By Nathan Decker
“We have become his poetry, a re-created people.”
Ephesians 2:10a The Passion Translation
You know it when you see it, but when you search for it, you can’t find it. Today, I’m talking about beauty. I’m talking about love. I’m talking about the truth. I’m talking about God’s grace.
It’s beautiful. It’s that moment when you glance up at the sky and see a cascade through the clouds as if an artist painted this just for you. It’s holding your breath as you watch the roll of a football perfectly spiraling through the air to the hands of a receiver who holds it with such care you’d think it was a newborn.
It’s love. It’s the fearlessness of removing all your walls and emotional shields to be bare, naked and vulnerable. It’s the embrace of acceptance; the realization you are loved not because you are flawless but despite your flaws.
It’s truth. It’s awakening to realize this world’s problems don’t deserve our anxiety. It’s opening ourselves to answer this world’s problems with heaven’s perspective. God’s grace is beautiful, lovely, and true. You know it when you see it, and we are the visible sign of this invisible force.
I had a conversation with our youth about Ephesians 2:8-10. I asked them what were the words and phrases that really spoke to them. Their answers:
Faith, Salvation, Gift, Accomplishment, Good
We are saved through our belief.
We didn’t earn this.
We are God’s work.
Good things are ahead.
WOW! Do you hear the hope they have? These are the same kids who have grown up in a world filled with terror. These are the same kids who have radically shifted from going to class to logging-in. These are the same kids who have watched our nation tear at the seams because of politics, racism and anything else about which we can argue. Youth, sitting outside, reading and reflecting on a letter to Ephesus written almost 2,000 years ago saw beauty, love, truth — they saw God’s grace.
We know it when we see it, but we can’t force it, can’t earn it, and definitely can’t fake it. Paul writes to the church, “we are the visible display of the infinite, limitless riches of his grace and kindness.” And I love how this translation puts it, “We have become God’s poetry.”
I think the hardest assignment my high school English teacher, Mrs. Smith, ever gave us was to write a poem. I was always an excellent student, tested well, graduated second in my class. Like all kids who get good grades, I figured out the system. It wasn’t that I was smarter; it was that I had adapted well to the visible paths to success. Take away the structure, the goal-oriented correctness of a right answer, and I was as lost as a hound dog trying to find a steak in a skunk’s den.
Mrs. Smith assigned us to write a poem. What do you mean it doesn’t have to rhyme? Grammar doesn’t apply here? How many stanzas are the right number? What’s the right way to write a poem? How do I make sure I can get an “A”?
Always patient, persistent and pleasant, Mrs. Smith smiled, “You know it when you see it, but when you search for it, you can’t find it.” Write about beauty. Write about love. Write about truth.
God’s poetry is written in each of us. Grace is a gift. We did not earn this. We do not deserve this. Still, God writes beautiful calligraphy within each of us.
Grace is God’s action. It’s not so much we accepted Christ Jesus into our hearts, it’s that we didn’t reject him when he came into our lives. Only through grace can we believe. Only through grace are we experiencing salvation. Only through grace is love expressed. Grace is beauty, love, and truth.
There is no purely scientific scale for ugly, yet we know ugly when we see it. Ugly is behavior that makes you want to leave the room. Ugly is a guitar string breaking in the middle of a chord. Ugly is that sweater you wear at Christmas because everyone agrees, it’s ugly.
There is no rational, reasonable understanding of hatred. Hate creates difference and sees it as evil. Hate is the bully convincing the teacher she is the victim. Hate is adding bitterness to your life while pretending it is sugar.
There is no convincing a lie to be true. Lies destroy community promising the mask of unity. Lies slice up truth and treat one slice as if it is the whole. Lies allow us to prosper in assumptions and find comfort in torture.
Church, we are not called to house ugly, hatred and lies. We are God’s poetry. We are Christ’s body. We are disciples who follow the Spirit. We are beauty, love, truth. We are God’s visible grace. Don’t be ugly, be God’s poetry. Amen.
NATHAN DECKER is the pastor of High Street United Methodist Church. Contact him at 562-3367.