Grace alights freely and gently as a butterfly on a careworn hand, ©Rob Stoner 2017, Watercolour
My water colour painting of a butterfly sitting on a hand, surrounded by these words, “Grace alights freely and gently as a butterfly on a careworn hand” encapsulates all that I want to say this morning. Because, whatever the Gospel is about, it is always about grace. It doesn’t matter a fig how grace works because the only thing to grasp is that grace arrives from God freely, alighting gently on every careworn life.
This is at the heart of Paul’s exposition of grace in his letter to the Romans where he writes, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. I think that this is one of the most amazing, most beautiful, sentences in Scripture revealing that without fail, from God’s perspective, all are recipients of grace, all are now freed from any condemnation by God. Grace is universal.
This is illustrated in the Parable of the Sower where Jesus reveals that the word of God, his very presence, is sown liberally everywhere in the world, not just into places where God thinks it might be productive, but even into unproductive, hostile, and destructive situations. What a difference it makes to our mission if we understand that Jesus is already present in the situations into which we go; if we can see that the butterfly of grace has already alighted upon the people whom we meet, and we only need to help them open their eyes to this truth.
And in the following parable, about weeds among the wheat, Jesus reminds us that it’s not our business to decide who is in the kingdom and who is not because amongst the good seed of the kingdom there are weeds which are not only permitted to keep on growing but are forgiven for their badness, forgiven for their opposition to the work of God’s kingdom. Once again, grace alights freely and gently as a butterfly on a careworn hand.
Jesus told his followers this parable:
‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’
A reflection on this parable which you can use in your own garden or when out anywhere in God’s creation:
Look at the plants you see.
Which of them are good plants and which are weeds?
[A weed may be defined as a plant that is useless, troublesome or noxious; one that grows profusely and may exclude or injure plants that are desired.]
Look at the plants you consider good?
Are they always useful? Always desired wherever or however they grow?
Look at the plants you consider to be weeds?
Do they ever have any redeeming value or purpose?
Do we sometimes assign people to be good or weeds?
How does your reflection on the plants above make you think about this?