Practicing GRACE in a time of lockdown

As a church we aim to live as disciples of Jesus with healthy UP, IN and OUT relationships. We connect UP with God in worship and prayer, IN with each other as communities of disciples and OUT into the world in love, mission and evangelism. 

As we all get used to the new patterns of life that we have developed at this time of crisis, a lot of us seem to be thinking about those OUT relationships.  We are seeing that this moment has offered us exciting opportunities for sharing God’s love with friends and neighbours, but we are also noticing that we’re having to be more deliberate and creative about how we practice that OUT in ways that work for now.

The rhythms of GRACE are a set of practices that we have been using over the last couple of years to strengthen all our relationships and develop habits of mission together as households and communities. This is a good time to look at them again and ask how we might practice GRACE in these moments.  

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

The acronym GRACE reminds us that all things, including life together, are gifts of God. These rhythms are not intended as a strait jacket, to force all of us to be the same. Rather see them as tools to pick up, play with and put into practice.  Let them guide you closer to God and further in love and mission. You needn’t force yourself to put them all into practice at once, but rather keep them as a guide asking God and each other: “How do we already do this? What could do with a bit more focus right now?  What could we do next?”  They are based on some of the practices we see Jesus modelling and training his disciples to adopt. 

To remind you, the rhythm is based on 5 practices:

Generous Blessing – demonstrating God’s love by blessing those around us practically and spiritually.
Receive and Release God’s presence – being filled with God’s Holy Spirit ourselves and sharing that with others through prayer and worship. 
Ask Questions and Tell Stories – Using empathy and curiosity to build relationships and making the most of every opportunity to share our stories of knowing Jesus.
Celebrate Often – Saying thank you for what God is doing, partying regularly and well (like Jesus) and celebrating even small steps forward.  
Eat Together – Gathering with friends, neighbours and new guests around food and God’s story. 

Over the next few weeks we are going to explore each of these rhythms of GRACE and think about how we can use them well to strengthen our outward relationships during lockdown.

For now I’d like you to think about each of these practices and ask…

* What is already working well in my life? 
* Is there something I have stopped that I could take up again?
* Is this an opportunity to try something new?  

Next – we’ll look at the first rhythm: Generous Blessing!