Free Gift of Grace

CREATE A SACRED TIME AND SPACE
Leave all screens turned off and outside of the gathering space/room.
Set a single candle in the center of your space or on a child’s nightstand or headboard.

As you light the candle, you might sing together the refrain of, Send Me, Jesus1

Send me, Jesus; send me, Jesus;
Send me, Jesus, into the world.

TAKE A MOMENT
This is a time to become fully present with one another and with God.
Invite everyone to take a deep breath in and exhale fully.
Repeat this deep breathing for about 20 seconds, everyone at their own pace.

LET GO & RECEIVE
Excitement over past or future events - or, worries, pain and/or guilt - can keep us from immersing in God’s loving Presence, right here and now.

You might invite participants to Let Go as follows:

“In one or two words, how have you not followed the Spirit’s lead, today?
Allow time for a response from each individual.
Breathe in: know that you are, right now, being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Breathe out: release into grace any guilt, shame or pain not following has caused.”

Pause

You might invite participants to Receive Grace as follows:

“How have you followed the Spirit’s lead, today?
Allow time for a response from each individual.
Breathe in: notice how the Spirit is as close to you as your breath.
Breathe out: thank God for filling you with what you need for each day.”

Pause

READING SUMMARY
Before moving on, take two more deep breaths.

Then share a summary of this evening’s text. Using your own words is strongly encouraged. If that feels uncomfortable or overwhelming, or if you would like a young person to lead this portion, here are some thoughts on this story:
Paul - the guy who wrote tonight’s reading - talks about “grace” a lot. Grace is a big, abstract idea that can be hard to understand. Paul doesn’t make it much easier in this explanation. See if you can make sense out of either the NRSV or Emily’s revision, below. (It’s a tough text: you’re not alone if you find it confusing!)
Basically, Paul is trying to explain a difference between God’s free gift of grace, which doesn’t depend upon us doing anything, and certainly doesn’t depend upon us being perfect, or always right, or always “good”, and the human concept of cause and effect or earned wages or reward.
Paul uses Abraham and Sarah, who we read about on Monday, who trusted God to lead them through years of traveling and challenges. They never really knew where they were headed and for a long time didn’t see any “reward”. In fact, their “reward” was going to be a huge family, but they only had one child together. It was hard to see God’s grace in their story - until we get to the very, very end (and we’re not really at the end of it, even today): they became the ancestors of three major world religions, counting millions and millions of “children”, found all over the world.
It can be hard to see God’s goodness in every moment of our lives. When things get tough, it can be easy to blame or turn away from God, or blame ourselves and believe that somehow we made God angry or pushed God away.
Paul encourages us to trust God always and to look for grace in unexpected ways. Grace is hard to understand, so we can miss how it shows up. But the more we practice trusting God, the more grace we’ll see, popping up all over.

SHARING THE READING
Readings can be shared around the circle by verse, or a different reader can lead each night.

[Tonight, choose whether the NRSV translation or Emily’s revision is more accessible and/or appropriate for your family.]

A reading from Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? 
2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not 
before God. 3For what does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was 
reckoned to him as righteousness.’ 4Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned 
as a gift but as something due. 5But to one who without works trusts him who justifies 
the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.
13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his 
descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14If it is the 
adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15For 
the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and 
be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to 
those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17as it is written, 
‘I have made you the father of many nations’)—in the presence of the God in whom he 
believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not 
exist.

OR

4:1 What should we say Sarah and Abraham - our biological ancestors - gained?
4:2 Sure, if they had done everything right, they could have bragged about it - but 
not in God’s eyes.
4:3 What do the holy stories say? "Sarah and Abraham trusted God, and because they 
did what God said, people thought they were really good.”
4:4 Now, when a person works, their pay isn’t given to them as a favor, but because 
they earned it.
4:5 But when all someone does is trust in the One who makes the ungodly holy, their 
faith makes them right with God.
...
4:13 The promise that Sarah and Abraham and their descendants would inherit the 
world was not made to them based on how well they followed the Law, but because of 
their faithful relationship with God.
4:14 If only the people who follow the Law perfectly (as if that’s possible!) are able to 
inherit God’s blessings, then there’s no point in faith and God’s promise doesn’t mean 
anything.
4:15 Because the Law will always bring punishment; only when there is no Law can 
there be no violation.
4:16 So it depends on faith; the promise depends on grace so that it is still guaranteed 
for all of Sarah’s and Abraham’s descendants, not just the ones who have or keep the 
Law, but for everyone who shares their faithful relationship with God.They are the 
mother and the father of us all,
4:17 that’s why holy stories say, "I have made you the parents of lots of nations" - this 
is what God sees as worth bragging about: trusting the One who brings life out of 
Death; the One who calls into being things that don’t exist.

DISCUSS
At the close of the reading you might begin with basic questions, such as:
Did this reading have any words or ideas that anyone doesn’t understand?
Let’s explore what those might mean, together.

If you are ready for further discussion, you might consider these questions:

  • What do you think this story is about? What kind of meaning do you hear in this story?
  • What do you think is the difference between doing something because you’re supposed to, and doing something because someone you trust (or God) says it’s what you should do?
  • Talk about verses 4 and 5: can you hear the difference between earning your pay (i.e., doing something for a reward) and receiving blessings based on faithful acts (i.e., doing something because you love the person who asked you to do it, and later finding out that it brings a reward)?

CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE
From your devotional basket, please take the following items:
~Notebook or binder for everyone
~Drawing or coloring utensil(s) for everyone

Be sure notebooks/binders and utensils are handy but not a distraction.
You might invite the group into prayer with these or similar prompts:

I invite everyone to find a comfortable posture appropriate to prayer and encourage everyone to close their eyes.

Allow a few beats for the movement to settle down.

Let’s all take a few deep breaths to settle our minds:
~let go of the discussion questions and conversation;
~let go of the Bible story;
~let yourself rest for a moment in the love of your family and the presence of
God.

After a few deep breaths, share the following:

Imagine in your mind the best gift you have ever received. 
Imagine holding it. Pay attention to all of your senses.

Pause

Think about who gave you this gift.
Was the gift a surprise or was it something that you had been hoping for?
What kinds of feelings did you have?
What kinds of feelings do you have now while imagining holding the gift? You might feel happy, excited, loved, thankful . . . 

Pause

Take a minute to feel the feelings that come with this gift. They might be big feelings, you might have more than one.

Pause for one minute

Imagine setting that gift down but keep feeling the feelings that came with it. God loves us very much and while we cannot hold or see grace, it is an amazing gift because it means that we will always be loved.

Continue to sit with this feeling for another minute.

Pause for one minute

At the end of your silent time, invite attention back to the room with words like these:

I invite you to return your awareness to this place.
You might wiggle your toes and fingers or gently roll your shoulders or your head.
Slowly bring your body and mind back to here and now, and rest for a moment.

Resting is important: the transition from silence to immediate action or thought can be very jarring. Let the movement from rest to engagement be gentle.

PERSONAL REFLECTION
After a few beats, while people are still transitioning, introduce the reflection questions, as follows:

As we bring our awareness back to here and now, let’s consider how God was with us 
in this time. 
Reflect on a thought or feeling that seemed powerful or meaningful to you.
Where or in what way did you experience God in this time?

After a moment or two of resting, encourage people to write, draw or doodle about their experience.
You might offer the following journal prompts:
*Create a cloud or collage of words describing your emotions: while feeling safe, while 
feeling uncertain, or while feeling unsafe - or all three
*Draw a picture of how God was with you, today
*Create a poem of about how God helped you feel more confident or safe
*Or a simple reflective journal that includes any significant thoughts, ideas or emotions 
that emerged during this practice.

Allow about 3-5 minutes; gauge the activity-level of participants to determine when they are “done”.
Invite people to share their reflections with the group/family, only as they are comfortable. Not everyone will have something to share or feel comfortable sharing their experience. Let this be okay: not everyone needs to share.

Listen carefully to one another.
Acknowledge each sharing with words of affirmation.
Discussion can and should be about curiosity, clarity and/or affirmation.
This is not a time for correction or psycho-analyzing experiences.

BEDTIME SONG
As the following song is sung, the Leader should gather all materials utilized during the practice. Stow them in the basket for easy removal and future use.

As adults prepare to leave the room, you might sing, Send Me, Jesus1

Send me, Jesus; send me, Jesus;
Send me, Jesus, into the world.

FINAL BLESSING
As they blow out the candle, children can offer the following blessing/prayer with their adults:
“I love you and I know you love me; let’s always be gentle with each other.”

Adult(s) can share the following blessing/prayer with the child[ren] as they turn out the lights:
“I love you and I know you love me; let’s always be gentle with each other.”


  1. Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Augsburg Fortress; 2006: #549.
  2. This first translation is from the NRSV, inserted here from Oremus Bible Browser, a free online Bible search engine.
  3. This second translation is Emily’s version. Based on the NRSV and the Inclusive New Testament.

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