Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Ragamuffin Gospel Book Review

Here is one of my latest reviews from Good Reads:

The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt OutThe Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out by Brennan Manning
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are not enough superlatives in the dictionary. I LOVED this book. This is partly because it is a wonderful book that I think I'll want to read again and again, but also because I feel rather bedraggled, beat-up and burnt out right now. This is indeed chicken soup for a poorly ol' soul!

But this book has reminded me of something, something that I learned when I first really knew Jesus loved me, and it is this: he is all I need. Right now, and for all eternity, all I need to know is Jesus. I don't need to know someone else's opinion about Jesus, I don't even need to form my own opinion about Jesus, I need to know Jesus.

We must never allow the authority of books, institutions, or leaders to replace the authority of knowing Jesus Christ personally and directly.

When the religious views of others interpose between us and the primary experience of Jesus as the Christ, we become unconvicted and unpersuasive travel agents handing out brochures to places we have never visited.

That second quote above especially spoke to me. There is a danger in so many churches today that we are basically living vicarious Christian lives. We are living someone else's relationship with God. But unless we are deeply rooted personally in Christ then all we have in that relationship is our time in church listening to another's vision of who God really is. Where does that leave us when we step out into the world? We might be well drilled in our answers, we might have the vision down pat, but when we are really tested we'll fall at the first fence.

I need Jesus.

I need Jesus. HE is the Good News, HE is the Gospel message, HE is the Rock on which EVERYTHING must be built.

Sometimes we can't see Jesus through the mess of stuff that is drummed into our heads by well-meaning theologists and preachers. We squash down the still small voice of God because it seems to contradict what we've heard and so we lose real peace. We read the scriptures with conflicted hearts because they don't seem to fit in with what we just heard preached or taught and so we cannot approach the truth with honesty. We get to the point where we question ourselves. Who are we? We're just a cog in the big machine. How does God see us? He doesn't, we are absorbed into the crowd.

But this isn't true. He loves each and every one of us as if we were the only one on earth. We are his lost sheep and he would leave 99 sheep to go look for the one that was lost. We are special to him.

"I will praise you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made".

Such tender love engenders gratitude. It brings compassion for other lost sheep into our hearts. We are merciful because we are shown mercy. We love because we are loved.

Jesus doesn't come with new rules, the gospel message is simple. He comes in love and grace to offer hope to the hopeless (i.e. us). Even the new commandment that he gives in the Gospels is impossible to keep. That is the joy of the Gospel, what God tells us to do is impossible. Love? I can't do that! I can't do it! And God says, "Exactly", so here's my Son given for you. That is the joy! Oh blessed Eucharist, what thanksgiving! I can't do it! So he did. Then I can love because I am grateful, because he has set me free to give thanks. *Eucharist means 'thanksgiving'.

Breaking bread with Jesus was a festive celebration of good fellowship in which there was salvation. Asceticism was not only inappropriate but unthinkable in the presence of the Bridegroom.

Here are a number of quotes that spoke to me:

How difficult it is to be honest, to accept that I am unacceptable, to renounce self-justification, to give up the pretence that my prayers, spiritual insight, tithing, and success in ministry have made me pleasing to God! No antecedent beauty enamours me in his eyes. I am lovable only because he loves me.

He loves me!

The prophetic word spoken to a thirty-four year old widow, Marjory Kempe, in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1667 remains ever ancient, ever new: "More pleasing to Me than all your prayers, works, and penances is that you would believe I love you".

The spirit of Caiaphas lives on in every century of religious bureaucrats who confidently condemn good people who have broken bad religious laws. Always for a good reason of course: for the good of the temple, for the good of the church. How many sincere people have been banished from the Christian community by religious power brokers as numb in spirit as Caiaphas!

Eugene Kennedy writes: "The devil dwells in the urge to control rather than liberate the human soul..."

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free."

The question had become not "What does Jesus say?" but "What does the church say?" This question is still being asked today. Sad but true: Some Christians want to be slaves. It is easier to let others make decisions or to rely upon the letter of the law.

Living by grace inspires a growing consciousness that I am what I am in the sight of Jesus and nothing more.

What infallible guarantee do we have that ragamuffins will be treated at the judgement with infinite kindness and immeasurable mercy? Because you passed it around, says Jesus. He stands by His Word: Blessed are the merciful; you will be shown nothing but mercy.

Jesus is the way to Abba. He is the Truth spoken by Abba. He is the Life we are invited to share - His life with Abba.

View all my reviews


  1. It does sound like the perfect antidote to all you've been through.

    BTW I mailed a letter to you but the girls haven't. C sat down and wrote Chatterbox a long letter right away when we got hers but I need to make K write hers and so I am waiting to send C's.