The Costliest of Grace


The Pas Good Friday
Year B
30 March 2018

Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Psalm 22 pg 728
Hebrews 10:16-25
Mark 14-15

O Holy and Immortal One,
hear us as we pray through Jesus, our high priest:
heal all our divisions,
reconcile all who are estranged,
console all who suffer,
and finally raise up to new life
all that is bound by death. Amen.

Isaiah’s message for us today tells us of the cost that Christ pays for you, and for me. And in recent days I’ve been thinking of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s concept of costly grace and its opposite, cheap grace.

Cheap grace is the knowledge that we are saved, by Christ’s actions, today, on the cross.

Cheap grace tells us that because we are saved there is no need to do absolutely anything else in order to gain heaven.

And this is absolutely correct.

When we look at Isaiah, when we look at the passage from Mark that was read for today, Christ has done it all, and he’s done it for you and for me.

Christ endures the passion, the interrogation, the abuse, for each one of us. He is crucified and dies on the cross for our sins, for our lives, for our future, not for his own.

And to accept this knowledge but not do anything with it is what Bonhoeffer calls ‘cheap grace.’

And this is a very easy stance to accept. This is done for you and for me. It happened over 2000 years ago, and it has no bearing on what I’m going to do after I leave the church today.

Or, if we accept the Hebrew mindset, we relive this moment in our salvation history, in our history with God, not just today, but every year. Not just every year, but it affects us and how we live every single day.

Isaiah tells us: “3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isa 53:3-5)

And this is how we often look at such a gruesome event – with pity, with horror, with keeping it at arm’s length so that we aren’t affected by the blood, the heat, the pain and the suffering.

But there is another way to accept this deed, this action done for you and for me. Bonhoeffer talks about the concept of costly grace, the opposite of cheap grace, in his writings.

Costly grace is looking at the cost that God outlays for you and for me. Looking at what this cost God and expending that amount of energy not just in being kind to one another, but in working toward justice and toward equality for all of humanity.

Costly grace is taking this salvation and helping others to be equally freed in their lives, in their actions, in their decisions.

Bonhoeffer wrote during the time before and during the 2nd world war. He was a German citizen whose family was directly affected by Hitler’s decisions and politics.

And throughout his career as a minster, a priest, in the Lutheran church, he saw how we the average parishioner, accepted God’s sacrifice on our behalf, and at the most raised a glass to Jesus, and to his actions on our behalf, today.

But there is so much more we are urged to do, to participate in to make this world the garden that God envisions, the place of equality and fairness for all of humanity that we are so urged to become through Jesus teachings, through God’s sacrifice, and Jesus death on the cross for each one of us, today.

“6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth” (Isa 53:6-9)

Today, Jesus dies on the cross for you, and for me. Jesus dies on the cross for all those who put him there, and for all those who believe that he is the son of God.

Today Jesus takes the boldest step possible to break the bonds of sin and death to open to us the way of everlasting life. Jesus is the lamb that takes away the sin of the world.

But that leave the question of what’s next?

We continue to see throughout history that when people step forward to make changes to make peoples lives better, to make all people free, and equal in the eyes of our brothers and sisters, then someone comes along and tries to institute the ways of the world once more, to reinstate hierarchal standards that say this person is better than that person.

One example that comes to mind is the caste system in India, a system that the federal government denies is still in place.

I remember a few years ago, a news story of a jewel thief had stolen a necklace and swallowed it. The police kept the man in jail until the necklace had passed through and exited the mans body in the usual manner. But the person to retrieve the necklace, to clean it and to return it to the custody of the police was not the police officer. Rather it was a man whose position in society labeled him ‘untouchable’.

In the caste system of India, the untouchables are the lowest of the low and they’re the ones to deal with waste, with pollutants, with natural fertilizers while those in the upper castes don’t touch or deal with this kind of substance at all.

For a man of such a caste, where others will intentionally not touch him, an act of justice, an act of rebellion is to reach out and to touch him, and it is amongst this group that Christianity finds a foothold. After all, Jesus has no problem reaching out to touch the children of God, no matter where they are or where they come from.

Costly grace is reaching out to balance the scales, it’s reaching down to help someone up. It’s remaking the world so that we are all equal, and that equality is shared amongst all of humanity.

Because it is only when we can look at our brothers and sisters and see them as equals, as truly brothers and sisters in all matters that we have embraced costly grace, that we’re willing to do what we need to do to ensure that such blessings are available to each and every person in creation.

Oh, and for those who may not know, Bonhoeffer fought for the resistance, and he actively sought an end to the Hitler regime. He was imprisoned, and the day his prison was liberated by allied forces, Bonhoeffer was hung by the Nazi’s.

But throughout, he worked for liberty, he worked for justice, he worked for the light of the gospel in the dark places of the world and in people’s hearts.

How are we going to act, live, work for the kingdom of God because of Christ’s actions today?

“10It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isa 53:10-12)



About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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