“This is a hard saying,” they complained for probably not the first time, as Jesus invited them to feast on his flesh and blood. Is he mad? Are we? Truth is frustrating our expectations, help us to love it. We find ourselves wearied of listening. And he stoops again and slows his syllables for us, promising the Spirit for our unhelpful flesh. Wild and sweet.
There is something about grace that can not square just right with our brains, so we should stop trying to make it do so. This is the only deity who has ever said “come as you are” and “come without money” and shocks us by offering his body as our bread and wine. Wild and sweet.
Great writers who have embraced grace in all of its counter-worldly grit and grandeur seek to shock, too. Flannery O’Connor adopts the motif of the grotesque in order that the blind and deaf may be startled into the truth of their condition. Distortion, exaggeration, counter-thought (every time, I squirm.) Yet she gets grace. She gets that she doesn’t get grace, and neither do we. Grace makes us see ourselves in the lowest twistings of human nature, and that we have no claim on a good heart. Such a painful, facade-peeling revelation is necessary for joy and freedom. (We resist believing that good men are hard to find, unless we are speaking of those over there. Then, of course, “we” have all gone astray.) No, I am the one who needs restraint, who needs knowing eyes to meet mine, and the touchable, healing body and blood of the only Good Man brought to my ill lips. “Drink you, all of it. Even you, slow to hear and quick to hate. Grace is for sinners.” Wild and sweet.
Christmas bells ring the startles of grace, too, in their “old familiar carols”: And wild and sweet, the words repeat of peace on earth, good will to men. Peace said that he came down from heaven, while we could only see that he entered through a birth canal to dirt poor, worshipping Mary and Joseph. But the scandal of the Christmas child is not that Israel’s royalty was born among cattle, but that Heaven’s son came to give us himself as eternal bread. Wild and sweet grace for unsteady pilgrims. Let it blow you away, as it’s meant to do.