March 15, 2011 – There but for the Grace of God go I

March 15, 2011 – There but for the Grace of God go I
Rev. Jonathan K. Twitchell

Deuteronomy 9:4-12

Recently, I was privileged to join the A Cappella Choir from Eastern Nazarene College as they ministered at a youth correctional facility. I sat with the inmates as they listened closely to these college students tell their stories of brokenness, addiction, and bad decisions. And each testimony ended with a brief explanation of how God turned their lives around and brought healing.

But not all were dramatic testimonies of conversion. Some shared stories of how they had found Christ early on, and how God had protected them and kept them from brokenness and all sorts of temptation. Both types of stories—those delivered from temptation and those protected from it—were examples of God’s great grace. And each of the inmates seated on the bleachers represented an opportunity for God’s grace to be manifest. All of us together… dependent on the grace of God.

Our scripture lesson today reminds us that the Israelites had done nothing special to deserve God’s favor or the gift of the Promised Land. In fact, God told them to never forget their rebellion in the wilderness. They were not receiving blessings because of their obedience… rather they received God’s grace in spite of their disobedience.

English preacher, reformer, and martyr John Bradford is often credited with coining the phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I.” It was a phrase that he was said to have uttered whenever he saw a criminal on his way to execution. And it has become a reminder to us that we have done nothing special to earn God’s favor.
The season of Lent provides an opportunity for confession. As we recognize our own stories of health and sickness, wholeness and brokenness, success and failure; we become acutely aware of God’s unmerited favor at work in our lives. Like the Israelites, may we never forget where we have been.

Most Gracious Heavenly Father, as I look at my own story, I’m reminded that I have done nothing to earn the gift of new life, but that it is a gift of God. I confess my own brokenness, sins and failures, and confess my dependence on your grace. Let me rise this day in continued newness of life, reflecting that grace to all around me. Amen.

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