The cool, crisp air. The crunching of fallen leaves. And the low amber lighting of late afternoon means Fall is in full swing. Hands down, Autumn is my favorite season. So many fond memories cluster around Fall, its traditions, and its holidays. It takes me to many happy places in my past. My mother preparing seasonal feasts. My wedding day. Raking mountains of hickory and white oak leaves with my Dad. And drives through Arkansas’ highways and byways in awe of God’s artistry. But Fall also reminds me of football.
No, not the hours spent with my Dad listening to Larry Munson call Georgia Bulldog games or any organized league play. But the informal neighborhood league that existed in suburban Stone Mountain where I grew up. Colony East and Indian Forrest and my own enclave, Inca Court, put together small 3 to 4 man elite squads which battled it out on a field behind the Stripling’s house for regional bragging rights. Don, Alan, and I and sometimes Norman, were the pride of Inca Court.
We practiced every day after school until the light faded or our moms called us for supper. We cut down small trees to fashion our own goal post. We were the only neighborhood venue that offered the opportunity to kick ‘real’ extra points. Though, admittedly, retrieving the balls from the surrounding woods was sometimes a challenge. It was sandlot ball at its finest. And we took it seriously.
Of course, there were no referees and few rules. Controversial plays were resolved by “do-over.” And every running play inevitably resulted in ‘piling on.’ Even if the ball carrier was clearly down. The play was not over until every man on the field was added to the pile. Learning to survive being piled-on was a non-negotiable skill.
In organized play, piling on is a serious offense. It is a personal foul and carries lengthy penalties. It is considered excessive force, gratuitous violence. A vindictive adding of insult to injury. But for us, piling on was the glorious privilege of every man on the field. We relished its place in our gridiron heroics.
‘Piling on’ in our idiom has negative connotations. It denotes addition to a load that is already unbearable, especially harsh or excessive criticism. It is akin to “kicking them when they are down.” It speaks of what is gratuitous or excessive beyond what is sufficient. But ‘piling on’ need not always be a bad thing.
God delights to pile on. Not excessive demands or requirements, but grace upon grace, blessing upon blessing, provision upon provision. We see this both implicitly and explicitly in the Scriptures. Jesus taught, “give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.” (Luke 6:38) And John, the beloved disciple, said of Jesus, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16)
In Exodus 14, we see his grace upon grace, God’s piling on blessing upon blessing through the deliverance of Israel through the Red Sea. He protects and delivers his people. He destroys their enemies. He comforts and assures them with his presence. He watches over them. He grants them faith. The only things piled higher than the waters of the Red Sea are the blessings of God’s grace upon grace to an unworthy but elect people. But even this is not all. With the pillar of cloud and fire, there is another tremendous gift. The Angel of the Presence. The one who is very God of very God, yet would one day take on flesh to deliver us from a greater enemy than any ancient king.
God is no miser of grace. When he sets his love upon you, he lavishes you with grace upon grace. He holds nothing back. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” His love is higher, wider, deeper and more expansive than you can possibly imagine. Join us as we examine Exodus 14:15-31 and consider this grace upon grace.
We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.