Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Blessed to Be Outsiders!

The faces in New York remind me of people who played a game and lost 
- Murray Kempton 

We're all outsiders in a way. We're all alone and can become very lonely.
- Hugo Weaving
Megan and I were blessed to return to our old home this past weekend and take another bite out of The Big Apple.   New York City was home to us for 8 beautifully difficult years.  It was in NYC where we learned to love one another, seek Christ as adults and be continually challenged and blessed by a community of flawed but repentant friends.

During our visit we hardly left the Upper West Side (our old neighborhood) except to go to the Upper East Side to sing in a wedding at The Carlyle Hotel and then play at Central Presbyterian Church on Sunday morning.

From the minute our feet hit the ground we were grabbing coffee, dinner, lunch and breakfast with old friends in new stages of their lives in the same old city.  

A string of thoughts danced through my mind while we were back in the city.  First, the friendships we had in New York City were full of profound depth, grace and compassionate love. Second, the friendships we now enjoy in Tyler, TX are also deeply trans-formative and founded in the shared knowledge of the grace of God in Christ Jesus.  Finally, God is faithful to meet the needs of His people through His body.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. 
- Phil. 4:19

In moving from NYC our fear was not learning to drive again after years of using only public transportation.  Neither was it the fear of not knowing what to do with ourselves after 10pm (dinner often began around that time in the city).  What we really feared was not connecting with new peers in the same trans-formative way.

Two years after our move we returned to a city that was ambivalent to our ever having left.   Indeed the city goes on without us.  Though our old friends made us feel welcome, upon our return we were once again outsiders.   Similarly, in moving to Texas we went from being New York insiders to Texas outsiders.

Megan and I now see how great a gift this transition has been.   In identifying ourselves as outsiders we partake in the life of Christ more deeply and see ourselves as we really are.   The Christian life is a paradox.   At once we are both complete outsiders in the world and total insiders in Christ.  

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 
- Matthew 8:20

From His birth to His death Jesus did not fit in.   How could he?   Though He was a man, "in him all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form"(2 Col 2:9).   He was the ultimate outsider who came not to be received but to be totally rejected and in being rejected He became the cornerstone of our faith (Acts 4:11) and our only source of true power.

God knows that the deepest desire of every human heart is intimacy - to fit in.   Our every urge is aimed at achieving some kind of connection by plugging into something larger than our selves.   Who of us cannot recall our earliest memories of rejection?   Either being looked over at recess when football teams were picked (that's me!) or your first heartbreak over unrequited love.   An eternal desire can never be satisfied through worldly means or in relationship with other humans.

Philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote that there is "a God-shaped hole within every man".   We are psychologically fragmented and know our selves only to the degree that we know the one in whose image we were made and were created to worship.   It's not hard to see the desperation and despair in those who have sought out intimacy, meaning or security in the things of the world only to find their "God-shaped hole" growing larger and emptier.   

Zacheaus was a Jew who robbed his own people partnering with the Roman officials in a corrupt taxation system.    What an outcast he must have become to his own people.   Yet with radical grace Jesus calls Zacheaus to "make room for Him" saying, "I must stay at your house today!" (Luke 19:6).

Bringing an outcast into the love of God is always Jesus' aim.   Tax collectors, prostitutes, adulterers, prodigals and outlaws - The New Testament and the history of Christianity at large is littered with desperate fools who knew not the way to act but called on "the only name by which men must be saved" - the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12).

It is indeed the experience of "outsider-ness" that brings us closer to the knowledge of the universal call (inclusive) found only in Jesus (exclusive) who alone brings us the perfect intimacy we all so deeply desire and are destined to suffer without.  God's imprint has been left on us all; we are created in His image but often estranged from Him experientially because of our sin.

“At the root of all our disobedience are particular ways in which we continue to seek control of our lives through systems of works-righteousness.  The way to progress as a Christian is to continually repent and uproot these systems the same way we become Christians, namely by the vivid depiction (and re-depiction) of Christ’s saving work for us, and the abandoning of self-trusting efforts to complete ourselves. We must go back again and again to the gospel of Christ-crucified, so that our hearts are more deeply gripped by the reality of what he did and who we are in him.” 
- Timothy Keller

Christians are called ministers of reconciliation because they know Jesus not simply as a good teacher, nor just a model of moral behavior - a perfect man submissive unto death.   We know Him as the very bridge between God and man.   The Christ, The Messiah, The Savior of the World.   We receive Him as such every time we are intellectually honest about how displaced we are apart from Him.

Jesus is The Gospel that welcomes the outsider in all of us.    Jesus is The Good News.  To be fully known in the midst of our inequity and sin and loved anyway by the God of the universe is the grace made possible by Christ's death and made known to us by His gift of the indwelling Spirit.

We find a home in Him because He gave up His home for us.   We have eternal intimacy with The Father because He gave up intimacy with His Father for us.  This was, is and will always be the joy all believers from Texas to New York and to the ends of the earth share.   Those who know His all-encompassing power are never alone and though they be counted as outsiders in the world's eyes they are eternal insiders in the loving arms of God.

Grace and Peace,

 This Week... 

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am, Wednesday AM - Kings Cross Chapter 13
   @ 2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)

* The Magills - God's Way Celebration Concert @The Good Samaritan Outreach Center,
200 N Beckham Ave (corner of Beckham and Ferguson) - 6:30pm-9:30pm, Saturday Night July 23rd - Tyler, TX (for tickets - reach out to me @ mpmagill@gmail.com

Next Week...   

* Men's Lunch @ Dakota's in Tyler, TX - Mondays @ 12pm - Keller's Kings Cross - Chapter 12


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