Saturday, 27 October 2012

The problem of receiving

I may have had a major priestly breakthrough this week...
I've been thinking about giving and receiving.
Giving - well, I'm a Minister of the Church - I know all about giving. Giving your time, giving your gifts, giving your self in service. Last week's sermon (Mark 10:35-45) was all about servant hood wasn't it?
But receiving...
I'm not sure we clergy are very good at receiving...

If you self identify as the one who gives to others, it can be unsettling to receive - help, advice, rescue. Perhaps receiving suggests a lack within, which someone else is having to fill.
Or take compliments. I have a love/hate relationship with them. They can be wonderful but they can be embarrassing too. Can I receive them graciously? I am not good at feeling in someone's debt. This is a spiritually revealing attitude. Inability to receive is usually identified by writers on inner healing* as indicative of a heart that cannot receive from God.

I have been experimenting with another prayer time in the middle of the day, extra to the Morning Office.
The purpose is to go deeper into God in order to receive.
Because there's a blindingly obvious connection (blindingly obvious to most people; to me, I've only just cottoned on...) between being poor at receiving from others and being poor at receiving from God. This may be a problem that other ministers carry around. After all, they went into the Ministry because they wanted to serve...that's what they do.
We all have false identifications of God. God is not performance oriented, but you wouldn't know from analysing my motivations for ministry.

So this extra prayer time is centred around identification with the ultimate servant leader who didn't hesitate to receive - material support from women followers; a drink from a Samaritan woman; foot washing from a reformed prostitute; anointing from another.
Receiving from God feels very different from pouring yourself out in ministry. It would feel different, wouldn't it? Filling a car up with petrol is a bit different from burning it all up as you manically drive all over the place.

Ministry which is task oriented may make you feel like you've ticked a lot of boxes and been useful and busy (or not) but ministry which begins in being divinely ministered to; that feels like grace, like gift. 
It feels good.
I'd like more.

*e.g. John and Paula Sandford, The Transformation of the Inner Man, 1982.


  1. Receiving from God, and receiving from parishioners and colleagues very important for fruitful parochial ministry. Can say from (bitter) experience that working with clergy who don't think they have anything to learn f/receive from lay people around them is very hard!

  2. yes, the more you think about it, the more unattractive it is to be unable to receive. It dis-empowers others, like you say.
    Thanks for your comment. I hope I go on learning masses about this.