BRENNAN MANNING CALLS IT
THE RAGAMUFFIN GOSPEL
THE SINNER IN DESPERATE NEED OF GRACE
AND BRINGING DOWN
THE SELF-RIGHTEOUS WHO DOESN’T KNOW HIS NEED
IT IS, INDEED:
This week I saw, with my family, the movie I have been waiting to see and had so hoped would be done well: Les Miserables. It was AMAZING. My family and I were all weeping by the end. It combines the power of a magnificent story of grace with music and wonderful acting. I shook my head when I read in Christianity Today that they were disappointed there were no Christian movies this Christmas. What? Does it have to be a cookie cutter movie filmed by a Christian production company to qualify? God is SO MUCH BIGGER THAN THAT. This is the best Christian movie, if not movie, I’ve seen. Please go see it on the big screen if you have not — for we are going to discuss it here next week. Truly, this is the Ragamuffin Gospel. The story is all about the power of grace — God reaching out to one in desperate need of grace and using that grace to change him. Here is the trailer to whet your taste — see it, ponder law and grace, and the power of forgiveness. Come back ready to discuss next week:
In the genealogy of Christ, we see many “ragamuffins.”
Consider the women listed:
TAMAR WAS A VICTIM OF INJUSTICE
RAHAB WAS A PROSTITUTE
RUTH WAS A DESPISED MOABITE
“THE WIFE OF URIAH” WAS A VICTIM OF SEXUAL ABUSE
MARY WAS A POOR GIRL FROM NAZARETH
BUT GOD CAME TO EACH
AND THEY ARE NOW EXALTED,
LISTED IN THE GENEALOGY OF JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD
This week we will consider Leah, the mother of Judah, and one of my all time favorite Keller sermons: The Girl Nobody Wanted. Next week we will discuss Les Miserables and look at Tamar, who like the lead in Les Miserables, was a victim of injustice. Next week is Epiphany, so it is fitting that we look at Tamar, the most provocative woman in the genealogy of Christ, and certainly exemplifies The Ragamuffin Gospel.
GOD SEEMS TO FAVOR THE POOR, THE “RAGAMUFFINS”
Leah’s father, Laban, was a wealthy man. He used and abused people, including his own daughters. He fades out of the pages of Scripture, but Leah leaves a legacy. With this in mind, I want you to watch this clip from FIddler on the Roof. Though Tevya’s question makes us smile — it is theologically pregnant.
“WOULD IT RUIN SOME VAST ETERNAL PLAN…
IF I WERE A WEALTHY MAN?”
OH THIS SETS MY MIND SPINNING
SO OFTEN WE PRAY FOR BLESSING FOR US AND OUR CHILDREN,
WHEN SO MANY OF THE GREATEST SAINTS
WERE DEPRIVED OF BOTH
IT ISN’T THAT YOU NEED TO BE POOR TO BE BLESSED
BUT IT IS TRUE THAT CHRISTIANITY MOVES AWAY FROM WEALTH
THAT GOD BRINGS DOWN THE PROUD AND EXALTS THE HUMBLE
AND THAT THE LOVE OF MONEY IS A GREAT SNARE
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. How are you a “ragamuffin,” and how has He come to you?
3. What do you want most for you and your children in 2013? How will this influence your prayer life?
Bible Study: Monday — Wednesday
LABAN WAS A RICH MAN
I love how Keller imagines Laban’s speech — Laban is such a greasy sort of character, conniving and oozing with justifying words designed to fill his pockets with wealth.
3. As an overview, what do you discover about Laban’s character from the following glimpses into his life?
A. In Genesis 24, Abraham’s servant is seeking God’s choice for a wife for Isaac. God leads him to Rebecca, who is the sister of Laban.
Read Genesis 24:29-31. What did Laban notice first? What do you glean here?
B. Laban is the father of Rachel and Leah. Read Genesis 29:1-30 and find anything you can about the character of Laban.
Jacob, Rachel, and Leah all came to distrust Laban — Laban has so much self-righteous talks, but his actions were cruel. There can be a little Laban in all of us. I loved Nanci’s post last week when she said her verse for 2013 was going to be: Create in me a pure heart, O God…”
LEAH WAS THE GIRL NOBODY WANTED
All Leah wanted was her husband to love her, but he did not. Each time she had a son, she thought, “Maybe my husband will love me now.” But he did not. You may have seen this Bonnie Raitt song before — but I so imagine Leah sitting by the fire, coming to the realization that her husband might never love her.
4. Neither her father nor her husband seemed to care about her. But how can you see God’s love for Leah in Genesis 29:31?
5. When Leah had her fourth son, she made a turn. Find it in Genesis 29:35 and explain the son’s name and how it showed her turn.
Our own Susan has often identified with Leah, and felt that not only her husband but his family is against her. During Advent they had a fight they have had before. His mother is giving their daughter the gift she wants most, something Susan wanted to give her. Susan wrote:
After our fight, my husband wasn’t talking to me, I was seething with anger and hurt. Alone in my bedroom, I fell to my knees. Even though I was sinning with my idols of approval and control, with my thoughts, my attitudes, I asked God to just tell me, “I love you, honey,” the way my earthly dad often does. I asked Him to be my One True Lover, my Bridegroom, my approval. I asked the Holy Spirit to help me in my battle with my flesh, to help me forgive.
Usually, even after choosing to forgive, I will go over and over the conversation, the offense, in my mind – it keeps coming back. I asked God to help me refuse to entertain the thoughts. I listened to two Keller sermons as I worked – How to Change I and II, where he talks about the putting off, putting on, and the bridge in between – being renewed in the spirit of your mind. Which he says is our imagination, what we vividly imagine. It helped me because during the day, the thoughts did try to intrude back in. I realized that to hold on to this, means I have to forsake my intimacy with God. I had to ask myself, is it worth it? Have I been wronged in a worse way than Jesus was when they crucified Him? Yet He said, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”
My hurt seems rather pale and paltry in comparison to what was done to my Savior. It’s a daily battle, more than daily — moment by moment, but I long, like Leah, to choose to praise the Lord.
6. Comment on Susan’s testimony. What can you learn for your own life?
What Susan is doing is endeavoring to replace her idols, and filling her mind with the truth. We all have incidents we need to forgive from the heart, but it is hard. Who of us can not identify with Susan’s struggle to go over the details? In reading Andrew Murray’s Like Christ this Advent, I find, especially in my late husband’s underlinings, how often I am not willing to be silent, to trust God, as Christ did, and to exercise overcoming love. I know I cannot do it, but God has not left me to do in the flesh. He is my Head, and as I crucify the flesh, His resurrection power flows through me.
7. How did God bless Leah according to the following passages?
A. Matthew 1:2
B. Ruth 4:11
C. What were Jacob’s last words, according to Genesis 49:31? Do you see any significance?
Listen to “The Girl Nobody Wanted” and share your thoughts here.
(Many of you may already have purchased this — but listen again!)
8. What is your take-a-way and why?