Where God’s Beloved Shows Up

As I write, the UK Government is announcing changes to the law to address a serious increase in the number of daily cases of Covid-19. More stringent limits are being imposed on social gatherings, both outside and indoors. However it seems at the moment that church services will be exempt, along with weddings and funerals. Our plans to re-open the parish centre, on the other hand, are likely to be impacted.

One of the great joys of resuming services after the Spring lockdown has been the welcoming of new people within our doors. Some are visiting us in the absence of services in their home church, and bring with them a breath of fresh air and the encouragement that comes from meeting people of faith from other settings. I pray of course that these lovely visitors will find some blessings amongst us here at St. Paul’s, ready to share with their own churches when they return. Some are seeking a spiritual home and may abide with us in the long term, becoming part of our community and bringing new gifts and skills.

I have been reflecting on the gifts that God brings to us through newcomers, especially in the light of these words I came across recently by Barbara Brown Taylor: “What we have most in common is not religion but humanity. I learned this from my religion, which also teaches me that encountering another human being is as close to God as I may ever get… which is where God’s Beloved has promised to show up.”

What the author is suggesting is that an encounter with a stranger, to be authentic, must be open to the uniqueness, the strangeness, the mystery of the other. We must not try to bend that mystery to our own purposes, to write our own story using the other as our instrument. If we do that, we are in danger of mistaking hospitality for territorial control. 

If on the other hand, we are truly open to an authentic encounter with a stranger, we will in all likelihood find ourselves desiring to put on the clothes and adopt the posture of a servant welcoming his Beloved Master back within his doors.

Let us all pray then that as we continue to face the difficulties of the next few weeks and months, we ensure that we remain hopeful of recognising Christ in the eyes of those He sends our way.

Every blessing!

Michael