This has been an interesting month. For some reason I had lost a little bit of my mojo, so while I have been as busy as usual, I have been doing things with a little less zing.
Sometimes we forget that life is like that, it ebbs and flows. Sometimes we feel we can conquer the world and at other times, well at other times we may start to become self-critical and lose confidence, not only in what we are doing, but in how we see the world and our role in it.
I say all this because as you know I am a part time pastor of a great church congregation, full of people older and wiser than me, with energy and enthusiasm that belies their 70 or 80 years.
There is never enough time to talk to people within this community, connect to people in a way that gives time and space to everyone, while also doing the usual worship commitments and the necessary meetings and admin tasks. Sometimes I can feel slightly overwhelmed by the responsibility of it all (much of this of course is my own doing, I have always had a problem saying no!)
And there is often not enough time to find a quiet moment to reflect and think deeply about life, the universe, the God we believe in and the Jesus we follow. An essential part of the Christian journey.
So I went to church today in this frame of mind. And I got a jolt, a welcome jolt. The person leading did a great job, in that it made me think about my own faith and faith journey, and gave me space to reflect on it and where I am at today. Her words really resonated with me, especially when she described God as an “intentionality in the universe, directed towards life”. Or when she spoke about “Jesus presenting us with that intentionality, what it looks like and how we are to respond.” Yes, I felt like calling out!
The leader’s sermon, I hope, can be summarised like this. Jesus calls us to respond in this world with love and compassion, forgiveness and inclusion, not only for those we meet but also for ourselves. Everyone everywhere belongs to God, even our enemies, because the God spark is in all of life, and that includes us. Each one of us, through each and every day, good or bad remains with and in the God mystery. To respond in the Jesus way, to follow Jesus into life, is then to respond with loving kindness to all who travel with us. And to be gentle on ourselves.
An interesting thing happened after the service which brought these words to life in a powerful way.
Over a coffee I caught up with many people I know who have been struggling, have had numerous health issues or are just have difficulty with life circumstances, partners who are deteriorating mentally or physically, while they themselves get older and less mobile. Sometimes people carry heavy burdens, which cannot be easily removed.
Yet without exception, all greeted me warmly and with open hearts, none seemed to feel that somehow I had let them down, and all expressed joy and gratefulness about being present in a warm and caring place. All dismissed my angst about a lack of contact, and all were worried about my own wellbeing rather than their own. I felt accepted and loved by the very people I wanted to care for.
Is this the Jesus way the leader of the service was talking about, you bet your life it is! Does this reflect a God within all of creation present in each moment of our lives, I believe it does. Are we to be bearers of that life and light to each other in whatever way we can? Without doubt. And are we to take this life force within us out into the wider world, to care for those marginalised and without support. Absolutely!
This is a church full of people of faith, not a doctrine driven, ideological centred faith, but a faith shrouded in mystery, a faith lived and breathed and worked out in the world. It reflects the faith of Jesus, a life giving, freeing inclusive faith that somehow makes life richer and more meaningful. Even when it is hard, and difficult, and downright unfair!
So it was with this in mind that I took a call later that evening from a friend of mine who is a refugee in the Darwin detention centre. He is in his mid 60s, a Christian from Pakistan, who I met when he is in the Northam centre. We talk most weeks, and he is continually worried about his wife left alone in Pakistan with little support. Matt and I have sent small amounts of money over the past year to help with medicine but it is really not and never will be enough. Yet my friend feels embarrassed, and ashamed that he has to ask for money. I told him I feel ashamed that I have a government that leaves him in detention for 3 years, and that he is forced to ask me for financial help.
My friend is not very well, which in itself is terrible because he does not seem to be getting good medical care. Every decision has to be ratified by Canberra, even the giving of some medication.
Through all this he is a faithful and open hearted person. Who always asks after my family and my well-being.
As we finished our conversation the other night, he said,
“I know I will be released one day, I know that one day I will be free. Then we will see each other face to face again and I will meet your family and your dog (he loves dogs). Karen I believe that.”
He lives with hope in his heart that things will change. And as he lives each day in detention, he lives as a person who believes that with God, one day all will be well.
Can we do any less? Love will always overcome hate, eventually. Because that is the way of Jesus. A way that I cannot leave behind.
I think I may have found my mojo again!