Attentive to the rhythms of grace

Eugene Peterson, in ‘The Message’ version of the Bible offers us a beautiful interpretation of the familiar words of Matthew 11:28-30, which he writes as “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
We have just returned from the Southern Counties Baptist Association Ministers’ and Leaders’ Conference, where the keynote speaker was the current president of the Baptist Union, Geoff Colmer. He spoke on the subject of being ‘attentive to the rhythms of grace’ – in other words, watching out for and noticing the unexpected gifts from God that we receive as we go through life. For him, examples varied from longed-for sighting of kingfishers to the kindness of nurses caring for him at a time when even his wife couldn’t visit him in hospital due to the pandemic. Our own minds were drawn to the amazing starling murmurations that we witnessed five times during our sabbatical in 2017, and which we received as a picture of the way that Christians and churches should work together to create something beautiful for God.
Geoff pointed out, though, that all too often we are so busy with life that we miss these signs of God’s love and grace, and that we need to be attentive to what God is doing. Quoting Peterson again, he suggested that being attentive means ‘giving your entire attention to what God is doing right now.’ That’s a real challenge for most of us.
It’s a challenge that is accompanied by the encouragement that God himself first gives his entire attention to us, in the beauty of creation; in the life, ministry and example of Jesus; and in the gift of his Holy Spirit to help us live for him and for each other.
Perhaps it’s appropriate this week, when we celebrate Valentine’s Day, that we reflect personally on the fact that God shows his love for us by giving us his entire attention… and that we respond to his love with ours, by giving him our entire attention so that we start to learn more about his unforced rhythms of grace.
With our love and prayers
Matthew and Pauline