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Meditation: A Stingy Granny is an Oxymoron

I sing today in praise of grandmothers. Those loving, accepting, wiser-than-they-let-on souls who never stop welcoming you no matter your age. They feed you at the drop of a napkin and pile your plate high with food prepared by ethereal love. Grandma would never think of holding back the mashed potatoes--she’ll give you a portion obscenely large, carbohydrates mountain-high flowing with gravy rivers.

A stingy granny is an oxymoron, a sad misfit of nature. Honestly, who thinks their grandmother wouldn’t give all she had? And yet--beloved as she might be--your grandmother doesn’t set a table like Jesus.

Consider these few words from Ephesians: “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” (4:7) Now stop and ask, what kind of portion would Jesus give? No one has trouble imagining the goodness of grandma. Why then is it so hard to imagine the grace of God flowing out in portions high and deep, prepared in a kitchen where the supply never ends and the Master Chef knows our every need?

Read it again: “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” So many of us stumble on the word "apportion." We let our fears tell us that Jesus will somehow hold something back because of our boneheaded behavior or headstrong ways. We are tempted to think he will only feed us when we’ve been good, or when he needs us to do something for him.

“Ahem, ahem,” says the short theologian with a flower in her hat. “Paul is talking about gifts like apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher. Always read the context,” she says. “Paul is talking about how Jesus provides for the church. It’s a specific kind of grace. We should not expect he gives everyone the same portion.” Then the confining logic of loveless interpretation begins to close us in.

Perhaps, I say. Perhaps that’s true. Except I’ve supped at his table, I’ve feasted with him in the here and now, before his great marriage feast is even under way. I can tell you he piles the grace high and deep. Not just forgiving grace: grace for hope, grace for starting again, grace for growth, the grace of leadership, community, love, and vision. He makes new wine for those who have already had too much. He feeds multitudes and leaves baskets more behind.

If we need context for this one verse I choose the context that reminds us “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” --or-- “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.

If you have trouble with the idea that Christ apportions grace, perhaps it’s because those who taught you that verse lost sight of what size portions Jesus gives. For a joyful mediation, imagine the Lord of glory ringing the bell on the front porch, calling out across the ranch:
Ho! Everyone who’s thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.

Reader Comments (4)

This is a nice post. I love the grandmother imagery maybe because I am one now as of 16 months ago.
“Except I’ve supped at his table, I’ve feasted with him in the here and now, before his great marriage feast is even under way. I can tell you he piles the grace high and deep. Not just forgiving grace: grace for hope, grace for starting again, grace for growth, the grace of leadership, community, love, and vision.”

Your words are true of my experience also. He forgave me much and has blessed me over and over again. Even so there are times when I just do not see His grace at work. I have to pray to see it because at times it is like my eyes are obstructed and cannot see or feel any grace in this world. Then there are other times that grace just seems to come flooding in and my eyes see his work everywhere. I do not know if I am expressing this well. Do you think there is a subjective component to our observations of the portions of God’s grace. Sometimes our perception is skewed maybe?

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLouise

Hi Louise, and congrats on being an grandmother. BTW, we entered grandparent territory just 8 months ago. And yes, he's abundantly generous, isn't he?

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRay Hollenbach

I have been so irritated by those who teach God as only a disciplinarian and especially those who teach we must perform at God's perfection or we will be harshly punished. We are His children as we were once our parents' children. Many of us are parents and I for one never expected my children to perform to my level even as imperfect my level of performance was. As an observing and interacting grandparent I even find great joy in watching my grandchildren each perform uniquely imperfect as they grow potentially for an eternity towards God's perfection.

God provided everything, everything, everything we have and we have nothing without Him. God is infinitely a better provider and a more knowledgeable parent than my parents. God is infinitely more grand than any human grandparent has ever been able. Why can't we each simply play with God as my grandchildren did with me this weekend, loving each other just as we each was for each and every shared moment? Why don't we all feel free to err and succeed with God as we would in relationship with any grandparent who dearly loves us? Why do so many of us separate from our God because we fear His vindictive reaction to our childish imperfections?

After 68 years I want most of all to share the abundance available for all at my Father's table. Most are kept from His table because they've been intimidated and manipulated into believing they have to earn a seat.

We earn nothing as all has been a gift of opportunity infinitely greater than the life and environment the best of the best human parent has ever provided. Even those who do not know their Father in Heaven know that if He existed this would be true. Those of us who do know Him need to once and ever more accept His love and trust that He wants only what is best for us, each equally and uniquely loved beyond our immature ability to understand.

Grandparental love is "all" they can share. God's love is "all" He can share. We are only asked to reciprocate with "all" the love we can, not more than we can, to live in eternal relationship with all who do so, also.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHerm Halbach

Hi Herm: what resonates most with me is the Father's Table imagery. That's how I want to experience his love. Peace to you.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRay Hollenbach

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