Grace is the greatest conspiracy. It works right in front of your eyes constantly, boldly, and yet it usually goes unnoticed. It’s camouflaged in the ordinary, in the every day, in the mundane. It looks natural. It looks normal. Grace creeps in under the shadows, in the dark, when we’re distracted by pain, by disappointment, by loss. Grace is always there, moving into place, surrounding the location, mapping every route, and arranging for all the contingencies.
The world was still very young when evil made its move, when Satan deceived our first mother, and our first father plunged us into the dark, capturing the hearts and lives of the whole human race. We came under that power, under that dominion. We became slaves of sin and death, ordered around by those cruel masters, desires, lusts, and in our despair and insanity we killed and destroyed and shook our heads in agony and fear and fury at ourselves and one another.
Into that raging, haunted world, Grace came boldly. But the darkness is so insidious that it will latch on to anything. The darkness is parasitic, a tapeworm of sadness and destruction. And so Grace had to came undercover in order to free us. Grace came the only way possible, disguised in the ash and rags and weakness of this world. Grace came in the raving of old men and the barrenness of old women. Grace came in the appearance of slaves and convicts and refugees. Grace came in orphans and widows and the forgotten. But just in case the human race began to suspect, Grace also came in military victories, in an occasional king or ruler, often in poverty but occasionally in riches. Grace came in animals butchered, in middle eastern tents, in priesthoods that seemed at first glance rather like the usual religious rites and customs of desperate cultures looking for hope and answers in this sad world. Grace came under the guise of ritual and tradition and sacred stories and genealogies. Grace came dressed in colorful robes, in camel skins, eating lambs and unleavened bread, and locusts and wild honey. Grace came in weddings and pregnancies, in the babbling of babies, in boyish grins and little girls playing dress-up, in the usual noise and bluster of everyday life. And then just like that, Grace came in the wilderness, in the fields at night, in a rare star that blended into the sky that only a few apparently noticed. Grace came in fatigue and discomfort and contractions. Grace came as a baby, and then a man, a carpenter, a rabbi, a criminal, a gardener, a face in the crowd, you could have easily missed. And many did.
Grace came under the cover of flesh and blood in order to subvert all flesh and blood. It came that it might not be seen. It came that it might not be heard. And it had to. It had to because otherwise it wouldn’t have been grace. It had to be mistaken, misunderstood, missed, forgotten. Grace is the greatest conspiracy. Grace is God smiling down on us. Grace is His favor, His joy, His gladness, His goodness come for us, grasping us. But there’s something wonderfully subtle about it all. It must be: hidden and yet revealed, present and yet not entirely, already but not yet. And yet unmistakably, unshakably true, real, absolutely there.
From one angle it’s completely understandable that many don’t see what all the fuss is about. This is all there is, they insist. Stop dreaming, quit making things up, enough of this believing in things you can’t see or touch or prove, they say. They have a point. To varying degrees every one of us knows what it’s like to not know Grace, to not see it in the snow and in the wind, to not hear it in the trembling, aching melodies we sing, in the beauty of a godly woman, in the wonderful smell of a newborn baby.
It’s possible not to see because Grace really is the greatest conspiracy. You can’t look straight at it. If you try, it seems to vanish. Because fundamentally, most crucially, Grace isn’t something that we see. Rather, Grace sees us. That’s the whole point. Grace watches over us, surrounds us, grasps us, holds us. Otherwise, it isn’t grace, if we hold it, if we grasp it. Grace has invaded our world, taken up residence in this place, and Grace is multiplying every minute – in the glory of the galaxies spinning and exploding over our heads, in the mysteries of atoms and genes and molecules saying their spells in the micro-theaters of every living thing, in the hugs and tears, in the smiles, in the rain, in the flickering candles, in cups of hot chocolate in front of blazing fires, in presents wrapped and unwrapped, in water poured over the head of a baby, in a bit of bread and wine shared as a little bit of heaven right here on earth.
Grace is God smiling down on us. Grace is the presence of God with us, all around us, holding us, going ever before us, and keeping watch behind us. It lurks in the shadows. It greets us there with a quiet nod, a brief embrace. It isn’t easily seen, but if you look closely, you can see it’s traces everywhere. You can see His fingerprints everywhere. It’s as if He wanted us to realize that this whole world, life and everything in it is a gift and He’s not tricking us. He’s not crossing His fingers behind His back. He’s just smiling. He’s just beaming. That’s what all of this means, all of this goodness piled up around us, even in the pain, and through the tears. If you look out the corner of your eyes, if you squint just a little, you might catch just a little glimpse, and if you do, you will see that His arms are stretched open wide, with the biggest smile you can imagine, welcoming everyone home. And there’s a twinkle in His eye, and then you suddenly realize He was planning this all along and in His great love, He has taken care of everything already. He’s seen to all of the details personally.
Grace is the greatest conspiracy.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.