Friday, March 21, 2008

Called by name ...

On the cross Jesus cried out: Eloi, Eloi, lam sabachthani ..." - "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" ... utterly alone ... rejected by his friends ... he hung on a cross to die ...

Last week, as part of the Passion Narrative the words were spoken that said:

"I have become a reproach to all my enemies,
and even to my neighbours,
a dismay to those of my acquaintance,
when they see me in the street, they avoid me ...

I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind,
I am as useless as a broken pot.

For I have heard the whispering of the crowd;
fear is all around;
they put their heads together against me;
they plot to take my life..." (Psalm 31:11-13 BAS)


The time and space liturgically we find ourselves in, is the place of darkness ... the place of loneliness ... the place of rejection ... A place I have been too familiar with in recent months ...

In the days leading in to the beginning of Holy Week, I found myself cut off from the last vestiges of those I had once believed were my friends ... the rejection I received from them was devastating and real and complete ... the small mindedness of those who cling desperately to a dying vision had prevailed ... like the ancient Psalmist, I was cast aside, avoided and plotted against by those who could not handle the truth in their own lives ...

And so, with a heavy heart I walked through the doors of a place some would call a Sanctuary ... I stepped out of the shadows and crept in the door to hear the story of the Passion - the story that speaks most deeply to me about the human journey ...

I have never feared the dark lonely days of Maunday Thursday and Good Friday ... I have always stood silently in the darkness as the dying came ... I've never rushed the quiet moments of silent sorrow as we mourn the loss of One who showed us what true love can be and is ... I've waited in the dark to hear the excited whispers of the women who first learned the TRUTH of the Easter experience ...

I've long known, that the ONLY way to fully experience the moment of Resurrection is to be present in the dark moment of loss and death ...

And so ... I went ... needing something ...

I stepped in the door and was welcomed ... not just a cheery "Hi. Welcome ..." But welcomed BY NAME ...

I know of a colleague who often speaks of God "calling us by name". But I've always found their view lingering in the shallow end of the Triumphalist Warm Pink Fuzzy Theology that marks too much of the modern era ... while I welcomed the notion, I found the expression of it to be far too simplistic to adequately embrace the concept of being welcomed by God BY NAME ... Being the CHURCH is about more than being a Social Club ...

This day I stepped through the door and was welcomed by name ... greeted warmly and embraced like a lost sheep ...

I sat ... I waited as people gathered ... one by one the flock assembled ... "would they wonder why I (OF ALL PEOPLE) was there?" I mused, "would they be uncomfortable having ME there ??" I thought ...

But one by one, they greeted me ... by name ... with an offered hand ... with a hug ... many with tears in their eyes said simply - "It's so good to have you here ... welcome ..." and over and over it was said - "YOU always have a place here ..."

No judgement ... no reproach ... no avoidance ... just open hands offered ... and hugs given ...

One person stepped up and offered a hug and said - "We've been praying for you through ALL of this Shawn ..." with tears she continued, "know that YOU are ALWAYS welcome here, and that we think what you've been through is so wrong ..."

The service started ... it was like coming home ... it was unpolished and had its moments - stops and starts and interruptions ... but in spite of the fumblings and the occasional "um" or "ah" it was a service from the heart ... it was deeply meaningful because it was about standing in a place of Holiness and encountering the frail and the broken ...

The Psalm reading was offered ... as the words floated over the gathered people ... the place where the Psalmist cried out to God spoke to me ... his words were my words ... his experience was my experience ...the rejection, the manipulation, the lies, the half-truths, all of the things that tore him down and left him slumped on the dust pile ... his reality echoed mine ...

I've heard the whispers ... I've seen the averted gazes ... I've noted those who have cast me aside ... I've borne ALL OF IT with a heavy heart ... I know what it is like to be a reproach to those around me ... I've lived it at the hands of a "Faithful" Church and "caring" friends who will not willingly face The Truth ...

I wept as the Psalmist spoke words of trust and faith that I couldn't feel ...

In my tears I heard Paul's call to the people of Phillipi ... "Sisters, and brothers, ... I can only say that forgetting ALL that lies behind me, and straining forward to what lies in front, I am racing to the prize ..."

"Let it go ..." came the whisper ... "Let ALL of it go ..."

How I wondered ... after the last two years ... after the ever growing list of losses ... how can I let it go ???

Kneeling at the front waiting for the Eucharist, I wondered if I was truly worthy any more ... maybe my inner insecurities were right - maybe I'm not worthy of being loved ... maybe I just need to accept who I am and stop trying to be someone I'm not ...

Then the Presider stood before me ... he looked me in the eyes and said - "The Body of Christ broken for you Shawn ..."

My hands trembled as I took the wafer and ate it ... my hands shook as I sipped deeply from the cup ... I had to let it go ... but felt unworthy ...

I rose to return to my seat ... and was pulled towards one of the esteemed elders ...her arms enveloped me and as she hugged me tight, she said - "OH my dear boy, it is SO good to see you here ... we've been praying for you and everything you've gone through ... it's not been right ...but you will always be welcome here ... " then as I fought back a sob and said simply "thank you" She tightened her hug and said "Oh my dear boy ..."

I returned to my pew and wept ...

My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me? echoed in my soul ... but then came the whisper ... "oh my dear boy ..."

I had not been abandoned ... I had merely lost my way and was sojourning in a place where God's Living Presence is simply Unknown and has long ago been forgotten ...

As I've dug deeply within my self and searched for meaning ... I found it ... Like Deida says - "I've begun to pass from one layer of my life's purpose to another ..." I'm continuing my journey ...

Like the Psalmist ... I've know the sting of rejection and reproach ... I've endured the loss of many things ... I've suffered more than has been my due for ANYTHING I may have actually done ... but in that moment when I offered the words "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?" and felt utterly worthless and alone ...

IN THAT VERY MOMENT ... a voice whispered - "Oh my dear boy ..." and welcomed me HOME by name ...

In a place I least expected it ... I was drawn in and made to feel welcome ...

In that moment ... I learned HOW, to let it go ... the lost sheep found safety ...

... and it is good !!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Was that your old church you went to?

shawn said...

Nope ... wasn't even in the United Church family ... I've grown weary of watching the avoidance of "faithful" United Church people in Minnedosa, Brandon and even Winnipeg ...

I want to find a community that LIVES the Gospel, not some watered down insipid shadow of it that is about an inclusivity based on conformity and sameness ... The United Church on ALL levels has made it abundantly clear that I no longer have a place among them ...

Their LOSS,definitely NOT mine !!

Anonymous said...

just beautiful and what the gospel is all about.
wendy