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GOD OF GRACE
In his book ‘The Ragamuffin Gospel’, Brennan Manning tells the following true story.
One night in January 1935 the mayor of New York, Fiorlla LaGuardia, turned up at one of the courts in a poorer area of the city. It was during the Great Depression and a woman was brought before the judge for stealing a loaf of bread. LaGuardia dismissed the judge and sat as judge in the case himself. He listened to all the evidence. At the end of the case he found the woman guilty and he said: a fine of $10 or 10 days in jail. As he was saying those words he was reaching into his own pocket to pay the fine. He then said this: ‘I am fining everyone in this courtroom 50 cents for living in a town where a woman has to steal a loaf of bread to feed her grandchildren. The total came to $47.50, the last 50 cents coming from the pocket of the baker who had brought the case in the first place.
What an extraordinary moment of grace, everyone in the courtroom experienced grace that night. What would it take for you to experience Grace is God’s favour freely given to those who do not deserve His favour. Or as someone else has put it more succinctly: God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. The world in which you and I live says that ‘everything in my life depends on what I do, who I am and where I am going.’ Grace says the very opposite. In fact grace says: ‘Everything depends not on you but on what God has done in and through Christ for you.’ Grace not only confronts this self-centred, selfish idea of self but actually shatters the illusion that I determine the ways of this world, and my life in particular.
Bill Moyers is a documentary film maker. He made a documentary about the hymn a
Amazing Grace. The last scene of the film is set in Wembley Stadium. A rock concert is going on and all sorts of groups, such as Guns’n’Roses, are playing. The last act is to be an opera singer called Jessye Norman. She decides to sing Amazing Grace. The audience are screaming for an encore from Guns’n’Roses as she walks on to the stage. She starts sings ‘Amazing Grace how sweet the sound’ Bill Moyers does not have to say anything at all. He does not have to give a commentary it is there for you to see. The crowd fall silent. By verse three they begin to join in. Moyers says he does not know what happened. Philip Yancey says this about that occasion: ‘I think I know. The world thirsts for grace. When grace descends, the world falls silent before it.’
Rev. John McClure.