Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Lent for Extroverts 18: Sunny encounters

The sun is out and all is apparently well with the world. Or that's how is seems when Spring is finally, obviously on the way (though it could be tomorrow that an icy front descends from Siberia and plunges us into snow again. I could check my Met Office App for that. Or I could look out the window in the morning).

Like the sun shining on the righteous and the unrighteous alike, today's theme was pastoral care, for all manner of people, inside and outside the church. The diary contained the following, by way of example: follow up a Care Home visit enquiry; answer a wedding enquiry; meet a range of people from the community at our coffee 'drop in' morning; prayerfully ponder their different situations with some welcome help; begin to think about Mothering Sunday service and all the implications of people's experience of being mothered, being no longer mothered or inadequately mothered, or not being able to be a mother; an afternoon visit in the sun filled garden of the local hospice; evening Synod meeting about encouraging local vocations to the priesthood. Busy and fulfilling. Life-giving.

According to which surveys or reports you read, there is either a crisis facing UK church life as congregation numbers plummet, people lose interest in God and fill their lives up with everything else; OR church life is growing, there's a new hunger for God; Messy Church and family services/fresh expressions are springing up and everyone has a building project on. The truth is probably a mixture of the two but with just this small snapshot of 'a day in the life of...' it would seem that people are just as much in need of a Being infinitely greater than themselves, within whom and from whom forgiveness, wholeness and reconciliation are endlessly offered outwards to the world.

Anecdotal evidence might suggest that it is those within the church who are sometimes least able to envisage what the church 'going out of its comfort zone and getting stuck in' might look like, or what the church will look like when it starts to be truly open to all (Hint: different to how it looks at the moment...)

It was the same in Jesus' time. He had to remind the Pharisees that the tax collectors, outcasts and sinners were going into the kingdom ahead of 'the righteous'. Bet they loved that. Once the good news is out, the loving kindness of God cannot be bottled up; it cannot be owned. Growth happens naturally where people encounter the real thing. You plant something in good soil and IT GROWS. You don't have to go out there and hope and pray it comes up. It will come up. Spring always comes. Growth is what happens when organisms are healthy. The future can be sunny.

In the immortal words of Joni Mitchell, Patron Saint of searing-observations-on-daily-life-which-can-be-endlessly-mined-for-comment-on-life-love-loss-faith-hope-and-just-about-anything-else-because-she's-so-wonderful:

How do you stop a runaway train?
How do you stop the driving rain?
How do you stop the ripening corn?
How do you stop a baby being born?*

*(Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight, on Turbulent Indigo, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iU9ICnPfkI)

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