"From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." - John 1:16
One of my favorite desserts is my wife Linda's Ice Cream Sandwich Dessert. She'll tell you it's simple: a layer of ice cream sandwiches, then whipped topping, then caramel/chocolate/pecans, then more ice cream sandwiches, more whipped topping, and more caramel/chocolate/pecans. To my overly sweet tooth it is an easy temptation. Every layer is contrast, but every layer is sweet.
The first chapter of John's Gospel includes this line: "From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." A better translation might be grace under grace topped with more grace and grace piled on. Like the mouth-watering Ice Cream Sandwich Dessert.
Author Philip Yancey calls grace "the last best word." Some beautiful Christian words like charity and even love have been modified or diluted, but the word grace and its relatives – gracious, gratuity, grateful – have remained constant. Grace – a gift or act that is undeserved and expects nothing back.
In Jesus Christ God provided layered grace. God in heaven became God on earth, taking on human form permanently. Even in Jesus' ascended glory he piles on grace praying for us (Romans 8:34).
This is the heart of our faith: receiving and sharing the Gospel's layers of grace. Kindness topped by generosity overlaid with forgiveness, and patience piled on. When we give second chances, offer the benefit of the doubt, and refuse to walk away from the undeserving, we overflow with the fullness we have all received.
Jesus, Word of God, I need grace this very moment for what I have done and what I have left undone. As I receive and celebrate your grace, open my eyes to those who most need that grace extended to them, Amen.
Bob Thompson is Pastor of Corinth Reformed Church (UCC) in Hickory, North Carolina, and President of Faithful and Welcoming Churches of the UCC. He posts sermons and other reflections on his blog, corinthpastorbob.com.