But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)
Born April 27, 1934
Depression – NYC – Army – Korean War
Seminary – Little Brothers of Jesus
France – Water / Donkey
6 months – Jail – Switzerland – 6 months – Cave – Desert
Books – Ragamuffin Gospel
“Ragamuffin” – Poorest / poor – great depression
THE RAGAMUFFIN GOSPEL
You can tell a lot about Jesus by who he spent his time with.
Jesus spend a disproportionate amount of time w/:
The Poor – The Blind – The Lame – The Lepers – The Hungry – Sinners – Prostitutes – Tax Collectors – The Persecuted – The Downtrodden – The Captives – Those possessed by unclean spirits – All who labor and are heavy burdened, – The rebel who spits on the law – The Little Ones – The Least – The Last – The Lost
In short: Jesus hung out with Raggamuffins. – The poorest of the poor.
Obviously, not exclusive love, that would just replace one class prejudice with another. He showed unconditional love to the upper and middle class as well.
One mystery of bible: Jesus attraction unlovely.
French Philosopher: Maurice Blondel
“If you really want to understand a man, don’t just listen to what he says but watch what he does.”
Matthew 18 – Disciples “Greatest?”:
Matthew 18 – Disciples “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”:
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. (Matthew 18:2)
And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)
Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:4)
And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. (Matthew 18:5)
Kills distinction between elite / ordinary
Kids – awful one second, fine the next.
Aren’t trying to impress anybody.
They’re not remembering – all their unselfish deeds – selfish ones, they’ve moved past it.
Children don’t struggle with their unworthiness.
“become like little children” – inviting us – forget the past.
Zen Story – Monk chased by tiger.
Strawberry – Tiger – past Strawberry – now
With God – not about past, but who you are to him right now.
Paul – murderer “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.”
Attitude towards kids 1st century palestine – not honoring
Theologian Albert Nolan “Jesus before Christianity” – “Children in that society had no status at all – they didn’t count.”
Children – represent ragamuffins.
“There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your father to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)
Religious people – Jesus “Why do you hang out with the scum?”
Jesus “I have come for sinners, not the righteous.” / “Sinners” – not – ditched church, didn’t pray enough.
“REAL sinners” – done nothing deserving of Jesus.
Opened themselves up to the gift.
Religious people: trusted in their goodness, rejected Jesus.
“Justice” – talking to leaders
- Feed the poor, caring for the sick.
- “You’re gonna pay for that.”
Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ – Hosea
Cain – bible
Grown up Christian.
Grown up Christian. When I start demanding ‘justice’ – Prodigal sons older brother.
Seeking God’s favor:
Serving the church – making charitable contributions – lengthening your time of prayer, reading more Christian books.
Important distinction: Good works b/c love him, not impress
1st century Palestinian Judaism, Class System HUGE.
Forbidden: mingle w/sinners outside – law.
Beggars – Tax collectors – Prostitutes.
Meal sharing – huge
Peace – Trust – Friendship – Forgiveness
When Jesus ate w/ Zacchaeus
Why: such hostility.
Pharisees did not miss this.
It would be impossible to overestimate the impact these meals must have had upon the poor and the sinners. By accepting them as friends and equals Jesus had taken away their shame, humiliation, and guilt. By showing them that they mattered to him as people he gave them a sense of dignity and released them from their old captivity. The physical contact he had with them at the table made them feel clean and acceptable. Moreover, because Jesus was looked upon as a man of God and a prophet, they would have interpreted his friendship as God’s approval of them. They were now acceptable to God. Their sinfulness, ignorance, and uncleanness had been overlooked and were no longer being held against them. (Albert Nolan Theologian “Jesus before Christianity”)
It meant peace, acceptance, reconciliation, and brotherhood.
“For Jesus this table fellowship with those whom the religious had written off was not just an expression of liberal tolerance and humanitarianism. It was the expression of his mission and message: peace and reconciliation for all, without exception, even for the moral failures.”
John disciples and pharisees – fasting
Jesus disciples didn’t.
Surely the bridegroom’s attendant cannot fast while the bridegroom is still with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. (Mark 2:18-19)
Jesus feasted while John fasted.
John’s message: sacrificial practices
Jesus’s message: being table companions.
If Jesus appeared – dining room table … acceptance and forgiveness.
If Jesus appeared at your dining room table tonight with knowledge of everything you are and are not, total comprehension of your life story and every skeleton hidden in your closet; if He laid out the real state of your present discipleship with the hidden agenda, the mixed motives, and the dark desires buried in your heart, you would feel His acceptance and forgiveness.
Book: contrasts 2 communities:
His weekly AA Meeting.
New Orleans – Tuesday – Church.
Run down catholic church.
16 recovering alcoholics and drugs addicts.
Openness is amazing.
Everybody knows each other well.
Nobody fooling anybody.
Everyone is there b/c they are a royal screw up. Trying to put pieces of their life back together.
Some smoke, some don’t. Most drink coffee. College graduates, some never graduated high school.
Serenity Prayer – “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Moment of silence
Prologue to Alchoholics Anonymous
“Tonight, we’re going to talk about gratitude.
Guy stands up “Phil” – “I have something to say.”
“As you know, last week I went up to Pennsylvania to visit family and missed the meeting. You also know I have been sober for 7 years. Last Monday I got drunk and stayed drunk for five days.
Only thing you could hear – drip of the coffee maker.
“You all know HALT – Hungry, angry, lonely, tired. The last 3 got me.”
Tears of compassion.
“The same thing happened to me Phil, but I stayed drunk for a year.”
“Thank God you’re back.”
“Man, that took a lot of guts.”
“Relapses come when we’re seeking relief. Let’s meet tomorrow and figure out what you needed relief from.”
“I’m so proud of you.”
“Hell, I’ve never made it even close to 7 years.”
When meeting ended – all gather around – hugged and kissed Phil.
Took him out for a banana split.
2nd Story – Wife Roslyn
taking graduate course in religious education.
Teacher talking about the culture Jesus lived in.
Separation: Religious / Sinners: social outcasts
Do not smoke – one side of the room
Smoke – other side
Used to smoke – middle.
His wife – smoking side.
1. “Lets discuss : smoking regulations”
Lets discuss how you feel about smoking regulations. Campus, restaurants, airports, etc.
All agreed – overall health of everyone.
2. “How do you feel about smokers personally?”
They are disgusting and inconsiderate
Obviously anyone who smokes has low self esteem & a lousy self image.
They have no willpower
Rotten roles models for children.
I have serious questions about the quality of their faith and depth of their personal relationship with Christ.
Don’t they know they’re poisoning the atmosphere?
“I cowered against the far wall, feeling like the woman caught in adultery.”
Got so hostile, for the last 4 years, studied, eaten with, had coffee with these people.
Reformed smokers – kind. – Non-smokers – brutal.
Next day – teacher asked.
Non-smoker: “I learned something about myself, I need a lot more compassion for people who are different than me.”
Roslyn: “I could feel them hating me. Realized how amazing it was for Jesus to say Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”
The ragamuffin gospel reveals that Jesus forgives sins, including sins of the flesh; that He is comfortable with sinners who remember how to show compassion; but that He cannot and will not have relationship with “pretenders in the Spirit”.
Perhaps the real dichotomy in the Christian community today is not between conservatives and liberals or creationists and evolutionists but between the awake and the asleep. Just as a smart man knows he is stupid, so the awake Christian knows that he or she is a ragamuffin.
Humility is always truth – the blunt acknowledgment that I owe my life, being and salvation to Another. This fundamental act lies at the core of our response to grace.
The beauty of the ragamuffin gospel lies in the insight it offers into Jesus: the tenderness of His heart, His way of looking at the world, His way of relating to you and me. “If you really want to understand a man, don’t just listen to what he says, but watch what he does.”