Eco-Justice Ministries  

Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

A Space for Grace
distributed 1/11/02 - ©2002

Grace lies at the heart of the Christian faith.

Christians rejoice in the grace of God, which offers us forgiveness and new beginnings. Grace provides hope and a depth of relationship that we could never earn or claim by our own merit. As a former slave trader described in the well-known hymn, God's "amazing grace" is both transformational and healing.

In our ethics, we try to extend that sort of grace into our personal and societal relationships. If we look at what can be claimed as our best efforts in diverse areas like family life, bankruptcy laws and criminal justice, we can see that they are grounded in grace in the possibility of forgiveness, fresh starts, hope and resilience.

Grace does not always come easily into our relationships. If we want those healing possibilities to break into our lives and our communities, we need to build in some "space for grace" -- some leeway and resources that allow options for forgiveness and new beginnings.

We've all seen examples of systems pushed to the limits, without any space for grace.

  • I talked to a woman recently who's over-loaded by work, graduate studies and community responsibilities, and who does not see a chance for a healing "personal day" for several months.

  • There are countless families that have no savings and are tapped out on credit, and who are just barely able to meet daily expenses. Without a financial cushion, a problem that would be somewhat inconvenient for a middle-class family -- a sudden medical expense or repair bill -- becomes a severe crisis.

  • Many urban road systems are so close to capacity that a rush hour fender-bender can back up the highways for miles, and spill paralyzing congestion out into the surrounding streets.

  • All around the world, migratory routes for wildlife have been fragmented by housing, roads, and other "developments." Rivers have been dammed, and critical wetlands have been drained. Species that now are endangered can be pushed to extinction by just one more disruption to their migration path, or a drought.
A space for grace provides a buffer against catastrophe and collapse. It allows the possibility of healing, or maybe just of survival.

It is not a matter of luxury. A space for grace provides for sufficiency, not excess. A space for grace is that tiny little option beyond the bare necessities of the everyday world.

There is a space for grace when you have room and food to seat an unexpected guest at the dinner table. There's a space for grace when you can drop everything to sit with a grieving friend. There's a space for grace when the stream can still flow in a dry year.

The Jewish faith has always insisted on the need for a space for grace in schedules and priorities. The Sabbath institutionalizes a break from work for the purpose of rest, family and worship.

In the United States, and many other nations, systems of welfare and health care provide an essential space for grace for people caught up in crisis.

Our personal lives, our families, our local communities, our globalized society, and our environmental home are all richer and more secure when we build in a space for grace. When that protective buffer is taken away -- when we're living on the edge in our schedules, finances, natural resources and environmental relationships -- then we're in a dangerous, hurtful and violent space. And that is not where our faith calls us to be.

"'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home," the song says. Let's search for ways to provide a space for that grace in all parts of our lives.

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The Sunday closest to Earth Day, April 21, is a great opportunity to lift up care for creation within the life of a congregation. Earth Day is also a great occasion to join in partnership with other religious communities and with secular organizations in highlighting our shared convictions and concerns.

The international coordination for Earth Day 2002 will highlight an inclusive theme, a global call to Protect Our Home.

Eco-Justice Ministries is planning an ecumenical service of worship in the Denver area for April 21. We'll also be making available worship resources for congregational and community use. One of the lectionary texts for the day ("All who believed were together and had all things in common" -- Acts 2:44) has great possibilities for relevant preaching.

It is time to start planning for how your community can be involved in Earth Day.


Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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Eco-Justice Ministries ended all programming on July 31, 2020. This site is an archive of writings and resources.
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