by Roger McCay
2 May 2021
Sermon Passage: Romans 5:1-11
Link to Audio Version
My uncle Pierce (Pierce Pettis) is a popular Folk/Rock musician. He has an album out called State of Grace. I’d like to read some of the lyrics to the title song. He’s singing about being from Alabama—our home.
Oh I wash my hands, And I take my place, Bow my head, And clean my plate
I think and act, And I talk this way, For I was raised, In a state of grace
Well, I always know, Right where I am, From Muscle Shoals, Down to Birmingham
From the rolling hills, Clear to Mobile Bay, Where I come from, Is a state of grace
Well I’m up and down, And I’m left and right, Rich and poor, Black and white
I am not alone, I am not ashamed, To make my home, In a state of grace
Oh I hear the call, Of the whippoorwill, As the moonlight falls, Over cotton fields
And if I should die, Before I wake, I will lay me down, On a state of grace
In commenting on this song Pierce talks about home. He mentions that he spent most his life trying to get away. But now he’s moved back. He’s been a musician for over 40 years, traveling all over the country, and even internationally. Over the years, he’s spent so much of his time away from home. And he’s come to look at home as a state of grace.
Why? Pierce says, “A state of grace is not necessarily a state of piety. It’s just a state of where you are not fooling anybody.” “There’s nothing like going back home to experience that…but also, to find out who you were all along.”
As a retired soldier, this resonates deep within me. And, perhaps, you know what I mean.
Our passage today, in Rom. 5:1-2, mentions the peace that Christians have with God, and the “grace in which we stand.” This “grace in which we stand,” this “peace” with God, means that we are in a state where we don’t have to try to fool God. And we couldn’t anyway—like the folks in our hometown. Can’t fool them—they know us.
God knows us so well, and he loves us anyway—a state of grace. This state of grace has the sense of being truly at home, no matter where you are. There is something very safe and secure in that. And it gives us hope. It makes it possible to rejoice not only in our hope of glory, but even in our sufferings.
We so often get caught up in all the struggles going on around us. They can overwhelm us: national troubles, crime in the community, coronavirus fallout; and personal troubles like sorrow, grief, health issues, family troubles, economic troubles, the travails of ageing, or any of the myriad of pains we feel every day. Caught up in the flood of struggles, we can find ourselves spiraling downward. Despite the hope that is available to us, we forget to look up to it, and look down instead. And we can become depressed and angry (a burbling mess of anxiety), far away from the rejoicing that Paul talks about in our passage today.
What does this passage tell us about our “state of grace”? Let’s look at vv. 1 & 2 again.
5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
The first part of v. 1 pretty much sums up the central teaching of Romans 1-4: “Therefore, having been justified by faith….” When we trust in God to save us from our sins through Jesus Christ, we are declared righteous in God’s sight. This has many benefits.
One is that we are no longer considered enemies of God, in open rebellion because of our sin. Rather we have become reconciled to Him, in peace. This status is not just a sense of inner well-being, or a feeling of peace, but a situation involving a solid, concrete, reliable relationship of peace with God. And there is only one way to be at peace with God—through the Lord Jesus Christ.
At the very same time, through Jesus, the benefit of having access into God’s grace is conferred upon us. And it remains our permanent place: the place in which we stand, our home where our sins are forgiven. And we are loved by God—loved absolutely, even though he knows our dirtiest, darkest secrets.