Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Meditation on Romans 5:1-5 and This Is Me

I am not ashamed to admit that I absolutely LOVE the movie The Greatest Showman. The soundtrack sold me on this movie. I wake up every morning with a different song from the soundtrack playing in my head. The music is catchy and somewhat addictive (for me at least).

If there is one song that I come back to over and again, played as loud as possible, it is This Is Me. It is performed by Keala Settle. I had not heard of her before this movie. She performs this song as the anthem of the story.

The Greatest Showman is about P.T. Barnum and the beginning of his famous circus. It started out as a freakshow, according to the movie. Barnum collected those whom "polite" society regarded as freaks, oddities, and cast them out. Barnum offers them the chance to be something more. In This Is Me, the Bearded Lady (Settle) is confronted with that polite society as she sings about the life that she and her fellow circus attractions claim for their own.

This song hit me hard. It came to me in a time when I was healing my "broken parts". It comes to me as a person who has never seen themselves as part of society. I have long viewed myself as an outsider, a stranger, someone on the fringe of everyone else's conversation and social group. This song tapped into those places of my life where I am proud of who I am. They are my identifiers.

But as I listened to this song the first few times, I realized that this should be the invitation of the church. This should be the anthem we proclaim to the last, the least, and the lost. So many broken people are not welcomed by the church. We like to think in our pristine chapels that we are a polite society. But we need more Bearded Ladies, Dog Boys, Tom Thumbs and Giants. We need the broken. It isn't the other way around.

Yes, they need a place to belong, but they will find that (as Barnum offers in the movie). We need them to remind us that we are not so different. Our nods to a polite society are covers. We all have broken parts and shame that we hideaway. And we do it right in the plain sight of the church.

As I was doing devotions Sunday morning before worship, I was reading Romans 5:1-5 and everything clicked into place. This Is Me became a meditation on Romans 5:1-5.

The opening verse of the song speaks to the broken parts and pain we have all experienced at the hands of others and our own bad decisions. We all come into this song as we come into faith: broken and ashamed. We have heard the voices, mental and real, say that we are not wanted and we won't be loved by anyone. We don't need to be reminded because some of us hear those voices daily.

But I won't let them break me down to dust
I know that there's a place for us
1:Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2: through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand

There is a place for us by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. We have peace with God. What more triumphant place is there? What greater introduction than to have been ushered into the presence of the creator and recreating God?

There is a scene in The Greatest Showman when Barnum and his troupe get to meet the queen of England. They are terrified of that audience. But according to Romans 5:1-2a, we have been ushered into the presence of the Almighty God by Jesus Christ. And it is a meeting of peace. The faith that opens the door to grace has been extended to us. We don't just belong to an alumni of forgiven people. We are also part of the audience received by God. Our introduction, not on our own merit but on the merit of the Son of God, gains us admittance. We stand in the presence of the glory of God. But we cannot stand as we are, we must be transformed.

2b:we exult in hope of the glory of God.
For we are glorious

We don't stand being seen in our scars and broken parts. We share in the glory that God radiates. Christ extends to us the same glory that was received from the Father and transmitted to us by the Holy Spirit. We radiate the glory having been transformed in spirit now (and in material form later) that is God's own glory. 
That glory may seem inadequate in the face of the world we live in. There are always things that arise that want to stop us, dim the glory we possess. 

Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away 'cause today, I won't let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades
And reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that's what we've become

But we have something that bullets and barricades cannot stop. The glory we possess, the light that shines within like the sun in its fullest brilliance, is an unstoppable force. 

3: And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4: and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope

Hope is an unstoppable force when we realize that the tribulations are just irritations that can be laid to the side and put into perspective. Yes, sometimes those tribulations are overwhelming. I am not a fool. I know that cancer and depression and school shooting are not minor irritations. And fear and despair and grief are not minor emotions that are just pushed to the side with a few happy thoughts. But in the universal scheme of things, they are insignificant.

What does the universe care that a few cells in a body turn rogue and against the system that provides them life? How can the stars and planets and nebulae and galaxies empathize with the disturbing thoughts of isolation when the vacuum of space separates them by years, centuries, millennia? How does the all-consuming power of grief compare with the inescapable forces of gravity, light, entropy, and chaos of the random chances of the forces of nature? The universe offers issues that dwarf the concerns of our "world".

But we hope in a God who is bigger even than the forces of the universe.

And we hope in a God who does care.

And we reach for that God, fighting through the forces that try to separate, divide us, and keep us from that glory and grace. We rise above our tribulations by persevering and proving that we are have become warriors, willing to fight back against the forces that would try to stop us with bullets and barricades.

And I know that I deserve your love
There's nothing I'm not worthy of

5: and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

In the light of God's glory and grace, offered abundantly through Jesus Christ, we do deserve the love of God. No, we haven't earned it. But we never needed to earn it. It was offered freely from the very beginning. We were just confined to our "world" and we couldn't see it, hear it. We couldn't feel worthy of anything good. We thought we deserved the worst that could come at us. But the Holy Spirit reminds us of a greater universal truth: God loves you. There is nothing we are not worthy of in God's love. All the benefits offered to Jesus the Son are now ours to receive. All of the full love that God the Father has for Christ the Son is extended toward us. And nothing can separate us from that love except falling back behind the barricades, surrendering to the bullets, and diminishing ourselves in the glory that is ours to claim.

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me