When Pastor Thomas Hoffman explained to me how one of his members took broken glass and designed this art-piece for the Christuskirche, he got my attention. Even broken glass can be turned into beautiful art! And that’s a great picture of what happens when we allow “Grace” to visit us, or re-visit us (some of us might even use the word “invade” us!). That’s why when I read the quotes from a article on Lewis B. Smedes, I could feel my whole person vibrating with agreement.
It’s a very good example of a Lutheran perspective on “Law/Gospel” (or “Judgment/Grace). The tendency for us is to focus on misguided organizing ideas which affects every aspect of our lives consciously or unconsciously (e.g. the “sacred trinity of feeling good, looking good and making good” he talks about). When we make these our “gods” rather than seeing them as “goods”, no wonder we plunge into a whirlpool of emptiness.
But his contrasts on “common sense” and “grace” is so spot on. Our common sense is a “law”/”judgment” kind of focus, and while an honest acknowledgment of the messy, broken, ugly and even sinful state our being is crucial and better than denial and pretense, when grace is absent we are left powerless and stuck in that moment (somehow there’s a nagging nudge for a better tomorrow). Smedes’ following two quotes does a great job in showing us on one hand the reality many of us face when we replace God with the “goods”, and later points us out of our tendency to spin in circles heading somewhere … “to being a better person”. I think that’s grace at it’s best. Even broken glass can be turned into beauty!
“The sacred trinity of feeling good, looking good, and making good are very good goods, but they make very bad gods. As gods they eventually leave us feeling like spent dreams on the soiled sheets of disenchantment.”
“Grace is a mysterious power to live as if you know tomorrow will be better than today, even though common sense gives you odds that tomorrow will be the pits … Grace is amazing because it works against the grain of common sense … Realistic common sense tells you that you are too weak, too harassed, too human to change for the better; grace gives you power to send you on the way to being a better person. Plain common sense may tell you that you are caught in a rut of fate or futility; grace promises that you can trust God to have a better tomorrow for you than the day you have made for yourself.”
This is not a message easily grasped, but it surely is GOOD NEWS! Gospel!