Pastor’s Pen – July 18, 2010

Published on 18. Jul, 2010 by in Pastor's Pen

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Summer reading…

I am reading a small little book this summer, by a man named Brennan Manning. The book is entitled: The Furious Longing of God. Like much of Manning’s writing, it is not ‘new’ stuff that he puts forth. It is simply the gospel as it is meant to be lived. The following passage caught my reflection this week.

“The apostle Paul may have understood the mind of Jesus better than anyone who ever lived. He sums up his whole understanding of the message of Jesus in Galatians 5:6, when he writes, “the only thing that matters is faith that expresses itself in love.” According to Paul’s criterion for greatness in the New Israel of God, the person who is the most Christ-like, closest to the heart of Abba, is not the one who spends the most time in prayer. It’s not the one who has the most PhD’s. It’s not the one who has the most responsibility entrusted to his care. It’s not the pastor of the biggest mega-church. No, it’s the one who loves the most. That’s not my opinion. Those are the words in Galatians 5 that will judge us….

…How have we gotten it so screwed up? I was speaking to the Navigators (editor’s. note – Navigators = a Christian discipleship group with emphasis on study of the Scriptures) and they asked: “Do you have a word for us?” I said: “Yes, I do.”

“Instead of being identified as a community that memorizes Scripture, why not be identified as a community of professional lovers that causes people to say: “How they love one another!” Jesus said the world is going to recognize you as His by only one sign: the way you are with one another on the street every day. You are going to leave people feeling a little better or a little worse. You’re going to affirm them or deprive them, but there’ll be no neutral exchange. If we as a Christian community took seriously that the sign of our love for Jesus is our love for one another, I am convinced it would change the world. We’re denying to the world the one witness Jesus asked for: Love one another as I’ve loved you. (John 15:12)

Let me repeat that, again in his words. “You’re going to be identified as His disciples by one sign only: the deep and delicate respect you have, the cordial love impregnated with reverence for the sacred dimension of the human personality you find in your brothers and sisters…”

This is enough to pray into for a lifetime, I think…

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It is one of those details you can easily miss. But in both of the appearance accounts – it notes WHERE the disciples were. Locked in the upper room. Locked in. Doors bolted. Behind barriers. Safe, they thought, from anyone who might try to get to them. And even more so, they were locked in an upper room – removed from things. (Think of the diary of Anne Franke.)

And there, Jesus makes use of his second occupation – and perhaps his most important one after the resurrection. Locksmith. John describes him as being able to break through any obstacle, any thing we put in the way. And almost whether we want him to or not. You see, the risen Jesus wants to get into your heart, mind, and life. His desire is to get to all the trapped places of our lives, all the things that hold us in the grip of fear and remorse and shame. And he will do it despite all the obstacles we’ll set in his way.

We call that grace – what God accomplishes in me, despite my resistance to it, despite the fear that would keep my trapped behind whatever closed doors there are in my life. We call that the divine mercy, and it is Jesus all about being a locksmith to the doors that would keep us trapped. This feast, celebrated now in the church for the past 10 years, is an invitation to us to all of us, no matter what we have done, no matter how our life has turned out, to turn to our Lord, confident that we can begin again.

And if you don’t quite trust that, then listen to the next little detail in John’s gospel that sometimes get’s missed. After his first wishing of the disciple’s: PEACE, what does he do? He shows them his hands and sides. He shows his disciples the effects of their rejection, the wounds he endured for their forgiveness. He shows them the mark in his hands, and the hole in his side. “Don’t forget what the world did to me. And don’t forget that you had a part in that in your denial, in your betrayal, in your running from my side. Now that he is sure that THEY know they have sin – Having shown them his hands and side – he says “SHALOM.” Peace to you. It is forgiven. It is let go. It is done and gone. And like a locksmith picking the lock to a door, GOD’s forgiveness made available through Jesus Christ is able to break through the barriers the disciples put in the way of Jesus – and the barriers you and I put in the way.

We are sinners. That is a truth about our lives. But the story does not end there. We are FORGIVEN sinners. Any and all sins can be forgiven. Call it Redemption. Salvation. Access to eternal life, Divine Mercy – all of these are the same. All comes down to that truth. God is not served by our staying trapped in the wounds of our sin and hatred and smallness of heart. He IS SERVED by our willingness to be set free and to become conduits of that love and grace and mercy to everyone. God is not served by our being trapped in our fear and shame and un-forgiveness. Stop wasting your time there. Life is too short to stay trapped. And the church’s mission to bring the whole world into the experience of divine love is too urgent to stay removed in some upper room.

You see, you and I share the same occupation of the risen Christ – to be mediators of the divine forgiveness, bearers of the divine love, locksmiths for the kingdom of God to all we meet. Amen. Alleluia!

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