The Grey Hat

Ornan’s threshing floor

The Gray Hat

 I love parties, parties of all types. My favorite of course is a party with the food. Wedding receptions for example or banquets, yum! Who we invite to these swaree’s speaks loudly as to who we are. It is interesting to me that Jesus’ ‘parties’ usually always included the ‘bad’ people as well as the ‘good’ people. As a matter of fact in some of his parables his instructions were to “seek out the bad and bring them to the table”. Now being a ‘good’ person myself it is difficult to understand who would intentionally seek out ‘bad’ people other than the police. They have few manners and are always putting their fingers in the dip, augh!

But a larger truth lingers below the surface, chiefly that people generally do not come in such clearly defined packages. To Jesus there are no ‘good’ people just as there are no ‘bad’ ones, there are just …. Well …. People. The bible speaks expressly that all of us without exception have failed God in some way and are in need of His kindness, so there goes the ‘good’ people. The bible also states with equal emphasis that no one is immune from God’s love and that His kindness is a part of us all, so there go the ‘bad’ people. So, who is left? Well I guess the Bood people or maybe the Gad people. The reality of our situation is that the best of us are sometimes guilty of bad things, even horrible things and the worst of us are sometimes guilty of great acts of kindness and generosity. Our hats are neither white nor black but divergent shades of gray.

Life is so much easier for us when we have cleanly defined categories of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and so we gravitate towards those definitions, often at the expense of those categorized. But ‘easier’ was not part of God’s design. Individuals are far too dynamic, resilient, fragile and complex all at the same moment to categorize. People are a long way from simple or easy. We elude any attempt at ‘one size fits all’ thinking. Any librarian will tell you, a book’s cover is a poor way to judge its contents. It is certain that below the cover of every individual is a story playing itself out.

I bring this up because it is just so easy to surround ourselves with those whom we like and are like us. This is not a bad thing per say but it does tend to exclude those who might bring precious gifts into our lives and those whose gifts are not wrapped in ways we might recognize as gifts at all. I shutter to think what my life would be like without Karen a homeless troubled soul wondering the streets of Manchester yelling at cars on Elm Street. Karen was my friend for over 5 precious years spanning a time in which she worked in clothing ministries in Manchester to the homeless when I first met her, through her years of severe mental illness and finally her death. I miss her still, not just for how we at ‘Main StreetMission’ were helped by her and were able to help her but for the gifts she gave me, gifts of courage, tenacity and compassion. She lived well outside of my comfort zone and I am grateful God gave me the courage to travel there.

The world is full of Karen’s and the world is full of the polished Wall Street up and comers. Weather the right wing tea party or left wing tree huggers, all are stories playing themselves out on an individual stage, all infinitely complex, all of value, all broken by the world, all the objects of God’s love and attention. He is the King of do-overs, the Lord of second chances for all. The bible states that ‘His mercies are new every morning’.  Now that is what I call the ‘breakfast of champions’. These mercies belong to those who commit the sin of pride in thinking they do not need them and those who commit the sin of underestimating the depth of God’s love in releasing them from a tortured past.  There are no white hats, no black hats, we are all broken, and we are all loved.

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

Romans 5:7-8


Ornan’s threshing floor is a selection of journal entries, sermon parts and pieces and writings by Stephen Carey, pastor of Main Street Mission.

Main Street Mission is a non denominational Christian inner city outreach ministry located at 57 Manchester St. Manchester NH.