How Everyone Can go Beyond “Spiritual But Not Religious”

Thinking about clichés last week, put me in mind of one more than needs some exploration.

 

This is the oft heard statement “Well, I’m spiritual but not religious’.

 

It is interesting that the form of cliché that people use to say “I don’t go to Church” has changed over the years.

 

In the days when I first became a priest people used to say “Well you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian’, now they say “I’m spiritual but not religious”

 

When I ask “What practices do you do that make you call yourself ‘spiritual’ they will often say “Well I sometimes talk God in the car, or before I go to bed.’ Sometimes they will say “I believe that there is as higher power and that everything happens for a reason.’ Then sometimes people might say “Well I believe in the power of crystals, and I have a ‘dream-catcher’ above my bed. I try to be ‘mindful’ too.

 

These are good practices I think, for an eclectic kind of spirituality. And I am not against borrowing from other traditions either.

 

Meditation, for example, is a practice hat has been in the forefront of Eastern religion, but until recently (I mean perhaps he 1960s) this kind of prayer has not been common in Christianity, even thought it has been a part of our tradition.

 

But the thing that worries me about this cliché are two things. First, it is individualistic. As such it cannot have much force to shape a person’s life.

 

There is truth in the song ‘For The Union Makes Us Strong’ which says ‘Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one!’

 

In an individualistic age, people are conned I think into believing that their beliefs are theirs alone. In fact beliefs and practices derive from traditions that are collectively held. So while it is necessary that congregations attend to the individual journeys of their members in a way that was not done before, it is also true that modern individualists need to attend to the collective nature of belief. You can’t have spirituality without religion (collective spirituality). Well, you might be able to have spirituality without religion, but only at the cost of a wilful blindness as to where these spiritual practices come from.

 

Religion represents the collective expression of spirituality, and lets people know that they are not ‘alone’ in sharing these practices.

 

But the other thing that worries me about the ‘I’m spiritual but not religious’ cliché is that it is a ‘close down’ sentence but not an ‘opening up’ sentence.

The person who says it says “Here is what I think. It nods in your direction, because you too might be spiritual, but because you go to Church on Sunday, you are ‘religious’ I don’t go to Church on Sunday, I’m not ‘religious’, but that’s ok so don’t raise this question with me.

 

In a sense, I think that ‘religious people’ could be more ‘spiritual’ and ‘spiritual’ people could be more ‘religious’ because both ways of being are interdependent, and belong together. It is a mistake to separate them because to do so means that the ‘spiritual’ person is relying on their heritage of religion, but not acknowledging it and giving it its due value, or being influenced at the collective level by some other claim on their ultimate values (religion) that is also unconsciously held (like work, family, sporting association).

 

I am also aware that just writing this is not going to change anyone. People are more likely to act themselves into new ways of thinking, than think themselves into new ways of acting.

 

Here is an experiment I did in the early 2000s. I thought that the Gospel stories were pretty good, and that they held lots of numinous power, or ‘surplus meaning, following Michael Polyani.

 

Anyone , religious, spiritual or undefined could these stories, and ask, “So what does this story say to me, and what can we do about this in the next period of time? Responding to the stories is what is important. The God who stands behinds the stories ids not an impersonal ‘higher power’ in whom one has to believe, this God comes with our appreciation of and responding to these stories.

 

So in the responding and acting, spirituality and religion unite in the group of people gathered to read them.

 

We did this experiment with a group of Christi9ans from the local congregation, and some other people who were friends of mine.

 

We had our share of difficulties, but in the end, I think that this form of meeting is a way of getting beyond the exchanges of ‘I’m spiritual but not religious’ or this kind of reflection that tries to open up the intellectual holes in this cliché. I guess I’m with Nick Cave “And I believe there’s some kind of path….that we can walk down, me and you.”

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Why I’d Rather Have A Funeral Than A Celebration Of My Life

This week, I heard an announcement of a state funeral for a significant member of the community, who had recently died.

 

The radio announcer said “There will be a ‘celebration of the life of ‘X’’ in the Recital Centre.

 

This announcement captured my attention. These days, the most common way of describing what happens after a person dies is not to have a ‘funeral’, but a celebration of their life.

 

When I have spoken to mourners who have come to me to arrange the funeral of their loved one, they often say “Oh, we don’t want a ‘funeral’, we would rather have a celebration of their life.

 

So I thought that having been in the business of being a Christian priest, part of whose job it is to arrange and conduct funerals, I thought that this sentiment ought to be unpacked.

 

Is seems to me that the term ‘celebration of life’ has become a cliché. Like all clichés it both reveals something, and hides something.

 

For me, the emphasis on a ‘celebration of life’ comes from the fact that many people see a ‘funeral’ as being too much focused on loss.

 

Many people want to read the poem by Henry Scott-Holland and say

 

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.

Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.

 

This is not a ‘bad’ sentiment, in itself, but here is something interesting.

 

Henry Scott-Holland was a priest. He wrote this poem, minimising death, because he believed that dying was not all that there is. He ends his poem with

 

Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just round the corner.*

All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

Believing that death is not an ‘uyltimate’ reality, but a secondary one, places a person’s life in a particular context.

 

But when the Christian context of a person’s life is not there, the all hat is left is this life, the past, and the desire to ‘celebrate’ that life.

 

Thanks to my mentor, David, I have been made aware that a funeral has much more to it than a celebration of a person’s life.

 

Here is what as passed on to me, which I now pass onto you.

 

The first thing to say is that a Christian Funeral is a pastoral event. This means that although there are prayers said and so on, it is possible for non believers to be present without being offended, or asked to do anything that they can’t with integrity, participate in.

 

Because a funeral is a ‘liturgy’ (i.e., work!) there are a number of tasks that need to be achieved.

 

First, we give thanks to God for the life of the person whop has died. This is the ‘celebration of their life’, but it is done ‘God-ward’ as it were. We acknowledge our being creatures of the Creator, and return thanks to God for the life of the person who has died.

 

But there is more! The very measure of the value of a person’s life is the same measure in which we will miss them because they have died. So allowing ourselves to grieve, in public officially is an important pastoral element of a funeral. We do not ‘hold it together’ and pretend that we have not lost someone, but tell the truth, and mourn their loss.

 

Being in the presence of a coffin is a p[powerful wake up call too, that we will all die. Being aware o our own mortality ,makes us gentler on our own perfectionist selves, and is a spur to fix up that which is not yet healed, before we too die!

 

Finally, it is possible in a funeral to make meaning out of death. We can give expression to the hope that the sundering that is represented by death is not the primary reality, but that the putting-together that makes for life and love is, since Easter Day the primary reality in which we live, whether we know it or not, that is what Christians say about death.

 

For the sake of those who will be alive when I am dead, I would much rather have a funeral, with all of the things in it that I have mentioned, than a celebration of my life.

 

*Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/death-is-nothing-at-all-by-henry-scott-holland

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What Does It Mean That We Are So Interested In Life On Other Planets?

 

There has been a lot about space exploration in the media recently. Mostly this has come about because suddenly, we have gone from thinking that there were not many planets around other stars, to actually finding out that there are hundreds, and many of them would be in the

‘habitable zone’.

 

So the media reports most often go like this Scientists have discovered a new planet orbiting around star “X”, and it is in the habitable zone. Are we alone? Is there life on other planets?”

 

So my question is “Why are we so concerned about being alone in the universe?”

 

One way of getting at an answer to this, is to ask “Well, what would be different if we discovered that there was life on other planets?

 

 

First, I don’t think anyone is going to be too exercised if we find bacteria or mould on other planets.

This would confirm that yes, the creation of life is something that is part of the structure of the universe. I don’t think that it is going to be possible to prove hat there is no life anywhere else, in which case, we would be special. But knowing that ‘the coming into being of life’ is a common thing puts us within the whole framework of ‘the creation’: something hat we already knew.

 

But things get interesting if we discover that there is life capable of communicating with us in some way.

 

Then, when I discover that ‘we are not alone in the universe’ I start to ask he questions like “What are their intentions toward me?” What kind of a culture do they have? “Are they ‘more advanced’ or less advanced than we are, and if so, what re my rights and obligations toward them?

 

It strikes me that these questions are the same ones as we those which we ask of ‘others’ on this planet. Mould or bacteria cannot be truly ‘other’, but some form of life that we recognise as ‘truly other’ from us, then raises all of these questions. These are the very ones that we have now.

 

I can imagine some future ‘president of earth’ saying about other life forms ‘We decide who comes to our planet, and under what circumstances they come!’

 

There would be questions about resources, and whether or not we can trust these new beings.

 

If it turned out that we were more powerful than we are, would we treat them any better than we treated the colonies or other indigenous people as they encountered us in the recent past? Do we hope that they might treat us better than we would treat them?

 

This highlights for us no the morality of our treatment of refugees, and our relationship to difference, wherever it happens.

 

The other thing that would happen I think is that our picture of ourselves as ‘us’ would also change.

 

Just as in the last period of globalisation, the Sicilians, and the Lombardians and the Piedmontese all began to think of themselves as ‘Italians’ and the Saxons and the Bavarians began to think of themselves as ‘Germans’, so the idea of our being ‘Earthlings’ would rapidly mean a globalisation of our sense of ‘us-ness’. I think this might bring about a degree of peace on earth because the existence of an ‘other’ which is in space, forces us to think in global terms of ‘us’.

 

What would happen to religion wonder. If it turned out that we were unique in the whole universe, then I think that this would certainly raise questions about our purpose. If, big as the universe is, we are the only life forms ‘like us’ does that not raise the question of “Well why? Do we have a purpose and perhaps even a creator who gives us his purpose?” Being ‘alone’ in he universe would make the case for God easier I think.

 

But does not being alone in the universe make he case for our God, the Christian God harder? Some people think so, but I don’t.

 

The creed says that part of he Character of ‘our God’ is that this God is ‘for us’ . We say ‘Who for us and our salvation’. So the incarnation is an expression of God’s being ‘for’ humanity. That is the Christian claim.

 

I would not expect to be able to tell other forms of life ‘about Jesus’ because I would expect that they would have their own version of ‘God for us.’

 

But Christ is not only the ‘Logos’ for humanity, but St. John claims that the Word that became Flesh is also the same Logos that created the world. This being the case, I would expect to be able to recognise the shape of this same Logos, not only in the laws of physics in other forms of life, but also in the way that they would have an idea o God’s being ‘for them’ too. How this might look is going to depend on what kind of life they have, and how the ‘incarnation’ might look for them. I would be surprised though I there was no sense of the divine at all, and no sense that this divinity wanted to communicate with them in some way. I might even hope that they too would have a Christ whose features we could discuss: God with them!

 

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A Tribute to My Friend And Some Reflections On The Church Ads A Result

I want to pay tribute to my friend Peter, who died just last week. We lived in different cities, and I was not as close to him as some others were, but I would like to think that I was his friend.

 

Here is his story as far as I know it.

 

Peter was at theological college, preparing for the Anglican priesthood. I am not sure about the exact circumstances, but it happened that there was some questioning going on, and some of the students were asked if they were homosexual. (Being ‘Gay’ was not the common parlance then.) Peter answered the question with a ‘Yes’. For this he was dismissed from the college, and was no longer an ordinand.

 

He worked at various jobs after that, but continued to exercise his musical talents by playing the organ at an Anglican Church, and got a job as office secretary in another suburban parish.

 

Then, in the middle 1960s came the Australian Broadcasting Programme “Chequerboard”. “Chequerboard” presented to the public different aspects of Australian life: most of them not commonly known to the majority of people.

 

It was on this programme that Peter and his partner (also Peter) ‘came out’ to the Australian public at least.

 

Peter immediately lost his job as church secretary , but there were protests outside that church too! Sadly, they were to no avail.

 

Peter was at the forefront of the movement aimed at gaining acceptance for gays. He helped to launch the forerunner of the Mardi Gras, the Campaign Against Moral persecution, originally a political protest, sat which many were bashed or subject to other forms of brutality. During the AIDS crisis, Peter spent many long hours being both nurse, companion, and ministering angel to many of the people who went through that terrible death.

 

The rise of the movement for Gay marriage saw Peter and his partner once more in the public eye, as the image of what a long, loving gay relationship could look like. I remember well the celebration of their 40th anniversary of ‘being together’ and just a few months ago, the great celebrations of their jubilee year.

 

But Peter was not a prude either. I remember being at dinner with several members of what used to be called ‘The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence’.

This was a group of Gay men, poking fun at some of the ‘straight’ puritan responses to sexuality.

 

Peter lived to see that day, but sadly, did not live to see his dream of being able to marry his partner come true.

 

Peter donated his body for scientific research.

 

Before he died, Peter was anointed at Christ Church St. Laurence in Sydney, and accepted the ministry of an Anglican Priest.

 

I am told that Peter was never bitter about his treatment at the hands of the church.

 

Peter’s partner, the other Peter is not a believer, but I am sure he would not take offence at what I am about to say. Is there any other story that you could tell that sounds more like the story of Jesus?

 

John’s prologue comes to mind. “He came to his own people and his own people received him not, but to those who did receive him he gave power….” Now it is Jesus who has ‘light and life’ within himself. It is Jesus who gives us power to become children of God, but this Peter pointed me to what that might look like more than most.

 

Peter was sent ‘outside the camp’, as the letter to the Hebrews has it, yet there he was literally a ‘ministering angel’ a messenger of God, a true priest.

 

It is ball-tearingly sad, if all too common, that the Church, which has the task of carrying on the mission of Jesus, fails to recognise in one of its members just the embodiment of that mission.

This is what Peter did. He put his body on the line for others, (here is my body (time, love, touch) given for you). As the paraphrase of the Ghandi quote goes “He was the change he wanted to see.” (As Jesus inaugurated the reign of God, in his body, by how he was with people)

 

Peter did not let the ‘sleeping dog’ of human sexuality just lie, but he acted in such a way as to make it impossible for us to ignore it, either in being Gay or straight.

 

Luckily the Spirit of Jesus transcends the Church, especially her manifestations in some places. It is just a pity that someone like Peter was not given the opportunity to earn his daily bread by living such an example.

 

But in these days, when the image of the church has been nearly destroyed, and not many people want to hear the message of Jesus from us any more, Peter also seemed to know that within this all too earthen a vessel, there is treasure: the treasure of setting our lives within a context of a God crucified, that makes the only sin that cannot be forgiven, the sin of refusing to be embraced.

 

Rest in Peace Peter, and rise in glory.

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On Being A Public Christian

In the last issue of ‘The Melbourne Anglican’ Dr. Craig Dalton outlined is reasons for not wearing his clerical collar in public. His main reasoning is that ‘mission is much easier when I’m encountered first as a human being rather than as a dressed-up priest.’

 

I think that the world is divided into two kinds of general responses, no matter what the activity that one is engaged in. Take being an author, or other kind of artist, for example. Some publishers or galleries are directed toward ‘their market’. So authors or writers change their work in order to meet the requitements of the market.

 

Others say “Well, this is what I write, if there is a market for it, then good, if not, I guess I won’t give up my ay job!’

 

Now of course, everyone is a mixture of both. Sometimes I wear my collar in public, and sometimes I don’t. But I think I am of the second ‘tribe’ who says “Being a priest is part of who I am, and that is how I want to present myself most of the time.’

 

My hope is that I can fill the picture of being a priest with all of the good things that make Christianity attractive. I don’t want to be determined by others’ views of what being a Christian or being a priest is (be it abuser, or source of cash, or an embarrassment, or someone to be ignored). Instead, I would like to begin the process of engagement that comes to the surface when a person encounters a priest. Most often people say to m ‘but you don’t look like a priest.’ If I were not wearing a collar, then this question would not arise. Nor would I have to opportunity to speak to people about whata priest should look like, or what a priest does.

 

In this case, it is not the priest who is questioned, but the person whom I encounter. This is the value to me of being a ‘public Christian’.

 

But at the same time, being a ‘public Christian’ means that I have to hold myself to account for my public behaviour. Christians who are not publically recognised as such do not have to give a public account of themselves.

 

I am thinking about those Christians who put a fish symbol, or a cross on their cars. This person then becomes the public face of Christian driving. This is a big task. The same is true of me as a public Christian.

 

Most of the time this is not a problem. Sometimes I can offer a positive view of Christian faith because I am a positive person who can show that being Christian does not always mean being ‘nerdy’ or believing 100 impossible things before breakfast.

 

Some of the time it is possible to offer a correction to an erroneous idea, or to offer more than a person wants.

 

As Craig Dalton mentions, sometimes Christians are asked for money. I have often been torn by the way in which people who ask for money have to make up a story in order to justify their request and so on.

 

Sometimes I have said “I don’t know why you have to do tis. Did you know that if you were a member of the congregation here, you would be supported as a privilege of membership?

 

The pain of seeing someone in need, and the pain of being asked, and the pain of seeing someone abase themselves so much in order to get money and the pain of being a member of a society that lets this happen are all part of sharing in Christ’s suffering in the World. They are all part of what we bring in prayer. I don’t want to avoid these things by not wearing my clerical collar.

 

Then the other thing that being a public Christian means is that my own behaviour has to match my own standards of what being a Christian means.

 

This happened today. I have just moved into town as locum tenens. I am driving to the next town for Eucharist, stressed about all of the new things that I have to get my head around.

 

So I need petrol. I have a supermarket docket which, as I recalled, gave me a 4cents per litre discount on the petrol. So in go, knowing that this is the cheapest option in town.

 

But the person behind the counter says “This gives you a discount on liquor, but not on petrol. You have to spend $30.00 in order to get a discount on petrol.’

I ‘lost it’. This is the straw that breaks the camels back. Heavens above! Do you think I would have paid this amount of money for petrol if I did not think I was going to get the discount!!!?? This is the last time that you will see me!”

 

So off I go to celebrate the Eucharist. Of course, during the Eucharist I am ‘convicted of sin’ and I have to go back to her to say “I’m sorry. I should not have loaded you up with my worries this morning.’ Which I did. I made a friend in the town.

 

Being a public Christian means that I have to be courageous enough to be humble, and apologise. This is something that I might have been able to ‘get away with’ had I not been wearing a collar.

 

So for me, the issue is one of asking the question ‘what is the best way to engage with others as a Christian? For me, having the collar on provides the best ‘way in’ to this engagement, even with my own person, as I try to be a worthy follower of Jesus

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On Being a Locum Tenens: Some Ideas

As a person who is now being a Locum Tenens, I tend to attract the horror stories of locums, in order that I might not repeat them, or learn from them.

 

Two stories that I have heard come from both ends of the spectrum about who is responsible.

 

One story tells of a locum who went into a struggling congregation and acted just so high handedly that everyone was put off side immediately.

 

Another tells of a priest who went into a congregation, where he was very pleased to be because he had grown up there. But this congregation was very distinct in its emphasis, and tended to use more of the Roman Rite than the Anglican one. According to my source, the locum made one or two changes which brought the liturgy more into line with the Anglican prayer book. All hell broke loose among some members of the congregation.

 

So how is the relationship between a locum tenens and a congregation to be understood? What is the role of both congregation and locum during the time of interregnum?

 

What I have noticed is that at the beginning, some important parameters are set. Of course everyone is on their best behaviour, but at the same time there is some significant negotiation, among strangers, going on. Questions like “Who may enter the rectory’ have to be decided because if the priest is not present full time, then members of the congregation who will have keys will also have to have access. How will services go? The locum’s job is not to change the direction of the congregation, but to maintain its life till a new permanent priest arrives. This involves a degree of humility on the part of the locum too. I am reminded of my pastoral care mentor reminding me ‘Always tread gently into another person’s stream.’ At the same time, the priest remains the person responsible for the liturgy, so he or she has a role from the beginning.

 

In my experience (just one week) so far, there is a lot of ‘How do you do it? It’s your call’ kinds of sentiments being exchanged.

 

There is also a lot of grief going on. If a priest is anywhere half ‘ok’ then to lose someone like that is very sad. Often people in congregations feel either betrayed or sad that their priest has gone. The locum has to establish their presence, for sure, but this cannot be at the expense of allowing for the grief or anger of the congregation. How they allow for that process to go on is also an important role for the priest who oversees the transition from one priest to another.

 

There are two pieces of theory which I know about that I think will stand me in good stead. Both have to do with the application of good thinking to a situation, which can overcome fear.

 

The first idea is one proposed by Joseph Overton for the political world. It describes the range of ideas that when proposed, the public will find acceptable. Here is a link for it https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overton_window

 

Some places have very broad ‘Overton Windows’ and some places have very narrow ones. A broad Overton Window means that within the ‘reasonable’ range there is a fair amount of give and take. But in places that tend to be anxious or fearful, there is a narrow Overton window so that any change at all is policed very strictly, because any change represents ‘the end of civilisation as we know it’ or ‘the beginning of the slippery slope which leads to disaster.’

 

In places where there is a very narrow Overton Window the locum has a more difficult job than in more secure places with a wider Overton Window. Being able to have a discussion about the Overton Window might be a good way of lessening the anxiety among some particularly fearful people.

At worst, a narrow Overton Window can represent the way that those in power hang on to it, so that with the arrival of the locum or new priest, there is no flexibility or at all.

 

The other idea that I like is the idea of ‘temporal band width’. This idea talks about ‘how long an historical overview’ a person has. I remember one story about President Nixon visiting China. He is said* to have asked premier Zhou Enlai about the impact of the French revolution in 1789. “It is too early to tell” Zhou is reported to have replied. Now of this is true, this shows a wide ‘temporal bandwidth.’ People who are secure in their future, and know where they come from have a ‘wide temporal band with’. They are able to give an account of why it is that they do certain things and what the meaning for them is. Having a wide temporal bandwidth in congregations, and in locums allows them both a bit of give and take in the process of both negotiating their relationship between them, and in giving an account from both sides about what is important. This discovery of what is important will also be helpful to the congregation in their discovery of what kind of a person whom they would like to call to be their priest.

 

Above all, the application of thinking to a situation is what the human brain has developed to do, in order to modify the passions and fears of our more primitive selves. This kind of thinking may be about theory, or it may be directly about the life of a congregation. Either way, it is a concrete form of love, since perfect love casts out fear.

* This story is too good to leave out, but it is now thought that Zhou had mis-heard Nixon, and was referring to the French upheavals of 1968, not 1789. Still, it’s a great story!

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Heaven does not ‘Wait’ But Is Here For Those Who Congregate

Last week in church an interesting thing happened. It is normal practice for our priest to ask if anyone has an announcement. Mostly no one does, or gives us information about an up-coming event that is important to them. But once a month one of our members gives us a small talk on the mission agency that she has chosen as our ‘Mission of the Month’, to which our Mission Giving will go that month. Sometime s we pray for people who are going into hospital at that time. Last week, one of our members got up and said “I would like to read you something from a book that I have been reading.” She did. It was about how God’s love is the kind of love that pays attention to the unlikely people, and the ones that are considered ‘different’.

I was aware that this person was expressing her love for God for having loved her, and also expressing her appreciation to the congregation for loving her too.

I guessed this because just beforehand, at the communion, there was a space next to her. She said to me as I was coming up to the communion ‘stand here next to me’ I had made a move to stand next to my guest, who had moved to the other side, but at the request, I moved next to “K”. “Why?” is asked. “Because I’m always afraid that no one will want to stand next to me!” “Ah, never!” I replied.

My connection with “K” goes back a bit. “K” was a member of the congregations Christian formation group, and renewed her baptismal vows late last year. I noticed that she had a tooth missing in front. I thought “As members of the Body of Christ, we ought to be able to do something about this.” So I approached the vicar, to get his permission to speak to her, and then spoke to “K”. I said “I think that we ought to be able to do something about helping you to get a new tooth. I would like to take up a collection in the congregation, and I will start it with a certain amount, and make up the rest if need be, so that you can have a tooth.” I t was a bit of a risk to take, because of the sensitivity of the matter, but “K” was rapt that we would think of such a thing and since then has discovered a way of receiving a tooth within her budget.

These stories stay in my memory because they speak to me of what it means to be a member of the body of Christ.

There is always talk of the decline of the Church, and in the town, I think that we are viewed as a king of benign, but irrelevant-to-those-who-do not-go’ kind of club, like any other club. People an pick and choose whether they go or not, and if it ‘floats your boat’ then well and good, but if not, it makes not much difference to anyone. It seems to me as if people sing with Don Williams

“I don’t believe that heaven waits for only those who congregate
I like to think of God as love he’s down below he’s up above
He’s watchin’ people everywhere he knows who does and doesn’t care
And I’m an ordinary man sometimes I wonder who I am
But I believe in love I believe in music I believe in magic and I believe in you.”

But I think that the reason Don Williams can sing this song is that people do congregate in order to show the kind of love that God is.

In order for all of the small stories that I have told here to happen, those involved have needed to have reached out beyond themselves to tell us something or to share something with us. They have needed to cross a boundary so that some more intimacy might be created. This is what it means to me to be a member of the Body of Christ: to be a sheep of His fold, because in these small acts of sharing, or service, we are being Him to one another.

It is the story of Jesus that guides us in the kind of love we give and receive. It is in the gathering of the congregation that we not only ‘have communion (Eucharist)’ but that we ‘have communion’ one with another.

In this case, heaven is not ‘waiting’ but for those t who ‘congregate’ a slice of heaven has become real, not then, but now.

At the end of the Eucharist last Sunday, the vicar said “I would like to begin remembering people’s birthdays. Can we make a list to that we can remember those among us who have birthdays?

Now in general, this is not such a bad idea. As the vicar said “Being born is part of the ‘order of creation’. By this he meant that being born lets us participate, whether we know it or not, in God’s creation of the world. Creation itself belongs to God, and is worth celebrating.

But I think that it is more important to celebrate our Baptism days. This is when we began to participate in the ‘New Creation’. It is because of our baptism that we become members of Christ’s flock. It is because of our baptism that we learn about the kind of ‘boundary-crossing love that we receive in Christ, and which we then offer to others. It is because of our baptism that we belong to people whom we would never belong to otherwise.

Last Sunday was for me a true day of ‘Church’.

Posted in Living Before the Face of God, Uncategorized, Weekly Reflections From Coller Crt. | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment