Let go and let God

lovegiveWhen I was licensed here, I was licensed as Priest in Charge in these parishes.  It is a technical, but important distinction.  I am not the incumbent, though for all practical purposes I am treated by the Diocese and constitution as such.  However,  I find it rather a liberating position.  Though at any moment, if he so wishes, the Bishop is within his right to re-deploy me to another place!  I do however, find that liberating, because it means nothing is set, things are in flux, are changing around us and that reflects our times.  For most people, a changing environment is not one in which they feel safe and secure, but I didn’t call it safe and secure, I called it liberating.  Liberating because it allows me to be blunt and to the point about our future, for none of us know the hour nor the day, so scripture says.  It is for me a little like the part of the Screwtape letters by C.S. Lewis where a lesser demon suggests that a good strategy would be to tell the people that there was no need to hurry.  Brilliant says the devil, then they will all forget about urgent tasks and relax.  When Lord did we see you hungry and naked? – To which the reply might be: ‘You didn’t because you were not paying attention.’  A little urgency with a little bluntness, lovingly delivered of course is no bad thing now and again for it keeps us plodding onwards.  I once told a deanery gathering that in order to grow the church they would need to ‘think outside the box’.  It was trendy 90’s talk which often goes down well in churches twenty years late.  Everyone seemed to agree with me, up until the point I suggested that they were literally sat in the box and it was the walls of that very box that were the problem.  Well like an easter egg, forget the box, I want what is inside, let’s get to the contents!  In that deanery they were in their own way following the commandment of Jesus to ‘love one another’ I am sure, however they needed encouragement to love the others in their community.  There seemed to be little willingness to seek out the lost and raise up the poor in spirit, rather, all the energy was being put into encouraging and maintaining the little club.  In order to begin to grow the Church we have to get to the point where we do not care if there are buildings or committees or even synods or dioceses.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in the Cost of Discipleship ‘When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die’.  That is summed up by Jesus’ commandment here in John’s Gospel.  We must die to ourselves, to all our hangups and our desires and take on the desires of Christ.  The commandment to ‘love one another’ is qualified by the following line:  ‘As I have loved you.’  Not as one wit put it, if you can’t ‘love one another’, try turning the last two words around.  John’s gospel then suggests that this could be the greatest tool for evangelisation as ‘by this shall all men [sic] know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.’  Well, that worked. – Just that we often forgot to do the love one another part.  We’ve been really good at the ‘as I have loved you’ part.  We go back time and again to look at the actions of Jesus told to us in our Gospel stories.  We tell these tales of an extraordinary ordinary life lived amongst fellow humans.  We extol his virtue, marvel at his deeds, scoff at the unbelief of a pharisee or two, bow our heads at the humility of the tax collector, revel in the open table fellowship that Jesus seems to have invited.  And yet, sadly, very often the church is still not known for its love of one another outside of our small gatherings.  And so in two days time as we sit down to our combined Easter Vestry meeting this year we have an opportunity to begin to love one another.  The temptation is to go with the fear that we might lose something.  Or that if things change we might not be as comfortable as we were.  Jesus didn’t say make yourself comfortable, he said love one another.  That is most certainly an uncomfortable position to be in.  It is also a vulnerable place but can be liberating.  It lifts us out of our comfort zone and drops the traditional walls that we have erected around ourselves.  Walls of parish, walls of churches, walls even of a diocese.  It begins to allow us to see a bigger picture and to get to the point where we can let go and let God.

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