“…Grace is not so poor a thing that it cannot present itself in any number of ways.“
“…nothing true can be said about God from a posture of defense.”
Tomorrow is Thursday Thoughts which consists of words from others so prepare for a slew of quotes from Marilynne Robinson from the books Home and Gilead… I’m starting Lila today so probably be some from that too. The quotes above are from Robinson’s writing and they pretty much sum up all I would want to say about this Wednesday’s passage from Paul… but, you know me, I’ll write a few more things 😉
I’ll start with what I’m not sure about. In this passage, Paul is glad that the message of the Messiah is getting out while he’s in prison. And he’s fine with the fact that many may even be spreading the word as a mockery of him while he’s locked up. He doesn’t care as long as word is getting out. What I’m not sure about is if there are instances when the way the Message is presented or perhaps with subtle, or not so subtle twists to the True nature of the gospel… I’m not sure if Paul would be glad about that. I’m not sure if maybe the way the gospel that encourages division and defensiveness and sometimes even offensiveness… I’m not sure if that’s still achieving the goal of the gospel being spread. Maybe it is. But that’s what I’m not sure about.
In my reading and contemplation and relationships I have encountered the counter to the idea of original sin. There are some who claim that it should be original goodness. In other words, before The Fall, the Garden was good and the creation was good and very good.
I realize that in my past several posts I have been apt to reveal and consider corruption–my own and in general. And the more I reflect, and the longer I live, I am more and more aware and remorseful about my own failings. That being said, I do believe that the creation is good. I believe to say we are made in Imago Dei is to by definition express the goodness of humanity. How and when that happens I couldn’t say. I couldn’t claim to grasp the mysteries of atonement and incarnation and the like.
I only make that brief statement to agree with Paul that it doesn’t matter how the good news of the forgiveness and restoration that Jesus offers, that Jesus supplies, that is a result of the cross and the empty tomb, or at least that is a grand expression of what always was… again I don’t pretend to grasp the mystery of it all. But there are times and messages and gifts and encouragements for all. And they can come to me now and I will understand them one way and they can come to me later and have a profoundly different impact.
I don’t claim to grasp the mystery, but I do recognize it! It is quite familiar to me! I suspect because of that original goodness. And as strange as it seems, my failings and inadequacies and darknesses are all a part of the mystery. Those things make the light shine brighter! Somehow the devastation and misery and utter human depravity of something so brutal as execution on a wooden cross is transformed into the earth shattering revelation and renewal of the risen Christ. Hallelujah. What other word even works there?
That holy mystery is familiar to me in a book like Gilead. Lives filled with tragedy and hardship and distrust and overt disregard for others. Those lives moved by the receipt and offering of grace from each other. In a glance. A hand on the brow. A forgiveness. A recognition of the mirror image of humanity that we are all a part of. I don’t do it justice. You have to feel it. It’s a soul moving experience. Like the gospel itself.
So whether you experience the movement of the spirit in literature, in a formal worship setting, in the opening notes of a favorite song, a knowing glance from someone you love, the kindness of a stranger…. or fill in the myriad blanks that could follow. Wherever, whenever, however you experience that Grace or are blessed enough to be one to extend that Grace… “in that rejoice!”
12 I want you to know, beloved,[f] that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard[g] and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; 14 and most of the brothers and sisters,[h] having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word[i] with greater boldness and without fear.
15 Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. 16 These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; 17 the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. 18 What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.