Encouragement for the journey.
Greetings fellow travellers!
One of my friends from Clevedon wrote to me of an experience she had when visiting a church in Rotorua. A family friend took her to visit Victory Church. On the way there, this friend told her his story, one of pain and suffering. He told how he had been in and out of jail, of his broken marriage and how his sister had been stabbed 27 times. She was amazed to see the tough sturdy man with tattoos cry as he spoke.
And then, they arrived at the church where she found things very different from her usual Sunday morning service. She wrote: ‘There was no gloss there. The people were smelly!! Snot on children, mud on trousers, tattoos, scruffy clothes, alcohol on breath at 10.30 am, a singer on stage that couldn’t hit a note, a sermon that was on the pastor’s tablet that he lost mid sermon…
But my goodness, the welcome! They all greeted me. No one wanted to check in “where do I normally go to church? or am I a Christian? ” It was pure welcome. The brokenness of these people was apparent in their prayers and worship as they clapped, they sang, they went to the front and prostrated. There was such depth in their commitment. They were not frightened of their faith; they needed it, they relied on it. Faith was not a tack on optional extra for these people.’
My friend was both drawn in by such an outpouring of love and devotion, and at the same time not sure that this kind of church was quite ‘for her’. But I think her experience holds some deep and important truths for us in our privilege and our tendency towards decent and orderly posturing. We have so much invested in status, in coping and managing and keeping it all together. I think that some of it isn’t exactly a mask we wear to fit in or to cover up, but it’s more about a way of being that allows us to stay blind and numb to the inner poverty of our souls.
We don’t recognise ourselves as needing and interdependent on one another and wholly dependent on God – we think we’re on God’s team, which is the winning team, and we’re making useful contributions by being organised and responsible and successful. Not that those things are bad, they just aren’t truly REAL. When the power of the truly real touches us, it makes us uncomfortable as we must recognise our essential reliance on God and our tendency to put our trust in our home made alternatives. We must recognise our inability to ensure our own security and, once we are willing to see this as the truth, only then can we also hear and respond to God’s grace and the invitation by Love into love and into the fullness of life.
Peace and light,