A few years ago while I served as the pastor and director of a mission church for homeless folks and a low-income community, there was a man there named Perry. Perry was quite difficult to deal with. He was quite sick – suffering from cancer, AIDS, mental illness, substance abuse – and his poor life choices had alienated him from those around him, even family and friends. Perry had chased after the world and the world had rejected him. However, there were moments when God’s light shone through his darkness and the goodness within broke through.
When Perry ended up in the hospital for the last time, he was completely alone. In fact, on his hospital form he put down the homeless mission as his emergency contact. So when the end was in sight, I was called to visit. Quite reluctantly, I went to his bedside, and eventually somehow got up the courage to ask him, “Perry, are you ready?” You know, in that moment I was more fearful than he was, because he looked me straight in my eye and said, “Pastor Kent, God is pure love. God is pure love.” There was no fear in this all-consuming pure love of God, only the loving acceptance of Grace and the confident Hope of eternal life.
In this obnoxious existence of one so broken, ugly, rejected, and alone, I saw myself. And I experienced the Gospel, pointing me to our God who loves us though we turn our backs on God, do not satisfy God’s love, and do not please our Lord. I met the pure love of God, this love that God bestows on us so freely, accepting us though we have nothing acceptable to offer God. In Perry, I encountered the scandalous secret of the Word of God. We are accepted. This is the Word that is alive and liberating, a Word that we all need to hear and experience and allow to have its way with us. All of us.
Where sin has increased, grace has increased all the more. We are accepted.