As I write this the news is full of showbiz and glamour awards season stories from the Golden Globes, the Baftas, the Brits, the Oscars and many more besides. These ceremonies are a reminder of the value of acknowledging standout skills, performances and endeavours in the arts and in life. Everyone likes to have their efforts appreciated and to be given credit for them.
So also in our rather more prosaic day to day lives. At work understandably we crave good assessments and appraisals, bonuses or good salary increases in response to better performance. And this tracks its way through our domestic lives too (who doesn’t want a well maintained and abundant garden to be admired for example) and from an early age through tests and examinations in our schools and further education.
Society encourages us to strive to do, to be, better all the time. If you’re not moving forward, you’re not standing still, you’re falling behind. Whilst there is always value in setting, exploring and achieving new goals and challenges and being recognised for the good things that we do, our value and self worth cannot be dependent on external approbation alone. It matters but if it is all we have then when society and the world doesn’t recognise our efforts or devalues them or we are simply overlooked, it can erode our confidence and self belief in damaging ways.
One of the remarkable things about the message of the gospel is that we are accepted by God whoever and whatever we are, warts and imperfections and all. The magic of grace, demonstrated by God through Jesus, is that it is freely given, the greatest accolade, not earned but offered, yes at great cost but without us having to do a thing save to accept it. It can be hard to believe we are deserving of this greatest bonus and freebie of all, because we think we have to work to get into God’s good books before we are acceptable and sufficiently upstanding and worthy. But that is the remarkable thing about God’s love for us all, it is not conditional on our performance or status or value in the world’s terms. God sees us as worthy and precious – end of.
As we launch into Spring and shake ourselves down from hibernation for another year, this is a great message to hold on to.
Do come and join us at St Mary’s or indeed any of the Parish churches to hear more if you are interested. You’ll be made most welcome.