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No Cheap Grace 
Sunday, May 10, 2009, 06:00 AM - Sermon
Mark 8:27-38

A child comes home to a clean house and her newly clean room. Like a turtle leaving its shell behind, she drops her coat, hat, books, backback, trumpet, and hockey bag at the door. She goes to her room and pulls out three outfits before changing into the fourth while letting gravity and momentum arrange her clothes on the floor. Mom will pick it up, put it away and wash it.

Wikipedia explains cheap grace:

In Bonhoeffer's words: “cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” Or, to put it even more clearly, it is to hear the gospel preached as follows: “Of course you have sinned, but now everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are and enjoy the consolations of forgiveness.” The main defect of such a proclamation is that it contains no demand for discipleship.

In contrast to this is costly grace: “costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels [one] to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”” — Wikipedia

The house must be ready to show for sale at any moment. Mom fixes everything just so. The nice towels, the throw pillows not thrown but arranged, the TV hid from watchers, the remote placed out of reach in the drawer, all clutter contained. Finished, mom says to the boy, “This; This is the way the house needs to look all the time. Any moment we could get the call and a buyer could walk in. You have to keep the house neat, just like this, ready for inspection.”

The family gathers for the intervention. They have it arranged, all telling the drug abuser they love how his behavior sacrifices everything; trust, safety, health, freedom, home, money, job, love: all of them; for the drug. It's jail or rehab. It is all arranged and paid for. Faced with the loving confrontation of his friends, co-workers, church members and family; he goes into treatment. A month later, dried out, he's released….to see what he would do in response to the grace given him by those who love him.

In the church itself, fingers are pointed both ways with cheap grace. The good faithful folks point to others as not making the sacrifices and contributions needed to be good church going Christians like they did, like their parents did before them. Sunday's gift of grace is used as their day instead of the Lord's Day. Children are not brought to Sunday School to be taught by their parents.

Those outside the church see cheap grace. They detect no difference in the lives and witness of folks in the church and those outside its hallowed halls. They wonder if the church is a Sunday social club with expensive buildings or a community theater with a limited repertoire and dated entertainment technology.

Both are correct. For all the praisers and bulletin readers think they are different, one thing they have in common with all of humanity is the human trait of wanting cheap grace. Someone to take care of them, of us, without requiring us to change. Jesus, the mother bird that never kicks us out of the nest, who lets us be.

Peter is the first that doesn't want costly grace. Jesus tells the disciples that suffering is coming. He even says the path he is travelling leads to death. Peter takes him aside and rebukes Jesus! Peter tries to take the steering wheel for Jesus. I always thought that if God is your co-pilot, you're in the wrong seat.

“There's something I recognize about religion that us evangelical atheists haven't really grappled with yet, which is that it gives people a chance to surrender. What religion says to you essentially is that you're not in control. That's a very liberating idea.” — Brian Eno


We were on a lonely mountain road. Our way was blocked by a large STOP sign in the middle of our lane. We stopped and wondered. Soon a little phone booth on wheels putted by leading a conga line of vehicles of every type. After the traffic went by the scooter returned and pull in front of us. On the back was a huge sign. FOLLOW ME. We did and got through to the other side.

I believe that too often we try to avoid suffering and challenge, give up growth and healing, because we take that sign from Jesus' back and put it on our own, telling Jesus “Follow Me”. I think that is why Jesus told Peter to get behind him, not to reject him, but that is where followers go, behind the leader. It is Satan that tells us to be out in front of Jesus telling Christ to Follow Me instead of the other way around.

Satan is the one who tells us we don't have to suffer, not God. Comfort and ease is a human goal, not God's who is about growth and healing. There is a Bible verse in Luke 12, where Jesus tells a story about a man whose goal is to “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry” in the next verse, God says “You Fool!” (Luke 12:19-20) The easy life is a foolish goal, for one should strive to be rich toward God, not store up things for himself. As Matthew 6 tells us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourself treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19-20)

A man knocks another man out, cuts him and takes money from him. Terrified we yell, “Leave him alone!” Unless, the man is a surgeon, the cut is surgery to remove cancer, and the money is from the medical insurance. Comfort, safety, and ease are not often the way to healing and growth.

I submit to you that the idea that Christianity is just something you believe, only something you know, leads to Satan's lie that you don't have to follow, you can take it easy once you have your faith ticket punched, you can lead Jesus as your servant in your goals instead of God's goal of saving the world. I submit to you that Christianity is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ made possible by God's Spirit and just like every relationship, it is never the same from day to day, and like the best relationships it makes you a better person than you are when left to yourself.

Sin is a cut off— from God, from neighbor, from environment. The Godly life is one who is in relationship and is living a life connected with others and with God. The church is a community of people committed to healing the hurts of the world by giving their lives to others instead of themselves. That is what Jesus is calling Peter to, what he is calling you and me to. To live loving the world as a mother loves her child, as God so loved the world that he gave his only child to save the world.

Advanced permission is given for non-profit, for-prophet use of the above at no charge as long as it is reproduced unedited with notices and copyright intact. Written copies are provided after they are preached as a courtesy for the personal, private, appreciative use of the congregation of Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church, their families and friends to support the ministry of Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church and its pastor the Rev. J. Christy Ramsey. Join us Sundays! 9 AM Worship or 11 AM Song & Service. Sunday School for all ages is at 10 AM with a special Pastor's Class at 8:15 AM.

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