It’s been a while since I wrote anything, this lent has rushed by at quite a pace, possibly because I have had so many funerals to arrange along with the visits and preparation they require. Don’t get me wrong I am not grumbling, I see funerals as a vital and vibrant part of ministry, it puts me in touch with people who are wanting and needing something to turn to. The funerals have been a mix of good memories and life celebrations those where the question “why” hangs thickly in the air, that is a question I have no answer for, so I hold a space of hope, it is all I can do. Hearing the stories others, of lives well lived, of challenges faced and overcome, and of loves won and lost is inspiring and thought provoking. I am thankful not to have come across a perfect person yet, but they were all loved, and that is so telling.
We are all loved, even when we struggle to see it, and we are all valued and valuable, I must admit when I visit families mourning their loved ones I do sometimes wonder what people will say about me, will there be a big turn out, or a small one, how will be remembered, it is at times like that when I begin to doubt myself, maybe we all do. Imposter syndrome is a something I struggle with, having had my calling to ordination questioned, not by the committee tasked with testing my call, they passed me with an 100% vote, but by others who had an axe to grind, I do sometimes wonder if they were right. I guess that is not a bad thing! But too much questioning can lead you down a hole that is unhelpful.
Yesterday I received a call asking if it was okay to use one of my poems for a Holy Week Service, of course it is, all I ask for is that credit is given, but as usual brush it off, why on earth would anyone want to use my poetry. I write a lot, I also paint a lot, and I both want to offer these gifts and to dismiss them, I think at lies beneath that is a fear of rejection, maybe declaring that I have nothing much to offer is my way of shielding myself.
What complex creatures are! We long for love and hide from it, we crave acceptance and shun it, it takes courage to step out and offer what we are and who we are especially when we have been hurt. As someone who is always encouraging people to see themselves as God sees them, fearfully and wonderfully made, known, accepted and loved, I need to turn my preaching upon myself, and hope that it will slowly sink in.
Having read Nadia Boltz-Webbers amazing sermon on Matthew 25: 1-13 on the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, a friend of mine came up with more questions, and that really got me thinking, so bringing a hermeneutic of suspicion to the text I question the power of the bridegroom and the harsh manager in the parable that followed. They had the power, and in their power they excluded those who were in need of oil and compassion.
This is my thinking:
The blind see,
the deaf hear,
the lame walk,
the prisoners are freed,
and the kingdom of God is made open for all,
who is judged then,
maybe it is those who have excluded,
the harsh manager who excluded his fearful servant,
the mean bridegroom who did not open the door
to the bridesmaids judged foolish,
when Jesus looks over the crowds at the end of time
will he include the fearful servant, and the foolish bridesmaids?
Is he not more likely to exclude those who excluded them?
So why was the harsh manager so harsh?
He expected much of his servants, and certainly the fearful servant
was concerned about punishment ?
Yet for years we have been told that the harsh manager is a God figure,
rewarding the shrewd and casting out the fearful…
This is not the God I have come to know…
And what about the bridegroom, refusing to open the door to the foolish bridesmaids,
ignoring their request to be admitted,
surely these were his friends,
or surely his brides friends?
Could it be that this manager and this bridegroom are not God/ Christ figures at all,
but false Messiahs welcoming those who look after themselves.
The “wise” bridesmaids were mean, they could have shared their oil or their light,
the harsh manager could have recognised his servants fear…
maybe we are being called to recognise this
in the light of the ministry of the one who went to the margins and to the edges,
light could be shared and compassion could be shown.
Yes we need to be ready,
but that includes being ready to spot the false Messiahs bearing false promises
For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. (Ch 24)…
a smouldering wick won’t be put out,
a bruised reed will not be broken…
who is here to help the servant and the bridesmaids,
with a call to go to the lowest and the least,
in the kin(g)dom where the first shall be last and the last first,
perhaps Jesus is calling us to see the excluded and to go to them.
to see him in his need in them,
and to serve as he would serve,
not for our own gain, but simply because in Christ that is who we are!
For as Jesus taught in the last paragraph of Matthew 25:
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these