Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The nature of grace is gratuitous

Yesterday, on the Christianity Today website, I came across a wonderful tribute to a man who is easily overlooked and even forgotten, the recently passed away Robert Farrar Capon. The author of the tribute is Rachel Marie Stone, a contributor to the CT's Her.menutics blog (one that I read quite regularly even though is for women by women). I was moved by Stone's tribute because she does a great job articulating how Christ's victory looks in reality this side of heaven. I found the following passage particularly insightful:
But after 27 years of marriage and six children, Capon divorced his first wife, Margaret. "As it has turned out," he wrote in The Romance of the Word, "there were a lot of departments in which I was not a success, not to mention several in which I was, and still am, a failure. … I dedicated a great deal of time and effort to my children's religious formation, only to find them now mostly uninterested and non-practicing." The failure of his first marriage and subsequent remarriage ended Capon's career as dean of a diocesan seminary and priest-in-charge of a mission church. His was not a life of "triumphant goodness or heroic efforts" but of "dumb luck and forgiveness"
Fr. Robert Farrar Capon

"This," Stone writes, "only underscored his gratitude for God's grace and mercy; elsewhere he wrote: 'Grace cannot prevail … until our lifelong certainty that someone is keeping score has run out of steam and collapsed.'"

Because I am me and not the person I sometimes fantasize about being, I found this both consoling and encouraging. Thinking on all this early this morning, this passage from Psalm 130 came into my mind:

If you, LORD, keep account of sins,
Lord, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness
and so you are revered (verses 3-4)

We live in an age when we try to make of God's grace a great, noisy spectacle. Most of the time, however, God goes about His work in us rather quietly, helping us to see, time and again, that it is Him, not us, who is the author and finisher of salvation. God has an infinite capacity to work with whatever material is there. If God created the universe from nothing, ex nihilio, as it were, then God can surely transform me, though, some days (take Monday for example), I'm pretty sure creating the universe from nothing was the easier task. My own salvation will be the miracle of making a silk purse of a sow's ear. Thanks be to God!

9/11 seems a good day to evoke God's grace, a good day to pray for and practice peace, even as we recall the horrors of twelve years ago.

Tullian Tchividjian also posted a nice remembrance of Fr. Capon: "Robert Farrar Capon (1925-2013)," who passed away on 5 September.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting that you have referenced here two Anglican luminaries, I can only commend you on your catholicity. Episcopalians Fr. Capon along with Matthew Fox are two of my favorite contemporary theologians whose diverse and divergent voices merge in the celebration of the Creation.

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