Friday, November 7, 2008

Inside and out, the metropolitan area is an arena begging the incarnation of grace

CYNICS, THIEVES, & SOLDIERS. The invitation to serve, to which we can respond gratefully with our own unique “send me,” does not necessarily lead us into sanitized places or safe situations. In his book Only One Way Left (1956), George Fielden MacLeod writes:

"I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not
crucified in a cathedral between two candles but
on a cross between two thieves; on the town
garbage-heap; at a crossroad so cosmopolitan
that they had to write his title in Hebrew and in
Latin and in Greek; at the kind of place where
cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers
gamble. Because that is where He died. And that
is what He died about. And that is where
churchmen should be and what churchmanship
should be about."

DESPERADOES ALL. I have been mulling this quote over again in my capacity as pastor to an urban congregation. We have all, in one way or another, at one time or another, lived as thieves and among thieves, as desperadoes, contributing our own crudities to the diverse mix of humanity that calls the city “home” and tries to make a way in it. There is little difference, save money and levels of sophistication and self-deception, between the inner-city desperado and the suburban one. But for grace, the whole metropolitan area languishes hopelessly.

THE SAVING SCANDAL. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection--“such love”--is the saving scandal to which the obviously hungry and the thought-to-be-satisfied both turn. Grace is not neat, not tame, not controlled, and certainly not quaintly preserved on the table of Communion. “That God should love a sinner such as I…how wonderful is love like this!”

PUT GRACE TO THE TEST. There is a notion aloft that grace is fragile and somehow needs to be protected from the forces or influences that would threaten the church, undermine orthodoxy, or derail the faithful. But grace does not need our stained-glass protections. Instead, it needs to be released, laid bare before the powers that be, and tested in the warp and woof of raw community life. Let us follow its lead, trusting in its promise to hold and draw, particularly amid the wreckage of the world’s broken people and broken promises.

BREAKING THE SPELL. Grace is greater. The power of forgiveness, the promise of reconciliation, the reality of lived love, the freedom of truth, the possibility of peace, the healing touch of comfort, hope, faith (just for starters)... these are greater than the cynical spell of resentment, hatred, division, greed, prejudice, alienation, despair, and fatalism that pervade so many individuals, groups, media, and institutions. Dare to dispense grace, to act boldly on its promises, to lean into its assertions, and to become its emissary in the cosmopolitan community.

I welcome your comments and/or questions in the spirit of dialog. Share yours by clicking on "comments" just below. They're moderated only to reduce incivility. Shalom!


  1. Anonymous10:42 AM

    Every time I read your thoughts (or collection of thoughts from other authors), I am changed into a better person for the sake of the Kingdom. ~ mm


Your tasteful comments and/or questions are welcome. Posts are moderated only to reduce a few instances of incivility.