You may or may not be a fan of Brennan Manning. You may not even know who he is. I greatly appreciate his writings and have been blessed and challenged by Brennan Manning. My copy of the daily devotional ‘Reflections for Ragamuffins’ is falling to pieces and held together by sellotape because I have used it so much. The back cover of my copy of Reflections for Ragamuffins states:

‘Written over a span of 22 years Reflections for Ragamuffins speaks candidly of joy and suffering, fidelity and infidelity, intense commitment and serious relapses, muddle and struggle in the effort to be faithful to Jesus. It will prove a liberating read for all who identify with the One who recognised the ragamuffin spirit within himself: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.”

Brennan Manning was a former US Marine, Franciscan priest, and alcoholic. He was married and divorced and spent time living on the street. Brennan passed away on 12 April 2013. The entry in Reflections for Ragamuffins for 12 April includes the following challenge:

‘Who is the Jesus of your interiority? Describe the Christ that you have personally encountered in the grounds of your own self.’

I found these words somewhat challenging. How would I describe who Jesus is to me? Especially in view of another quote from Brennan Manning:

‘The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.’

The Jesus I have personally encountered is God in human form. He overflows with compassion for all creation. He is indignant at evil and the effects of evil on creation. He is also indignant at those who take His Word and turn it into a rule book. It is the Word – His Word of life, not a book of legal rules. My Jesus meets with me wherever I am. He understands my joy and my frustrations. My Jesus is with me in the storms, on the mountaintops and in the valleys. He invites me to eat at His table and He allows me to lean against Him. He weeps with me and He laughs with me, but never at me. Even though he knows I will betray Him and run from Him at times He is still my friend. He calls me back to Him when I drift away. All He ever asks from me is that I come back – back to the foot of the cross where His love for me is defined in His wounds and the agony He suffered there.

The cross confronts the Christian with the cost of discipleship, reminds him there is no cheap Pentecost, and carries within it the living power to enable him to endure the inevitable humiliations, rejections, sacrifices, and loneliness that the journey to higher Christian consciousness  imposes. Brennan Manning, Reflections for Ragamuffins – 13 April.