Why Bother?

DSC_0786#1“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!”  Psalm 27:13

I consider the brokenness of the world and I think, “Why bother?”

I look at the corruption all around me and I cry, “Why bother?”

I wonder at my inability to live with my neighbour and I ask, “Why bother?”

I face my war with sin inside and outside, and I ponder, “Why bother?”

I look at the problems of the culture around me and I lament, “Why bother?”

I scan my world, broken by disease and misuse, and in sadness say, “Why bother?”

I consider the statistics of violence and abuse and I think, “Why bother?”

I am assaulted with the reality of endless wars between nations, and overwhelmed say, “Why bother?”

I am defeated by temptations power and cry, “Why bother?”

I ponder how good is called bad and bad good, and in frustration say, “Why bother?”

I search for hope like a parched man for water but end up thinking, “Why bother?”

Perhaps I should live for leisure and comfort and give into “Why bother?”

Maybe I should exist for the here and now, and forgetting forever say, “Why bother?”

I am tempted to live for power and control, and for greater things say, “Why bother?”

Perhaps personal pleasure in the here and now is what it’s all about; “Why bother?”

But in exhaustion I look up and not around and I say, “Why bother?”

Why bother?

Because You are and You are good.

Why bother?  Because [in You] is goodness and grace.

Why bother?  Because You bring life out of death.

Why bother?  Because You have a plan and it will be done.

Why bother?  Because I have been welcomed into your Kingdom of Life.

Why bother?  Because I am always with you.

It is true that my eyes don’t always see and my heart isn’t always confident.

It is true that darkness overwhelms me and fear leaves me weak.

But You come near.

You remind me once again that I can be confident because You were unwilling to say, “Why bother?”

 

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From ‘A Shelter in the Storm of Life – meditations on God and Trouble’ using Psalm 27 by Paul David Tripp p.139-141

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Grace is…

IMG_6194I have just discovered this gem of a series called ‘On the Cost and Grace of Parish Ministry’ by Jason Goroncy.  What follows is a snippet from the ninth part of the series on the subject of Sabbath.

Sabbath is a setting free, and this happens “through Jesus Christ who in his incarnation entered into the nothingness and dread of human depravity in order to bring creation into the saving rest of God.  The Bible’s word for this action is ‘grace’.

Grace is never a soft thing.

Grace is a man groaning on a cross, dying on a bitter tree, not only for his friends but also for those who would wish him and his Father dead.

Grace is God redeeming in Holy love.

Grace is God in his eucatastrophic action in the face of Nature’s catastrophe.

Grace is God taking seriously the scandalous nature of sin’s offence, and himself going down into the experience of nothingness and dread, into hell, into death, into the furnace of His own wrath, into the radical depths of its wound, in order to save.

There can be no higher gift.

This grace alone, the grace of the initiating Father, lived in the obedient Son, and made alive through the Spirit, carries humanity home and brings creation into the Sabbath rest of God.  Only then can Paul sing, ‘For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom 8:38-39).

Now the ‘Lord of the Sabbath’ calls us into his rest in order that we might join him in doing the things that He is doing ‘on the Sabbath’ every day of the week.  There can be no place here for that Sabbatarianism that consecrates one day out of all the others, In Christ, every day is about Sabbath rest, renewal and healing, that our entire ministry may be performed under the grace-aegis of God.  To keep the Sabbath is never about conformity to rules and regulations (Col 2:22), but is about conformity to Christ who is Lord of the Sabbath.”

And this is truly a grace.  God is good.

We don’t do grace too well

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We are in a bind are we not?  I mean, a church is a community of mixed people, at every conceivable stage of life and experience, but together never-the-les.  The bind though, is that we are in this community as individuals gathered to love and serve the Lord and each other – and by-and-large, we want to do that, yet not without the occasional burp of dysfunction.

It would be fair I think, to take the hit on the proverbial chin, that the church is where one finds more hypocrites than anywhere else on the planet.  I know I am a hypocrite and I’m the minister!  But that is also the very reason why I am a Christian.  I am a sinner, I do sinful things, I think sinful things, I desire sinful things.  But thanks be to God there is a cure for sin, and that is salvation, a Christ-won salvation!

Salvation of sinners, hypocrites, liars, murderers, God-deniers, and the like, is God’s direct and effective self-revelation….in Christ….always and only in Christ……that opens the eyes of sinners, that they see him as a loving Father who has invited them into the joy and fellowship of His own self, the God-head of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  And this should, I say should, set us free.

Most of the time, for many people, we respond to grace as we respond to a generous gift from a friend, “Oh you shouldn’t have.”  We take the gift and immediately the plotting starts on how we are to pay the person back for their gift.  That’s because we don’t do grace too well at all.  And this then leads to a fruit, a product, a worldview, a consequence of thinking about grace wrongly:  we become workers, doers, activists, organised, efficient.  In theological language we become nomians, law makers and law keepers and often law-seekers, the more laws the more po-faced we become, and the more po-faced the more righteous and religious -right?  It’s as if the whole book of Galatians was written for us, and we simply deflect verses such as 5:1 as being for others, them…out there….and certainly not us!!

When there is a law, what need of grace?  Grace language becomes a part of our religious discourse for sure, but its power, its truth, its vitality is simply not grasped.  Oh how we must nod sagely as we read in Ephesians 2 “…by grace you have been saved…” but inwardly shudder, maybe even mumbling something about the book of James balancing out all this nonsense about grace language with a works language.  After all, isn’t activism, busyness, practical-ness a contemporary virtue of our present day?  Now a works language we get, “Tell me what to do?”  It’s all a bit mixed up.  We don’t know what to do with Jesus’ own words about works:  “The work of God is this: believe the One He has sent…”  (John 6:29).

When we truly do get this kind of work, believing the God-man Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, the Word of God with skin on, the eternally begotten, the One who holds the universe in the palm of His hands and sustains it with the word of His power, this Jesus, is the One who offers salvation by grace to wayward sinners.  How on earth can that salvation offered by such a God ever be skewed to the degree that we think we’ve got to add to it or earn more favour (like what? What could we possibly add to that?).  Jesus died for you.  Your sins curse has been trumped and trashed by God’s salvation cure!  “Oh you shouldn’t have!  For me….really…..Oh I must pay you back….”

I’d like to end with a personal account from the 17th century of what I’m trying to say.  It’s about 1653 and a man named Humphrey Mills, who believed Christ – but under law, until one day he heard the sweet gospel preaching of the great Puritan Richard Sibbes.  Humphrey writes,

“I was for three years together wounded for sins, and under a sense of my corruptions, which were many; and I followed sermons, pursuing the means, and was constant in duties and doing; looking for Heaven that way.  And then I was so precise with outward formalities, that I censured all to be reprobates, that wore their hair anything long, and not short above their ears; or that wore great ruffs, and gorgets, or fashions, and follies.  But yet I was distracted in my mind, wounded in conscience, and wept often and bitterly, and prayed earnestly, but yet had no comfort, till I heard that sweet saint….Dr Sibbes, by whose means and ministry I was brought to peace and joy in my spirit.  His sweet soul melting gospel sermons won my heart and refreshed me much, for by him I saw and had much of God and was confident in Christ, and could overlook the world….and my heart held firm and resolved and my desires all heaven-ward.”

That’s what salvation does because salvation is from Jesus, the Saviour of the world.

Listen to your life

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“If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this:  Listen to your life.  See it for the fathomless mystery it is.  In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

Frederick Buechner in Now and Then

God has raised us up and seated us with Christ so that……so that…..he might show us the astounding, the glorious, the immeasurable, the stunning riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.   Ephesians 2:6