Mercy

Yesterday I went to mass again. It’s the second week in a row. You may wonder why I would do that. Well, I have found comfort in the the silent pews among the reverent daily communicants. I love the silence. I enjoy the simplicity. I appreciate the smells and the sounds and the unfamiliarity. The mass is so different than what I grew up with and currently participate in.

The homily was from 2 Samuel 11 (the story of David and Bathsheba) and Psalm 51 (David’s dependence on God’s mercy) And like last Friday, something the priest said really struck me. He said, “God is more ready to forgive you than you are ready to sin.” Point being: I don’t have license to make selfish choices do rebellious things, but rather that God is exudes mercy. He forgives, restores, and wants us to move on rather than wallow in our self hatred and guilt.

It reminded me of something called “The New Testament Gamble,” written by John Lynch. It’s long but worth it.

“What if I tell them who they are? What if I take away any element of fear in condemnation, judgment, or rejection? What if I tell them I love them, will always love them? That I love them right now, no matter what they’ve done, as much as I love my only Son? That there’s nothing they can do to make my love go away?

“What if I tell them there are no lists? What if I tell them I don’t keep a log of past offenses, of how little they pray, how often they’ve let me down, made promises that they don’t keep? What if I tell them they are righteous, with my righteousness, right now? What if I tell them they can stop beating themselves up? That they can stop being so formal, stiff, and jumpy around me. What if I tell them I’m crazy about them? What if I tell them, even if they run to the ends of the earth and do the most horrible, unthinkable things, that when they come back I’d receive them with tears and a party?

“What if I tell t hem that if I am their Savior, they’re going to heaven no matter what – it’s a done deal? What if I tell them they have a new nature – saints, not saved sinners who should now ‘buck-up and be better if they were any kind of Christians, after all he’s done for you!’ What if I tell them that I actually live in them now? That I’ve put my love, power, and nature inside of them, at their disposal? What if I tell them that they don’t have to put on a mask? That it is ok to be who they are at this moment, with all their junk. That they don’t need to pretend about how close we are, how much they pray or don’t, how much Bible they read or don’t. What if they knew they don’t have to look over their shoulder for fear if things get too good, the other shoe’s gonna drop?

“What if they knew I will never, ever use the word punish in relation to them? What if they knew that when they mess up, I will never get back at them? What if they were convinced that bad circumstances aren’t my way of evening the score for taking advantage of me? What if they knew the basis of our friendship isn’t how little they sin, but how much they let me love them? What if I tell them they can hurt my heart, but that I never hurt theirs? What if I tell them I like Eric Clapton’s music too? What if I tell them I never really like the Christmas hand bell deal with the white gloves? What if I tell them they ca open their eyes when they pray and still go to heaven? What if I tell them there is no secret agenda, no trapdoor? What if I tell them it isn’t about their self-effort, but about allowing me to live my life through them?”

This may be worth another look today too.

http://www.studylight.org/desk/?query=ps+51&t=msg&st=1&new=1&l=en

People

I seem to write best when something is stuck in my craw. It’s not because I’m angry at what was said or who said it…it’s just that I wish I could have processed what I was thinking quick enough to articulate it. Well something has been stuck in my craw for a while.

A friend stopped by one day and I told him about the transition I was sensing concerning the coffee shop. He was a bit surprised that I wanted to sell because every time he’s here it’s busy. I tried to explain to him that I was feeling pulled toward speaking and consulting more. It was becoming a good conversation. Then I told him I’d really like someone to buy the shop “that would allow me to work a day or two a week to maintain my contacts.” His next comment didn’t set right with me and has become that which is stuck in my craw.

“Why would you do that…since you don’t need the contacts anymore?”

My friend didn’t mean anything malicious by that. He isn’t heartless or cold. His comment triggered memories of other conversations I’ve been involved in and it revealed how we can tend to think about people. There is a temptation for all leaders, myself included, to see people as replaceable parts in a machine. As if people are for our purposes whatever those purposes may be. When that seed takes root, no matter how subtle, we begin to farm a school of thought that is neither kind nor Christlike.

Now that I’ve had time to think about it, this is what I wish I would have said:

“Oh I do need the contacts!” Not to build my enterprise. Not to grow my church. Not to be interchangeable cogs in whatever machine I’m putting together. I need the contacts to keep me connected to the reality of my community. I need contact with normal people who I have no positional authority over. I need contacts who to keep me human. I need the contacts to remind me daily that God’s thumbprint is on everyone.

A while back Eugene Peterson wrote a book entitled, Under the Unpredictable Plant. It’s the story of Jonah. His premise is that God doesn’t just place us somewhere to be agents of holiness in other people’s lives. He asks us to serve in places where others can be agents of holiness in our lives. That’s why I need the contacts. I think we all do.

Light

“I would rather light a candle in the darkness than hang another chandelier in the fellowship hall.” Roland Vaughan

I saw this on Twitter the other day. It was posted by someone I follow. I’m not sure who this Vaughan fellow is, but I love the quote. I’ve read it over and over trying to understand why this brief statement resonates with me so. I hope there’s more to it than it’s appeal to the non-conformist streak that runs through me.

The more I ponder, I think it’s because it crystalizes what seems to be so prevalent in the American Church these days. We put so much time, money, and effort into serving, spending, and coddling the already convinced that we don’t have anything left for those who feel distant from God. Then we stand around admiring the fixtures we’ve hung only stepping back far enough to find room for another one.

You need to know I love the church. I am a product of the church. I wouldn’t be who I am without God working through people who love Him. I think that is the source of my frustration. We can do better. It is much simpler than we’ve made it.

Let’s try this: Make a friend. Be a friend. Share your life and the Christ who dwells in you.

The image of a plain white candle in the hand of an ordinary person illuminating the darkness captures our mission and expresses my heart. I have no interest spending my remaining days hanging more chandeliers. Thank you Mr. Vaughan for the word picture.

Hand me a match.