Grace Beyond Eggs & Peeps

I’ve claimed to be a devout Christian before. The height of my claim came in high school when, for a few months, at least, I was set on the decision to attend a Seventh-Day Adventist college and major in Theology to become a pastor. For the most part, my spiritual life has been hit and miss since then.

The past couple years, however, brought about a growing acceptance of the concept of God’s grace. Essentially, there is nothing that I could do, or have ever done, to earn God’s love and acceptance. This realization has brought me closer to him than I’ve ever been or ever could become by learning to quote from the many writings of Ellen G. White or by refraining from doing the wrong thing on the sabbath (two big emphases of the Adventist church). Both of my hands are empty and free to serve now that I set my score card down.

My realization of the profound consequences of Grace on my personal life, has developed a greater appreciation of the events that the Christian Easter season celebrates. I grew up, as many kids do, coming out to the living room on Easter Sunday to find an Easter basket full of candy, treats, and usually a toy. The Peeps were my favorite. This was before they became available for every other holiday. I’m talking about the marshmallow, sugar-coated, yellow, pink, and purple chicks and bunnies. I still love them!

Sure, I was familiar with something related to Jesus being resurrected (or something like that), but, that was all on the periphery. My main focus when I was a kid was the candy, the oversized rabbit that stands on two legs at the mall, and egg hunts. Even in my mid-twenties I didn’t grasp the significance of “Good Friday,” as many people called it.

Last night I participated in a Thursday evening communion service in which we focused on commemorating Christ’s last supper with his disciples in the upper room. I’ve been focusing on this event in my personal readings over the past week as well. To me, this is where the truest character of Jesus is revealed. From the revelation that John the disciple reclined at the table with his head resting on the chest of Jesus, to the fact that the Messiah disrobed, wrapped his clothing around his waist, and washed each of his followers’ feet.

Though he knew he was about to suffer the greatest pain known to man, Christ spent this evening breaking bread with his betrayer, and providing food, wisdom, and comfort to his disciples. On the eve of the day when He would experience the greatest mental, physical and spiritual struggle to touch mankind, Jesus provided rest to his disciples and served even those who would, later that night, betray and deny him.

The next day he was unjustly executed. Three days later, on resurrection Sunday, he served all mankind by tying the knot of grace that binds, to Him, those who accept his generous invitation to eat with Him in His kingdom.

The hope and peace of my life rests on these events.

“Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” John 13:23

3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” John 13:3-5

Uncomfortable Christian

1:11 “For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end you may be established; that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”

Paul yearned to “be comforted” and subsequently implied that he was in discomfort. One of the central beleivers from which Christians have drawn inspiration for over two thousand years was someone who was not comfortable as a Christian.

Life Beyond Tinseltown

When things are going well we become overconfident. We become enamored with what we perceive as being good before us while simultaneously ignoring what is dying or dead beyond. Humility is found when the glimmer of tinsel is overcome by the weight of reality. That is when we realize how broken we really are and, perhaps for the first time, we are able to breath.

“To be alive is to be broken; to be broken is to stand in need of grace.” -Brennan Manning

Living As A Result

It is when I consider my flaws, my mistakes, and the horrible things that I have done in my life that I fall down, broken, in full appreciation of the grace of Abba. The fact that He has blessed my life so richly, despite my long track record of persistent selfishness and vanity, sparks gratitude to the highest degree. It goes far beyond arguments about morality, theological debate, and adherence to particular church traditions and rituals. God is a boundless, infinite being not confined by time or human understanding. We can’t hope to outwit God anymore than a paintbrush can hope to understand the artist. Our true peace and joy is found in surrendering to the pure, unearned, grace of God and living out our resulting gratitude each day.

Excerpt from Reflections For Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning, Pp. 227:

The spirituality of accepted tenderness brings an intermittent awareness of the loving gaze of the Abba of Jesus…It is a spirituality without manuals and navel-gazing, goals and game plans, stress and distress. It simply rejoices in the gift. And it is all the work of the Holy Spirit defined as given tenderness.

“Yahweh is tender and compassionate, slow to anger, most loving. As tenderly as a father treats his children, so Yahweh treats those who fear him.” Psalm 103:8, 13

Wake

Head ache Sin ache
Gave in to the other
Shooting up a hellish echo

It pulls me down
Even now
When my attention settles in

Sin that I am
Regret that I invited
Shrieking ring in the round

Drowned for the moment
Beneath the surface
Of His grace

Big Daddy

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Excerpt from Reflections For Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning, Pp.220

Do you ever think that Jesus appreciates you for wanting him, for wanting to say no to so many things that would separate you from him? Do you think that Jesus can ever be grateful to you for pausing to smile, comfort, give to one of his children who have such great need to see a smile, to feel a touch? Do you ever think of Jesus being grateful to you for learning more about him so that you can speak to others more deeply and truly about him? Do you ever think that Jesus can be angry or disappointed in you for not believing that he has forgiven you totally? He said, ‘I do not call you servants, but friends…’ Therefore, there is the possibility of every feeling and emotion that can exist between friends to exist here and now between Jesus and you.

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him.” Isaiah 30:18

While God maintains the all-powerful, all-knowing, judicious aspect of his Character, He also loves, encourages, and practices patience and mercy through his identity as our Abba – our divine Daddy. As a father to a four-year-old girl, I know that there are times when I have to correct her for doing something she really shouldn’t have done. Sometimes, though, I have to turn my head to keep a straight face while directing her because her antics can sometimes be very amusing and I know that she is just a child. This morning, I’m led to believe that there are times when our Abba looks at us the same way.

Real World Jesus

Above all of the politics, theology, denominations, and technicalities is the demand by Jesus that we love God with all our beings and that we love others as we love ourselves. We won’t know God truly until we are bent backward in service to others as in a way that denies our own existence. I, for one, have plenty of room for growth in that regard.