I’d like to share the story of another ragamuffin, and a man whose life was profoundly touched by Brennan Manning and his “Ragamuffin Gospel.” As a matter of fact, award-winning singer and song-writer Rich Mullins’ life was so touched by Manning that a movie about Mullins’ life was entitled “Ragamuffin.” I’m not actually going to go into details about his life, but rather about the wide range of stories about his life.

I was led to Mullins’ story as I was searching for a fresh way to share the concept of grace with you. And one of the first things I did was watch the movie, “Ragamuffin.” As a matter of fact, I watched it twice in one day, once by myself and then later in the evening with Janet. And as I watched I thought, I need to share this story in a sermon.

But a funny thing happened as I did some more research into the life of Rich Mullins. As I started to read a few online biographies, I couldn’t help but notice how different they were from the movie. What I found were stories that summarized his journey as being that of a young man’s rise from a youth minister who used his musical gift with his youth group, to a song-writer for Amy Grant (one of the most popular Christian vocalists of all time), and finally to an award-winning song writer and singer who toured extensively.

Janet and I went to one of Rich Mullins’ concerts in Chicago. I really liked several of his songs, including “Awesome God,” “Step by Step,” “If I Stand,” and “Hold Me Jesus.” Several of his songs were huge hits, often played even on secular stations. And, of course, this meant that he made millions of dollars. However, having been moved by one of his heroes, St. Francis of Assisi, to take a vow of poverty, all of Rich Mullins’ earnings went to his church, who paid him an average person’s salary and donated the rest— millions of dollars—to charities.

Seems like a really good Christian, don’t you think?

But the movie “Ragamuffin” shows a whole other side to Mullins, portraying him as a man with a very rocky relationship with a demanding father, whose heart was badly broken early on by a girl he dated for years, and who struggled greatly with depression and abused alcohol. In the movie, Mullins struggles with great doubts… about himself and about God, even while touring and winning tons of awards.

So, what kind of person was Rich Mullins, really? Is he the strong, almost heroic Christian conveyed in the online biographies, or the broken man we see in the movie? Here’s a hint: the movie was produced by his brother.

Then why the sanitized biographies? Here’s my conclusion (and the real reason I’m sharing this story): a significant number of Christians like to preach and teach and write and sing about grace. We love grace. Without grace, we would not be the fine, upstanding, morally superior people we have become. We like to share with others our stories about how once we were lost, but now we are found, we were blind, but now we see. God saves wretches… like what I used to be.

Now, I do know that grace heals and changes us… but it is not the same for all of us. It is quite possible that some of God’s children experience a healing that is truly impressive, and they are able to overcome addictions and sin and clean their lives up significantly.

However, my own personal journey, as I shared last week, is one where I have experienced healing and growth… and yet I am fully aware that I continue to fall far short of living a life that comes anywhere close to truly resembling the life of Jesus. I am, at the very same time, simul eustes et peccator, simultaneously a saint and a sinner. Grace needs to keep changing me.

Brennan Manning and Rich Mullins are going to preach the rest of the sermon. First, a snippet of a sermon given by Manning (I will share more of it next week):

In the past three years I’ve preached the Gospel… (all over the world) … and honest to God, the God of so many Christians I meet is a God who is too small for me, because he is not the God of the Word, he is not the God revealed by and in Jesus Christ who this moment comes right to your seat and says,“I have a word for you: I know your whole life story. I know every skeleton in your closet. I know every moment of sin, shame, dishonesty and degraded love that has darkened your past. Right now, I know your shallow faith, your feeble prayer life, your inconsistent discipleship. And my word is this: I dare you to trust that I love you just as you are and not as you should be, because you’re never gonna be as you should be.”

To close, we are going to hear from Rich Mullins something he shared at a concert he did not long before being killed in a car accident in 1997. Actually, we are going to hear what he had to say, but we will save the song for a few minutes. Desirae is going to sing his song “Step by Step” as we collect the offering. We will put the words of the chorus on the screen for those of us who might want to sing along.


   April 2019   
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