The meal is over and we gather on the couches. Geoff pulls out his harmonica and me, my guitar. Doug is there in his Calgary Zoo t-shirt, and he asks us to pray for Calgary, as he always does.
We sing Jesus Loves Me and Doug’s voice is the loudest. Laura claps because she doesn’t talk, just laughs sometimes. Jason is seated a distance away. He started using drugs again this morning and needs prayer, but he never gets too close. Dennis looks like he’s always nodding because he had a stroke a while back. He grips a bottle of Coke which I’m sure he wishes was something stiffer, but he’s been sober now for two months. We all applaud him.I lead Bible Study here once a week at a mental health drop-in in Alberta, Canada, and it’s the best picture I know of the church, with its broken and beautiful.
They’ve just eaten spaghetti, and now they’re ravenous for Jesus.
We sing, and I open the Bible to Luke 15. Today’s message is about the lost sheep. We talk about sheep, and I ask why Jesus compares us to them. Beatrice says sheep need someone to follow. We talk about our lostness and about sin. Sin is such a familiar topic here, like an old relative that clings.
They shake it off, all their sin – all the addiction and depression and anger – and they pile it up on the stained carpet, and we pray over it.And then I share three words to call out in case they go home and realize the sin has followed them. Just three little words which will summon the Good Shepherd immediately.
Jesus, save me.
They say it with me. “Jesus, save me.” I nearly cry because, just the night before, I wept those very words into the dark as my husband and kids slept.
And always, He comes. And always, He saves.
This is the simplicity of the gospel.
Somehow it’s been muddled with a prosperity gospel we find even in the villages of Africa. It’s been muddled with words not found in Scripture, with token phrases and catchy prayers and a spiritual busyness that is everywhere and that is keeping people from being with God. And somewhere along the line we’ve even forgotten what we need saving from. The word “sin” has become offensive and unspoken.
The gospel has become so distorted and diluted that people are leaving the church, because they want truth, and they aren’t hearing it from the pulpit. So they look for it in the crack pipe and on the streets and in the bottle.
But deep down it remains the Good News, and it’s a gospel we need to return to. And this is why we at The Lulu Tree believe in the Harvestime curriculum – 21 Bible based courses that all point to one thing. The old rugged cross.Even as we prepare for another graduation in Sri Lanka, where 20 mothers have taken the courses with babies on their knees – even as I pack graduation gowns and diplomas to present to them, I thank God for the grace upon my life which allows me to do this.
Because I know I need saving. Every day. From the sin that so easily entangles.
Oh friends, may we remember we are but sheep.
May we call to our shepherd, “Jesus, save me.”
And may we know to the core of our being that always, without fail, He will come and carry us home.
(thank you for prayers, friends, as I prepare to leave for Sri Lanka on November 22)