The Resurrection & Grace.

Grace & the Resurrection.

gracechanges

I am currently preaching through the letter to Galatians on Sunday mornings. A long time ago I was captivated by a series of messages by Rick Atchley called We Be Free. I was so captivated that I listened and transcribed every single one of them—and then developed my own sermon series with Rick’s as a source of study.

All these years later I am using that same material once again. At this point I can no longer tell what was Rick’s and what was mine. And even though I gave credit in my outlines to Rick (then & now), I wrote him several weeks ago to tell the same story you just read.

Sorry for the pun, but he was very gracious in his reply. And that’s good because I am a guy in constant need of grace… And that grace continues to both captivate and change my life.

From that backdrop, please read on…

Death, dying, disease, and mental health issues are all subjects with an inherent capacity to cause stress, heartache, and grief.

Sometimes in an effort to cope, we tell jokes or make fun or somehow find a way to laugh in the face of such difficulty.

To help make a point, I’d like to use what is not truly funny as a way to illustrate and explain a spiritual condition some of us—and I am largely included—can have.

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a medical condition characterized by the patient exhibiting multiple personalities. Often we confuse this mental illness with that of Schizophrenia, but the two are very different.

Either way, because it’s scary and painful to watch, we make jokes like the T-Shirt I once saw:

I am Schizophrenic.
And so am I.

It’s funny, but it’s not. If you have ever experienced such a horror, you have my deepest sympathies.

So where am I going with all of this?

Spiritually and theologically, I often struggle with multiple personalities.

One of my personalities can be illustrated by the time I spent in the U.S. Navy. In order to live successfully in close quarters onboard a U.S. warship, you had to have lots of rules and rules-of-thumb to make it all work. One in particular said: Everything has a place and everything should be in its place!

I have never forgotten that. My family would tell you that “never forgetting” is a major understatement. I tend to have a bit of OCD where clutter and stuff is concerned.

Unfortunately, that tendency comes out theologically as well. I like order and control. When I directed church camp sessions, my favorite phrase (borrowed from my good friend Danny Dodd) was free time is my enemy!

So how do we maintain control and order? How do we stop or rescue ourselves out of theological and church chaos?

Please give a warm welcome to…
Rules.
Laws.
Regulations.

In 1970, a little known Canadian rock group, the Five Man Electrical Band, released a song called Signs. Tesla covered it again in 1990

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?
 
Now, hey you, Mister, can’t you read?
You’ve got to have a shirt and tie to get a seat
You can’t even watch, no you can’t eat
You ain’t supposed to be here
The sign said, You got to have a membership card to get inside…
 

That’s what we do. We make laws and post signs to keep people where we want them to be, physically and spiritually. We decide who’s in and who’s out. It’s all about control–the heartbeat of every modern day Pharisee and Legalist.

That’s me.
I preach, believe, and trust in grace. But I struggle with maintaining control.

But my control is nothing more than trying to create an even playing field.
My control is nothing more than trying to keep people in line.
My control is about everybody being in the same box and looking identical in the process.

The trouble is Jesus doesn’t need my rules to order His Kingdom.
It’s not about me.
It never has been and it never will be.

But grace?

Grace tears down the walls of every box we endeavor to build.
Grace allows for our individuality and secures our standing before God.
Grace covers our differences and absolves our mistakes.
Grace allows us to see the beauty in each other.
Grace is a gentle reminder that it’s not about me!
Grace allows me to leave behind the split personality—to be nothing more and nothing less than a child of the King!

The apostle Paul ends the book of Galatians with these words—and I can do no better…

…the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
 

Let the whole church say, Amen!

 

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Ridgeland, MS