John O'Hara

Here's an article I read by John O'Hara, a Pastor in Oakland, on the subject of Grace and the Thanksgiving holiday. I know I know, a little late, but still worth the read as we think about how much grace we've been given, deserve, and still need.

By John O’Hara, re-posted from Oharaville:

The holidays, for many of us, feels like that circus act in which a trapeze artist walks across the big tent on a tightrope. Balance is the name of the game.

How do we enjoy a great meal when we have to sit so close to the people who know best how to push our buttons?

How do we balance the horrors of AmerIndian history with the abundance and blessing of living in the most prosperous nation on the little blue planet?

How do we balance the heartfelt desire to provide gifts to our loved ones with a teetering financial crisis?

Yes, the holidays are a tightrope act. Part of the draw is waiting to see who will make it across to the other side with poise and grace.

Grace. It’s a term tossed around so liberally, I fear it’s lost a bit of its’ newness and shine. It’s an idea that desperately needs a volumizing conditioner — something to remind us of its’ mystery and beauty, something that will get it to bounce off our shoulders and turn some heads. Grace is classically defined as unearned favor. I’m beginning to realize that this, or any attempt at definition is far from adequate. And that’s because grace isn’t really grace until the hot glow of her presence has fallen on your own sorry disposition. Grace is merely a theological construct to well-fed, First-World consumers who don’t give a second thought to the fact that, this Thursday, they’ll literally eat like kings while others in this same world literally starve. Grace is a cheap vocabulary word to Americans who simply assume that they live in the greatest nation on earth and take as a matter of fact that God-shed-his-grace-on-thee without diving even momentarily into the complexity of our blessing and how it came about (largely through plague, genocide, slavery, and unjust labor practices).

Being godawful and pathetic, selfish human beings doesn’t disqualify us from blessing. It makes us good candidates for grace—the kind of grace that Jesus was referring to when he said that we’re blessed when we’re hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because we will be filled.

Then there’s what happens when we become recipients of that grace: when we choose to stand in the shoes of “the last, the lost and the least” among us, and recognize that we ourselves are not exceptional specimens of humanity but rather lucky and mostly dishonest, we can appreciate with true humility and appreciation what grace has been afforded to us, and be a little more willing to extend that favor to people with whom we might otherwise feel don’t deserve it.

So the bad news is, you’re a member of the human family. The good news is, you’re a member of the human family. Have a Grace-filled Thanksgiving … remember to love the least like you’re one of them.

Because you are. And Father loves you extravagantly.

John O’Hara is an emerging pentecostal and Associate Pastor at Sequoyah Community Church in Oakland, California.

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