Dear Church ( a plea to drop our traditions and to be open)

Dear Church ( a plea to drop our traditions and to be open)

 

P1018654Dear Church,

I write to you from time to time, sometimes because you encourage me, sometimes because you challenge me, always because I love you, but sometimes like today because you leave me wanting to bang my head on the wall.

I want to talk to you today about how our practices and customs are often so foreign to folk around us, lets just look at it for a second. People come to us for various reasons, now marriages and funerals are pretty straight forward and folk know what to expect in the main, and the service is rarely a mixed congregation of church folk and visitors. When it comes to Baptisms though we welcome visitors into our midst, and for many they are being welcomed into a strange new world, the world of church.

Just pause and think, think about when you go to a a summer festival or to a club or bar where there is a relaxed atmosphere of celebration. I know you do this from time to time because you tell me about it. Refreshments are a natural part of what goes on, as is chatting, so why do we get angry and upset when people join us to celebrate that they do not attend to absolutely everything that is going on? Why be so miserable when folk make remarks about hymns or don’t retain silence through the prayers. And yes I know I asked folk not to take photos during the service and some still did, but when I ponder it, I take photos at concerts and other events, it is normal in many contexts!

I want to ask you to relax with me and with our celebrating visitors and to notice the flow of the Spirit as people catch what is going on. I want to ask you to make room for folk as Jesus made room for folk, to welcome those who come, those who might be deemed “outsiders” by the religious elite, but we are not the religious elite are we? Surely we are followers of Jesus, Jesus who welcomed all who came to him, Jesus who touched the untouchable, Jesus who again and again broke the rules laid down for proper behaviour.

I want to suggest to you that people are not being disrespectful because they don’t instantly fall in to our way of doing things, and even that we might learn something from them, how wonderful it would be if we came to church on Sunday morning to celebrate and to share in that celebration together. How wonderful it would be if we could only relax in God’s presence and be open to responding to the move of the Spirit among us. God does not demand that we sit and stand and remain silent in all the right places, we don’t build our relationship with him because of the way we behave, we build it with him by the way we respond to his love. 

So I guess what I am saying is let’s relax, let’s be willing to be welcoming, let’s worry more about making our visitors comfortable than whether they are behaving properly, let’s come with open hearts to worship. God does not need us to defend him, and his ways are not our ways, he loves the people we struggle with, and it might be worth noting that they probably struggle with us too.

In short, I am thinking of making some changes ( yes changes again), I hope you will help me with them, because the folk that come to us should be our friends, not uncomfortable relatives to be borne with at best or unwelcome strangers at worst.

Maybe we need to pray, maybe we need to catch what is on God’s heart for his people ( that is everyone) in this place at this time, and maybe if we do that we will begin to see things differently….

Today I have been challenged and I have seen God at work, because when a blessing was offered a blessing was received, many were in tears as they came to be marked with the sign of the cross, a blessing from the baptismal waters. I too am moved as I encounter people wanting to receive something of the Spirit even when they are not 100% sure what that is, for it reminds me that God works in the depths of the human heart and soul and in the mystery of what it means for us to be his creations….

As for National Service being the answer to the nations ills as one or two suggested today, I am sorry but I truly believe the real answer is love, a real deep, holy and whole encounter with the lover of our souls, and He is always moving among us if we have eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to receive.

I don’t have much more to say dear Church, I guess I am simply inviting you to join me in a desire to be open, to be welcoming, and to be aware that God so often moves ahead of us and in the hearts of those we least expect him to, if that were not so I would not be among you.

Oh OK, one last thing, let us remember that we are not being taken advantage of; “The Church is the only society on earth that exists for the benefit of non members.”- William Temple

P1018654Dear Church,

I write to you from time to time, sometimes because you encourage me, sometimes because you challenge me, always because I love you, but sometimes like today because you leave me wanting to bang my head on the wall.

I want to talk to you today about how our practices and customs are often so foreign to folk around us, lets just look at it for a second. People come to us for various reasons, now marriages and funerals are pretty straight forward and folk know what to expect in the main, and the service is rarely a mixed congregation of church folk and visitors. When it comes to Baptisms though we welcome visitors into our midst, and for many they are being welcomed into a strange new world, the world of church.

Just pause and think, think about when you go to a a summer festival or to a club or bar where there is a relaxed atmosphere of celebration. I know you do this from time to time because you tell me about it. Refreshments are a natural part of what goes on, as is chatting, so why do we get angry and upset when people join us to celebrate that they do not attend to absolutely everything that is going on? Why be so miserable when folk make remarks about hymns or don’t retain silence through the prayers. And yes I know I asked folk not to take photos during the service and some still did, but when I ponder it, I take photos at concerts and other events, it is normal in many contexts!

I want to ask you to relax with me and with our celebrating visitors and to notice the flow of the Spirit as people catch what is going on. I want to ask you to make room for folk as Jesus made room for folk, to welcome those who come, those who might be deemed “outsiders” by the religious elite, but we are not the religious elite are we? Surely we are followers of Jesus, Jesus who welcomed all who came to him, Jesus who touched the untouchable, Jesus who again and again broke the rules laid down for proper behaviour.

I want to suggest to you that people are not being disrespectful because they don’t instantly fall in to our way of doing things, and even that we might learn something from them, how wonderful it would be if we came to church on Sunday morning to celebrate and to share in that celebration together. How wonderful it would be if we could only relax in God’s presence and be open to responding to the move of the Spirit among us. God does not demand that we sit and stand and remain silent in all the right places, we don’t build our relationship with him because of the way we behave, we build it with him by the way we respond to his love. 

So I guess what I am saying is let’s relax, let’s be willing to be welcoming, let’s worry more about making our visitors comfortable than whether they are behaving properly, let’s come with open hearts to worship. God does not need us to defend him, and his ways are not our ways, he loves the people we struggle with, and it might be worth noting that they probably struggle with us too.

In short, I am thinking of making some changes ( yes changes again), I hope you will help me with them, because the folk that come to us should be our friends, not uncomfortable relatives to be borne with at best or unwelcome strangers at worst.

Maybe we need to pray, maybe we need to catch what is on God’s heart for his people ( that is everyone) in this place at this time, and maybe if we do that we will begin to see things differently….

Today I have been challenged and I have seen God at work, because when a blessing was offered a blessing was received, many were in tears as they came to be marked with the sign of the cross, a blessing from the baptismal waters. I too am moved as I encounter people wanting to receive something of the Spirit even when they are not 100% sure what that is, for it reminds me that God works in the depths of the human heart and soul and in the mystery of what it means for us to be his creations….

As for National Service being the answer to the nations ills as one or two suggested today, I am sorry but I truly believe the real answer is love, a real deep, holy and whole encounter with the lover of our souls, and He is always moving among us if we have eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to receive.

I don’t have much more to say dear Church, I guess I am simply inviting you to join me in a desire to be open, to be welcoming, and to be aware that God so often moves ahead of us and in the hearts of those we least expect him to, if that were not so I would not be among you.

Oh OK, one last thing, let us remember that we are not being taken advantage of; “The Church is the only society on earth that exists for the benefit of non members.”- William Temple

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