I’m a copy editor. I can’t help but notice typos. Menus, business signs, magazines, PowerPoint presentations, books, social media and, yes, church bulletins. I try not to point them out to their creators/owners unless I’ve been hired to do so or I think it will be a colossal embarrassment to them down the road (like the time my denomination’s Discipline said the denomination was created for the purpose of “pubic worship”).
I especially don’t point out bulletin typos to my husband the pastor, because I know that even though he doesn’t actually create the bulletin, he has looked at it quickly for glaring errors and he will likely have already heard about it from someone else.
But I had to point out the Maundy Thursday bulletin error, because God used it to speak to me.
In the chorus of the song “Calvary Covers It All,” the word “guilt” was mistyped as “gilt.” At first I laughed. And then I felt sucker-punched.
As we sang that chorus four times on the evening before we remember Christ’s death on a cross, I heard the chorus, not as it’s usually written but as it was written that night. Jesus’s death on the cross covers every sin and stain in our past (in our future too). But Jesus also took our despair that we would never get life right, that we will never be good enough, and he took the “gilt,” the old-washing we do on the surface of our lives to make ourselves look better to others.
It’s not hard to fake being a committed Christian in America. We say the right things in the standard Christian jargon—we “share” instead of “tell,” we “are blessed” instead of “fortunate” or “lucky,” we’re “missional” instead of “driven.” I’ve got the talk down.
We show up at the right events, including church, with a “happy Jesus face,” as my mother used to call it when we pulled into the church parking lot after fighting the whole way there. We put money in the offering and give to the right nonprofits. We tell people we will pray for them—and maybe we even do.
But for me, it’s tempting for that to all be “gilt,” a thin veneer spread over the surface of my life to appear more valuable as a Christian, as a good person. Underneath? The “sin and stain” and “despair” of not getting it right, of being far more selfish than I think a true follower of Christ ought to be.
Maundy Thursday’s hymn told me that God’s got that covered too. My own delusional hiding of my not-so-godly self was taken by Jesus to the cross. He simply wants me to let it go. “Let go of the guilt,” he whispered. “Let go of the need to gilt your life. You are bought with the price of Christ’s blood, just as you are. You are beloved. There is no need for despair. You are free.”
Earlier in the service we had sung Chris Tomlin’s song “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone).” As I pondered the covered sins, the release of Christ’s sacrifice, I remembered a line from the chorus of that song: “And like a flood his mercy reigns.”
I thought the use of the word “reigns,” a “rains” homophone—a word that sounds like another but mean something different—was brilliant in this chorus, because rain is often what brings the “flood.” That evening, though, I pondered what the song really says—that floods overwhelm everything in their path, covering it completely, obliterating it. That’s what God’s mercy does. It comes flooding into our lives and wipes out everything that brings us shame and despair. All the sin. All the stain. All the gilt.
And that, that marvelous flood of mercy, is the release that brings freedom. Freedom to be the authentic, joyous, beloved, flawed child of God he calls me (and you!) to be.
Welcome the flood and live free!