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 diverse capacities in a sprawling metropolitan area. Haven't we all, in one way or another, at one time or another, lived as thieves and among thieves--desperadoes all--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. Jesus' life, death, and resurrection 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 a table of Communion. An old gospel song blurts out its raw essence: “That God should love a sinner such as I…how wonderful is love like this!”
PUT GRACE TO THE TEST. There seems to be 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 express and offer grace: to act boldly on its claims, to lean into its assertions, and to become its emissary in the cosmopolitan community.