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June 23 -- "The Outrageous Grace of God's Table"

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5.

The parable of the prodigal son ends with the father preparing a feast for his lost son, which is really an outrageous act. The son’s wounds were self inflicted. He was arrogant, self-centered and a whole lot of other unappetizing things, yet upon his return the father prepares a table of all the riches food for the boy – It’s inexplicable!

The same kind of craziness happens while Jesus is hanging on the cross. The thief and terrorist, named Dismas by tradition, receives a breathtaking example of the raging grace of God, not unlike the prodigal son. In a gesture of pure chutzpah so incredible that it would make any other person blush, this convicted felon cries out, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “This day you will be with me in paradise.” That one expression of reckless grace, wipes away a lifetime of sin, and Dismas is given heaven at that very moment. Outrageous! What is going on?

What is happening, isn’t justice, nor is it “right-ness.” What is happening is called forgiveness, and it is give through the outrageous love and grace of our Lord!

Jerome, a Roman Catholic scholar, translated the Bible from Greek to Latin. Near the end of his life in 420 A.D., Jerome was living near Bethlehem translating some of the Bible when he had a dream. In the dream, the Christ child appeared to him. He was so overwhelmed by the appearance of the Christ child that he felt he had to give him something. So he got some money and offered it, saying, “Here! This is yours.”

The Christ child said, “I don’t want it.”

Jerome brought some more possessions.

The Christ child said, “I don’t want that either.”

Jerome said, “If there is anything in the world that I can give you, tell me what it is. Tell me! What do you want? What do you want me to give you?”

He said he dreamed that the Christ child looked at him and said this: “Give me your sin! That’s what I came for.”

That is what Christ came for – to take away our sin!

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” The Psalmist rejoices in knowing that forgiveness has been given him and he is now free to live in that joy.

In Nikos Kazantzakis, book Letters to Greco, he writes about an old man who lies dying. He is filled with grief, remorse and guilt because of his sinful life. At length he dies and goes naked and trembling before the Lord for judgement. Jesus has a big bowl of aromatic oil at his fingertips. He dips a sponge into the sweet-smelling ointment and washes the man clean of his grime and shame. Then Jesus says, “Don’t bother me with that stuff anymore. Go over and play.”

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies ... you anoint my head with oil cup overflows.” This feast is given to us through the outrageous gift of forgiveness that grace offers us.

Live in that grace, and know your cup overflows. Thanks be to God!

~ Dan

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