The season for fasting from ungrace...

It has been noted that in his autobiography the German philosopher Friedrich
Nietzche told others of "his ability to 'smell the inmost parts of every soul - especially the abundant hidden dirt at the bottom of many a character.' Our calling as people of faith is to do the opposite - to smell the residue of hidden worth" in every soul and person. (Philip Yancey, Grace, p. 93) Such is one of the childlike qualities those who follow Jesus are asked to cultivate, practice and celebrate.

This week, as I prepare for the feast of Pentecost, this is a clue about how I am being encouraged by the Holy Spirit. I have the sense that this week's time in worship is going to be unlike anything we've done before - the specifics of the festival are still being discerned even at this late date - but the heart of the celebration is clear: RADICAL HOSPITALITY BORN OF UNENDING GRACE. How else can we live? There is already too much pain, cynicism, greed and violence for a hundred life times. The only alternative - even antidote - is grace. 

Grace challenges injustice and calls into question discrimination and oppression. Grace feeds the soul from the inside out and refuses to fall into the trap of useless personal dramas. Think of it like this: the opposite of grace might be called ungrace and ungrace takes a variety of forms:

In the United States, a supposedly egalitarian society, young girls are offered an ideal image defined by beautiful, skinny models - so teenage girls will starve themselves to death in an attempt to reach that idea. Other societies have refined the art of ungrace through rigid social systems based on class, race or caste. South Africa used to assign every citizen one of four categories: white, black, colored or Asian. When Japanese investors objected, the government invented a new category: honorary white person. India's caste system was so labyrinthine that in the 1930s the British discovered a new caste they had not encountered in their three centuries of colonization: assigned the role of washing the clothes of the untouchables, these poor creatures believed they would contaminate higher casts by sight, so they emerged only at night and avoided all contact with other human beings. Yancey, p. 77)

The longer I live - and the more I encounter wounded and broken souls - the more I find I have in common with them:  we ALL ache for grace. For me, the season of Pentecost and Ordinary Time might better be called our season for fasting from ungrace!


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