Hear our voice, O Lord, according to your faithful love.
Robert Mapplethorpe. Anemone. 1989.
A word of hope
Put simply, Christ's is the less-travelled Way marked by open tables, acceptance of 'outsiders', refusal of violence, challenge to the rich, forgiveness and repentance, resistance to the powers-that-be, conflict through the cross, the foretaste of risen life, and the shock of the Spirit—the one who surprises us with liberated meaning.
What we long for in Jesus' company, therefore, is not mere 'tolerance' or illusory power for ourselves. It is the impossible possibility of God's domination-free kingdom (or 'kin-dom', as a South African theologian once beautifully put it).
The Gospel is about precisely this unimaginable love. It is a love that subjugates power so as to absorb rather than inflict violence, to embrace rather than deny suffering, and to endure in (rather than escape from) death.
Here exists an alternative understanding of 'freedom'—not as random license but as disciplined commitment. Those who grasp at life lose it, says Jesus. Only those who are prepared to lose can gain, because what they are gaining is far greater than mere self- propagation.
Of course what makes this promise possible (and for many, impossible) is that, by definition, it can only arise from the unconstrained life of God, not from our own capabilities, fantasies and projections. …
To be authentically 'church' is to be the community made possible by this realisation. It is to open up an encounter with those who are different to us. It is to be possessed by the crazy idea that chaos, conflict and contract are not the only possible renderings of diversity. There is covenant towards communion too.
Rescue (salvation) is the unspeakable necessity that meets us in the Gospel as we consider what this hope really requires, however.
We cannot do it on our own. We need to be radically changed, personally and politically.
The baptism we are offered, through death to life, is the means for this. It is not a reduction into a narrow, self-affirming, life-denying sect, as many preach and believe today. Rather it is slow, continuous transformation within a community of welcome and rejection, gathering and dispersal.
We welcome people, but we reject what degrades and divides.
We gather in as the Body broken and renewed, but we receive that brokenness and renewal in the world, not in our favoured religious hiding places. from: Simon Barrow, "How Christianity Can Kill or Cure," in Fear or Freedom: Why a Warring Church Must Change. (London: Ekklesia, 2008), pp. 10.
Ivor Gurney. Chant to Psalm 23
May God our Redeemer show us compassion and love. Amen.