An Empire of Grace

I started watching football on Sunday nights twenty years ago. It helped me take my pastor hat off and move from the intensity of two-service Sundays into some helpful mindlesness. Greg would provide the snacks.

While I'm thankful for the little Sunday evening reprieve the NFL offered me, there are things I despise about football culture. I'll only mention one. The hubris. What's with all the chest-thumping self-aggrandizing that happens after every play? It's not only annoying to me - it's gross. It's a disturbing depiction of an empire where strength and power and winning are about conquering, destroying, and diminishing the other. It's a picture of an empire that could not be more different than the one Jesus ushered in. Humility, service, love and justice characterize this empire. I've posted a photo of a small church I visited in Cuba. It's a church that is strong in humility and powerful in perseverance and service.

I'm sharing the following reflection from Steve Garnas-Holmes because it presents the shape of God's empire of grace. I'm reminding myself that surrendering to that upsidedown kingdom (upsidedown by the world's standards) and "allowing grace to happen" are ways God's empire will take shape in me.

The Magi came asking,
         “Where is the child who has been born king?”
When King Herod heard this, he was frightened.
—from Matthew 2.1-3

As he should be.
Jesus is a threat to any regime.
His empire is grace; his rule is justice; his power is love.
It unseats tyrants.

But before he changes the world he changes us.
We become his subjects,
forsaking all the empires of this world.
Like the magi, we spurn domination.
We kneel, surrender our willfulness,
let go our fears and desires,
and abandon ourselves to him.
We give him power over us—
and he gives us his power through us—
so our will is not to exert power
but to allow grace to happen.

The homage of the magi
is the fiercest kind of loyalty and courage
Herod can’t stand, and can’t withstand:
to submit to the power of love and grace,
and not to any empire.
Let this be your pledge of allegiance.

         Grace reigns.

Kneel and allow.

Peace and joy,