There’s a couple who live in the environs of Bergen, Norway. Anders and Anne Elisabeth. Last fall, they came to see Ruth and me at our home in Menomonie, Wisconsin. A couple of years previous, they had come to our house in Fergus Falls, Minnesota for an evening with Hillcrest Lutheran Academy faculty. Elisabeth is a math teacher at a school in Bergen that sends a whole class of students to Hillcrest each year. I served as her counterpart at Hillcrest, and was privileged to “adopt” her students for a year, and then send them back home in exchange for the next group.
So we talked regularly about the students and about math. But when we visited as couples in our homes, we talked about life and each other’s cultures. It was a wonderful gift. Reflecting on it now, it strikes me that the gift was so easy for us to receive because they came to us, and they spoke English! All the effort was theirs, and we reaped the benefits without the discomfort of leaving our culture and adjusting to another—and without learning a single word of Norwegian.
In ten years of teaching math to hundreds of students from all over the world, it was easy to think I was doing something really good for them—giving them a gift. But they did the work, and they came to me. I would have been as helpless as a baby, with absolutely nothing to offer them in most of their countries, if I had gone to them.
This is grace: All these friends coming to us and gifting us with their presence—only by great personal effort.
R.C.H. Lenski quotes Martin Luther, regarding Jesus and grace. “Jesus is a peculiar King. You do not seek him. He seeks you. You do not find him. He finds you. For the preachers come from him, not from you. Their preaching comes from him, not from you. Your faith comes from him, not from you. And all that your faith works in you, comes from him, not from you.” Lenski adds, “The subjects of other kings humbly come to them. This King comes to his subjects. Other kings draw all that they have from their people. This King gives all that he has to his people.”
Eventually, as a second gift—because the relationship was already established—Ruth and I were privileged to go and enjoy the hospitality of Anne Elisabeth and Anders’ home and family in Norway. We counted ourselves blessed.
The Savior-King gave himself to us in the ultimate sacrifice. Someday he will also invite us home, only by his grace.
Rev. Brent Juliot serves as pastor of Oak Ridge Lutheran Brethren Church in Menomonie, Wisconsin.