Preparing for Sunday: What is Christian Success?

I am in the midst of preparing the sermon for the week.  It is the last week in our use of the book Tattoos of the Heart, by Father Gregory Boyle.  This last week we discuss the unique way that followers of Jesus understand success.

All but the most dysfunctional among us have some vision of what a successful life looks like and a positive or negative judgment on how their life has lived up to this vision.  Christians need not be different in this respect.  A life with purpose and goals can be fruitful.  The problem becomes when Christians accept the world’s vision of success and ape the purpose and goals of the world.  

Father Boyle in the first chapter tells a story of a gang member named Scrappy who in his mid thirties after twenty years in a gang and ten in jail, finally decides to follow a different path.  He begins to work in Homeboy Industries and to be ministered by God’s grace.  The change in Scrappy is remarkable and celebrated. 

In one of the last chapters of the book, Father Boyle tells the rest of the story of Scrappy.  He is killed in a gangland execution a few months after beginning his new life.  Boyle asks some difficult questions.  “Was he a success story?  Does he now appear in some column of failure as we tally outcomes?  The tyranny of success often can’t be bothered with complexity.  The tote board matters little when held up alongside Scrappy’s intricate, tragic struggle to figure out who he was in the world.” p.169  Good things to ponder as I prepare for Sunday.  Peace, Pastor Karl

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