. Or assigning him a job to make it up in another way. He simply forgives the debt.
He forgives the debt of 4 billion dollars.
It is such an extravagant gesture of forgiveness and mercy that it is HARD for us to even imagine.
And the story continues and we learn that the man turns around and does the most crazy thing – he demands a repayment of a debt of a few hundred dollars from a friend. And when he doesn’t have the money – he throws him in jail.
And our temptation in this story is to get really judgmental about this guy – and to say – geez – what a royal jerk. How could he have this debt forgiven and then not forgive his friend?
So – we could go there – but I think the far more interesting question might be – what did this man experience in the moment of grace that was so hard for him to receive?
So I think back to the day when my neighbor came home and offered me this unexpected grace.
You would think that I would have felt better. But I didn’t. I felt ILL.
I had been ready for her to be mad – to tell me she never wanted me to watch her child again. But when she responded with grace instead. I felt this weight and heaviness. She had given me a gift that I didn’t deserve – a gift that I really couldn’t repay. I just had to receive it. And I couldn’t. I couldn’t receive it. I spent the next few days beating myself up about this.
Because that is how the world is supposed to work – right? If I screw up and do something stupid – I should have to deal with the consequences – not just have all things be OK and forgiven.
Now, my situation was a little milder than this man’s.
Can you IMAGINE – how it would have felt to have had this level of debt forgiven?
It is an ENORMOUS gift – that he didn’t ask for and he didn’t deserve.
And there is no question in my mind – that he KNEW he didn’t deserve it.
It must have been embarrassing.
The burden of that kind of gift – I wonder if it was just too much for him to bear.
And I imagine that he felt that he needed to do something to have earned it.
Because that’s’the way the world works. We don’t just get something for nothing. That’s not how this work.
The grace that we are offered. The unmerited gift –
If we are honest – it can be offensive.
And almost too much for our hearts to take.
So perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised to find the man demanding that the debtor pay up.
I think he is actually doing to him – what he thinks he actually deserved. But didn’t get. This is the way the world is supposed to work.
In this world, you get what you deserve. Where there is cause and effect – where you hurt someone and someone hurts you back – we know that world – and we understand it.
To imagine a world where we relate to each other differently
It’s too hard for this man and it’s too hard for us.
The way of grace is offensive. It’s too much for our hearts to take – and so – too often we reject it. Because it is so hard to live into.
We’re talking about how to grow in our relationships with others this month.
But if we are to grow – it must be grounded in this idea that the way God intended us to be together in community – is all about grace.
It is all about the sharing of an undeserved love – not because of something we’ve done to earn it – but simply because we are all made in the image of God.
But it’s scandalous and it is hard to wrap our heads around – and it is HARD to offer to others and ourselves.
And so we feign shock when we hear this story – how could anyone do this – when we do it EVERY DAY to each other. Living in a world that gives people what they deserve.
While EVERY DAY – we are poured grace upon grace.
Because in God’s economy – it’s all repaid with grace.
It’s the only way to break the vicious cycle and restore relationships.
We are the fool in the story – and the invitation is to receive the gift of grace with an openness and an ability to say yes –
With a humility – knowing that we can only receive it – we can’t repay it.
so that maybe – just maybe – that grace that has been poured so deeply into us – would spill outward into our lives and be able to be shared with one another.
That’s where our relationships begin.
At the well of God’s grace. At the table of God’s grace.
Growing in the relationships with others – happens best when it’s grounded in grace.