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’.