Brennan Manning and the Ragamuffin Gospel:
April 27, 1934 – April 12, 2013
Richard Francis Xavier Manning, better known to legions of faithful readers as author, speaker, and contemplative Brennan Manning, for whom grace was irresistible, completed his earthly journey on Friday, April 12 at 12:10AM. He is now resting safely in the arms of his Abba. (from his obituary at brennanmanning.com).
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).
“The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning is one of a handful of books that has literally changed my life, and revolutionized my understanding of what it means to embrace the unconditional grace of God. If you have never read this book, I encourage you to pick it up. Although I may not agree 100% with everything he has written, his overall message of grace will encourage you today. Here are some quotes from this book…
“Jesus came to bring good news to a specific group of people. The good news is not for the super-spiritual. It is not for the Alleluia Christians who live only on the mountaintop and have never visited the valley of desolation. It is not for the fearless and tearless. It is not for red-hot zealots who boast with the rich young ruler of the gospels, “All these commandments I have kept from my youth.” It is not for legalists who would rather surrender control of their souls to rules than run the risk of living in union with Jesus. If anyone is still reading along, the Good News that Jesus offers is for Ragamuffins – the bedraggled, beat-up and burnt-out. It is for the sorely burdened who are still shifting the heavy suitcase from one hand to the other. It is for the wobbly and weak kneed who know they don’t have it altogether and are too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace. It is for inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker. It is for poor, weak sinful men and women with hereditary faults and limited talents. It is for earthen vessels who shuffle along on feet of clay. It is for the bent and bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment to God. It is for smart people who know they are stupid and honest disciples who admit they are ragamuffins. The Good News that Jesus brings is for anyone who has grown weary and discouraged along the way.”
The Good News means we can stop lying to ourselves. The sweet sound of amazing grace saves us from the necessity of self-deception. It keeps us from denying that though Christ was victorious, the battle with lust, greed and pride still rages within us. As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful with those closest to me. When I go to church I can leave my white hat at home and admit I have failed. God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.
As Thomas Merton put it, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.” St. Augustine said, “If we but turn to God, that itself is a gift of God.” My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it. The Good News of the Gospel of grace cries out: we are all equally, privileged but unentitled beggars at the door of God’s mercy!
Any church that will not accept that it consists of sinful men and women, and exists for them, implicitly rejects the gospel of grace…Often hobbling through our church doors on Sunday morning comes grace on crutches – sinners still unable to throw away their false supports and stand upright in the freedom of the children of God.
There we are – the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung to the faith. My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace. Julian of Norwich said, “The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.”
This is the God of the gospel of grace. A God who, out of love for us, sent the only Son he ever had wrapped in our skin. He learned how to walk, stumbled and fell, cried for his milk, sweated blood in the night, was lashed with a whip, and showered with spit, was fixed to a cross and died whispering forgiveness on us all. Trust in the God who loves consistently and faithfully nurtures confident, free disciples. A loving God fosters a loving people…In essence, there is only one thing God asks of us – that we be men and women of prayer, people who live close to God, people for whom God is everything and for whom God is enough. This is the root of peace. We have that peace when the gracious God is all we seek.
Amen. Be at peace in the presence of our loving Abba Father in Heaven, Brennan!
– Chris, a fellow Ragamuffin