I have seen Brennan Manning's The Ragamuffin Gospel in bookstores and on bookshelves for years. It is one of those few books that I have seen quoted all over the place - in academic books, among musicians, in devotional works, etc. For whatever reason, I have never had much interest in reading it. I found it at the incredible Goodwill in Lewisburg, TN last year (I've found lots of gems there the past few trips) and it's sat on my shelf since.
Last week, I met with one of the senior citizens who meets in our senior small group on Tuesdays, and we decided that we would study Manning's book. I took up chapter one this morning to prepare some opening thoughts for today's study before everyone has their copies. What a way to begin the morning! I can't believe I have waited so long to delve into this work. It has been a refreshing breath of air to my spirit. I am looking forward to reflecting on it in the coming weeks.
I have been busy working through several books lately and have had some blogging topics come to mind. I had planned to spend some time reflecting on a series of articles in this week's Columbus newspaper, following a priest through his seminary trainging at the local Pontifical College. I just finished reading Mike King's Presence-Centered Youth Ministry that had left an indelible mark on my understanding of youth ministry, and coupled with the articles reflecting on entering the priesthood: giving up a family, sex, ten years of your life to training, I started thinking about how seriously I have taken my role as minister/pastor/priest. King notes how when he is in the presence of a Hindu priest he feels like he is in the presence of a holy man, but in the presence of an evangelical minister he feels like he is in the presence of a car salesmen.
It seems to me The Ragamuffin Gospel is going to be just what I need to re-engage my spiritual fervor and remind me of what undergirds my purpose and my position. I found the ending of the first chapter especially compelling:
"Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing inf ront of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hand, I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the business-man besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate trasnactions; the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from teh pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexuall-abused teen molested by his father and now sellign his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last 'trick,' whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school; the deathbed convert who for decades had his cake and ate it, broke every law of God and man, wallowed in lust and raped the earth.
"But how?" we ask. Then the voice says, "They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
They are there. There we are - the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life's tribulations, but through it all clung to the faith.
My friends, if this is not good news to you,you have never understood the gospel of grace."
p. 32 - 33
That reminds me of something a friend told me last week that is especially convicting for my conservative friends, "If Jesus were here to today, you know the kind of people he's be with? He'd find a gay Latino who was in this country illegally, who was suffering from complications from an abortion she had, and had a rare disease that was only cureable by advances in stem-cell research.
Now . . . I must rush back to my suburban existence . . .
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