Means of Grace

I’ve worked up three possible entries for the hymn contest (six days left!). While part of me liked the idea of playing around with the famous Reformation phrases and expressions, you know, like by grace through faith and justification, what I turned out really emphasized the means of grace.

Since we are nearing the end of this writing exercise—It’s increasingly clear to me that that’s what this is for me, rather than a seriously competitive entry!—it’s been pretty good. It’s been a rather devotional experience with a nicely theological depth to it. How do we confess our faith, and how do we do it with others? What elements of Scriptural imagery and vocabulary leap quickest to our tongues (and typing)? Are there things we avoid, or things that prove extra tricky? For me, lately, I kept returning, again and again, to the means of grace.

Getting Real

I’ll admit, I pride myself on my ability to speak the Gospel. My experiences in writing have been primarily religious (and I do mean religious religious). My last two books were a) teaching children about the church and the Gospel, and b) an upcoming book about the Hebrew word for blessing in the Old testament (hint: there’s a lot of Jesus in there). But, ladies and gentlemen, my husband read my attempts at hymnody and commented that, though they were so strong on the means of grace, where was the actual proclamation of the Gospel? Could I, perhaps, consider adding something about the Incarnation? Atonement?

He worded it very kindly, but I was shocked. Sure enough, though I’d avoided language that could be jargon, I’d written imagery for a very specifically sacramental base. Which isn’t bad, except, um, means of grace apart from explicit Jesus? Is that really what we gather around on a Sunday morning? Could means become an end or, I shudder to think, a bypass around Him who institutes and works through them?

Ladies and gentlemen, don’t forget to give ’em Jesus. And not just a passing reference in a doxology. Let’s get some redemptive or salvific references so that we remember there is a very literal, bloody price to sin, and a very literal, bloody Savior who cares so literally about our own body and blood, life and death. We should do our best to give the real stuff for real people.

Where I’m taking this.

Sure, “don’t get cocky,” could be my self-directed message, but, my dear writers, it’s even easier than that. “Keep writing.”

The Gospel is a refrain, one we hear and sing and write, over and over again! It’s one given to everyone to learn by heart as soon as possible. It’s given for full-throated joy, on key or off.

It is not an addendum, a post script, an appendix. It is not an introduction before getting to the substance! God Incarnate to save man is the meat, potatoes, bread, wine, and water of it. It’s for sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters, books, and stanzas, refrains, and that blessed little word amen!

Thank you, Jesus, because I needed to hear the Gospel again before I could write it. I didn’t even realize, but God provided for me yet again! (Thanks, Ned, my husband!)


I may not have my refrains done in time to compete, so you be sure to get an entry in! Maybe we can all hear from the winner! I’ve been really enjoying the guest posts!

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Filed under As Christian Writers, As Theological Writers, Hymns, Writing Exercises

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