Despite Our Messes, It's All Gift

 
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God likes to speak to us and in His speaking opens our ears to hear the truth about ourselves. Our Heavenly Father speaks and we hear that He sees us as He sees Jesus. He speaks and when He speaks He does stuff for us that we are incapable of doing for ourselves—like creating faith and changing our stony hearts to hearts of flesh. God speaks and works in this way so that He can make use of us and make us to be both humble receivers and generous givers of His faithful loving kindness.

Our Father works through us to meet the needs of others and to meet our need for Savior Jesus. And the strangeness of this Good News is that, like those people in Matthew 25 who sat before the throne and said "What? When did we ever feed you, Lord?," we never know when we meet Jesus in all of life's messes.

In all life's messes all that we have is our Father's promise. His promise that our need for forgiveness, for life, and for salvation is critical to Him. His promise that Jesus is present, bodied and bloodied, in the meeting of our need for a Savior. His promise that Jesus' kingdom of grace is here now amongst us—the least, the last, the littlest, the lost, and the dead.

We see this most pointedly in the gospels. Jesus could have hung out in the high-end religious scene of His day. But, instead, He made fun of all that, choosing instead to laugh at the powerful, and befriend prostitutes, kiss sinners, and eat with all the wrong people. He spent His time with people for whom life wasn't easy. And there, with those who were suffering, He was the embodiment of God's love for them. A love that knows no limits or boundaries.

In the same way today, He leads us out of our churches into a community of all the wrong kinds of people. But, they are Jesus' kind of people—unlovable and miserable people. Jesus running them down just like He runs us down day after day, week after week, to lead them, with us, into His church to hear and receive and get done what He does for us.

God's doing that gets done is Word-and-gifts stuff. Everything else flows from His speaking to us, baptizing us, bodying and bloodying us. Jesus sees our need. He fills our need with His faithful loving kindness. Then we mess that up. We say sorry. We ask for grace and prayers when we need them (which is a lot). Jesus shows up for us. He gives us a pastor. He gives us to each other again and again. We eat. We pray. We sing. We mess it up. He picks us up. Repeat. That is Christianity, that is life, in a nutshell. Not that complicated.

Jesus therefore doesn't help us escape from reality. Instead He places us where reality is given meaning by His being there for the unforgivable and unlovable. People who, like us, need to hear: “You are forgiven, and you are loved."

Hearing the Gospel—the Good News about who the Father is for us—is the power of God who makes us doers, saintly sinners who Jesus works through (whether we like it or not) to run down and love drunks and prostitutes, the bloody and beaten down, the bullied and exhausted, thieves, adulterers, terrorists, and everyone caught up in horrible choices and failed dreams. God loves stutterers and stumblers whom Jesus calls and sends to announce His work to failures—to the sick who need healing, to the poor who need to be fed, and everyone who's dead tired, dead broke, or just plain dead in sin.

That's Christianity in a nutshell. That's our life in Christ. Our whole life secure, knowing that we are located amongst a long line of unforgivable, unlovable failures who Jesus chooses to forgive and love. We get from Him and give it away. The unforgivable forgiven and forgiving. The unlovable beloved and loving.

God forgives us wholly and so we forgive, kind-of, sort-of. God loves us without limit or boundary and so we love, selfishly and half-heartedly. And yet, despite all our stuttering and stumbling, all of it is completely worth the getting and the giving because it is all the work of Jesus Christ for us. It is the work of Jesus for everyone.

God speaks and in His speaking opens our ears to hear the truth about ourselves, that we live, and move, and have our being in His Christ. All from Him for us today, in all our hearing and in all our doing, all gift from Him for us today and always.

Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, Online Content Director for Higher Things, a contributing writer at 1517 Legacy Project, Christ Hold Fast, and LOGIA. Pastor Riley co-hosts the podcast: 'The Higher Things Simul Cast'.