“Home is a sacred space – external or internal – where we don’t have to be afraid; where we are confident of hospitality and love. In our society we have many homeless people sleeping not only on the streets, in shelters or in welfare hotels, but vagabonds who are in flight, who never come home to themselves. They seek a safe place through alcohol or drugs or security in success, competence, friends, pleasure, notoriety, knowledge, or even a little religion. They have become strangers to themselves, people who have an address but are never at home, who never hear the voice of love or experience the freedom of God’s children.”
Brennan Manning – “The Ragamuffin Gospel”
There is something about the way that Brennan Manning writes that captures so much of the human experience…at least my experience. I have found myself drawn to God through his words ever since Bud Jeremy put a copy of “The Ragamuffin Gospel” in my hand when I was serving a church in Cortland, NY.
The Deacons at First Baptist Church are reading and wrestling with Manning’s expressions of grace and what it means for a community to receive and express grace to each other and the world. It is not an easy exercise to walk through…it stretches who we are, how we see ourselves and how we understand God.
I long to be a part of a people who have heard the voice of love that brings a peace this world simply cannot understand. I pray God will allow me the joy of walking alongside a community who having experienced the Spirit’s work to “sets the captives free” moves out into the world inviting people to experience what Jesus called, “Life to the full.”
When I read Manning, when I read the gospels, I cannot help but look and wonder…”What is this religion that I have settled for?” “Why do I accept anything short of a world transforming gospel?”
I look at my own life and have to confess, “I have settled, have allowed the cares of this world (this kingdom), to get in the way of my pursuit of the Kingdom of God” “I have to confess that there are times I do not live as if God can, desires to, or will unleash the power of his Spirit in such a way as to “set the captives free”.
I do not think those confessions are unique. If we are honest, most of us would find that there are times we settle for religion and miss out on what it means to experience the freedom of living as God’s children. I do not offer this as an excuse for the times and ways I have settled…simply an observation that much of our human experience is shared…even the parts we believe are unique to ourselves. As I wrestle to maintain a consistent and constant focus on pursuing Christ to experience the freedom of God’s children I find myself drawn to the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3…
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal,but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.