7) For All Ragamuffins

     Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out (1990, 2000) and several other books, died last Friday just shy of his 79th birthday. His ministry was to those who were down and out, the ‘ragamuffins.’ His gift was describing to them the incredible grace of God. After serving as a marine in Korea, he became a monk– and then he quit that life. He became a priest– and then he left the priesthood. He got married– and then he got divorced. He was an alcoholic– and then he quit drinking; but then he started again; and then he quit again, and then he started again, and finally he quit for good. Manning knew what it was like to struggle with sin, and to fail again and again; and yet, he clung to God’s grace and remained faithful. And out of his experiences was able to have an incredible ministry to others like himself.
The following are some quotes from this most famous book, The Ragamuffin Gospel:

     “Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands (see Revelation 7:9), I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me that she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions; the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexually abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last ‘trick’, whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school.
     ‘But how?’ we ask.
     Then the voice says, ‘They have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’
     There they are. 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 faith. My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace.”

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     “For those who feel their lives are a grave disappointment to God, it requires enormous trust and reckless, raging confidence to accept that the love of Jesus Christ knows no shadow of alteration or change. When Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened,” He assumed we would grow weary, discouraged, and disheartened along the way. These words are a touching testimony to the genuine humanness of Jesus. He had no romantic notion of the cost of discipleship. He knew that following Him was as unsentimental as duty, as demanding as love.”

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     “And Grace calls out, ‘You are not just a disillusioned old man who may die soon, a middle-aged woman stuck in a job and desperately wanting to get out, a young person feeling the fire in the belly begin to grow cold. You may be insecure, inadequate, mistaken or potbellied. Death, panic, depression, and disillusionment may be near you. But you are not just that. You are accepted.’ Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted.”

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     “Jesus was victorious not because he never flinched, talked back, or questioned, but having flinched, talked back, and questioned, he remained faithful.”

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     “Charles de Foucauld, the found of the Little Brothers of Jesus, wrote a single sentence that’s had a profound impact on my life. He said, “The one thing we owe absolutely to God is never to be afraid of anything.” Never to be afraid of anything, even death, which, after all, is but that final breakthrough into the open, waiting, outstretched arms of the Father.” 

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Mark 2:16-17 — When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Jesus eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Romans 5:6-8 — You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Matthew 25:40 — (Jesus said), “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

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     Once more a new day lies before us, our Father. As we go out among others to do our work, touching the lives of our fellows, make us, we pray, friends of all the world. Save us from blighting any heart by the flare of sudden anger or secret hate. May we not bruise the rightful self-respect of anyone by contempt or malice. Help us to cheer the suffering by our sympathy, to freshen the despairing by our hopefulness, and to strengthen in all the wholesome sense of worth and the joy of life. Save us from the deadly poison of class-pride. Grant that we may look all people in the face with the eyes of a brother or a sister. If anyone needs us, make us ready to yield our help ungrudgingly, unless higher duties claim us. May we rejoice that we have been abundantly blessed by you, and are thus able to be helpful to our fellowmen. We pray in the name of Jesus. AMEN.       –Walter Rauschenbusch