Welcome. – Safe Place.
Series – Everything we have – His goodness.
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
Title: Fake Jewelry and Sawdust Hotdogs
30 years ago. Report – Hotdogs – sawdust.
Conterfiet grace is as common as fake jewelry and sawdust hotdogs.
The constrast between what we say and what we are so huge that we believe our own illusions.
Imposters of the spirit always prefer appearances to reality.
Christian community – be, act, believe a certain way,
Don’t – Faking
Honesty begins with looking at ourselves in the mirror.
Problem is, we don’t like the way we look, so we put on makeup and accessories.
Self-Deception keeps us from seeing ourselves as we really are: imperfect people.
Forget – the whole point of the story is His love for us, despite our imperfection.
God came for
Hookers – Porn Stars – Murderers – Rapists
Bad decisions, stupid lifestyles.
Written in his brain in a way he’ll never forget.
Patient – Alcoholic Rehabilitation Center – Small town north of Minneapolis.
25 chemically dependent men.
Large, split-level home on the edge of a hill overlooking an artificial lake.
Leader: incredible counselor and therapist, founder.
One day, new patient Max “the hot seat” – center of the group.
Christian, married, 5 kids, owner and president of his company, wealthy, friendly, incredibly dignified.
“How long have you been drinking like a pig, Max?”
“That’s quite unfair.”
“We shall see. I need to get into your drinking history. How much booze per day?”
Max lit his pipe, “I have two Marys with the men before lunch and twin Martins after the office closes at five. Then…”
“What are Marys and Martins?” Murphey O Connor said.
“Bloody Marys – vodka, tomato juice, a dash of lemon and Worcestershire, a splash of tabasco; and Martinis – Beefeater gin, extra dry, straight up, ice-cold with an olive and lemon twist.”
“Thank you, Mary Martin. Continue.”
“The Wife likes a drink before dinner. I got her hooked on Martins several years ago. So we have two martinis before dinner and two more before going to bed.”
“A total of 8 drinks a day, Max?”
“Absolutely right. Not a drop more, not a drop less.”
“You’re a liar.”
Unruffled, “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that. I have been in business for twenty years and built my reputation on accuracy, not fudging the truth. People know my word is my bond.”
“Ever hide a bottle in your house?” – Benjamin, a Navajo from New Mexico.
Max: “Don’t be ridiclous, I’ve got a bar in my living room as big as a horses’ ass.”
Max smiled, feeling like he had regained control.
“Do you keep any booze in the garage, Max?”
“Naturally. I have to replenish the stock. A man in my profession does a lot of entertaining at home.”
“How many bottles in the garage?”
“I don’t know the actual count. Offhand, I would say two cases of Smirnoff vodka, a case of beefeater gin, a few bottles of bourbon and scotch, and pretty good collection of liquors.”
They continued for 20 more minutes like this.
Fudged, rationalized, minimized, justified his drinking problem.
Finally, admitted to keeping a bottle of vodka in the nightstand, a bottle of gin in the suitcase for travel purposes, another in his bathroom cabinet for medicinal purposes, and three more at the office for entertaining clients.
He squirmed a little, but never lost his composure.
“You’re ARE a liar” Yelled a voice from the group.
“No need to get vindictive man. Who are you to judge me? Remember in John’s gospel about the speck in your brother’s eye and the two-by-four in your own. And the other one in Matthew about the pot calling the kettle black.”
Brennan – bite his tounge to not correct him that speck-in-eye – Not in John, but Matthew. Black kettle thing wasn’t in the bible at all.
But he decided to pass, remembering that he wasn’t a author doing research for a book, but a patient.
“Get me a phone!” Counselor said.
Wheeled a speakerphone into the room – 1975.
Looked at his memo pad, dialed a number in Max’s hometown.
“Yeah, who’s this?”
“My name is Murphey-O-Connor. I am a counselor at an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center in the midwest. Do you remember a customer named Max? (Silence) I’ll take that as a yes. With his families permission, I am researching his drinking history. You tend a bar in that tavern every afternoon, So I am wondering if you could tell me approximately how much Max drinks each day?”
“I know Max well, but are you sure you have his permission to question me?”
“Yeah it was in his agreement to be accepted into the program. Shoot”
“He’s a helluva guy. I really like him. He drops thirty bucks in here every afternoon. Max has his standard six martinis, buys a few drinks for his friends and always leaves a good tip. He’s a good man.”
Max jumped up to his feet, started cussing. He started making racist comments at Murphey-O-Connor, attacked the bartenders integrity, and questioned the legitimacy of the whole program. Spat on the rug.
In an incredible shift, regained his composure at sat back down. Saying even Jesus lost his temper sometimes.
Lit up his pipe and assumed the interrogation was over.
“You ever been unkind to one of your kids?”
“Glad you brought that up, Murphey. I have a fantastic rappot with my four boys. Last Thanksgiving I took them on a fishing expedition to the Rockies. Four days of roughing it in the wilderness. A great time! Two of my sons graduated from Harvard, you know, and Max Jr is in his third year at…”
“I didn’t ask you that. At least once in his life every father has been unkind to one of his kids. I’m sixty two years old and I can vouch for it. Now give us one specific example.”
A long pause.
“Well, I was a little thoughtless with my nine-year-old daughter last Christmas Eve.”
“I don’t remember. I just get a heavy feeling whenever I think about it.”
“Where did it happen? What are the circumstances?”
“Now wait a minute, I said I don’t remember, I just get a bad feeling about it.”
“Alright, give me the phone.” – Called Max’s wife.
“Murphey O Connor calling, ma’am. We’re in the middle of a group therapy session and your husband just told us that he was unkind to your daughter last Christmas eve. Can you give me the details please?”
“Yeah I can give you the details.”
“Our daughter wanted a pair of shoes for her Christmas present. In the afternoon on Christmas eve, my husband drove her downtown, gave her sixy dollars, and told her to buy the best pair of shoes in the store. That’s exactly what she did. When she climbed back into the pickup truck, her father was driving she kissed him on the cheek and told him he was the best daddy in the whole world.”
“Needless to say, Max was VERY proud of himself decided to celebrate on the way home. He stopped at the cork’n’bottle- that’s a tavern a few miles from our house – and told Debbie he would be right out. It was a clear and extremely cold day that day about twelve degrees so Max left the motor running and locked both doors so no one could get in. It was a little after three in the afternoon and…”
They could tell by her breath that she had started to cry.
“My husband met some army buddies in the tavern, lost track of time. He came out of the Cork-n-Bottle at midnight. He was drunk. The motor had stopped running and the car windows were frozen shut. Debbie was badly frostbitten on both ears and on her fingers. When we got her to the hospital, the doctors had to remove two fingers, and now… she’s deaf.”
Max looked like he was having a heart attack. Then he worked his way from the sofa to the ground and began to sob.
Murphey-o-Connor thanked the wife and hung up the phone.
24 other alchoholics were sitting there with their – jaws dropped.
They will never forget what happened on the 24th of April that day.
Max – in the doggy position on the floor sobbing.
Murphey-O-Connor walked up to him, pressed his foot against max’s rib cage and pushed. Max rolled over on his back.
“You unspeakable slime. There’s the door on your right, and the window on your left. Take whichever is fastest. Get out of here before I vomit. I’m not running a rehab for liars.”
To me: shocking.
If you’ve been in a rehab, you understand this. – Tough love, b/c they believe no effective recoverey can happen until a man admits that he needs help.
The alternative to confronting the truth: self-destruction.
For Max, 3 options: eventual insanity, premature death, or sobriety.
End of the story: Later same day, Max begged for and got permission to continue treatment.
He went through the most striking personality change he’s ever witnessed. Honest, open, sincere, vulnerable and affectionate.
“I just prayed for the first time in my life.”
The day before Max completed his treatment he told the group: “I just prayed for the first time in my life.”
Brennan: There’s an intimate relationship between the quest for truth and a transparent personality.
If we want to grow, we have to be honest.
If we want to be a community that helps people, we have to give people permission to be imperfect.
For Max the alcoholic, his road to truth meant facing his lie: He was a social drinker. He wasn’t. He was an alcoholic.
Satan – great illusionist. Encourages dishonestly.
If we say, ‘We have no sin’, we are decieving ourselves, and the truth has no place in us. (1 John 4:8)
Satan wants us to place importance on stuff that’s not important.
Acting like you have it altogether.
Acting like you’re never wrong.
Making sure people respect you.
For Max: those things stopped him from healing.
The temptation of the lazy Christian is to lose the inner self while perserving the shell of godliness.
Going on a mission trip, so that it looks like you care for the world, but you don’t.
“Fasting” during January so everyone will think you’re spiritual plus you’ll lose 5 pounds.
Telling people ‘I’ll pray for you’ so you’ll look like you’re a man or woman of prayer, but you’re not.
Raise your hands in worship to look like you’re connected to God, but you’re not.
Many time in my Christian life where I’ve done the action, but not had the heart. In the worst sense of the word, I’ve become a legalist.
I’ve done what T.S. Eliot calls the greatest sin “to do the right thing for the wrong reason.”
“Beware of the scribes… these are the men who devour the property of widows and, for show, offer long prayers.” (Mark 12.)
Jesus understood prayer. He knew it would be counterfeited by spiritual fakers.
Jesus – separated heart and action, and was never impressed by people doing actions with the wrong heart.
Light at the end of the tunnel: Stop pretending.
“He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to loneliness. The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from their fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are all sinners!” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
On sundays (Saturdays nights), we pretend to believe we are sinners.
All we can do is pretend to believe that we have been forgiven.
As a result, our Whole Christian life is pseudo-repentance, pseudo-happiness.
But it’s fake jewelry, and sawdust hot dogs.
A small investment in fake Christianity can yield huge rewards in the faith community: praise and approval. Hypocrisy can get you a pretty good job in the ministry.
Our future – our generation – isn’t pretending that we’re not sinners. It’s in embracing that truth, finding God’s forgiveness there.
“It may be that salvation consists not in the cancelling of these eternal moments (sin) but in the perfected humanity that bears the shame forever, rejoicing in the occasion which it furnished to God’s compassion and glad that it should be common knowledge to the universe. If so, it would indeed be true that the joys of Heaven are for most of us, in our present condition, ‘an acquired taste’—and certain ways of life may render the taste impossible of acquisition. Perhaps the lost are those who dare not go to such a public place.” (C.S. Lewis)
The more you seek the truth, the more willing you are to be open.
In the bible, nothing more disgusting than a self-righteous disciple.
Fictional story in the book about someone coming to me asking to teach to pray, and that she never prays, and I gloat about how much I pray, then God says to me, “You ungratefull turd, even your ability to pray is a gift from me.”
Authentic faith leads us to respect all people.
Fake religion produces the opposite.
Fake religion disreguards the rights of others. – Auschwitz – “Ow-Shwitz”
criticized – Pointing out – dark history – crusades.
I hope that, as a believer, you’re deeply ashamed of our history.
Gospel of John:
Religious people concerned about Jesus messing everything up:
Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. (John 11:47)
If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” (John 11:48)
Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! (John 11:49)
You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” (John 11:50)
“Sacrificing one person is fine as long as it helps everybody else.”
Dedicated to “the people” so 1 person, expendable.
Dedicated to ‘the nation’ so 1 person, doesn’t matter.
Dedicated to ‘the temple’ so the blood of 1 man, no big deal.
Opposite: Jesus – leaving the 99 sheep to find the 1.
The choice of the Christian is not usually Jesus or Barabbas.
The choice is between Jesus and Caiaphas. Now Caiaphas can fool us.
Brennen: “The spirit of Caiaphas lives on in every century of religious bureaucrats who confidently condemn good people who have broken religious laws. Always for a good reason of course: for the good of the temple, for the good of the church. How many sincere people have been banished from the Christian community by religious power brokers as numb in spirit as Caiaphas.”
The way we treat others is the truest test of our faith.
Normal people, normal lives –
How I deal with normal people in my normal life has much more to do with Jesus than an antiabortation sticker on my bumper.
What’s wrong with the Pro-Life movement.
I hate abortion.
Problem with the pro-life movement is that it’s frighteningly selective.
The dignity of the unborn baby and the dignity of the muslim man are cut from the same pro-life fabric.
Some Christians – Pro-death.
We weep for the unborn baby, but do we weep for the people who are dying in wars across the world right now? Wars that don’t even matter.
Brennen: One morning I experienced a horrifying hour. I tried to remember how often between 1941 and 1988 I wept for a German or Japanese, a North Korean or North Vietnamese, a Sandinista or Cuban. I could not remember one. Then I wept, not for them, but for myself.
When we praise life and blast abortionists, our credibility is questionable.
Brennen: We proclaim how precious each life is to God and should be to us. On the other hand, when it is the enemy that cries out, we do not weep, we are not shamed; we call for more.
Statement: The pro-life position is a reverence for the unborn and the old, for the brother and the enemy. It’s advocacy for the quality of life of all people. Otherwise it’s fake jewelry and sawdust hotdogs.
Relief comes when we’re honest with ourselves.
Honestly is usually: unpleasant and painful. Why I’m not good at it.
To the extent that I reject my imperfection, I reject God, the community, and myself.
On the other hand, when I open myself up,
Paul “I am the greatest sinner.”
Open yourself up to communion with God, community with other people, and peace with yourself.
Quote, Gerald May – Christian Psychiatrist
Honestly before God requires the most fundamental risk of faith we can take: the risk that God is good, that God does love us unconditionally. It is in taking this risk that we rediscover our dignity. To bring the truth of ourselves, just as we are, to God, just as God is, is the most dignified thing we can do in this life.
Decide right now to be honest. With your own imperfection and the imperfection of others. Anything else is pretending. And then turn your eyes to Jesus, and find forgiveness. Commit yourself to always living truthfully. To never be a pretender of the spirit. But instead, finding your confidence in Jesus. Who He is, despite who we can be. And let God instill in you an real love for other people. It’s so easy to pretend that you love when you don’t. Don’t let that be you. Instead, let God birth in your His compassion. His grace. And his love. It’s always been about the cross, Jesus laying down his life for us and us laying our lives down for others. So God help us to continually cling to the gospel of grace and to delight ourselves in your love. We thank you.