My friends, we are called to be a community of grace & gratitude. Grace & Gratitude flow from what calls us here together. What calls us here together calls to the deepest parts of ourselves, as human beings, calls to our deepest needs and calls to our deepest creative possibilities. What fills those needs and possibilities and what flows from that fulfilment is Grace and Gratitude If our coming together here as a church has got anything to do with the reality of God, as revealed through Jesus, if our praying together, and worshiping and singing together, if our holding silence together, and studying together, sharing and listening together, if our celebrating and grieving together, if our hurting together and forgiving together, if our standing up and struggling together, if our serving together and working together and playing together and upholding love together, if any of this has got anything to do with the reality of God, Then there’s going to be a whole lot of grace & gratitude flowing through. And there sure is, my friends, here, plenty of Grace and gratitude flowing through! The Spirit of God is moving through this community, that is clear, and it’s such a joy to witness. And, of course, because we’re human, there are ways that it isn’t flowing through – grace & gratitude, that is. There are ways for us each of us and all of us to learn and grow. We’re human, that’s why we need grace. That’s fine. There are ways that each and all of us block grace and gratitude, block ourselves from receiving and sharing the inheritance of divine love. That’s opportunity for growth. That’s part of what you sign up for with this whole discipleship thing. Part of our journey of discipleship is getting schooled about the ways we block ourselves and block other people from love and grace. Schooling happens in community. “Iron sharpens iron,” as the Proverb says. If you’re a hermit in the woods or if you’re always running off to fabulous spiritual places, or chasing spiritual highs, it can be easy to think you’re all about love all the time. It’s also pretty easy if any troubles are always someone else’s fault. It’s easy if we’re avoiding the frustrations that come from really being with other human beings. Someone once told me, “The hardest part of being Christian is dealing with other Christians.” But harder than that is learning to deal with ourselves. Solitude is important for that – it is. But it’s through our relationships that we can really learn what we need to about ourselves to grow as people and as disciples of the Way of Jesus. So, for instance, when we learn we’ve done wrong by someone, or when someone has done wrong by us, that’s an opportunity – a challenging opportunity, but an opportunity nonetheless, to grow in the Way. If our sincere prayer is “Jesus, help me be your disciple. God, help me to serve you, to follow your way;” then we are saying “Yes” to being shaped by a divine love that is at the same time unconditional and tough. Often times when someone says “Yes” to God there is first, often, just a flood of fulfilling, uplifting experiences, there’s inspiration and a sense of tremendous purpose and aliveness in this new commitment, And then that’s often times followed by a series of humbling events We will soon find ourselves tripping over our own blind-spots, and we’ll notice how we’re dragged down by our own hard-heartedness. We will be given uncomfortable opportunities to face our own poorly healed wounds, to admit own resentment and anger, to confront and name our own demons. There will be mirrors put up to the ways we’re self-absorbed, our cycles of intoxication and withdrawal, the ways we waste our sacred inheritance and end up face down in the mud. If we’re sincere in trying to be disciples, we’ll see that it in our humbling that we can really experience the meaning of Grace. The parable of the “prodigal son” is one of the most memorable ways that Jesus taught about Grace & Gratitude. It’s the story of a young person who squanders his inheritance and finds himself face down in the mud. More than humbled: humiliated by his own selfish allegiance to appetite. He turns around and comes back home, with fear and trembling, to the father whose inheritance he wasted, only to find love – he returns to love, unconditional love. This is how it is with God and within the Realm of Heaven. This is the story of Grace, and of our need for God’s Grace. Now the brother in the parable, the “good” brother, who stayed home and worked, he didn’t share this unconditional love for the prodigal son. He was full of resentment, that this bad brother wasn’t punished but rather welcomed back to enjoy the love of the father that the good brother feels that he alone deserves. God’s unconditional love can be tough. The resentful son is getting schooled here. The prodigal son got schooled in his own selfishness, which he grew through. The resentful son now has an opportunity to be humbled and shaped by the scandal of unconditional love. What the resentful son is missing is we’re talking about inheritance, which is not something you earn but just receive. Inheritance is a very important idea in Jesus’ teachings about God’s love and grace and our gratitude for it. Jesus says we “inherit” everlasting life, we “inherit” the Kingdom, the Realm of Heaven. Inheritance is not about earning, deserving, or proving our merit. An inheritance is ours just for being born. But an inheritance is ours to treasure and share or to squander. That’s up to us. It is also up to us that if we find we’ve been squandering our gifts in this life – and beyond this life – that we then have the humility to come back to our Creator and to receive God’s love and grace. So, thank you for helping to share, in gratitude, our inheritance of grace.