Trust defines the meaning of living by grace rather than works… It’s over for all huffing, puffing piety to earn God’s favor; it’s finished for all sweat-soaked straining to secure self-worth; it’s the end of all competitive scrambling to get ahead of others in the game.
The Ragamuffin Gospel, Multnomah 1990/2000,77.
How do we live in the presence of the living God? In wonder, amazed by the traces of God all around us. Grace abounds in contemporary movies, books, novels, films, and music. If God is not in the whirlwind, He may be in a Woody Allen film or a Bruce Springsteen concert. Most people understand imagery and symbol better than doctrine and dogma. Images touch hearts and awaken imaginations. One theologian suggested that Springsteen’s “Tunnel of Love” album, in which He symbolically sings of sin, death, despair, and redemption, is more important for Catholics than the Pope’s last visit when He spoke of morality only in doctrinal propositions. Troubadours have always been more important and influential than theologians and bishops.
The Ragamuffin Gospel, Multnomah 1990/2000, 94.
The disciple living by grace rather than law has undergone a decisive conversion – a turning from mistrust to trust. The foremost characteristic of living by grace is trust in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ… The tendency in legalistic religion is to mistrust God, to mistrust others, and constantly to mistrust ourselves. Allow me to become personal for a moment. Do you really believe that the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is gracious, that He cares about you? Do you really believe that He is always, unfailingly, present to you as companion and support? Do you really believe that God is love? Or have you learned to fear this loving and gracious Father?… If you think that way, you are wrong. The Father’s love is revealed in the Son’s. The Son has been given to us that we might give up fear. There is no fear in love… The Father is not justice and the Son love. The Father is justice and love; the Son is love and justice. Abba is not our enemy. If we think that, we are wrong. Abba is not intent on trying and tempting and testing us. If we think that, we are wrong. Abba does not prefer and promote suffering and pain. If we think that, we are wrong. Jesus brings good news about the Father, not bad news. We need a new kind of relationship with the father that drives out fear and mistrust and anxiety and guilt, that permits us to be hopeful and joyous, trusting and compassionate. We have to be converted from the bad news to the good news, from expecting nothing to expecting something.
The Ragamuffin Gospel, Multnomah 1990/2000, 75-6.
The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation of televangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heroes. It obliterates the two-class citizenship theory operative in many American churches. For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is a gift. All that is good is ours not by right but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God. While there is much we may have earned – our degree and our salary, our home and garden, a Miller Lite and a good night’s sleep – all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love. We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt. This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift.
The Ragamuffin Gospel, Multnomah 1990/2000, 26-7.
The gospel of grace calls out: nothing can ever separate you from the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord. You must be convinced of this, trust it, and never forget to remember. Everything else will pass away, but the love of Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Faith will become vision, hope will become possession, but the love of Jesus Christ that is stronger than death endures forever. In the end, it is the one thing you can hang onto.
The Ragamuffin Gospel, Multnomah 1990/2000, 86-7.
The gospel of grace ends any apparent dichotomy between God’s power and His love. For the work of creating is an act of love. The God who flung from His fingertips this universe filled with the galaxies and stars, penguins and puffins, goals and gannets, Pomeranians and poodles, elephants and evergreens, parrots and potato bugs, peaches and pears, and a world full of children made in His own image, is the God who loves with magnificent monotony. And anyone who has experienced the love of the Lord of the Dance will tell you: the synonym for monotonous is not boring.
The Ragamuffin Gospel, Multnomah 1990/2000, 50.
The American church today accepts grace in theory but denies it in practice… Too many Christians are living in the house of fear and not in the house of love… Personal responsibility has replaced personal response… Though lip service is paid to the gospel of grace, many Christians live as if it is only personal discipline and self denial that will mold the perfect me. The emphasis is on what I do rather than on what God is doing… How could the gospel of Christ be truly called “Good News” if God is a righteous judge rewarding the good and punishing the evil? Did Jesus really have to come to reveal that terrifying message? How could the revelation of God in Christ Jesus be accurately called “news” since the old testament carried the same theme, or “good” with the threat of punishment hanging like a dark cloud over the valley of history?
The Ragamuffin Gospel, Multnomah 1990/2000, 18-19.
Perhaps you’ve heard this story: Four years ago in a large city in the far West, rumors spread that a certain Catholic woman was having visions of Jesus. The reports reached the archbishop. He decided to check her out. There is always a fine line between the authentic mystic and the lunatic fringe.
“Is it true, ma’am, that you have visions of Jesus?” asked the cleric.
“Yes,” the woman replied simply.
“Well, the next time you have a vision, I want you to ask Jesus to tell you the sins that I confessed in my last confession.”
The woman was stunned. “Did I hear you right, bishop? You actually want me to ask Jesus to tell me the sins of your past?”
“Exactly. Please call me if anything happens.”
Ten days later the woman notified her spiritual leader of a recent apparition. “Please come,” she said.
Within the hour the archbishop arrived. He trusted eye-to-eye contact. “You just told me on the telephone that you actually had a vision of Jesus. Did you do what I asked?”
“Yes, bishop, I asked Jesus to tell me the sins you confessed in your last confession.”
The bishop leaned forward with anticipation. His eyes narrowed.
“What did Jesus say?”
She took his hand and gazed deep into his eyes. “Bishop,” she said, “these are his exact words: I CAN’T REMEMBER.’”
The Ragamuffin Gospel, Multnomah, 2000, 115-6.