In the past year or so I’ve been blessed to more deeply understand and experience the meaning of grace as I’ve served on Redeemer’s Diaconate*. For those unfamiliar with the term, the Diaconate is a body of deacons and deaconesses who, in our church’s tradition, care for the practical needs of our church community, following the pattern of the early church as seen in Acts 6:1-7.
As for what that looks like day to day, it means we deacons/esses pray with and for anyone in need after Sunday worship services; we also assist our church’s elders to conduct membership interviews, but our main purpose is fulfilled in giving practical assistance to those in our church family who ask for it through the Diaconate helpline. And it’s here that I’ve been able to learn about grace in a deeper way.
We sing about it in church, we hear the word peppered throughout sermons, but do we understand what grace is? What it means? Have we experienced it? For a long time I thought it just meant something sublime, taking a reference from the first part of the hymn “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound” and forgetting the line “that saved a wretch like me.” What? Me, a wretch? I’ll just skip over that part, thank you very much. I mean, I’m not that bad of a person.
But then one night, unbelievably, I had a vision of Christ on the cross. And as He spoke into my heart, “I did this for you” I knew He meant it. If I were the only person on the face of the planet, it still would have taken nothing less than the death of the Son of God to save my wretched soul. Amazing! Yes, indeed, I was and am that bad and would be utterly lost without Him. What’s amazing is that He would choose to love me despite my brokenness, despite my sinfulness, despite having nothing within me that could ever earn so great a gift.
It is by this grace that we work with people in our church family, offering help and financialassistance freely. Just as God freely offered His Son to us, we react in kind by freely offering help with open hands and hearts. Some people struggle with this, both with the idea that people could get help when “they don’t deserve it” (precisely!) and from the other side, the experience of receiving help when our culture tells us it’s undesirable or unacceptable to do so. Thankfully we have a God who teaches us the true meaning and beauty of grace. Grace that first comes to us unconditionally, regardless of our merits, and then continues to abide, enabling us to choose life over death, love and holiness over self-centeredness and sin. For our gracious God provides not only relief, but restoration. All praise be to Him!
* The Diaconate is Redeemer’s ministry of mercy addressing the needs of those in our church family experiencing hardship. The Diaconate is our response to God’s calling to be merciful, to love and care for one another in practical ways. If you need practical assistance, please call the Diaconate Helpline, (212) 726-1334.