Happy New Year: “Gripped by Grace”

    There’s a surprising New Year’s Eve message waiting for us in the comedy, Bruce Almighty (that I recently rediscovered). News reporter, Bruce Nolen, played by Jim Carey, complains that God gave him a crappy life and that he, Nolen, could do a better job of running the world.

     God, played by Morgan Freeman, then gives Nolen a chance he can’t refuse. He gives him all the power he needs and waits to see how he uses it. For a good while, Nolen wastes his powers on self-centered trivia. He tries to get his girl friend to love him with super-human lovemaking. He parts the soup in his bowl and then traffic in the city for his Ferrari, like Moses at the Red Sea. He creates news scoops for himself by miraculously discovering the body of Jimmy Hoffa and makes his competitors mouth gibberish while delivering the nightly news report.

      Gradually, however, Nolen’s world descends into chaos without a benevolent, gracious Almighty at work, and he confesses to God who works the night shift as a janitor in an office building, that things are not going well. “I can’t get people to love me of their own free will,” Nolen laments. “Welcome to my world,” God replies!

          God helps Nolen to understand that seeking to use one’s blessings and opportunities only for oneself leads to dead ends. Nolen begins again, but ends up being killed in a car accident. The Almighty meets him in the afterlife and listens to a prayer in which Nolen asks only for things which benefit others, especially the girl he had loved. “Now that’s a prayer,” says God, and sends Bruce back to earth to try once more—this time taking menial jobs and serving others which demonstrate a sense of fulfillment he had not known before.

        Christians are held accountable for the gift of God’s grace. If the love we have come to know in the story of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection for us falls on deaf ears, then we end another year with no advantage in our spiritual lives. However, when the story of this love has claimed us, and lives in and through us to claim others as well, then hungry are being fed, thirsty are being given drink, strangers are being welcomed, and the sick and imprisoned are being cared for.  Share the gift! 

Happy New Year, Tim

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