Saturday, January 10, 2015

Week 2 - Grace and Mercy

Whole30 requires me to post food pictures. Lucky you.
Throughout every week I try to start on my weekly blog post. It’s just kind of what I do. When I get too much in my head I try to get those thoughts into tangible words. Inevitably those words, those writings end up for naught…in the sense of you never reading them. They are like little rabbit trails I have to explore on my own. They usually don’t even amount to the capture of any rabbits either, so there’s that. But this morning as I sat down, I “knew” what I was going to write. But, that’s not what I am writing now. Once the fingers hit the keyboard the story changed.

I was going to say that this week was comprised of two key influences – Jonathan Martin and Housefires. But the reality is my week had so many more influences like Whole 30, my wife, conversations with Chris and Phil, reading Longmire and The Name of the Wind, times of prayer and meditation; and what I came to realize is that Saturday is kind of my time to sit and watch these things collide into something that resembles the state of my heart, which is a very interesting thought indeed.

I texted a few friends this quote I came across in The Name of the Wind and thought it quite controversial, but now, here I am sharing it with any of you who are reading!

“Call a jack a jack. Call a spade a spade. But always call a whore (meaning prostitute in this particular brand of fiction) a lady. Their lives are hard enough and it never hurts to be polite.” – Patrick Rothfuss

I know that is an odd place to be headed, but it makes me think of the aforementioned Jonathan Martin and thousands just like him. It also makes me think of the prophetic statement nestled in that wonderfully spiritual film Spiderman:

The one thing they love more than a hero is to see a hero fail.

Basically, we as the Church suck at the story of redemption. Sure, we like to see someone rise above poverty or illness or trying circumstances. But we do not trust that men and women can be genuine about their faith and running to Jesus after major failures. But the problem is…that is what faith is all about. Christian perfectionism consumes our resources. We sing songs about breaking the chains, we sing songs about the perfection that is heaven, we sing songs about being spotless and shiny before God. And these things are part and parcel to our faith. But, the problem is we forget that Scripture instructs on what to do WHEN we fail, not if we fail.

How have we distorted this so far from original intent? How have we made the sinner the pariah instead of the welcome guest at our table? How have we made “All Star Christianity” about following rules instead of actually living life? These are questions that should make us stay awake at night. And I honestly believe that some of us see beyond this…but it’s usually people we discount: that person who too readily defends homosexuals, that person who is just standing by their friend, that person who is obviously hiding some kind of sin. In other words, we do all we can to discount people who defend the sinner, because they are obviously in cahoots with them!

Here I want to combine two things: Jonathan Martin’s blog and a passage of Scripture. I'm not necessarily going to comment on them, but let them be the guide for the end of the post.

From his blogpost: “Sitting around the table that day, I had two thoughts: one, all the people in my former life who would, if they saw the scene, say some version of, “look how far he is fallen.” I could think of more than a few who would be sneering when they said it. And alternately I thought, there is no place on God’s green earth I would rather be on this Thanksgiving day than right here, right now.

From the book of Luke: One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee’s house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him.”
Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Oh? Tell me.”
“Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty. Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?”
Simon answered, “I suppose the one who was forgiven the most.”
“That’s right,” said Jesus. Then turning to the woman, but speaking to Simon, he said, “Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn’t quit kissing my feet. You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn’t it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.”
Then he spoke to her: “I forgive your sins.”
That set the dinner guests talking behind his back: “Who does he think he is, forgiving sins!”
He ignored them and said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

That passage is a bit longer than I recall, but the whole story has to be there.

Jesus is called by many the friend of sinners. It was a term of derision actually. It was Jesus’s enemies that called him that. There is something however about the friend of sinners that doesn’t make sense until you really understand the depths of what sin does. Sin does not simply alienate you from God. Sin casts you away from your friends. It puts you in league with people you detested until you got there. It makes you rely on a kind of grace that was only mouthspeak before. Your heart finally catches up to your lips. And that’s why this faith thing makes sense to me.

I know the follies of my heart. I know the pain of losing reputation and friends from sins I have committed. 

Even as I write this the words of Housefires sing, “This love doesn’t leave me alone. And it never forgets it own. This love won’t leave me cos my past is bad. Oh and this love lifts me up above the waves; I don’t need to be overwhelmed. Ohh and it raises me upon the rock, so my feet can finally stand on ground. It’s every moment, every day, always.”

That is the love that I have entered into. It is the love that reaches down into the depths of not just my sin, but the consequence of my sin. It tells me that God reaches me amidst my own psychological angst and pain. It tells me that there is a community who loves me amidst all of the rubbage of my life. It tells me that the friend of sinners has given me communion amongst his people…amongst sinners that have run rough and tumbled hard and landed in a pool of grace that can’t be understood until you have found the muddy waters of despair somehow give way to the crystal clear drink of true, pure love. My sin does not remove me from the love of God, but catapults me into the depths of grace and mercy that transcend any rational thought. It doesn’t make sense.

I run beyond the understanding of my mind and live in that realm where His heart calls unto my heart. There is something contradictory in this. It makes me feel like an outcast to the society that taught me that my sin hides God from my eyes. But when my sin draws me to a place of such utter despair, pain and desolation I have no other place I can go. And there is nothing else I can drink but the true, unfiltered love of God that is poured out in the compassion of His tears. And that is why I can say things like, “I want to be messy. I want to get down into the muck and mire of people’s lives.” My reputation will likely be ruined by the people I associate with, because the love of God is most readily available to the broken, to the tired, to the poor, to the destitute, to the handicapped. But that my friends is the love of God. We somehow come to know the reality that is our God. We find Him in the darkness and not just in the light. We come to know Him in the worst days, which bring forth light to walk into the best, not because they are easiest, or because they are the most blessed, but because they are walked in the genuine knowledge that this is all grace.

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