Tuesday, July 19, 2016
It has been a few years since the departure of Rich Mullins and his mentor Brennan Manning. These two have influenced my life more than anyone. Basically, I had to be reconstructed after a demolishing of my and my wife’s faith from the group we were a part of for twenty plus years. In the temporary hell, there were a few people on the shore of that lake of fire. It was Rich and it was Brennan. Rich through his music showed me that we are all flawed to the point of irreparable and it would take some power higher than my own to put me back together. I am reminded of the scripture of the shepherd who wrestled the lamb from the lion’s mouth. A piece, an ear. What I was in had devoured most of me and my wife. We were pieces on the floor. I was told the very God that I would look for to help me had only a curse and an eventual second death planned, at least that is what I was told.
There was Rich on the shore and Brennan to give me a hand up. They first spoke in their words and music that was gibberish. But as I read and re-read, I began to get the message through the din of past conditioning. They said things like ‘Do you really understand that God loves you and that perhaps is the most critical question to ask and answer this side of the grave. The first time I read it, I blinked and said ‘Yeah, I already know that…’ but although I said it, I obviously did not believe it. Then as I read about one instance in the gospels when the Lord ate with the publicans and sinners and looked at the people he was with, I saw the whole meeting and what He said as quite profound. Why the second, third and fourth look? Because I am dense, and the leathered hide that I was, the scriptures had to penetrate were well worn, cracked and dry and dead. Yet the oil of the Spirit of Christ poured over me and I soaked it up as much as I could.
So what about the publicans and sinners? These were the ones that were the connecting tissue between Jewish society and the Romans. They were the tax collectors and administrators who meted out Roman control at the street level. Roman society was not what we think. Yes it was quite a lot like our society today. There was the use of alcohol and possibly drugs. There was sexual behavior that much reflected our modis operandi today. In other words, to put it point blank, most Romans had both male and female partners. There were children in the mix as well. So, when we talk to the connecting tissue of the Jewish society to the Roman overlords, it is not much of a stretch to believe that in that group of individuals, there were all kinds and varieties of relationships going on. More than likely, there were in that group at the very least engaging in experimentation that was on par with their rulers - it was a part of doing business. What was Jesus message to them: hellfire and brimstone? No. It was the story of the Prodigal Son. I was stunned. Jesus in the midst of that swirl of lifestyles spoke about coming home. About coming home. Uhhh…about coming home.
It is not about comparison of lifestyles that God is after, it is the heart of his son or daughter. Does this mean He excused the biblical imperatives? Definitely not, that was part of His message to them. It was as if He was saying “DESPITE your life and what you have done to yourself, I am still waiting, I am still looking, I am still in love with you…”
There I was in someone else’s pig trough sold as a slave eating the husks of condemnation and self hate when that fact came blazing through. God loves me. Not for what I can, have or will ever do. Nope, it is the lost son he longs for and has gone to great lengths to let me know that He loves me.
That is the one thing Rich and Brennan have left as a liturgy and a legacy: the love of God. God accepts us for what we are and then washes us, dresses us and adorns us. That is part of the process of our return not before we return. We need look no further than this story of the Publicans and Sinners. In it we see the drunkard, the adulterer, the lesbian, the gay and may be some of the darker sides of sin. There is Jesus telling the ALL to come home. We cannot expect to arrive there whole and fully functional. Some will arrive as a leg, as piece of an ear…but we will be there.
My seat will not be near the Savior I am sure. My seat will be at the farthest end of the table. I know that now and will keep that with me. I will be amongst the beggars at the gate of God’s favor nothing more. I know what I am and all my failures but the very fact I will be there is enough for me and is not because I did anything right because I haven’t