From Our Rector: August 2014

From Our Rector: August 2014
By the Rev. Dave Johnson

Posted August 1, 2014

Dear Friends,

I remain so grateful for the incredibly warm welcome you have given me and my family as we have moved to Valdosta—it is such a privilege to worship and serve the Lord with you all! In this, my first article for The Vineyard, I would like to reiterate what we try to emphasize in everything we do at Christ Church: the grace of God. In his prologue to his account of the gospel John writes, “From his (Jesus’) fullness we have all received grace upon grace” (John 1:16). The grace of God is central to all we do at Christ Church—from preaching the gospel, to administering the sacraments, to all the ministries we do, to how we treat one another, to how we welcome all who come to worship with us. Grace is the one-way love of God, the fact that we are fully known and fully loved by our Creator. Grace is unearned; it is a gift with no strings attached, no ulterior motives, no catch. Grace is the incomprehensible and unconditional love of God. In his Letter to the Ephesians the Apostle Paul emphasized the centrality of the grace of God to our salvation: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast” (2:8-9).

Not only is the grace of God at the heart of what we preach at Christ Church, it is also the heart of the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion as well. In the Thirty-nine Articles, the classic distillation of English Reformation theology, written by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) and others we see that grace is at the heart of the sacraments:

Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him (The Book of Common Prayer 872).

When we are baptized or when we receive Holy Communion we receive anew the grace of God in Jesus Christ, the assurance that regardless of the changing circumstances, emotional undulations or perpetual challenges of our lives, the grace of God is constant.

The ultimate expression of the grace of God is found in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross—that as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans: “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (5:8). In His death on the cross Jesus paid the price for all our sins for all time, once for all. In the Eucharistic prayers for Holy Communion we are reminded that on the cross Jesus “made there, by his one oblation of himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world” (BCP 334) and was “a perfect sacrifice for the whole world” (BCP 362). When we receive Holy Communion we bring nothing to the table except empty and open hands to receive the grace of God anew, and we are assured that we are loved and forgiven by God.

At Christ Church through hearing the gospel preached and receiving the sacraments we receive anew “grace upon grace” from God—and we are set free to give grace to others as well.

Yours in Christ,