GOD’S GRACE REACHED ME!
Sent: quinta-feira, 1 de janeiro de 2004 18:13
Subject: é tão simples... (it’s so simple...)
Sent: quinta-feira, 1 de janeiro de 2004 18:13
Subject: é tão simples... (it’s so simple...)
God’s Grace reached me!
In fact, only now I realize it. And you’re part of this story.
I was a thirteen or fourteen-year-old boy when I found out something precious: Fellowship with God was viable and possible through fellowship with my friends in Christ!
Going to “church” meant making it real.
Of course, not everything is just as we wish they were, but in that context, the church’s imperfection was perfectly admissible as it was made up of people.
People… flawed, full of ambiguities, inconsistencies… So, why would one expect something else from men?
And in this way I was going on, believing I was heading somewhere.
With time, those men gradually became “supermen”.
But why on earth was I amazed? Aren’t we “enabled by God”? Can’t I “do everything through him who gives me strength”?
After all, we were “a chosen people” who were following The One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
I was concerned about the people in “the world”, who didn’t know the truth and were going astray in their own ways…
They were nice, good-hearted people, but their ignorance prevented them from being saved. Unlike us, they were “of the world”… After all, they weren’t evangelicals and didn’t know the things I did!
But what did I know? That “only Jesus saves and that the church is His house”!
As time passed, I watched the “ex” and the “current supermen” and realized that not everything [that happened] was consistent with what I heard.
But “we should look to Jesus, not to men, who are faulty and will have to give account to Him regarding what they did.”
My duty was to stay there and never question; after all, “woe to the one who questions the Lord’s anointed.”
However, the time came when it was no longer possible to stay and close my eyes to it!
Either I got out of that or I would have to admit that in God’s house there was room for such nasty things that even in the “world’s” houses they were not allowed.
It was the risk of getting to a point where I would necessarily have to sear my own conscience so as not to lose faith.
Then I “exiled” myself. I kept trying to figure out all that. Finally I decided to look for another house.
I visited a few, intending to find one that was sincere, one that was of God.
And I did!
Among other things, I identified with that place because its “dwellers” and I had the same sorrows about the overall “disorder” in the houses.
I know there are many “messy” houses. They may be full of good people who seek God. But in my journey I learned some things and forced myself to deal with some distresses. To do so I had to learn to look to and at Jesus.
When I did, I saw a simple man, of simple manners, who dealt with simple people.
When He met the adulterous woman, He didn’t condemn her…
He ate at a corrupt tax collector’s home; He dealt with the prostitutes and the castaways of His days…
His apostles were fishermen and ordinary workers…
His words offended the religious although His heart was gentle.
Then I realized that Jesus came to dwell in my heart, and that His Church happens along the journey of those who, in search of truth, encounter and recognize one another as brother and sisters in Him.
Wherever two or three come together in His name, there He is with them.
I realized that in God’s sight there are no plates, or flags, or buildings, or houses, or denominations, or temples, or apostles, or pastors, or priests, or elders, or missionaries, or evangelists, or whatever/whoever it may be that is more or less consecrated to Him.
To Him there are people.
I realized that I recognize myself in my humanity, not as a superman, but as a man who is full of ambiguities and weaknesses that will never disappear as long as I live here.
How good that’s the way it is!
I learned that God’s Grace is graciously free and never disgraces anybody.
I learned that “God’s arena” is right here, at work, at school… on the Earth, where people belong!
Whether or not I am in a temple, whether or not I’m in a “church”, whether or not I’m associated with some ministry, whether I like or dislike this or that pastor— none of it matters at all!
You and I are the Church.
The Church is where Jesus is, and the fellowship happens in the relationships and ties we cultivate in our journey.
The Church is above my reason. I don’t question the Church!
We are the Church because He Is.
I realized that His Kingdom is much greater than my religious pretentiousness, and that the Kingdom is incomprehensibly accessible. It’s really for one and all!
I learned that Jesus came to talk about justice, righteousness, character, and to teach that from now on God is near!
He is near everyone who loves Him…
And I learned that loving Him is loving what He taught, and that’s final!
The one who loves justice…
The one who loves righteousness…
The one who loves truth…
The one who loves God for real…
These ones are nearby, and there’s where the Church is!
Grace is what they have in common…
I no longer feel guilty when I can’t attend a “church”, because I know that He makes us into the Church, and this is the Church that He will come for.
The neat thing in all this is that He only makes me into the Church if you are nearby, if our paths cross, if we look at the same direction, if we thirst for the same thing, and if we recognize ourselves in Him.
I learned that this recognition happens through what He taught us: “You won’t be recognized because of your titles as bishops, pastors, apostles… but because of your love.”
So it is.
As long as we go on in His presence and His voice sounds in our hearts, and we recognize one another through love, it will do.
Whether I am an evangelical, a catholic, a priest, a holy man, a sinner, a churchgoer or not—that’s personal. It’s a matter of identification and consistency with the revelation of the Word.
He wants what I am to be shown on the way too.
He wants me to carry on assured that I’ll meet Him in the truth and rawness of my human reality. I’ll come across Him on a park bench, at church, at my home, at yours, on the street, at work, in my sleep…
As for the rest, it’s just the rest.
A brotherly kiss to you.
Flávio (the guy from São Paulo who you know from your inbox! J )
My beloved friend,
Grace and Peace!
That’s a one-way Road.
You can’t return because it is the Way.
On the Way, we find the Gate.
As for the Gate, He, who is both things—the Gate and the Way—, tells us: “…he will come in and go out, and find pasture.”
“Don’t you want to leave too?”, He once asked the remnant after a large crowd had left after listening to the hard words He had just said.
“To whom shall we go? You have the Words of Eternal Life”, replied the fisherman whom He named Peter.
The sad thing is that people don’t know that. They’re frightened. They’re full of phobias and fears. They feel like those who have to save themselves through unreachable criteria.
The Good News has been transformed into Continuous Fear. Grace has been refashioned as mere weekly or monthly rites. The Cross was turned into a crucifixion scenery only. The Resurrection was made into a mere Power demonstration that says, “You see that? You didn’t expect it to happen! I am more powerful!”
The good Name we call on became a commercial logo for Religious Enterprises that manipulate the human fear and take advantage from people’s misery in order to get rich.
The Word of God was turned into a mere sacred book, a subject of fetish, but with no life...
The Church faded among the temples and vanished among the “churches”.
The devil was made into God’s archenemy, competing on equal terms for the victory over human lives.
The “supermen’s” shouts of Victory and decrees of Power are not consistent with the shouters’ fragile consciences. They fear everything, lose salvation in a wink, and are scared at the possibility of Jesus coming back at the wrong time, say, while they’re having fun…
Way, Life and Truth were misshaped as Moral, Performance and Mask.
Love was turned into a silly four-letter word that merely adorns poetry in prayers that are more sophisticated or in elegant speech.
God was split up into “Three Entities” that are different from each other. They’re seen as staunch compartments. They talk to each other but don’t look like each other. In fact, the “roles” and “scripts” that are said to be theirs are so conflicting that a “lay person” would hardly see them as One. After all, how could such essentially antithetical beings still be one and the same God?
In the beginning there was chaos and catastrophe… but the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Our present scenario is catastrophic too, but the same Spirit hovers over our chaos.
Let there be the Cross! Let there be Life! Let there be Light! Let there be children of God, and let them be transformed according to the image of God, the Christ, through the continuous work of the Spirit of Life!
He didn’t give us over to ourselves!
He didn’t leave us on our own!
He is with us Today.
He knows His children; He shepherds His own sheep and they recognize His voice.
So they follow Him…
We’re together on the Way. And each of us takes his/her own journey in this Only Path.
Each individual is allowed to be unique.
There are many differences, and that’s the beauty of it all.
Everyone who walks on the Way takes his/her own journey, but everyone goes on in the same direction since all of them follow Him.
How good it is to be walking along with you on the same and one Road!
A brotherly kiss to you too.
In Him, who called us into His eternal Glory,
From the original: “A GRAÇA ME ALCANÇOU!”
Translated by F. R. Castelo Branco | May 2007
First posted in Portuguese in January 2004