Let’s Unpack Grace
Rev. Dana Horton
Let’s have a short definition first. Wikipedia defines Grace as Divine influence. That’s with a capital “D.”
What does Divine influence mean? It’s complicated. In many religious traditions, Grace means that God gets actively involved in our lives.
- Receive an intuitive hit — Grace.
- A chance meeting leads to a new job — Grace.
- Something that looked to be terrible turns out to be the best thing ever — Grace.
It’s akin to “knowing” someone in high places that can fix your parking ticket.
Sounds great. How do people get more of that? It depends. The Catholics ramp up Grace (capital “G”) through sacraments such as communion, baptism, and even marriage (although that last one was a late-comer, and included a long set of instructions). Most other Christian denominations rely more on prayer than sacraments to cultivate Divine Grace.
But what if you don’t think God is ‘out there’ someplace and hence does not need sacraments or prayer? That’s fair. Certain Eastern and New Thought philosophies have a concept that Grace (and God) is omnipresent both around and through each of us. These philosophies use a term called Consciousness (which is sometimes usually adds to the confusion) when they talk about Grace. In this way of thinking, Grace is always present, like oxygen. Or like water that keeps us afloat.
The nice thing about the New Thought approach is that you don’t have to earn it or do a lot of rituals. Although meditation helps. Sometimes.
What about Grace and Karma? Karma throws us into endless cycles of cause and effect experiences in our lives, until we learn whatever it is we are supposed to learn. We are on our own. No Divine help. That’s tough. But if Grace gets incorporated, the cycles spiral a little higher each time around.
This sounds New-Agey. It is. And we want to be cautious here and not ‘check our brain at the door’ when we enter into these contemplations.
No one is forcing an either-or choice here. We’ll be content to merely have a leaning on how we see Grace right this minute. That lean could shift as we have new experiences that may give more credence one way or another. The only thing we really need to understand in discussing Grace is that, whatever Grace is, it does not involve blessing from an old man in the sky.