6/14 Readings: Prevenient Grace

2 Pentecost

Gen. 18:1-15, (21:1-7) or Ex. 19:2-8a
Ps. 116:1, 10-17 or Ps. 100
Rom. 5:1-8
Matt. 9:35-10:8, (9-23)

Seek the Lord. Call upon his name. Believe; do not doubt. Such demands, eased by the subjunctive mood, typically come near the end of a sermon. Exhortations beginning with “Let us” are added to the list of whatever else life and obligations demand at the moment. Often, these commands are not so much about the Lord as they are about some moral duty. “Let us love one another.” “Let us be kindly affectioned one to another.” “Let us do justice.” The preacher may speak with all sincerity and the most profound conviction while lulling the congregation into a mild state of exhaustion, if not irritation.  There are, of course, things to be done and left undone, but an occasional witness to the gift of God in Christ before any human action is required — what is sometimes called the prevenient grace of God — will likely give a needed contemplative reprieve. At least initially, we do not have to do anything.

The collect appointed for today begins, “Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace . . .”  Faith, love, and grace are gifts of God, and God is assigned the task of preserving them.

The word “faith,” to reference one famous example, is described in the opening pages of St. Augustine’s Confessions as an outpouring of God that precedes all human effort. “I will seek you, O Lord, calling upon you, and I will call upon you, believing in you, for you have been preached to us. My faith, O Lord, invokes you, which you have given to me, which you have inspired in me through the humanity of your Son, and the ministration of your preacher.” Whatever faith we have, we have received.

The word “love,” like faith, is rooted in the action of God. We are, says St. Paul, “justified by faith,” and this is the gift of God. We have peace with God and access to grace, and these also are gifts. In union with the Risen Christ, who bore his scars, we suffer and endure. We can do this for one reason and one reason only: “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom. 5:8). God has poured forth love, and from that love, we live and move and suffer and endure.

The word ‘grace” is the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the gift of being “favored” and “made righteous” while yet a sinner. This grace is given, imputed, infused from a source beyond oneself. “We have access to this grace in which we stand [through Jesus Christ]” (Rom. 5:2). Indeed, grace is the imputed life of Christ in the power of the Spirit.

Rest for a moment in the absolute goodness and mercy of God. God has given you faith. God has poured love into your heart. God has given the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Is there anything to do?  Initially, the “theological passive” must be allowed. God has done this.

In time, however, we are allowed, like Abraham, to run from the threshold of our homes to meet the divine presence, to bow upon holy ground (Gen. 18:2). The gift elicits such praise. “How shall I repay the Lord,” says the psalmist, “for all the good things he has done for me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord” (Ps. 116: 10-11). We will do what Jesus did.  We will “cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leper, cast out demons,” but we will do it from a power and presence not our own (Matt. 10:8).

Look It Up:  Read the collect of the day.

Think About It:  What God has done.


Online Archives