I am sat in my friends beautiful kitchen with a glass of wine and currently a sleeping baby…bliss.
Lately, I have been pondering what it means to gather and what it means to be church.
I am well aware many of you do not attend church, or believe in God for that matter. But you may be fascinated by/interested in/worried for those of us who do?
Church is not always easy…far from it. You are a group of people who can be so different in every aspect of life and you gather together for the most personal reasons.
You may disagree on politics, interests couldn’t be further apart, theology and ideology are on a vast spectrum and yet you meet together once or twice a week. You do life with these people…
And sometimes its awkward, for me this is quite often because I say an inappropriate joke or speak to liberally about things that some people like to keep private…mainly sex. I would like to point out that my husband likes me more because I create these awkward interactions…and that is because he is weird and enjoys the toe-curling cringe moments!
And yet in this mess of people, who include the whole spectrum of embarrassing and weird and wonderful, quiet and loud, straight and narrow (And despite some pretty horrific homophobia in the history of the church… hopefully our incredibly brave and strong LGBT brothers and sisters as well), conservative and raging liberals and all that’s in between when it comes to style, taste and humour. Here you wait on God, you seek the sacred/the more than, you explore, wrestle with doubt and hurt and pain, you are found.
There is nothing so raw and in such an unimaginable setting.
And yet it is our difference that maybe makes it so powerful. We may have no similarities except for knowing that we are here because of the grace of God.
There is nothing more humbling and releasing than confessing, than letting people pray for you, stand with you, seek God with you.
This is the church…at its best.
Sometimes its hard to access and it is far from perfect.
Sometimes because others put up walls (about who gets to be in or out), or because we make distance or guard ourselves against others seeing us in that vulnerable way. Maybe it is because we have told ourselves that weakness is embarrassing…but is it? That somehow needing support means you have no capabilities or strength…I don’t think it does.
I am in a process of questioning how accessible the church is…and by that I mean how accessible a culture of being raw am I cultivating. How honest and broken do I allow people to be, because I truly believe that is where the divine is.
Am I closed to people because of race, sexual orientation, background, position in society? I wish I wasn’t but I know I can be judgemental. And in ways I sometimes let slip by…for example I am disappointed to admit there have been times when I have shamed people-often conservative christian, wealthy, white men.
Not in a helpful way (I am pretty certain there is no ‘helpful way in shaming someone’)
But in a belittling way, that speaks nothing of Grace and everything of Judgement, which is the same thing I am trying to challenge.
My younger brother once said when he was a child, ‘Jen would love me more if I was gay’-I am not sure if he remembers this (he will probably tell me this isn’t true-but it is, and I think I have the best memory in my family, so I am holding onto this). And although I wouldn’t love him any more or less depending on his sexual orientation, I was desperate as a teen to know and love the marginalised. I got a bit focused on certain groups of people at different times, for example I was very keen to be Jewish. As it turns out, I hope my friends and family who are LGBT and/or Jewish know that I love them because of who they are and not because of their ethnicity/sexual orientation.
I often say, I want people to know the freedom and hope that comes with Faith but I don’t know how the church fits into that? But in saying that I have distanced myself from ‘the church’…which is ridiculous, the church is the body of Christ, which includes me.
If I want to see the church change, I have to be willing to be open to being changed-and that is easier said than done!
So in possibly the most random link, below is the video of my favourite ad…ever. The ad that made me believe I would love Guinness (I didn’t at first…but now don’t mind it…so well done marketing company!)
But it conjures within me a powerful sense of freedom, and relief and the sense that God is not done with me yet and the church is a work in progress.
Here’s to waiting
And here’s to changing
And here’s being (happily) surprised that God shows up regardless of our mess