SOAP and God’s Grace

by Rev. Mason Dorsey

“Therefore, having nothing — neither righteousness nor works — to plead, our mouths are utterly stopped before God. If, then, we find favor with God, it is “grace upon grace!” “By grace you have been saved through faith.””  John Wesley’s sermon “Salvation by Faith” as it appeared on the website 01/03/11

Do you wish you could experience more of God’s grace?  Do you ever feel so overwhelmed that you just wish God would send an extra touch of His grace upon you?  Do you feel so blah that you wonder if this is all there is?  Or do you hunger for God so much that you just want more and more of His grace?

No matter which of these you are feeling, I hope my next words are reassuring.  You can’t get more of God’s grace.  Grace is as infinite as is the God of all grace and glory.  Grace is as present as the God who is omnipresent.  Grace is as close as the God who sent His Son to dwell in human flesh.  Grace is as alive as the God whose Spirit moves on our hearts, stirring us to guide us into all truth.

Though we can’t experience more grace, we can experience grace more.  (Thanks for the latitude to split a hair to make a point.)  We can experience God’s grace upon God’s grace more and more.  We can open ourselves up to the grace that is already present in infinite quantities and ready to flood into our lives daily.

One of the best channels of God’s grace is daily reading and reflecting on Scripture.  For Wesley, in his sermon “Means of Grace”, reading and meditating and reflecting on Scripture was second only to prayer for experiencing God’s grace.  Do you get why I’m splitting the hair of experiencing more grace and experiencing grace more?  We don’t need more words, verses, pages, chapters, books of the Bible to experience God’s grace more.  We need to experience God’s grace already given in the Bible more.

And the beauty of doing so is that the experience of grace through the Bible keeps moving us deeper into the grace of God that is already present and infinite.  And so we experience grace more.

For me, one of the things I am most glad that I have learned is Wayne Cordeiro’s “SOAP” method for reading and reflecting on the Bible.  Back in 2001, Wayne was at Hyde Park UMC in Tampa thanks to the generosity of the Institute of Preaching.  He shared how he has helped the churches he’s led in Hawaii experience grace through Scripture every day.  As you read through a passage or chapters of the Bible, pay attention to the verse or verses that jump out at you.  When you are done reading, write those down verbatim.  That is the S in SOAP, Scripture.  Then, Observe what’s happening in the rest of the passage and chapter around those verses so you can understand them better.  Then figure out how to Apply these verses to your life; how will you live them?  Lastly, write a Prayer based on what God has taught you.  All this takes is a Bible, a plan for reading through the Bible (find one online, use the Upper Room, or pick a book of the Bible and start there), and a basic notebook and pen.

What happens when United Methodists experience God’s grace daily through reading the Bible?  What happens when we encounter daily the infinite grace of God?  May you experience the favor of God and grace upon grace.

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