Oh, hello. My name is Jonas Ellison. I’m the one who shares poems and essays here on Grace Incarnate, my one-man labor of love.
This publication started off in the spring of 2015 as a personal creative project to publish something — anything — every day for 30 days. As I went along, people started responding. This personal thing was becoming something much bigger than me. A community started to grow.
30 days turned into 60 which turned into a year and then three years of daily publishing. Before I archived all the old posts onto my site and started fresh here (we’ll get to that in a sec), it boasted a library of 1400+ posts. Today, this publication is the #1 single-author publication on Medium (attendance-wise). It blows me away.
Grace Incarnate: Essays and sermons about life in our grace-starved and Christ-soaked world
I’ve named this publication several things as it’s grown and evolved. This publication started off as Higher Thoughts. But then I thought, ya know, that’s kinda pious. These thoughts aren’t any higher than the next person’s. So I changed it to several other things over the span of a couple of years, trying different titles on for size before landing on this one.
In the fall of 2019, I began seminary and embarked on the discernment process towards ministry in the Lutheran(ELCA) church. Also, I turned 40 this year. A new chapter for me as a midlife seminarian is opening and I decided it best to clear things out, open the proverbial windows, and let some fresh air in. So I moved all 1400+ past posts over to an archive on my personal website, renamed this publication, and started fresh.
Grace Incarnate was the name of the very first class that I took in seminary. It was a systematic theology class taught by one of my most beloved professors, Dr. Kurt Hendel, who assigned the name years ago. Immediately, I fell in love with the name. Grace Incarnate (à la: Jesus the Christ; God having slipped into flesh as a divine act of solidarity, love, and mercy).
When I decided to change the name of this blog (for the final time, God help me), I begged Dr. Hendel’s permission to name it after his class and he gracefully said yes.
Here are a few reasons the name means so much to me and why I’m super blessed to embrace it…
- Again, it’s such a strong way to explain the nature of Christ. I pray that this new name keeps me rooted in sharing the gospel promise of God’s furious love for all of creation that was embodied and expressed through Jesus’s life, crucifixion, death, and resurrection.
- As I alluded to earlier, it’s the name of my very first seminary class. Dr. Hendel is one of the most passionate and humble souls I’ve had the pleasure to learn under (and a brilliant theologian who can talk for three hours about grace and Lutheran theology ALL WHILE DRINKING NO WATER). See, I don’t deserve to be in seminary. I barely graduated high school and dropped out of community college after five years (with no two-year degree). And somehow, I’m now in a Masters of Divinity program at one of the best theological schools in the country and discerning a path to ministry in the Lutheran (ELCA) church. Insane. This is grace. Totally undeserved, unmerited, and unexpected (and born out of the rubble of a lot of suffering and gnashing of teeth).
- Grace is my utter focus these days, as I’ve explained above. I’m really trying to get away from exhortations (“You should do this.”). That stuff is everywhere and I’m here to give you something new, refreshing, and life-giving. Something less burdensome. I pray that this grace-centric focus will help me share the good news of God’s promise through the gospel of Christ rather than giving people more items on their spiritual or moral to-do list (pretty sure we have enough to-do lists in life). The gospel isn’t a guidebook for a form of do-it-yourself spirituality. It doesn’t start with us — it starts with God and moves into and through us whether we want it to or not. (It’s just nice to be aware of it.)
- Even when I write entries of a more secular nature, I hope to keep grace in the center. Grace plays out in the horizontal (worldly) realm just as profoundly as it does on the vertical (divine) realm. Every good story has strong elements of grace in it. (I mean, have you read any Flannery O’Connor?! — C’mon now!)
- Grace Incarnate also has a sacramental nature to it (sacramental: the sacred and divine nature of physical earthly things). I look forward to exploring ways in which grace is showing up in the world. It’s easy to get stuck in our heads or even our hearts/emotions with matters of faith. The word incarnate reminds me that God is in the dirt and physicality of the material world. Christ is the embodiment of God’s love, not only towards humans but towards all of creation from the beginning of time. This is the incarnate nature of Christ in the world.
So that’s it, friends… Grace Incarnate.
So, now what?
I hope you like what you see. All works published here are behind the Medium paywall. It’s not a bad deal for $5/month to become a member and unlock everything on Medium while helping support writers like me. But if you want my stuff for cheaper (or free), there are a couple of ways to do that…