As I have been preparing to write my 23rd Annual Report as Rector of St. Philip Church, it has occurred to me that there are number of qualities, I hope might guide us as a community of faith.
We certainly do not live these values perfectly. Rather they are a light that might guide us to more fully embody the nature of Christ’s love that is at work in our midst.
I have been posting these values on Facebook. Here are the first five with a brief comment at the end –
I hope that in our community:
we find that we are challenged to perceive
the presence and action of God
at work in every aspect of life
our hearts break open
to the beauty and love embodied in Jesus
and accessible to us in all of life
we are touched by the softening presence of God’s Spirit
enabling us to more fully embody that quality of love
that is our true nature
we accept the flawed reality of our lives
and allow space for the brokenness of all people
with whom we share the gift of life
we acknowledge that, as people who imperfectly manifest
the image of God in which we were created,
we will cause hurt along the way
As I think all discussions of anything to do with Christian faith should, my values for church start with a firm conviction of the beauty and goodness that are our true nature as human beings created in the image and likeness of that God who is love and who manifests with the world in compassion.
Where we start affects where we end up. If we start with the goodness and love which are our fundamental nature, we will be much less likely to wander off down those dark and twisted paths that tragically characterize so much of Christian history. We are radiant sparks of light sprung from that source of all goodness and beauty we call God our Creator.
But, we do not stop where we start. Christian faith is nothing if not brutally honest about the reality of how we human beings manifest in this life. We understand that we live only imperfectly those qualities that are characteristic of our true nature.
The prophet was not engaging in idle polemic, or unnecessary negativity when he said,
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way (Isaiah 53:6).
Talk of “sin” is not dark, shaming, rejection of the beauty of our true nature. It is simply an acknowledgement of the painful reality that we all at times live below the exalted vision of what it means to be truly human.
It is not damning nor judgemental to acknowledge with Paul that,
all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
It is simply an acknowledgement of how we behave in this time-bound material realm.
We have all left home. We have all turned from that radiant wholeness in which we were created. It is impossible to give a satisfactory answer to why we go astray; but we place ourselves in grave danger if we fail to acknowledge the realities of our often dark human behaviour.
We must never assume that any human relationship will ever work perfectly. In church as much as in any other human community, my rough edges are going to rub up against your rough edges. There will be pain.
The hope is that, in the church, we find ways to navigate this pain that do not involve judgement, rejection, shame, and escalating violence. We hope to respond to the hurt in which we share, as a call to return to our true nature and affirm the beauty and gentleness that reside at the core of our being.