“…To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world…” (1 Corinthians 4:11-13)
I have to be honest- this book first drew my attention by the odd title and the eclectic artwork on the cover. They say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover but I’d say the two are in sync in this fascinating narrative that chronicles pastor Mike Sare‘s personal spiritual journey from growing up Greek Orthodox to pastoring a church (Scum of the Earth in Denver, Colorado) that started as a bible study for the Ska band Five Iron Frenzy. It is a story filled with the beauty of honesty- all the rough edges show, the stumbling and struggling, the uncertainty of following the voice of the Holy Spirit, the let-downs and bang-ups, the pain of loss and the imperfections of authentic faith. In the book Pure Scum: The Left-Out, the Right-Brained and the Grace of GOD, Mike Sares opens up the map of his life, and the life of his community of faith, to reveal a terrain that is refreshingly broken and unpolished.
We live in a time when a large portion of Christian culture has been characterized by the hypocrisy of hiding our sins and struggles from each other. Mike Sares and his church, Scum of the Earth, offer us a message of hope that maybe we don’t have to live in a spiritually toxic churchianity- maybe there is something true and real to following Jesus beyond the shiny plastic shellac of our Sunday smiles and proper prayers. This is an encouragement to those of us burned out on traditional religion that one size doesn’t fit all in our expression of Christian faith and we are all invited to walk in the light of Redemption as beloved, yet stumbling, children of GOD.
Near the back of the book Mike says:
“So we have a problem: we see ourselves as better than we really are…I think the hallmark of being childish and immature is that you think you are better than you are…we need a real picture of ourselves as broken people who recognize our ongoing, continual need of a savior.” (p.167-168)
He continues by ending with a call to partake of communion as a personal act of honesty and brokeness:
“The people who need to watch out are the people who come to eat and drink thinking that everything is fine…If you, however, come to Jesus broken and looking for grace, then you will drink the cup and the way Jesus meant it to be drunk, and you will eat the bread the way Jesus meant it to be eaten. He gives himself to us because we are broken. Let us always remember that we, everyone of us, are the scum of the earth- a church worldwide that desperately recognizes it’s need for a savior.”
Amen and amen.
Check out a couple excerpts and more info over at Intervarsity Press.
(Editor’s Note- Disclosure: Sustainable Traditions receives free review books from Intervarsity Press including the book reviewed above. SustainableTraditions.com is an independent website free to express opinions and reviews unhindered by any contractual requirements to any publishers or organizations.)
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