Why Does Grace Matter?
by Peter W. Marty (March / April 2005 — Volume 21, Number 2)
Jesus did not define grace for us in words. Instead he lived a life of grace and beheld its glory in the ordinariness of everyday life. We’re left to interpret grace, and cherish grace, by the ways we choose to live our lives and chart our decisions.
There is nothing quite like grace. It’s one of the most bizarre things in the world. Like punching 3+3 into your calculator and coming up with 7, grace is that love of God that always adds up to more than we deserve. Strangely infiltrating our lives, grace runs against the grain of common sense and counters the instinct of most human impulses. It is Christianity’s most unique contribution to the world.
There is a side of me that has always wished Jesus had defined grace for us, or at least analyzed it in some helpful way. He didn’t do either, of course. One is hard pressed to find him even using the word. Instead he lived a life of grace and beheld its glory in the ordinariness of everyday life. We’re left to interpret grace, and cherish grace, by the ways we choose to live our lives and chart our decisions.
Every time we pause long enough to contemplate grace, we end up staring the same conclusion in the face: It is absolutely amazing. The mystery of its beautiful presence in the world has curious people on their toes forever. It’s the electricity that keeps believers plugged into God and lighting up the world around them. Anne Lamott’s simple reference to grace is as succinct as any I know. “It meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” 1
Grace on the Radio
Along comes Grace Matters, the new radio ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This far-reaching program aims to meet you where you happen to be in your life but not leave you exactly as you were found. Each and every half-hour program, broadcast weekly across the country and in a few foreign countries, is geared toward discovering how much grace matters in our lives. Known to many people for decades as Lutheran Vespers, this renamed ministry celebrates the grace that has permeated every single program in the history of Lutheran Vespers.
We expect to continue this marvelous tradition of preaching and music with a slightly different format. I like to describe the new Grace Matters program as “a bit journalistic and a lot meditative.” Centered on the desire to help get the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ into the hearts of listeners everywhere, a portion of each broadcast in the future will feature a personal interview. You’ll have the chance to get inside the hearts and minds of interesting, faithful, and wise people. You’ll listen in on the exhilarations and achievements, not to mention the heartaches and sorrows, of authors, surgeons, coaches, musicians, homemakers, and all kinds of other people eager to see and know the grace of God active in their life and work.
In my weekly reflections, the Bible will be my constant companion. My life as a parish pastor will form the interpretive lens through which faith and the Spirit get shared. I intend for this program to be a lively one — resourceful for church workers, faithful for believers, purposeful for unbelievers, and insightful for all people interested in living a life that is full of grace.
To learn more about this ministry of the ELCA, or to inquire about how to air the program in your area, or to contact me with ideas and comments, log on to: www.gracematters.org
Peter W. Marty is senior pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Davenport, Iowa, and the new host of Grace Matters.
1. Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith (New York: Pantheon Books, 1999), p. 143.