Grace & Gratitude

Brian Christopher Coulter —  November 28, 2013

BCCMartha Moore-Keish recently told a small group of us at Baytreat Conference Center that “grace and gratitude form the heartbeat of the Reformed faith”.  So today, as we sit at our tables and give thanks, I thought it only appropriate for us to reflect together on what that might mean.

Below are some of my favorite words on grace and gratitude from some of my favorite Presbyterian teaching elders.  Alex Thornburg and Ted Foote co-authored the book Being Presbyterian in the Bible Belt and in the closing chapter they write about the meaning behind these words and counter-cultural notions they both contain.

I offer these words to you as a gift, because that is what they have been to me.  Thank you for reading and Happy Thanksgiving!!


“This word above all words describes how Presbyterians understand themselves.  In the simply, freely given giftedness of God’s love in Jesus Christ, we have the truth of God’s all-encompassing mercy and compassion.  This grace is so radical we cannot fathom its totality, but we measure all assertions about God against this experience of grace … Grace affirms that it is God who acts and saves humanity.  It is God who searches for us and finds us even when we, like Adam and Eve, would rather hide in the bushes to conceal our nakedness.  It is God who saves us when we cannot save ourselves.  This is our hope, and belief, and faith.  In a culture that values earning your way to the top and being in control of your destiny, it is a very radical assertion to believe in grace, but that is who we are.”  


“Presbyterians understand that how we live our lives is always a response to the initial gift of God’s love.  Influenced not by fear or shame, but led by God’s Spirit to live with gratitude and thanksgiving means valuing the gift given with a life that really never has been our own.  The gift of God’s love claims our lives and calls us to paths of service we may otherwise want to ignore.  Gratitude is the essence of our morality; it is the basis for our spirituality; and it calls us to dance lives of servanthood.  In a culture that is never satisfied, it is hard to live lives of gratitude, but that is who we are.” 

Brian Christopher Coulter

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Brian is currently serving at First Presbyterian Church in Aiken, South Carolina. Brian is a husband, father, pastor, author of BE HOLY, and a ping-pong champion.