A Little Wisdom from Rich Mullins for Holy Week and Beyond, Part 2

Last week I began a multi-part post sharing the wit and wisdom in Rich rich-mullins-03-368x368Mullins’ Here in America DVD.  If you never had a chance to see Mullins in concert, you missed a significant part of his ministry: the thoughtful musings he used as transitional material between songs.  I shared a handful last week, and here are a few more.  In a time when so many of our comfortable notions of Christianity and the Church are being rearranged for us, it’s good to be reminded a little discomfort can be good for the soul and stretch us in ways that ultimately benefit us greatly.  Mullins was always good for, as the saying goes, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.  (Quotes, again, have been edited only for length and clarity.)

On art and culture as they intersect with our faith:

Picasso said, “Good taste is the enemy of great art,” which I think is very true.  Good taste has all to do with being cultured and refined, and if art has to do with anything, it has to do with being human. . . . The humans in the Bible are not very refined; they’re pretty goofy, if you want to know the whole truth about it. . . . [But] God takes the junk of our lives, and he makes the greatest art in the world out of it.  And if He was cultured, if He was as civilized as most Christian people wish He was, He would be useless to Christianity.  But God is a wild man, and I hope over the course of your life you encounter Him.  But let me warn you; you need to hang on for dear life–or let go for dear life maybe is better.

Rich’s understanding of and appreciation for global Christianity was refreshing:

[A friend] and I spent a summer in Europe, and there we encountered Christians who had a real different sense of do’s and don’ts than American Christians.  Every time I go to a different culture, I’m challenged to go back and look at the Scriptures again because [Christians in other countries] underline different parts of their Bibles than we do. . . . In [America], everyone’s all excited about being “born again,” and in several of the third-world countries, they’re excited about selling all they have and giving to the poor.  And I think maybe [their understanding] is just as valid as ours.  Maybe there are some basic truths that are big enough that we can find unity in them. . . . I’m not sure that truth is so much about statements of belief.  Truth is alive.  And it is a person.  And that person is Jesus.

In addition to the 14-song concert, the DVD includes “12 Short Stories,” a series of vignettes and devotional thoughts Rich and his friend/co-writer Beaker (no second name ever given, like Cher or Madonna) gave in a seminar in February of 1993.  What follows now are excerpts from those messages.

One thing I always found most refreshing about Mullins was his unwavering embrace of grace.  From “Perfection Is Boring”:

Our faith is not in ourselves.  If our faith was in ourselves, we could never afford to fail.  Who wants to go through a life where you never fail?  What a drag!  Perfection is boring, folks. . . . I love the proverb that says, . . . “Where there are no oxen, the stall is clean.  But with many oxen, there is much strength.” . . . Where there is life, there is mess.  Where someone is living, they’re going to make mistakes. . . .

One of the wonderful things about the records that we have of the apostles is that they really did make mistakes, not only before Pentecost but even after Pentecost–even after they were indwelled by the Holy Spirit.  Peter still had hangups about Gentiles.  He still made mistakes, and yet the wonderful thing is Peter’s salvation was not based on his being perfect.  His faith was not based on his perfect grasp of every doctrine and every truth in the world.  Peter’s faith was based on the reality of Jesus Christ and what He accomplished.  Peter did not believe in himself; even though he had the courage to stand in front of huge crowds of people and preach the gospel, it wasn’t because he had confidence in himself.  It was because his faith was in God.

We are told [by well-meaning advocates of healthy self-esteem] to believe in ourselves, and the end result of believing in yourself is that you end up putting a lot of pressure on yourself because you’ve gotta be worthy of that faith. . . .  Thank God there is a God who is beyond me.  Thank God there is goodness beyond my goodness.  Thank God there is grace beyond the grace I am able to extend.  Thank God there is life beyond my life.  I believe that I will be resurrected, not because I will have the power to pull myself out of the grave but because I believe there is a God who loves me and who will raise me up, give me a new body.  And, man, I’ve got a great one picked out!

Hard to believe Mullins has had that new body for over 20 years now.  More from this prophetic poet next week, Lord willing, including excerpts from such provocative titles as “Sex and Self-Confidence.”  (And here I thought those words always had an oxymoronic relationship!)

The Lord be with you!

About Warren Anderson

Emmaus Road Worshipers is written by Dr. Warren Anderson, Director of the Demoss Center for Worship in the Performing Arts at Judson University (Elgin, Ill.), where he also directs the Judson University Choir. A Judson alumnus, he has served his alma mater in a number of capacities over the past 30+ years, especially the chapel ministry, which he led for 22 years. From 1982-2016, Dr. Anderson served six different churches--American Baptist (X2), Converge, Evangelical Free Church of America, Roman Catholic, and United Methodist--as a "weekend warrior" worship musician/pastor. He is a former member of the editorial board of Worship Leader magazine. The views expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of Judson University.
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