St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church


St. Bart's Blog

Another Lesson Learned From My Mother

Posted by The Rev. Mark McKone-Sweet on

“When Christ Calls a Man, He Bids Him Come and Die”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

With my first respite of the summer complete, I am most grateful for having the time to be with my family, extended family and to unplug from my daily responsibilities, duties, and burdens. I learned decades ago that it takes me a good three to four days to unwind and become fully present to my family. This summer, it took me longer, a good ten days. Why? My mom.

It had only been four weeks since we had buried her when I arrived in Chatham. I tried everything to muscle my way through my grief by transferring my busy “daily” life in San Diego to a busy life “on vacation”.

On day ten, my brothers and I met with the estate lawyer. There were no mysteries, no debates among us siblings. We simply had to follow through with her wishes. We did just that. Amen. As the lawyer was talking and piles of paperwork being signed, I stopped trying to see the big picture - that mom had loved us even after her death with all her planning. It was an emotional and sobering moment. I heard my voice crack as I said, “I miss mom.”

Two days later, Kate and I drove to mom’s condo to pick up what we had inherited and begin to donate everything else. There was much work, laughter, and tears throughout the day.

As I empty a bookshelf I built in middle school, a book fell into my lap. Written in 1937, this edition published in 1963, The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer grabbed my attention. The back cover summarized the intensity of prophetic Christian witness and teachings. And, another piece of the of the puzzle: mom’s relationship with Jesus Christ was revealed. Quotes on the back cover:

  • “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves … the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. cheap grace is grace without discipleship …”
  • “Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock …
  • “It is costly grace because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”

Looking back, I can see how mom tried to live her life seeking costly grace. How she gave up her life repeatedly for Christ, in others. Mom was not perfect, but I see know how she lived into a life of discipleship that was costly grace.

As a child of God, a lover of Jesus Christ and your pastor and priest … I have begun the work of reading this book and reflecting on cheap and costly grace. My hope and prayer is that someday when my children reflect on their father’s life, they too may discover my strength found in Jesus Christ, my yearning to be and bring everyone and anyone into the fellowship of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. And my hope, that I experience true life – only found in dying to Christ.

Can you identify with the spiritual journey of choosing cheap grace and giving your life to Christ, costly grace? The Good News is that we can begin today. God is calling you. Say “yes” and be transformed more fully into a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Thank you, mom! You were always the teacher, I am still learning.