I recently had a conversation with someone about the word “wretch,” and how some people are uncomfortable using that word to describe themselves. As in, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” Don’t you ever feel like a wretch? I have days like that, days when I forget important tasks, or yell at my kid, or make bad choices around things like food or caffeine or time.
If we are uncomfortable with our own wretchedness, the discomfort sucks emotional and spiritual energy away from where it could actually do some good in the world. Instead, we are caught up in defending ourselves against the knowledge of our own wretchedness. Which is too bad, because it is in coming face-to-face with our inner wretch that God intervenes.
This is why the bible is full of stories about tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, and a host of others who are despised and rejected, experiencing the grace of God.
There is a wonderful song from the Church of the Beloved in Seattle, called “Given”; part of the refrain is “our gift is not what we can do but who we are.”
We do not become a gift to God and to the world after we get our act together—we are a gift now. That is why we get so many gospel stories where someone is transformed by God’s grace for no apparent reason other than the nature of God’s love.
So, what do we do with all this grace? What does it have to do with being agents of God’s mission of healing and reconciliation and transformation in the world?
I like to think of church as a training ground for God’s agents. Our training starts around the table. There we share in broken bread as a sign of Christ’s broken body and our own brokenness, and as God’s promise of the redemption of the whole world. How will we love the wretches like us?