Momentum for Life: God Loves You Too Much To Let You Stay There

God loves you just the way you are… and loves you too much to let you stay there.

 

Those words I heard from Anne Lamott in a lecture she gave at my seminary.

 

God loves you just the way you are… and loves you too much to let you stay there.

 

I have really enjoyed diving into Michael Slaughter’s book “Momentum for Life” this January. I think in many ways, he is speaking the same message as Lamott. He is reminding us that God has all sorts of things planned for our lives… a direction, a purpose, a mission.

Slaughter is inviting us to make a commitment and to discover where God is leading us… how God is changing us… through his acronym D.R.I.V.E.

D for Devotion

R for Readiness to Learn

I for Investing in Relationships

V for Vision

and E for Eating and Exercise.

Each of these qualities describe a committed Christian disciple who knows that God loves them just as they are, but who is willing to let God lead them to where they could be.

 

Over the last two weeks, Pastor Todd has been guiding us through both the concept of Momentum and the first characteristic, Devotion.

So today, we turn our attention to this concept of readiness to learn.

 

What I find fascinating about Slaughter’s emphasis on learning is that he connects it with our working life. Or maybe to put it a different way, our life’s work.

 

Now, just a quick survey here.

How many of you have a job you love, that fulfills your life’s passion and gives you a sense of purpose?

And how many of you have a job that pays the bills?

And of course, there are those of us who don’t work, either because we stay at home or are retired or are in school or simply can’t find work at this time.

 

Some of us are lucky enough to get paid for what Slaughter calls “our life work.” But for others of us, that life work can still be lived out on the job site, in our families, and throughout our communities.

Slaughter describes three characteristics of this life work: that it is creative, redemptive, and innovative.

 

But I think all three of these can be boiled down to one idea: He is calling us to let God’s sanctifying grace pour into everything we do.

 

In October, our ten confirmands and their mentors and teachers went on a retreat to Wesley Woods. Over those 48 hours or so, we covered many of the basics of United Methodist theology and teaching… from the creation to the new creation, from repentance to sanctification. We learned a LOT of really big, complicated words over that weekend and to help us remember them, the youth prepared some really amazing skits, drew pictures, and journaled.

But we also had some helpful metaphors to help us.

One of them is a depiction of grace in our United Methodist tradition.

house of grace

We believe that grace is not just a one time thing that happens to us, but is present all throughout our lives.

Before we are even aware of God, prevenient grace is there… preparing us to know and see God. It is like the front porch of a house… there to welcome us and create space for us to enter the Christian life. This idea of prevenient grace is why we baptize even newborn babies… because we believe God is already working in their life. Remember – God loves us just the way we are!

 

At some point, we consciously choose the grace God has offered to us. We call that justifying grace. It describes the moment when we accept God’s acceptance of us. In some faith traditions, people hold on to and celebrate the day, hour, and minute when they were saved and they are describing the door we have in this blueprint. That door is always open and waiting for us… and some of us walk through early in life and some late and some of us linger in the doorway for a long time.

 

The last kind of grace, and the one I think Slaughter is referring to in this chapter is sanctifying grace. It is the commitment to keep growing, to keep learning, to keep going on to perfection as we live in God’s grace and love.   You see… our Christian journey does not come to an end when we enter the house. We have a whole lifetime of grace awaiting us and God loves us too much to let us stay exactly as we were when we entered.

 

This grace is what Paul is speaking of in his letter to the Philippians we heard this morning. He starts in our reading to describe justifying grace… the righteousness of Christ he received. But he doesn’t end there. No, he writes:

It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose… I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me… God’s upward call in Christ Jesus. (12-14)

 

Our life work is to let God’s sanctifying grace fill all that we do.

 

If we close our lives to God’s grace… if we say to God – “Thanks for dying on the cross, thank you for salvation, but I’ll take it from here,” then we are like those described in Psalm 127… we can work and toil all we want, right where we are, and never go anywhere. It’s like we walk through the doorway of grace, but refuse to live in the house!

That’s what Paul had been doing back when he was the Pharisee, Saul. He had all of the right answers. He knew what he was doing and who he was. He was at the top of his game, an expert in the law, and successful beyond all measure.

He thought he knew what it meant to be faithful and thought he had achieved it.

Until he discovered that learning and seeking and changing is more important than having all the right answers.

Until he learned that growing is more important than knowing.

Until he found it’s not what you know, it is who you know.

 

God loves you just the way you are… and loves you too much to let you stay there.

 

No matter who you are, or what you do, God can use you. God can pour sanctifying grace into your life to transform even the most mundane or ordinary moments.

And that means we have to keep growing. We have to let go of what no longer works. We have to always seek what God is doing next. “We must forget what lies behind and stain forward to what lies ahead.” One of the practices Slaughter suggests for us is that we are always reading something. We never stop learning. We always are growing in our awareness of what is going on in the world and the new insights that others have to offer.

And it means we choose to participate in God’s redeeming work – to allow God’s love to fill all that we do and every person we meet so that our work is not in the service of money but in the service of God. Slaughter invites us to observe all the time… to look out for those who can teach us, but also to become aware every day of those opportunities to practice God’s redeeming love. In that way, we discover life work that seeks the good for others, instead of simply ourselves.

Finally, we were made to be creative… to dream and imagine, to nurture and to help life grow. You and I… we were made in the image of God and that means God has invited us to be cocreators, to open our minds, to keep pushing forward to excellence. And that means we need to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty… to keep practicing and seeking God every day, never content with what we have already accomplished.

Because even though God loves you just the way you are… God loves you too much to let you stay there.

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