Easter 7- Sunday- on being one….

Today’s Gospel reading is a part of Jesus prayer found in John 17, where he prays that we might be one with him and the creator ( Father, Mother…), so that the interwoven relationship of Creator, Son and Spirit might be extended to flow into our lives and through our lives like a beautiful and ever expanding eternal dance. A poem I wrote a while ago contains these lines as I tried to express the mystery of this yearning and invitation I hear in Jesus prayer:

“Do you yearn

to join the joyful

throng

encircled in their midst?

For you are invited

to this heavenly

ceilidh!

Will you dare to take

the outstretched hand,

kick off your shoes

and dance?”

+

Do I yearn to join the joyful throng? Well I long for a joyful throng to join, and I do catch glimpses of it sometimes, but there are so many things that prevent the body of Christ from being the body of Christ Jesus is longing for here. That we might be one as “they” God is one, in an ever giving and ever receiving relationship of mutual appreciation, service and love, that people would be drawn to the love of God by the evidence of love flowing from the people of God, both in praise for their maker, , reveal-er, and sustainer while a wonderful image is sadly very far from the image that I see in the church. Of course as I have said, we do catch glimpses of it, sometimes in the most unlikely places.

I have been ministered to by a homeless community who clubbed together to allow one of their member a former baker to make me the most beautiful birthday cake! I didn’t ask where the ingredients came from, the expression of love was enough. So often it is the poorest in our communities who are the most generous, offering their widows mite, over and over again, joy in a simple shared meal, or in swapping a few cans of food, in gardening together for mental health and to provide fresh food which is usually scarce. I have seen joy as groups learn to live together where formerly there may have been conflict, in ministry to and by refugees, and more. I know the joy of finding the face of Christ in unexpected places, and in a young boy at his sisters baptism who decided to bless me with the baptismal water, and in watching a young man with learning difficulties and a former detective inspector serve one another at the communion table.

I am sure that many reading this could add to the list, and so can I, but I can also point to scars inflicted upon one another by false expectations and by assumptions, and also by entrenched bad teaching that has taken root and twisted the Gospel into a distorted version of itself. A friend asked the question today about whether of not we can disagree well, the subject was about same-sex relationships and whether same-sex marriage might be possible in the Anglican Church, and while it could have been about other things, such as economic policies, politics on all kinds of levels, climate change and more, I think I would say that when the church fails to agree to love, and instead other-ises its’ own people then we have a problem.

That we might show love and be one is what Jesus is praying for, when the colour of our skin, the way we dress, our other abilities, be they physical or mental, our age, be that young or old, our sexuality and or gender is what is rejected then we have a problem. How many young families have been tutted at and felt uncomfortable in church because their children are a bit noisy? How many people have been made to feel uncomfortable because they simply don’t have a Sunday best to wear, or their choice of attire is frowned upon, I remember having a conversation with a young man who loved his band t-shirts but daren’t wear them to church! I have heard stories from BIOPIC friends who have experienced exclusion and toleration, who have been asked absolutely ridiculous questions, for example, when asked the question “where are you from?”, and the answer given is “Birmingham.”, the response then comes ” no where are you really from?”, my friends family have lived in the UK for generations! I on the other hand was born in Singapore and brought up in Kuala Lumpur, but nobody ever asks where I am from, and I certainly won’t be excluded because of it! The there is the story of the mother on a bus, speaking Welsh to he son, an ignorant passenger challenged her, saying why don’t you speak English when you are in England! Thankfully another passenger piped up, she is speaking Welsh, and we are in Wales! The assumption was made because the mother was wearing the Hijab.

When exclusion comes because of who we are, it cuts deep, I have mentioned before that when I came out, and was open about my sexuality I had a member of my congregation stand in front of me pondering whether to receive communion or not, when people question your sex life, when there is no way you would question theirs, when a church member declares his child’s marriage as not a marriage at all because they are married to a same sex partner, when trans people are vilified, and others insist on naming them by the wrong gender, there are scars. When we fail to acknowledge the full humanity of someone who displays a different facet of God’s glorious creative imagination because they don’t fit the required norm, then we are not inviting people into the creative dance, but are saying you are not welcome here!

Can we agree to disagree on such things as our common humanity and the way that we express it in ourselves and our lives then I think I want to say no. I am not talking about accepting abuse, or greed or other immoral expressions of humankind, but about the core expression of consenting, committed, adult relationships. Or the acceptance of a young person who is struggling with their sexuality or gender identity, the number LGBTQIA+ who live rough on the streets is staggering, and usually because they have been rejected by their families or religious communities. There are also stories from parents who have come to the conclusion that the only way they can support their child is to leave the church.

I wrote today about my justice journey a Methodist Church initiative, on Twitter, the photo was of a wedding blessing I was privileged to conduct, my post read:

Photo blessing at the wedding of two amazing friends. After so many years of learning that love is love. From suicidal thoughts, mine and others in the 1970’s/ 80’s to accepting myself and then finally

From suicidal thoughts, mine and others, the late 1970’s in rural Essex was not a place to be different, and I loathed myself, I did suffer from suicidal thoughts, and I know others who did too. I buried it all for years, and I mean almost 40 years, and while I do not regret my amazing children or grandchildren, I was not comfortable in my own skin. I am more comfortable now, but still have to ask myself how safe I am, and that question is more likely to be asked when I am considering how open to be in church settings! It would be wonderful to believe that, that will one day become a question that I don’t need to ask, but we have a long way to go, in this and many other ways!

Join the dance, image mine.

About Sally C

How do I describe myself, I am not what I do, (I am a Methodist Minister), I am not who I am related to (I have 5 wonderful children, 2 lovely granddaughters and a grandson). I am a seeker truth, a partaker of life in all it's fullness and a follower, sometimes stumbling, sometimes celebrating of the Christian pathway. I seek wholeness, joy and a connectedness to all things through a deep reconciliation with the God whose love blows my socks off!
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