"...Getting an A from the start is grace. What fears could we release if we had the gift of getting an A? Of knowing that the one who walks alongside us through this life has given us an A, has created us and called us “good,” has delighted in the fullness of who we are? “If you knew Who walks beside you on the way that you have chosen, fear would be impossible,” wrote Helen Schulman. Maybe the One walking beside you is God. Maybe you call on the name of Jesus. Maybe the spirit of an ancestor or a guardian angel journeys with you. Maybe the One walking beside you is a living person who loves you unconditionally, truly, who loves you with absolute grace. It’s all God, we just have different ways of finding God at our side. “If you know Who walks beside you on the way that you have chosen, fear is impossible.”
Paul understood that One to be God, revealed in Jesus. He wrote “It is by grace that you have been saved, through faith--and even that is not of yourselves, but the gift of God. Nor is it a reward for anything that you have done, so nobody can claim the credit. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to do the good things God created us to do from the beginning.” It’s like getting an A, from the beginning of the class, not as a reward for something we have done, but because we are Divinely created works of art. Our very nature and being get an A.
The gift of grace, of getting an A, is a paradox. Just like the students in Ben’s class, when we know we have an A we have the confidence and creativity to beam our A selves into this world. As Ben’s students imagined and put to paper the details of their own beaming – as musicians, students and people – they invited their own glory into the world...."
Who or what has been the Ben in your life? Who has given you permission to see yourself as excellent? Who urges you to believe in your own worth? For many people, God is the giver of grace, the unconditional lover. The irony is that we’ve also turned God into the ultimate judge, the ruthless punisher, the One to fear. We gather here to resist dangerous and damaging theology. We gather here to cultivate the witness and wisdom of liberation and healing. As we seek to love ourselves and one another as best we can, let us celebrate a loving God who delights in our beings, who lavishes us with As, who graces us because we are worthy, not because we earn it. We are wholly beloved without lifting a finger, uttering a word, or making a choice.
And the story doesn’t end there. Just like Ben’s students joyfully do excellent, A-level work in the musical performance class, we respond to God’s grace by becoming the best of ourselves. We get grace even when we aren’t our best, but our natural response is to be what we’re expected to be, to meet our own expectations and others’ expectations of us.