Sunday, February 24, 2013

Amazing Grace

"Take my love
For love is everlasting
And remember
The truth that once was spoken:
To love another person is to see the face of God"-Fantine, Valjean,and Eponine from The Finale of Les Miserables

Recently our church has been doing a church-wide study on the book of John.
Today the pastor preached off of John 8:1-11 which says:

"Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them.
The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, "Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?" They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.
Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, "The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone." Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.
Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. "Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?"
"No one, Master." "Neither do I," said Jesus. "Go on your way. From now on, don't sin."
During the sermon I really started to think about how the musical  Les Misérables compares to John 8 (this may be somewhat controversial.) Although Les Misérables   is a tragic story, and some of you may have some things to say to me about comparing this horrible story to the Bible, I've found that both rely on the same theme of grace.

Before you continue reading- here is a quick summary of Les Misérables   according to Wikipedia (with some of my own commentary thrown in):
Les Misérables  is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862. It is considered one of the best written novels in history. In the English-speaking world, the novel is usually referred to by its original French title, which can be translated from the French as The Miserables, The Wretched, The Miserable Ones, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, or The Victims. Beginning in 1815 and culminating in the 1832 June Rebellion (read more about this rebellion here) in Paris, the novel follows the lives and interactions of several characters, focusing on the struggles of ex-convict Jean Vajlean and his experience of redemption, and grace.
Les Misérables has been popularized through numerous adaptations for the stage, television, and film, including a musical and a film adaption of that musical.
The appearance of the novel was highly anticipated and advertised. Critical reactions were very diverse, but most of them were negative (which is the reason I said "controversial" in the beginning) Commercially, the work was a great success, not just in France, but also in the rest of Europe and the world.
 Trying to delve deeper into the study of grace I decided to research the hymn "Amazing Grace" written by John Newton in 1779 which I thought matched the subject of grace perfectly.
 The first four lines start this way:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Both stories (Les Mis and John 8) show a woman caught in the act of a physical sin, although one was caught in adultery, the other was not exactly caught but found. I had never really thought of "Amazing Grace" in the perspective and idea that grace actually finds us where we are, and although it is a nice thought to think that the last line of the hymn is singing about an amazing miracle worked on a physically blind person... I'm starting to think that the author might have been talking about us as sinners in general.  Another similarity I found was that both women in the stories were saved by men that some may say have fatherly figures. Another thing I found is that during both scenes in the stories, there were other people around the women during their accusal. In Les Miserables, Fantine is found by her supervisor that she is unwed and has a child which disgraced the company, so she is thrown out into the streets to find money in any way she can. She sells her hair, then her teeth, and finally resorts to becoming a prostitute so that she can provide for her daughter who is living with two very foolish innkeepers. Her living condition not being good for her health, Fantine gets very sick with tuberculosis. Being sick, she refuses to sleep with a man and attacks him. The police come and arrest her, but then a man named Valjean arrives to save her. Being very ill and tired of being taken advantage of , she spits in Valjean's face but then tired from exhaustion passes out. As Valjean hears of Fantine's reasoning for her prostitution he promises Fantine to adopt her daughter and to always keep her safe. John 8 (above) tells of a woman in the middle of an angry mob who will give her no mercy for her choice to commit adultery, and although she faces the charge of death for her sin, Jesus still defends her and lets her free. If only the woman knew that not long after she was freed from her sin, that Jesus himself would go and die for her. The definition of grace according to The American Heritage Dictionary is: Divine love and protection bestowed freely on people. Now the question is- how much do we even derserve this grace brought upon us? Are you like the person in the song- blind to our own sin and only seeing it when we are saved? Are you like the adultress in John 8, who gets a death sentence taken from right under her feet? Or are you more like Fantine who has hit the bottom of the pile and just needs a savior? Maybe you need to be more like Valjean and bestow grace upon someone in your life. We all need grace, we all need Jesus. Maybe we as humans need to see that as sinners we really are blind, and need our Heavenly father to find us, save us, and show us that we are blind to our surroundings and need a savior's grace. Let us never take his grace for granted, but thank him for what he has done for us, and live his wonderful grace out into the world!

"Receive and experience the amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, deep, deep within yourselves" -Phillipians 4:23


Monday, February 4, 2013

What Love is This?

What love is this?
full of zeal and passion

love like this shines even brighter than the sun
not blinding sunlight, but one that brings us out of the shadows

into an embrace so deep
that none could ever find us if this love were the ocean

salvation is a wonderful voyage

He is love
We are blessed.

I was reading Isaiah chapter 43 verse 1 last night and it  really made me realize what God is really trying to tell us through His word. I believe that if the Bible was written into one sentence it would simply say "I love you."

Isaiah 43:1-4 (MSG) says "Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you. I've called your name. You're mine. When you're in over your head, I'll be there with you. When you're in rough waters, you will not go down. When you're between a rock and a hard place, it won't be a dead end— Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That's how much you mean to me! That's how much I love you! I'd sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you."

Look at that. Now imagine someone saying that to you in a letter. I think it reads like a love letter. I love the part where he says "You're mine." The whole paragraph summed up is just an amazing profession of love. Ahhh it's just so amazing!!!! He would sell off the whole world to get you back. Man, if that isn't love, I don't know what is- and that's just one paragraph in the whole Bible! I tried to look up how much Egypt costs at least, but I couldn't find anything....I doubt anyone is trying to buy it anyway ha. I imagine one country alone costs a lot. What would you do if someone came up to you and was all "I'd sell the whole world for you?" I'd probably go "awww" and then do some kind of cheesy smile with a flutter of lashes or something. But if that person were really super serious I'd honestly think they were a little crazy. But The thing is- God is crazy, and he's crazy in love with each of us. I find this love incredible, and I hope you do too. I hope that you would join me in this daily awe I have for my creator, even though sometimes I don't notice it.
Sometimes I forget that I'm being pursued by my incredible savior and I leave Him hanging in the gutters. I feel guilty, alone, and angry. But like any one who is in love he says "no, it's okay, because I will take that weight off your back. " But the fact is, it was our pains he carried— our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed. We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost. We've all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong, on him, on him." (Isaiah 53:4-6)

But He still loves us.
It's incredible
He's insanely in love.
What love is this?