Cheap Grace

“Cheap Grace is the mortal enemy of our church.
Our struggle today is for costly grace.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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(a Cloudless Sulphur butterfly visits the petunias / Julie Cook / 2016)

We, both you and I, have become accustomed to the acquiring of more for less.
We want it all and we want it quick, fast, easy…
And we want it especially…cheap.

Isn’t that how we as consumers have been programmed?
Cheap is good…get something for nothing, that’s the aim…
Coupons,
groupons,
sales,
markdowns,
incentives,
price cuts,
rebates,
cash back…
Any gimmick offered by the marketers to the naive public and we think that it is us who are the savvy ones,
the slick ones with the upper hand…because we got it…cheap.

Yet what is it when we say that Grace is cheap?
That “unmerited favor” freely offered and freely given to us by God…

It means that it is simply the justification of sin but not of the sinner.
“Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism
without the discipline of community; it is the Lord’s Supper without confession of sin;
it is absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living incarnate Jesus Christ.

(Bonhoeffer / Discipleship / Volume 4 pp 44)

Our society, our modern day Christian culture, has allowed for the Grace offered by Jesus from the Cross to become quick, easy and sadly cheap.
If you disagree, just look a bit more closely as to what is offered to the faithful by this modern day faith.

The reality is that the way of the Cross is not easy, nor is it quick.
It is hard, painful and arduous…qualities that are not readily embraced.

So to make these difficult aspects more palatable, we have been offered something else.
Something easier to swallow.
Something more fun, quick and painless.
Something less.
Something cheap…

And sadly, we’ve bought into it hook, line and sinker…

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.
I Corinthians 11:27-29

Prayers for Belgium

When they say that mankind shall be free at last, they mean that mankind shall commit suicide. When they talk of a paradise without right or wrong, they mean the grave. They have but two objects, to destroy first humanity and then themselves. That is why they throw bombs instead of firing pistols. The innocent rank and file are disappointed because the bomb has not killed the king; but the high-priesthood are happy because it has killed somebody.”
― G.K. Chesterton

How to defeat terrorism?
Don’t be terrorized.
Don’t let fear rule your life.
Even if you are scared.”

― Salman Rushdie

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(Catching a train from the station in Brugge, to Brussels, then to Paris / Julie Cook / 2011)

Five years ago, my aunt and I decided it would be nice to take a trip to Paris..then to sweeten the adventure we thought that starting our trip to Paris in Brugge, Belgium…would make perfect sense.
And it did.
Brugge, the Venice of of the low country, is a marvelous city that luckily went unscathed during the trench warfare of WWI and the Nazi invasion during WWII.

The main canal and artery from Brugge to the sea, which first put Brugge on the map as a major seaport during the Middle Ages, eventually silted over, trapping this medieval city in time. That is lucky for today’s travelers because Brugge’s historic medieval city center is much the way it appeared 400 years ago…

My father does not share my sense of adventure nor my love for travel.
He’s a play it safe, keep your head down, stay inside kind of fellow.
I can remember when I told him of our plans for the trip.

“No, don’t do that…you can’t go…it’s way too dangerous…”
With my response being… “Dad, it’s Belgium… nothing happens in Belgium…”

Well something has happened sadly and tragically today in Belgium.

It is with a heavy heart that we, the collective global family, now offer our prayers to the people of Belgium and to the victims of today’s terror attacks, as well as to their families…

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(One of the beautiful canals lining Brugge / Julie Cook / 2011)

O GOD, merciful and compassionate, who art ever ready to hear the prayers of those who put their trust in thee; Graciously hearken to us who call upon thee, and grant us thy help in this our need; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

O GOD, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace; Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly, union and concord: that as there is but one Body and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Prayers from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer

Costly Justification

“It is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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(flowering quince / Julie Cook / 2016)

‘It is costly, because it costs people their lives; it is grace, because it thereby makes them live. It is costly, because it condemns sin; it is grace, because it justifies the sinner. Above all, grace is costly, because it was costly to God, because it costs God the life of God’s Son—“you were bought with a price”(1 Cor 6:20) and because nothing can be cheap to us which is costly to God. Above all, it is grace because the life of God’s Son was not too costly for God to give in order to make us live. God did indeed, give him up for us. Costly grace is the incarnation of God.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship Vol 4 pp 45

We have honed our craft both you and I….
As we have become that which we justify…

For within each justification lies…
the crime,
the hating,
the sentence,
the lying,
the hurting,
the bombing,
the cheating,
the policy,
the stealing,
the taking,
the death,
and even the murder…

Echoed are the causal observations…
“Twas a crime of passion”
“It was a justifiable homicide”
“It was taken in order that they could eat”
“It was hidden for their own good…”
“It was stolen in order to pay…”

There are…
The interestingly tragic assisted suicides…
The abortions due to untimely pregnancies…
The surreal justifiable shootings…
The acceptable culture of death…
The wars to end all wars…
The nuclear deterrents….

Every human act can be justified into being correct…

It was…
the right decision…
a necessary evil…
the only option…

How quickly it rolls off the tongue, as it slips easily from consciousness.
There is no remorse, no guilt, no real sorrow…
because it was something that had to be…

The justification of and for every action and reaction of mankind…

And yet how does one justify the free offering of ones only child…
In order that others may live…

One word….

Grace….

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God—-not by works, so that no one can boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

Solemn entry

Because of its tremendous solemnity death is the light in which great passions,
both good and bad, become transparent, no longer limited by outward appearances.

Soren Kierkegaard

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(a doorway, St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s time…
The day has finally arrived.
It’s been what… a year?

For others, it’s been a life time…

Standing at the door…
There’s a bit of trepidation,
Apprehension,
Concern….

You’ve stood here before…

The internal debate…to enter, or not…
enter as one person
pass though, becoming another

It seems to be an obvious choice

He’s already entered
Everyone was excited
As He was openly welcomed

However, that’s all about to change

Everything is about to change
But only if you open the door
Only if you enter

Amazing how quickly things can change

The jubilation is now eerily silent
The welcome is long forgotten
The solemnity of the moment is now palpable

As the internal debate rages on…

Unconditional invitation to love

To give and not expect return,
that is what lies at the heart of love.

Oscar Wilde

Love means to love that which is unlovable;
or it is no virtue at all.

Gilbert K. Chesterton

We are called to show utter commitment to the God
who is revealed in Jesus and to all those to whom
His invitation is addressed.

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

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(blooming quince / Julie Cook / 2016)

Like a flower, it opens regardless…whether you want it to or not…
It opens.
The heart of God opens…
It opens for you, toward you, for you… whether you want it to or not…
It opens.
You didn’t do anything, of your own accord, to warrant its opening…
On the contrary…
It opens with or without you..
You ignored it.
It opened.
You disregarded it.
It opened.
You never much cared for it.
It opened.

It beckons to you…
Asking you…
Inviting you…
Wishing only to woo you…

The invitation stands…
Wide open…

Bee mindful…

The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them.
Saint Francis de Sales

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(all images are of the bees visiting the blueberry blossoms / Julie Cook / 2016)

Finally… the official call of the quaking duck

“If it looks like a duck,
quacks like a duck,
it’s a duck!”

Robin Cook

“Your words have the power of life and death.
Choose them wisely.”

― Orrin Woodward

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(preening mallard at Glendalough National Park / Co Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook 2016

A most edifying annoucnement came today from the State Department.

Genocide…
That’s what ISIS is indeed doing…
to Shia Muslims
to Yazidis
to Christians….

“We must recognize what Daesh [the Arabic name for ISIS] is doing to its victims,”
Kerry said, speaking from the State Department podium.
“We must hold the perpetrators accountable.”

The treaty commits signatory nations to take steps to “prevent and to punish”
the “odious scourge” of genocide.

https://www.yahoo.com/politics/isis-committing-genocide-against-christians-144946484.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-35831711

Will the “recognition” change things?
Sadly, probably not…
But what it will change is the lens to which the world’s powerful leaders will use to view the vile acts committed by this terrorist organization….
and with the changing of the lens, we pray for the changing of hearts….

Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:7