“The means of grace” is a beautifully compact phrase that’s a little bit like Hermione Granger’s magical handbag from the last of the Harry Potter series – on the outside, it’s about the size of her fist, but on the inside it’s large enough for dozens of vital items, including a tent large enough for bunkbeds and stove. And inside of that small handful of words, “the means of grace,” there is a large roomful of vital meaning.
In the “official” way theologians use it, the “means of grace” refers to the ways God “communicates” (or “offers, bestows, and seals”) the benefits of salvation to us. These “ordinary means of grace” are said to be the reading Scripture, listening to sermons, prayer, and the sacraments of communion and baptism. (I reflected a bit on how baptism can be a means of grace in my sermon last Sunday, which you can listen to HERE.)
But “grace,” and especially when we mean God’s grace, is itself a word that opens up into volumes. God’s grace includes both “special grace” (everything necessary for us to be saved) and “ordinary grace” which is everything good that God gives to all people: life, love, purpose, meaning, pleasure, food, drink, beauty, sunshine, rain – in short, “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17) that makes life worth living. And the idea of a “means of grace” suggests that these graces are not just some natural condition we can take for granted, like the air we breathe (although we shouldn’t take that for granted either!) — but that these graces come to us in some way. There is a means by which we receive and experience these graces. Our sovereign God, our loving Father, sends grace to us, through a variety of ways and means. One of the most important of these ways of experiencing grace is through other people. And that means …
… that you are also a “means of grace!” That’s a part of your calling.