Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Prorating Grace

I spent Sunday evening in an amazing corporate worship gathering at Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta celebrating the premiere of the new Celebrating Grace: Hymnal for Baptist Worship. Imagine the singing in a worship gathering in which the pews were filled with a high percentage of women and men with masters degrees and doctorates in (church) music, and the combined forces of multiple church choirs, accompanied (in various combinations) by a massive pipe organ, grand piano, brass choir, solo woodwinds and strings, guitar and percussion, or simply the sound of the gathered voices. If you weren’t there it’s hard to imagine, and equally hard to describe. Monday there were reading sessions and workshops … and fellowship with ministry colleagues I rarely get to see. Someone has already asked if it was traditional or contemporary (as if those are the only ways to think about worship music). Answer: both and neither. But that’s not what this Musings is about.

At gatherings like this, there are people from related organizations, some commercial, some academic, some affiliational, who come and set up exhibits. In order to encourage attendees to visit the exhibitors, we were issued a “passport” on Monday morning that we were to get stamped by each vendor. The passports were our ticket for the prize drawings during lunch. I’m always up for a freebie, so I made my way to all of the vendors and got my passport stamped at each in order to be eligible.

About halfway through lunch, they asked if everyone had turned in their passports for the drawings and went around gathering them from those who hadn’t turned them in yet. Then they started handing out blank passports to those who had not gotten one and visited the vendors so that they, too, could be included in the prize drawings. What?! You mean I went to all that trouble in those hot, crowded rooms where the exhibitors were set up in order to get my passport properly stamped, and all those who were too lazy to do the same have the same chance as I do to win a door prize?! I was angry for a moment, then truth hit me and I told my table-mates, “I feel like one of the workers hired first thing in the morning.”

Do you remember that parable? The workers hired later in the day … even those who worked only an hour … got the same pay as those who had worked all day … and guess who was upset about it! We understand why they were upset. The others didn’t work as long or as hard (or as well) to earn their pay. The story is about grace, and God doesn’t prorate grace, but gives it freely to all who are undeserving … and ALL of us are undeserving. I didn’t win a door prize (mine probably went to someone who didn’t earn it), but I came home with a pretty decent illustration.
That’s enough to think about for now. The peace of Christ to you.


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