Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Scandal of Grace

Sorry for the blog hiatus. Since graduation, there has been much I have wanted to share with you including some thoughts I've recently had on prayer, our 125th Anniversary celebration at FBC Mertens, and the ordination service of my friend and our music minister John Lassitter. I will post on those in the near future, but right now I have something else pressing in my mind.

My wife and I recently made another technological advance to catch up to the rest of the world and subscribed to NetFlix. Last night after receiving our package in the mail, we watch one of the most depressing movies I have ever scene: Rachel Gettting Married. The plot is about a woman named Kim (played brilliantly by Anne Hathaway) who is a recovering addict getting to leave her rehabiliation facility to attend her sister Rachel's wedding. Kim was in a horrible car accident while she was high, killing her little brother. This devastatingly emotional event drove a wedge in her family, strainging relationships, causing a divorce, and Kim's own tumble into addiction. I will not give away the whole movie (you can watch it if you want to be depressed), but being around her family sober forces Kim to face what she has done instead of hiding behind her addictions. In one scene, Kim is at an AA meeting, and she said something that has caused me to wrestle in my spirit. One of the steps to AA is recognizing there is a power (God) greater than addiction who can remove the shortcomings of an addict. It is a fancy way of saying what the Bible says about forgiveness. At this meeting Kim, who is finally coming to terms with what she has done to her brother and family, says, "I really want to believe in this God who forgives. But I do not know if I can believe in a God who can forgive me."

There it is. The scandal of grace. The scandal of the cross. A God who forgives the worst. It's amazing to me how much we want justice in the world, even when it is ourselves who need punishment. Perhaps that is our way of dealing with the fallen world: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, justice for the drug addict who killed her brother because of her stupidity. The scandal of the cross says that grace extends to even the worst of people. The thief on the cross. The man who sought to persecute and kill Christians. The man who denied Jesus three times when Jesus needed him the most. The woman in rehab. The President caught in a sex scandal. The murderer awaiting his own death. Even the terrorist hiding out in a cave. The scandal of grace reaches to every one of them. It's hard to believe in a God with that kind of forgiveness when there is so much wrong in the world, so much wrong with me. God, open our eyes so that we can see your grace poured out on the cross. Open our arms to receive the scandal of grace resurrected from the dead.

the sculpture is titled "God's Grace Flows Forth")

Monday, June 01, 2009

Stories, Memories, and Lists

In two weeks, my church will celebrate 125 years of ministry in the Lord Jesus within the community of Mertens, Tx. For any church to make it 125 years in ministry is incredible, and the fact that FBC is the only church left in Mertens is extraordinary. The last couple of weeks, I have reviewed the past twenty-five year business meeting records. It is about as much fun as it sounds. There are some things that were happening twenty-five years ago that are still happening today. For instance, the same lady that motions that we adjurn the business meeting everytime we meet today did the same twenty-five years ago.

Coupled with reading business meeting notes was studying the end of Colossians. Colossians has been a fun letter to walk through with my church the last 14 weeks. The situation of Colossae is so similar to that of Mertens: a once prominent town now dwindled in size, looking dead from the outside. But Paul says there is something alive there because the Gospel is there, just like Mertens. But he ends the letter with a list. A list? Come on Paul, couldn't you end with something better than that? A list of greetings? Really? Who cares about Aristarchus, or Nympha (or whether or not she is a male or female), or Tychicus? Then I began to study the list a little more. There are Jews there, Greeks, males, females, slaves, and free. The list is more than a list. It is a picture of the church and the mission of God to reconcile the world back to himself. On the list was Onesimus and Mark, who both had to forgive and be forgiven by Philemon and Paul. Then I thought about the business meeting notes. I thought about the basketball court that was built for the kids to have somewhere to play. I thought about the new parsonage that Sarah and I enjoy Show allso much. I thought about the new wing to our building that will serve to disciple people for years to come. I thought about the family who we took care of during Hurricane Katrina thanks to the new building. Or the family that we bought bus tickets even and food even though the church was strapped for cash. I thought about the ten kids living in a trailor home that we provided over fifty Christmas presents for because they could not afford Christmas. I thought about the "friend-in-need" that required $6000 worth of classes to help with rehabilitation. I thought about providing the money for a funeral of a man who could not afford it. The business meeting lists and notes maybe boring reading, but the stories behind it show a picture of the movement and mission of God in Mertens. A list? Don't call it a list. There's a story there!