Sting and the Police

This morning I was driving through The ‘Boro heading up to Music City. I was in the right hand lane and I saw a car in the left in my rearview mirror. He was a good ways behind me. The traffic light ahead of me turned yellow and I debated: “Should I stop or just try and make it through”. Well I decided to stop, a bit sharply but no one was behind me so no worries. As I sat at the light for a second or so the car behind me raced through the light now clearly red. I was police incensed! If I could stop then surely this guy could have stopped. But then I felt a bit of relief because I saw a Rutherford County Sheriff’s car turning left in the cross street right behind this guy. Finally, a day when justice would prevail! This guy was going to get what was coming to him. This was a particularly satisfying feeling because I had obeyed they law and this guy and clearly held the law in contempt!

Well I waited and waited. By this time I was behind the sheriff’s car and no blue and red lights came on. I was incensed a second time. Where was justice?! Where was proper law enforcement! But then I had another thought: “Well if he is not going to ticket this guy he should certainly turn around and give me a citation for good citizenship! A good law keeper! I should be recognized as a “good guy”, as a “law-abiding citizen”.

It was at this point that I noticed what was playing on the radio. It was The Police, Every Breath You Take and I heard the familiar refrain:

Every breath you takeSting and police
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you.

 

And I caught my breath. Thought a second and asked myself: “Do you really want to see the law enforced so finely? How would you be feeling if you had run the light and right now you saw the sheriff’s passing you without ticketing you” “Would you want justice or mercy”. Well mercy of course! But sometimes we need to see justice done!

Then a verse came to mind:

Revelation 12:10 “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God”.

I realized that I wanted Satan’s job! Wanted to hold up the law violations to this person I never met. I wanted justice for them but preferred mercy for myself. I wanted to be an accuser as long as there was no one applying for the job to watch over me.

Sting’s words (apparently about the wife who divorced him) were the words of my accuser! He wanted me to be reminded of “every bond you break”. I then thought of the words of Martin Luther, who on a day when he felt particularly oppressed by the accuser reminding him of all his sins – big and small – and he thought for a minute and Luther addressed Satan: “Yes I did all those things, I also just broke wind. Did you write that down in your book!”  Luther was not making light of the law or of obedience but was reminding himself of what Jesus had done for him, reminding himself of the greatness of grace.

And that brought to mind some other lyrics that I had heard long ago:

EverybodyInner city front
Loves to see
Justice done
On somebody else

 

And I had the day’s renewed appreciation ( a renewed appreciation I need every hour) for grace and for Jesus’ finished work and perhaps a better insight into my own heart.

So let’s take time today to celebrate grace and have a day of joy.

Shipwrecked at the Stable Door

This is the title of one of my favorite songs by Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn. The first time Debbie and I heard Bruce was while he was on tour promoting

Big Circumstance

Big Circumstance

that album. We were living in the Washington, DC area at the time and we was playing at the Barns at Wolf Trap. It was a great evening but really has nothing to do with this post. Except that author Brennan Manning wrote about being shipwrecked at the stable in a chapter in his book Lion and Lamb: The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus. The chapter is entitled “The Shipwrecked at the Stable” and in the liner notes (remember those?) Bruce mentions the book and the chapter. He got the idea of the song from Brennan

At the end of the “Shipwrecked” chapter, Brennan tells a story that has caught my

Brennan Manning

Brennan Manning

attention because it took place in Anderson, SC which was a town that I visited often during my time at Clemson University and through which now I alway travel on my way to visit my aunt and uncle who live in Due West, SC. The story is about of all things a boy shining his mother’s shoes on Christmas Eve.

In 1980, the day before Christmas, Richard Ballenger’s mother in Anderson, South Carolina, was busy wrapping packages and asked her young son to shine her shoes. Soon, with the proud smile that only a seven-year-old can muster, he presented the shoes for inspection. His mother was so pleased, she gave him a quarter.

On Christmas morning as she put on the shoes to go to church, she noticed a lump in one shoe. She took it off and found a quarter wrapped in paper. Written on the paper in a child’s scrawl were the words, “I done it for love”.

When the final curtain falls, each of us will be the sum of our choices throughout life, the sum of the appointments we kept and the appointments we didn’t keep. The glory of the shipwrecked will be that they habitually failed to turn up for duty. In their defense they claim that they were destined by a baby in swaddling clothes. When interrogated as to why they hung out at a stable, they answer, “We done it for love”.

In their integrity the shipwrecked preserve the meaning of Christmas in its pristine purity – the birthday of the Savior and the eruption of the messianic era into history.

This Christmas, may you belong to their number.

Merry Christmas! May all you shipwrecked find new and bigger planks from the ship to hold on to and may all those thinking they are traveling on the Queen Elizabeth II learn how to be shipwrecked.