In Memory of Michael Spencer 1956-2010
When I first stumbled across Michael Spencer’s blog (under his nickname, the Internet Monk), I didn’t quite know what to make of his writing. On the one hand, Michael was giving voice to some thoughts and questions I had wrestled with, but never fully articulated. On the other hand, his honesty was brutal, intense, and often made me uncomfortable.
What I eventually came to appreciate most about Michael – both from his blog and from personal contact – was that the center of his thought and ministry was grace: extravagant mercy and favor to undeserving, broken sinners.
Here are five of my favorite posts from Michael through the years. If they seem rather diverse, well… that’s because they are. Michael wrote on a number of subjects. Here are a few personal picks of mine. I hope that as you look over his words today that you will remember his family in prayer during this difficult time of loss.
The prayer list frees us from the notion that the people of God are the healthy, happy ones who turned up for worship today. It reminds us that our community is extended into hospitals, nursing homes, psych hospitals, the homes of the poor, the relationships we have with other kinds of Christians and the mission we’re on together.
The prayer list is a picture of the broken and humbled body of Christ. It has a particular kind of beauty, and I’m glad our church- which hasn’t gotten around to a confession, covenant or constitution- has that prayer list.
It’s part of my journey these days to know that my name will one day be on that list, and these will be the people who will love and pray for me when my place in the church is to be ministered unto by the praying people of God.
When the quality of God’s mercy in the Gospel no longer amazes you, you will begin to justify the dilution of amazing grace into religious grace, or moral grace, or grace in response to something.
Real grace is simply inexplicable, inappropriate, out of the box, out of bounds, offensive, excessive, too much, given to the wrong people and all those things.
I do not believe we can listen to the teaching of Jesus without being confronted with choices about the nature and presence of God, the nature of reality, the value of Jesus and the good news of the Gospel. The Gospel is an announcement, but to believe it is to choose and decide, as well as to believe and trust.
I want to be clear that I am not trying to “return to primitive Christianity” or “reinvent the church.” What I am doing is developing a tool, a grid or filter, to interpret Christianity wherever I encounter it, by asking basic questions about Jesus. If I am going to be faulted, it will be for this: I am determined to be satisfied with nothing short of a Jesus-shaped Christianity, as best I can understand what that means.
If you are going to think about God, go to Jesus and start there, stay there and end there.
This simple rule is too simple for the religious, the worldly wise, the power seeking and the proud.
It is infuriating to those who want to manipulate for money or distract for some personal agenda.
Jesus will break our idols, complicate our assumptions, overturn our tables and put himself squarely in the center of every question. He is the way, the truth, the life. He is the answer. He is the one way we think about, know, love, worship and relate to God.
When you think about God, go to Jesus.