Not Sound and Fury, but Grace: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
Taking my walk this morning, I was thinking and praying about what I see happening around us on the news, in the street, in the church. The quote that came to my mind was from Macbeth:
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Yet, as I continued walking and thinking, the quote from Shakespeare seemed much too directed, too intentional in terms of what we are witnessing. Moreover, the description, I think, is too dark, even for these times. We certainly hear “sound and fury”, but even among those screaming about government “tyranny” or trying to intimidate reporters on the street, or even those claiming divine revelation as to when to open churches, I sense fear and uncertainty.
Are any of us as convinced as we try to appear to be in putting forward our opinions? I’m not certain that we are and I’m not convinced that others are so different from us.
I think many of us in this time of stress and uncertainty simply need to be reminded of grace. It somehow feels like it has been a long time since I’ve heard the simple message of grace, devoid of politics, anger, talk of conspiracies and division. Perhaps I’m the only one who feeling this, but for now I want to turn from the “sound and fury”, and focus upon what drew me to the message of Christ in the first instance all those years ago.
So, let me leave you with a few words from a sermon that +Michael Ramsey delivered in America in 1962… I think it still has something to say to us.
“Think how stupendous the words are: “the grace of Christ”. That means nothing less than the personal impact of Christ Jesus Our Lord upon us, to make us quite different from what we were before. It means that here, this morning, we have in our midst the Lord Jesus very near to us, just as he was so near to those who saw Him in the towns and villages of Galilee, or by the lakeside, or in the streets of Jerusalem; and that He here and now can have the same effect upon us, that He had upon them. That is what His grace means. You know, perhaps, the old child’s definition of grace, and I think it is impossible to improve upon it: – “Grace is the power Christ gives me to make me like Himself.”
And what were the effects that Christ first had upon those who encountered Him? There were some who felt very guilty on account of their sins, and He brought to them the assurance of forgiveness that lifted a load off their hearts, when He said, “go in peace and sin no more.” And if that’s you – if you are burdened with a feeling of guilt, be very sure that the absolution that Christ brings – that is, if you confess your sins and ask His forgiveness – can be real and overwhelming.
And there were those, alas, who did not realize their sinfulness, because they were just complacent about themselves; and His grace brought home to them the real state of their need, so that they could see themselves in the sight of God, and not just in the sight of their friendly and congratulating neighbors. And if that’s you–and perhaps it is–be very sure that the grace of Christ can bring you to a sense of what you really are in the sight of God’s love and righteousness, and beget in you a real contrition for your sinfulness and a longing for His pardon. That’s another thing that the grace of Our Lord can do for you.
And then there were others who were filled with sorrow. Sorrow, fear and anxiety about themselves or about their friends or about the world was in their hearts. And Christ brought to them a Heavenly peace and joy; a peace and joy which He could give as a Heavenly gift, but the world and the world’s environment could not possibly give to them. And if that is your case, and if that is your need, be sure that the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ can bring to you a supernatural joy and peace through the fixing of your will upon the Divine Will. Remember the great words of Dante:–“in His will is our peace.” And in todays Collect we have just been praying, “grant that Thy grace may prevent and follow us”. Remember that grace means the personal presence of the Lord Christ with its great impact upon you. And would that when those words come, as they do at the end of so many of our services, “the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ”, we realize that it means no less than that for us.”
As we face these uncertain day to come, may the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.