Means of Grace

Kindred in Christ,

I was at a dinner party a few years ago. And I found myself sitting next to a guy who is a scholar in Buddhism. I got excited by that. I know a little bit about Buddhism and he has a PhD in it, so we launched into a conversation. He begins to share some interesting facts—as one does if you are a PhD in anything. And at one point of the conversation, we get into a particular aspect of enlightenment. And I ask him, “What does that feel like?” What does it feel like to subjectively undergo this particular part of the process of enlightenment? He responded, “Well, people usually describe it this way…” After hearing him explain to me a theory, I asked, “Is that what it felt like for you?” To which he clarified, “Oh, I actually don’t practice Buddhism, I only study it.”

And in my mind, that is totally cool. You can be an excellent and savvy scholar in something without being a practitioner. For example, you can be a legal expert in the constitution, and not be a practicing lawyer. I appreciate that.

But for those of us who are practitioners, for those of us at U Gathering that are trying to be consciously committed disciples of Jesus, and transformed by God’s grace—I wonder how many of us fall into a similar sentiment?

Many of us know a lot of facts about God that we have picked up from attending church or singing hymns. But when we are asked to talk about our own experience of blessed assurance or amazing grace, we may sometimes draw a little bit of a blank.

John Wesley (the founder of the 18th century Methodist revival movement) talked a lot about the means of grace. This was a way of mapping out the experiences of our spiritual lives, which hold together works of piety for God and works of mercy for our neighbors. During the month of July, we will explore what this way of life might mean for us as a church in our present season, as individuals and as a collective.

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz