Stewards of Grace

by Andrew Stobart.

Reading again through the cards and letters we received this summer when we left my previous appointment, there was one particular note that prompted a lump in my throat. ‘Thank you,’ it read, ‘for the example you have left me of grace in the face of spite and hostility.’ Leaving aside for the moment all the other questions (and memories) that this raises, it struck me that this is the most precious affirmation I have received about those eight years. The tears it prompted are not just a product of the ‘spite and hostility’ that put ‘grace’ in such sharp relief; they arise from the profoundly humbling thought that my fumbling attempts to deal with a situation that brought pain and damage to my family and I were, at least for this one person, a window onto grace. Suddenly the familiar words of Paul to the Corinthians make new sense: ‘everything is for your sakes, so that grace may increase.’[1]

Paul – and, for that matter, the rest of the apostles and other early Christian leaders – had an expectation of ministry that wouldn’t fit well into a glossy magazine about vocational options. They knew nothing about ‘work-life balance’ on the one hand, or ‘dignity at work’ on the other. For them, striding after the risen Jesus into the treacherous terrain of our own humanity was nothing less than a vocation of death (and, only just so, resurrection). Of course, figuring out what discipleship means in any given context is never straightforward, and we wisely acknowledge our own propensity to mistake the direction of Jesus’ footsteps. However, it seems even Jesus was more pessimistic about the public acceptability of our ministries than we tend to be: ‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.’[2]

Grace, surely, is the key.

Or, perhaps better, our abundant God, whose life overflows in the grace of Christ, and whose calling to all people is rooted in the further gracious outpouring of the Spirit, is the key.

Understanding grace as abundance – or generosity, or overflow – should be, on the one hand, a fairly straightforward Christian reading of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. On the other hand, gracious abundance ought also to be a basic benchmark for the community that is created by the liveliness of Jesus. That neither of these is self-evident in the Christian Church today is one (good) rationale for the continued existence of the Wesleyan church.

First, a Wesleyan theology – literally, a word about God – proclaims without caveat that the character of revelation and of the career of Jesus and of the workings of the Spirit is all grace.[3] As a Methodist theologian has recently put it, God creates all things ‘in sheer and measureless freedom and grace’ and sustains all things ‘in absolute grace’.[4] Grace, in short, is what there is.

Secondly, a Wesleyan community puts generous overflow at its heart. In today’s culture, such a grace-filled community would be truly counter-cultural. Indeed, it is perhaps even a novelty within the Methodist Church, where we are often tricked by the scarcity of resources into the polar opposite of grace: fear and anxiety, clinging to what we have, distrustful of anything that looks like a prodigal waste. The use of music and song in the Methodist Church might be a particular worked example: to what extent do our hymns and musical traditions now contain grace ‘in monotone satiety’, rather than truly participating in the Wesleyan heritage of song that liberates grace ‘in superabundant and jubilant thankfulness’.[5]

The family of Jesus’ followers needs a Wesleyan voice, alongside all the other voices, to sing, persistently and eloquently, that God is grace, that grace is gracious, and that graciousness is participation in God.

This vision for Christian vocation – lay and ordained alike – was summed up by the apostle Peter, who exhorted his readers to be ‘good stewards of grace’.[6] The tears with which I began were caused by a situation in which God’s people had become gatekeepers for grace (which was kept safely hidden away), not good stewards of it. The wise steward, as Jesus infers, unbolts the storehouse to bring out the riches and to lay a table of abundance.[7]

This week, may we be good stewards of grace, ushering all comers into God’s banquet of abundant life.

 

[1] 2 Corinthians 4:15. This comes just after Paul’s dramatic claim in verse 12, ‘So then, death is at work in us, but life in you!’

[2] John 15:18.

[3] For an interesting recent article on this, examining Wesley’s understanding of free grace over against more Reformed conceptions, see J. Gregory Crofford, ‘“Grace to All did Freely Move”: Thoughts on Charles Wesley’s 1741/1742 Hymns on God’s Everlasting Love’, Wesley and Methodist Studies, Vol. 6 (2014), pp. 37-62.

[4] Tom Greggs, ‘In Gratitude for Grace: praise, worship and the sanctified life’, International Journal of Systematic Theology 70:2 (2017), p149.

[5] See Greggs, p162, who notes that singing is a particularly Methodist way to signify gratitude for God’s overflowing grace.

[6] 1 Peter 4:10.

[7] Matthew 13:52.

An Update on the ‘Atonement Project’

by Ben Pugh.

In my last post (20 Nov 2017: ‘The Atonement Project: A Work in Progress’) I told the story, firstly, of how I became interested in the central symbol of Christian faith and then how far I had got with a trilogy of books exploring the theme of atonement first from the angle of tradition and reason (Atonement Theories), then from experience (Old Rugged Cross) and now from Scripture. And so, my third book: Pictures of Atonement: A New Testament Study is now underway. It is meant to be with the publishers by the end of April, so I will use this post as a chance to share how far I have got and try to elicit any feedback you might have.

The book will be a study of the leading New Testament metaphors of atonement: Participation (the dying and rising-with metaphor), justification, reconciliation, redemption, sacrifice and victory. Colin Gunton and John McIntyre, in their work on the New Testament metaphors of atonement and salvation in the late 1980s and early 1990s, were building upon, and sometimes wrestling with, the linguistic work of Janet Martin Soskice. They agreed with her that almost everything the New Testament writers wanted to say about the benefits of the death and resurrection of Christ was expressed in pictorial language, language which should not, however, be decoded into propositions but appreciated on its own terms as ‘reality depicting.’

A big part of my study will be about the origins of these metaphors. It is widely agreed that metaphors come into existence in response to the shock of the new. Something hitherto unknown to us starts to need language that is not yet in existence to describe it. The new language comes to birth via the use of some suitable aspect of a familiar thing which is pressed into service to explain the unfamiliar thing. And so, in this third phase of my project, I am focusing on that all-important beginning point. I have been trying to imagine the genesis of New Testament atonement language.

I have located that genesis within Pentecost. As Jimmy Dunn made clear many years ago, the experience of the Spirit, for the first Christians, was an experience of the risen Jesus. And, as I discovered the other day with my students as we studied the A, B, C, B1, A1 structure of Acts 2, the central fact of the Day of Pentecost narrative is the fact that ‘God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ’ (2:36). Ascension is the message of Pentecost. The giving of the Spirit is the evidence of the ascension. Once given, the Spirit seems to have been an entirely convincing experience of the risen, ascended Jesus, who was now Lord and dispenser of the Spirit. Not only did this result in the crowds that formerly mocked now being mysteriously ‘cut to the heart,’ but from here on in, the Spirit seems to have provided continual epistemic access to the two least verifiable and yet the two most crucially important axes of the Christian faith: the reported past of the resurrection of Christ and the uncertain future of the return of Christ. Nearly all the people depicted in Acts as coming to faith in Christ were not eye-witnesses of the empty tomb. They were convinced, it seems, by the indwelling of the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.

As a result of the coming of the Spirit the metaphors of atonement were generated as ways of making sense of the great reversal that was the resurrection and glorification of the shamefully crucified Jesus of Nazareth. Pentecost, therefore, together with its immense after-glow, was a breakthrough. It cut people to the heart and brought an experience of life ‘in Christ’, together with such joy and peace that people became willing to risk everything for the Way.

This new Pentecost standpoint gave the earliest believers a subversively alternative angle on things over against the powerful hegemonies that still viewed Jesus as the shamed revolutionary. Metaphor gave triumphal expression to this subversive view of Jesus, the true Lord and Saviour. Hence it may be that the earliest metaphors are those of a more triumphalistic or reassuring kind: the union of believers with their triumphant enthroned Messiah, and the wonders of being justified in Christ; of sharing in his vindication. Then, as time goes on, the metaphors go on providing language for a faithful response to the ever deepening tensions with Rome and the religious establishment. I say this tentatively knowing that the dating of the New Testament documents is perennially contentious, but there seems to be a shift of emphasis in the later parts of the New Testament away from participation in the triumph and vindication of Christ and towards an emphasis on sacrifice.  As persecution mounted it may be that the metaphors of cost, though doubtless always to hand, were brought more into play. These express a more fraught relationship to power. To this phase belong the cost-orientated and bloody imagery associated with ransomed slaves, temple sacrifices and battlefields. These prepared the faithful for the eventuality of being called upon to pay the ultimate price for their faith.

The possible implications of this work of mine for mission, ministry and the life of faith I have yet to think through, so I would very much welcome any comments you may have about this post.

O Worship the King, all glorious above

by Sheryl Anderson.

I recently travelled to Ghana. I went to represent the Methodist Church in Britain at the Conference of the Methodist Church in Ghana. The opening of the Conference was an unforgettable experience; an event both entirely Methodist and thoroughly Ghanaian, which lasted nearly five hours. One of the most moving parts of the service occurred when the various groups and organisations within the life of the Church processed into Sekondi Methodist Cathedral, singing Wesley hymns, and offering gifts to give thanks to God. The familiarity of the worship demonstrated the Ghanaian Church’s roots as an ‘Overseas District’ of British Methodism. In contrast, the procession of the traditional chiefs exhibited a character and decorum most emphatically Ghanaian. Wearing magnificent robes and much gold, accompanied by a retinue of courtiers, the chiefs brought a quality of dignity and nobility to the proceedings. Speaking through an advocate – no chief acting in an official capacity talks directly to the assembled company, but always through a spokesperson – each one brought greetings and gifts. They were treated with deep respect and honour, as befits kings. The Conference was truly graced by their presence.

As I watched and listened I realised I was in the presence of customs, conduct and attitudes that are as ancient as human society. I was reminded of the behaviour of the Old Testament kings, whose royal courts comprised family members, officers, advisors, soldiers, servants and hangers on. Clearly, the writers of the Old Testament observed the way important men exercised power and authority, and decided that God, who is even more important and has the most power and authority, must behave like this too.

Consequently, we find descriptions of God’s court, and of God scheming and plotting to affect the affairs of humans.[i]

At the beginning of the Book of Job (one of the lectionary readings set for this time of the year) we see a similar scene portrayed. The heavenly court gathers; present are all sorts of beings and functionaries who come together to wait on the pleasure of God, the heavenly king. These courtiers include a specific individual, a character named in many translations as Satan.

I am not a Hebrew scholar, but the inference in the way the Hebrew is translated seems misleading.  The actual word is ha-satan, and it means, the satan.  In most English translations of the Bible it is written with a capital letter, so it appears that this is a being whose name is Satan.  However, this an interpretation of the text.  It is possible to understand the term as a role, an occupation.  Just as in the court of an ancient Middle Eastern king there were various roles that must be fulfilled, so the writer imagines it is the same in the heavenly court. The Hebrew word satan means something like, accuser, or prosecutor.  Therefore, another way of understanding the text is that there is a Public Prosecutor in God’s heavenly court, whose task is to present the evidence against those who break God’s Law. This interpretation helps to make sense of what happens next, for it seems that God and the Public Prosecutor have a contest, the object of which is Job’s faithfulness. The challenge is to discover whether Job is faithful because he has led a fortunate life and never endured any suffering, or because he truly loves and respects God. As the Prosecutor says in Job 1:9, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’

The Book of Job identifies a common misunderstanding about God. Human flourishing is often profoundly thwarted by circumstances.  We can explain this by imagining that the universe is engaging in a cruel game with us. For believers, it is easy to assume that the opponent is God – a capricious player, seeking to manipulate us by trickery and cunning. This misconception of God leads to the following logic: if I can guess the correct moves I can win the game and get what I want. Conversely, if I do not get what I want, or it is taken away, I must have somehow failed to play correctly.

Christianity offers a counter to this false construction. Surely, the mark of a loving God is that God would be born among us, live among us, suffer death as we do, and, by so doing, enable us to encounter the beauty of love, in that love can continue to grow, withstand and overcome even the most evil acts. In other words, God became what we are so that we might become what God is.

 

[i] See for example 1Kings 22:19-23. It is important to notice that this passage tells us more about the behaviour of kings in the ancient Middle East than it does about God.

Speaking freely about Free Speech

by Ermal Kirby.

I have a confession to make: I’ve struggled for a long time with the notion of free speech. There; I have said it! And now I will duck down behind my defensive wall, while the missiles are fired, and seek to explain this unorthodox view.

My unease is due partly to an awareness that speech is never truly unfettered. (For example, the law forbids utterances that incite racial hatred or violence.) More fundamentally, I see ‘free speech’ being widely presented as one of the foundational values of civilised, democratic societies – some people would want to regard it as an ‘absolute’ value – and I find myself wondering why this particular freedom should have been accorded this status, privileging it above other values.

While I believe that there are ‘absolutes’ in our world, I find that in practice we run the risk of leading distorted and unreal lives if we begin to treat any value or principle, apart from one, as absolute. We acknowledge the fundamental role of gravity in our universe, but we do not treat it as ‘absolute’, as we have discovered that it can be countered by other forces and principles that are equally valid. We take to the air and fly, seemingly unconstrained by gravity, while never forgetting its power, or the devastating consequences if countervailing forces fail.

So ‘free speech’ has to be qualified; and the necessary countervailing force (which I would argue is universally applicable) is found in the formula, “Speaking the truth in love.” It is a formula that is found in the Christian Scriptures (Ephesians 4:15), but there is no proprietorial right to be asserted, and the formula should not be dismissed solely on the grounds of its source.

According to this formula, speech that is truly free has the effect of liberating the speaker and the hearers, setting them free from constraints that make them less able to experience the wholeness and well-being that is their rightful inheritance as human beings. Christians believe that ‘Love’ (unconquerable benevolence) is the foundational principle of life; it is absolute. Love should be, therefore, both the motivation and the goal of ‘free speech’.

Comedians and politicians, columnists and poets, with all the rest of humanity, have the responsibility of ensuring that their speech is freeing as well as free. One quick way of testing whether speech meets these criteria would be to ask, If my audience was made up primarily of the people about whom I am speaking, would it be for them a liberating, life-giving experience, and would I be at ease sharing a meal with them after making these comments?

Boris Johnson, the former Foreign Secretary, is an educated man, and an astute politician. We can believe, therefore, that he was fully aware of the effect that his writing about the burqa in his column in the Daily Telegraph in August would have on his readers, and that he could anticipate the intense debate that would follow.

The arguments became so widespread, and so heated, that an investigation had to be launched, to determine whether or not Mr Johnson breached the Code of Conduct of the Conservative Party. I want to suggest that the test that needs to be applied is not the Code of a political party, but rather, the test of common humanity. What might be the adjudication if the charge were seen to be, in essence, one of bullying – using one’s power, influence or authority to intimidate, humiliate, denigrate, or deny rights to someone who does not have the same influence or power?

‘Confession’, admitting and turning away from fault in the context of worship, is practised less and less in our world. How refreshing, how liberating, it would be to hear an admission from Mr Johnson that on this occasion he had ‘missed the mark’ – or perhaps, given that Classics was his field of study, he might prefer to render it in Latin: ‘Mea culpa; mea maxima culpa.’ And then he would find that he is in the company of many others who recognise that they too keep failing as they try to learn what it means to ‘speak the truth in love’ – but we don’t give up, because we believe that love is the road that leads to Truth, absolute and whole.

How do you get through the day?

by Stephen Lindridge.

There’s a great poem called the ‘To Do List’ by Simon Armitage which combines an anxiety about the pace of contemporary life, with Simon’s obsession with the late Donald Campbell and his attempt to break speed records. The line ‘Polyfilla all surface cracking to Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah’ particularly makes me grin from ear to ear.

At times I wonder if many of us with significant levels of responsibility all think we’re indestructible in the face of mountains of things ‘to do’. So we offer a grit and determination of mind and find ourselves uttering lines like, “Well it’s just got to get done!” But then we read something like the above line of the poem, it reminds us how utterly ridiculous our false expectation of ourselves is.

The rhythm of discipleship Jesus invites us into, does hold demanding challenge but it also holds life in all its fullness. Does it seem that we in the Western world particularly, have a difficulty in accepting and practicing the latter?

The recent conversations held by the TUC advocated a four-day week that speculated a better productive workforce. I found myself grumbling at the TV and stating an eight-day week would be better. I might stand a chance to reduce the ‘to-do’ list in a more sensible manner than working all the hours available.

So I find myself asking: does my theology of work too often supersede my theology of true discipleship. Am I deluded to think if I work as hard as possible, the Kingdom will grow? If all the challenging problems are faced, delegated, mapped and managed, the world will be a better place…won’t it?

One senior figure in a learning institution, shared their revelation that this intensity of work was just ‘how it is’ for anyone in a responsible role. We need to accept that this is the nature of such work; long hours (70-100hpw) ever-increasing problems, with less and less resources. We should just suck it up and get on with it. After all what else can we do? Moaning about it won’t change things, it only makes one more embittered about it.

Any institution in the face of great change is bound to require high occupancy of concentration and attention while it transforms; is that acceptable? How many more people are shamed with labels such as ‘well they just couldn’t cut it’, rather than realising the job was more than three people’s work once-upon-a-time?

These may be generalised thoughts around the world of work, whether paid or voluntary, but at the heart of our discipleship in following Jesus, I know I am invited to depend upon God. No matter what the challenge, big or small, realistic or seemingly impossible, I find myself seeking God’s help in prayer.

This may not alleviate the problem or the impossibility of which of the priorities must be decided upon first but it does bring me a greater sense of peace in the challenges before me. This may not change the questions we ought to put to the economical facets of greed, oppression or inequality but into today’s to-do list, Christ walks with me. My delusions are exposed; my realistic goals find clarity and life gains perspective, thankfulness and even joy!

Welcoming together

by Jonathan Pye.

Because September marks the beginning of the Connexional Year, it is often a month of welcome services for those starting new appointments in the life of the Church. Such ‘welcomes’ are times of both anticipation and greeting. Our modern English word ‘welcome’ derives from a combination of two Old English words – “wil-”, indicating desire or pleasure, and “cuman”, meaning come. So, “wilcuman’’ originally meant “it is good you have come,” and ‘welcome’ still retains this same basic meaning.

‘Welcome’ is, however, much more than simply a ‘social’ greeting. It is something deeply theological, rooted in the traditions of both Old and New Testaments, and often linked to ‘hospitality’ – open-ness to the stranger, the new-comer, those who come among us. In the Old Testament, we read of Abraham greeting three strangers as he sits under the oak trees at Mamre, setting before them a veritable feast, not just water and bread, but a calf and curds and milk. As Megan Warner in the recent book, Who is my Neighbour?, reminds us:  ‘Abraham…plays his role according to the hospitality code of his day, but he plays it lavishly.’[1] In response, Abraham’s guests also play their role lavishly, and in the exchange of gifts comes a response so extravagant that Sarah laughs at the audacity of it. That is the quality of welcome we are invited to make to others – one that is lavish in its generosity, that goes beyond formality to become open-handed and open-hearted, and invites open-handedness and open-heartedness in response.

In the New Testament, Abraham’s story is echoed in the Letter to the Hebrews, where the list of hospitable virtues in Chapter 13 begins with the words, ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it…[2] Those virtues, with the ministry of hospitable welcome prominent among them, echo through the history of the Church. They over-rode, for example, the rigours that those early pioneers of monastic life, the Desert Fathers and Mothers, imposed on their own bodies, so that however frugal their own diet, there was always food to set before guests; however committed to silence and solitude, they remained open and welcoming to strangers and to engagement with them. This, in turn, influenced Western monasticism, and in St Benedict’s 6th century ‘rule’ for monastic life, hospitality, founded on the belief that in welcoming others we are welcoming Christ, lay at its heart. In his book, Colonies of Heaven[3] Ian Bradley helps us to listen to the distinct message of the early Celtic and Anglo-Saxon communities and to apply their ethos to contemporary Church life. In contrast to today’s individualism, Bradley points us to their communal life and how it produced a model of ministry that was collegiate and communitarian rather than individualistic, in which a radical hospitality and ministry of welcome became the under-pinning, distinctive feature of their life together.

In an age when we are often tempted to forget that, ‘the Church is an essentially provisional community[4] we too frequently turn our gaze inward to maintaining the institution rather than outward to welcoming the angels whom God sends among us, in whom we encounter the Christ who walks with us on our shared pilgrimage. The revival of pilgrimage, as Bradley notes, has been one of the striking movements of recent years. Whether physically journeying to places like Iona or Lindisfarne or, further afield, to the old pilgrim routes of medieval Europe, or much more locally where ‘pilgrimage’ may be expressed though ‘prayer walks’ around a local community or Circuit, or even walking quietly and devotionally around a labyrinth, however expressed pilgrimage is always essentially a communal venture carrying the connotation of walking with others. It is this commitment to ‘walk with others’ that lies at the heart of welcome, for genuine welcome consists not of words alone but in the commitment to companionship and to working out a more communal form of ministry.

At a time when the demands on the currently diminishing number of ordained ministers are all too clear and the risk of isolation, burnout, stress and sickness are ever present, and when many in secular employment are facing similar stresses, that sense of mutuality of ministry in which we walk alongside and minister to each other in the Body of Christ is perhaps more important than it has ever been. This time of year is therefore both an opportunity to say to others, ‘We are glad that you are here’ and to show the generous hospitality that expresses welcome as the sign of our commitment to journey together.

 

[1] Carter R, Wells, S (eds.) (2018) Who is my Neighbour? The Global and Personal Challenge. London: SPCK, p. 125.

[2] Hebrews 13:2

[3] Bradley, I. (2000) Colonies of Heaven: Celtic Models for Today’s Church. London: DLT.

[4] Ibid., p. 235

The Grace of God in the Community of the Church

by Tom Greggs.

I find myself this month at the very end of the first part of a fifteen year project; it has in fact taken me seven years to get this far. More accurately, I’ve been working actively on this part of the project for seven years, but thinking, preaching and writing about related issues for much longer. Seven years ago, I decided to embark on a three volume Ecclesiology (a theological account of the church). I am just putting the final editorial touches on the first of these three volumes which should be finally published in about a year’s time. Somewhat to my surprise (shock perhaps!), the volume is very long—280,000 words just for volume one!

But after all that repetitive strain injury from typing, I find that there is one thing above all else that time and time again I want still to say and it is this: the grace of God’s work of salvation involves not only putting humanity right with Godself but also (and equally through the grace of God) God’s work of salvation seeks to put us right with one another.

The origins of sin arise from the human breaking a relationship with God through disobedience: in the fall story, Adam and Eve disobey the one command God gives to them in the context of God’s superabundant grace in creation; they eat the forbidden fruit. But the immediate consequence and effect of this act, even before the description of the rupture in the relationship with God that follows, is a pronounced awareness of individualism as a primary identity. This individualism is accompanied by a sense of the strangeness of the other, a relationship of fear towards the other and actions of blame of the other in comparison to the self: sin causes the heart to turn in on itself, and this turning in on itself alters not only the relationship with God but also other humans.

Sin is the prioritisation of the self, one might say, over the divine and created others. Having eaten the fruit, the man and woman understand themselves to be naked in front of each other, and cover themselves, aware and ashamed of their alterity and difference (Gen. 3:7).  Furthermore, having hidden himself from God because of his nakedness when God walks in the garden, Adam immediately seeks to divert blame away from himself and toward Eve, and indeed through this to God: the fault (according to him) cannot be his, and self-preservation of his individual self over and against the other (even the most intimate other) transcends unity and co-humanity and relationship to God who gives all things. The woman then also redirects blame away from herself toward the serpent (Gen. 3:13). Sin alters the relationship that exists not only between the human and God, but also between human beings themselves. Because the human no longer seeks to be orientated on God and to share in the good gifts of God’s grace, the human shifts the focus of her orientation onto herself.

To overcome this situation of sin and its effects requires divine salvific grace. So often, we think God sets us right with Godself, and we are the ones in creation who work on the human level to sort things in our own human strength. But that is a form of ecclesial Pelagianism. Humans in our lapsed condition always tend, not towards the overflowing love of God towards all that which is not God, but towards the self-preservation of the individual in the heart turned in on itself. It is an act of the grace of God, indeed a participating in that grace for the human to be able to be orientated towards another—both God and other human beings.

Even in the church’s simul iustus et peccator (and often frustrating!) state, we need to remember that through God’s grace, we are given community in the church and given the other in creation. And we should seek to form community not based on utility or on attraction, but on the very givenness of the other person as a fellow member of the body of Christ. We should seek to form community because in that we share and move in the movements of God’s grace, being orientated towards the other in creation. In community, our hearts are turned outwards to the other who is also beloved of God, and we learn what the movements of grace that God has shown us are. And for this to take place, for us to become the church as an anticipation of the Kingdom, we must pray ever and again for the grace of God to set right our relations with one another.

Let us give thanks for God’s grace in giving us communion and ask and rely ever more on God to help us to move within the movements of God’s own grace in the life of the community of the church. Even after 280,000 words, this is still a wonderful thing to meditate upon: the other through grace becomes for me a locus of God’s salvation as God puts right my relationship with them alongside my relationship with God through the Holy Spirit’s work of incorporating me actively into Christ’s body.