Lent: We walk into the gathering danger & doubt surrounding Jesus as he made choices that led to the Cross.
This is a time of preparation & reflection.
Where have you been this year & where might you be going?
What are the things that have kept your journey on pause?
What are the choices you have made that you would like to revisit? A Lenten Collection
Lefty the Salesman
Psst … anyone remember Lefty the Salesman from Sesame Street? Well, come over here, and let me tell you a secret … just let me check if anyone is over there, or there, or there … okay no one’s watching. So, you wanna know a secret? Well … I love this United Church of Canada (UCC)!
It’s true, you may have noticed after all of these blogs it’s true. Now don’t get me wrong, we’re a collection of people with all of our own stuff, challenges with listening, sometimes impatient or distracted by our egos, hey we’re human after all! But here’s the gift, the joyful part of belonging to this closing-in-on-100 year journey is that when we shine, do we ever shine!
I could list beyond the length of a blog the things that impassion me about this organised institution of religion. From the very outset we have endeavoured to make space for the Other and to learn from diversity. We have confronted misogyny, homophobia, sexism, social injustice, the list is rather extensive. But I’ll not be tempted to travel down that road. Here’s a snippet of mine, a collection of stories that share a similar thread, which I hope encapsulates what we do so very well when we are on our game:
A shy girl – maybe 4 or 5 – arrives in a congregation as her family seeks a place to listen and learn about God, Jesus and faith. At first, whether with brown hair or blond, tall or short, shaded this or that, she understandably finds this new community overwhelming … but as time passes, as she is embraced and celebrated, you can see her spine straighten: she meets your gaze inquisitively. As the years pass, this community emboldens her, nurtures her and with that support she can be found to speak publicly, to walk prophetically and advocate for the marginalised, to name injustice and – maybe even more importantly – to live joyfully, laugh heartedly and to walk with confidence grounded in humility.
So the really great development this week – sort of the point of this musing – is that I have been invited to be part of the membership journey at Westminster United Church here in Winnipeg. I get to sit on a panel, share some of what I do with the church and – more excitingly – share why this denomination matters. And trust me … it does!
Membership classes during Lent in the UCC are often a part of our journey, our faith ritual. There is also sometimes a tension for a denomination that often questions authority. It’s not uncommon to hear challenges about why membership is important. In fact, there are often a significant number of people in any UCC faith community who are not members and clearly feel at home. So – when questions of membership arise – people can be … terse with one another.
Now – as Lefty might try – I’m actually not going to try to sell you on the idea of membership. I acknowledge and resist any membership process that excludes others or creates systems of power over or marginalises. I accept that exploring membership is often difficult in a culture where commitment, time and competing obligations compete.
I will – however – invite you to consider that membership (as those who long to disciple to others, to continue this ministry thing that Jesus modelled way back in the day) is about preparation. Grounding oneself in a discipline that helps deal with the inconsistencies, challenges and inevitable suffering that is life. This intention – if you will – is a constant movement toward embracing Love as more than a word to sell a product. It’s a movement toward seeing life as joy-filled, abundantly audacious and firmly rooted in a God, Creator, Holy Mystery that longs for you, me and Creation to shine! And – to do that and live into – takes time, it takes a covenant to hold ourselves, others and God in relationship.
Now – perhaps – the way we do membership may be worth exploring. Asking tough questions and listening even more earnestly. Membership, however, as a path toward liberation and freedom is – well – pretty awesome! That all children of the Holy One continue to prepare to tell another story – one of radical inclusivity in a culture of buy-this, discard-that – is brilliant.
So – next Sunday afternoon – I am sincerely looking forward to sitting with a group of people and exploring why this matters for them, because their answers will likely help me continue to refine my own sense of discipleship. And – as we journey through Lent – preparing all of us for the essential paradox of faith … life in death, resurrection and awakening!