**No potty mouth warning, but a request for you to read with grace**
Today's "to-do" list was short from the off. I had decided that there was going to be a single item on it, and I was going to do it well. (Granted, I had forgotten about the assembly that I had to deliver this morning, so that added to it).
Today's "to-do" is simple:
Read and reflect upon "God in Love Unites Us - The report of the Marriage and Relationships task group, 2019"
The list is simple, the task less so.
The task is bound up in my history, my upbringing, my theological journey, my desire to see God, my longing for others to meet him, my calling to "Act Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly with my God".
Wherever my journey with this report takes me, I have to submit myself to God.
This is my "pre-reading" reflection...
Even that I show an openness to reflection and being willing to seek God for myself rather than resting on the traditional theological thinking that I was introduced to from a young age is something that excites some people and disappoints others.
The fact that I am unwilling to tell people on either side of the discussion around certain topics in the report that they are "right" or "wrong" will be seen as a betrayal by both sides, and will in itself condemn me.
But it's not a new concept to me that I'm not who I used to be.
I am comfortable with the place I find myself that says I know far less of the "answers" than I used to, but that I also know far more of God than I did formerly.
Perhaps reactionally to the way I was brought up theologically as a young person, my desire is not to present people with my answers, with my understanding, or to present a recommended reading list of acceptable authors, answers and theologies. Rather I'm interested in journeying with young people and supporting them in meeting God themselves, in discerning who God is and what that means for humanity in line with the sole fact that God, who IS love, IN love is for us.
Don't expect me to come back here and directly tell you what I deem to be right and wrong about the points of the report. My hope is that instead God will help me discern through the revelation of himself in Word, Flesh and Spirit, what the real issue is that he wants us to deal with.
A parable that keeps coming to mind is the Good Samaritan.
In the moment, when the Jewish man is lying in pain on the floor, what needs to happen is that he needs to be seen, to be lifted up, to be bandaged and supported to recover from the ordeal.
It seems like we're always doing that... That we're constantly meeting people who have been hurt, and robbed, and left for dead.
A good church reaches out to those people, regardless of their origins, stories, experiences and journey. A good christian will acknowledge and love their neighbour, and learn that our neighbour is everyone.
A church that is braver, that really sees the pain, does something about the road. It does something about the people causing the pain. It seeks a way to provide safety, for those who travel the road in either direction. It learns to love it's neighbour in peace not just in trial.
I think that is what the Methodist is trying to do here.
I think it's not just trying to bandage up those who have been damaged by all sorts of places, including the church, because of the journey they have been on, but instead is trying to make the path a place of safety.
The root of the matter is what's important, and the title of this report gives me hope: That there can be unity because of who God is, and how he loves.
If God is love, and marriage and relationships are to be built on love, then we have the means and the model and an inside access to what love is at its best... That's what our marriages and relationships need to be about.
I need to read now, not just pre-reflect, not presume the content and re-write it in my theology.
So I am going to sign of with a prayer that I'm borrowing from Richard Rohr, who in turn borrowed it from the Buddhist tradition, and I'm going to seek God as I read:
in order to see with the eyes of the Crucified, we must regularly practice smelling like sheep. We can begin by recognising our own need for mercy and compassion. Then, in contemplative prayer, we receive God's forgiveness as our failures are washed away with God's love. Then, as we move from silence into the world of relationships, we find ways of extending that mercy in other practical ways.
Buddhists have a meditation that nurtures "Maitri", or loving kindness", which can teach us how to hold suffering and awaken compassion.
Begin by finding the place of loving kindness inside your heart;
(Christians might call this the indwelling Spirit)
Drawing upon this source of love, bring to mind someone you deeply care about, and send loving kindness to wards them;
Now direct that love towards a casual friend or colleague, someone just beyond your inner circle;
Continue drawing from your inner source of loving kindness and let it flow toward someone about whom you feel neutral or indifferent, a stranger;
Remember someone who has hurt you, or someone you struggle to like.
Send them your love;
Gather all these people and yourself into the stream of love and hold them there for a few moments;
Finally, let the flow of loving kindness widen to encompass all beings in the universe.
This practice can help you walk compassionately with your brothers and sisters. As God has showered you with loving kindness, you will naturally find yourself showering others with the same...
May I see with eyes of compassion.
Rohr, "A Spring Within Us", 2018:211
Remarcable is one man blogging about Youth Work, Theology, Family, Life and those other random things that come to mind.