The gravitational pull of grace
Last night, I sat in the very front row during our Wednesday Lent evening prayer service. As we listened to the scripture reading, I heard a little ping of metal on concrete. Then, right past my feet rolled a beautiful silver ring, with a cross on it. I picked it up and looked back to see who it belonged to. I turned to the people right behind me and they quietly shook their heads. The people behind them pointed back even further until I saw it must have come from a woman near the very back of the sanctuary.
Our worship space has a slope, a gentle decline from the back toward the front. This allows people to see and creates a sense of intimacy. It’s hard to realize the extent of that slope unless you are navigating it with a walker or a cart – or drop something that rolls, like that ring. It’s amazing how quickly something can move when gravity pulls it downward.
While I sat holding onto that cross ring last night, waiting for a moment in the service to return it, I thought about this downward momentum. It not only defines gravity, but it also defines Jesus and his ministry. From the first moment Jesus came down from the heavens to live among us, he moved downward. He hung out with and cared for the down and out. He reached down to bless children and those bent over by illness. He knelt down in front of his friends to wash their feet. And in his last days – days we will remember and contemplate in these coming days of Holy Week – Jesus went down to the grave, to the depths of hell, to save us and all this world.
Now, still, Jesus comes down to meet us, to find us in our lowest of places. There is a gravity to grace, where God’s forgiveness and mercy descends to us, and pulls us back to God, who is that universal force that attracts us together. We don’t have to climb or prove our faithfulness, it just rolls down to us, like a ring down the slope of a sanctuary.
The challenge for us who claim to follow Jesus is that he leads us in acts of descent. While so many messages we hear are about climbing, achieving, and proving, Jesus invites us to serve, forgive, and give ourselves away. This downward mobility brings us not only lives of meaning and humility, but moves us into relationships with other people, people who we might not otherwise meet. This is the gravitational pull of grace, God’s universal force of attraction and goodness, bringing us into relationships of healing and wholeness.
As Paul wrote, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross” (Philippians 4:5-8).