What do you know in your bones? In your guts? What words can you put to that knowledge? How else can you express that knowing?
This week is Pride week in Peterborough. The first decision I was asked to make – even before I started at George Street – was whether we would accept the opportunity to host the Pride Sunday service. I was in a pub with the Chair of Worship and she handed me her cell phone. Would we host?
“Of course” I replied “why not?” (having absolutely no idea why not - it was a from the gut decision.)
Our worship leader was an openly gay man who did a great job of celebrating his story of being welcomed into the George Street congregation. Peter educated us about the counter-effects of Pride on the regular Shaming of GLBTQ folks. He also left us with a challenge to keep reaching out and creating the change necessary for friends, family and neighbours living with very real fear as they “come out”.
The Bible passage we chose was Isaiah 58 (the whole thing). It is a great blast at the church of any age. It slams the human tendency to squeeze the heart of GOD’s passion into a religious intellectual box.
The Prophet points fingers and shames the good church folk (who already feel like they’re not doing enough to please GOD.)
The Prophet feeds into the guilt and worthless feelings of people of conscience by pointing out how they end up raising money instead of opening their hearts.
The Prophet becomes one of those voices in our heads that tells us we’re not doing enough, not generous enough, not Holy enough…
’You’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
You ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
and love having me on their side.
“The bottom line of your ‘fast days’ is deficit-reduction.
You drive your ministers much too hard.
4You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
6“This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
I gotta ask ol' Isaiah here…how can we break the chains of injustice when angry blaming dudes like you just load us up with guilt? Every truth you slam us with is just another link in the chains that hold us back in fear, guilt, worthlessness.
You tell us to free the oppressed but you don’t help us to see how oppressive is the guilt that drives us to keep doing more with less and less. How can we be expected to free other’s debts when we are exhausted fighting the debts of duty we’ve accumulated?
7What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Isaiah, your blaming, shaming voice doesn’t help me to pick up the pieces of my own shattered identity. It doesn’t help me with the broken heart I’ve suffered from trying trying trying to do right and ending up with just a mess.
Where do I get access to the heart of GOD? To the courage of Jesus? To the source of abundance that overflows from within and floods out of our ears - the voices of Shame we encounter in church pulpits, finance meetings, and Stewardship campaigns?
From where do I get the message to let me know what piece of the great puzzle is my responsibility?
Pride week has got me thinking that people who have “come out” are those who have been able to listen to the truth of their own best selves. In spite of the Voices telling them what’s wrong with the way they are, Pride celebrates those who have listened deeply to the Prophet within and dared to free themselves from the chains of should and shame.
Pride week has got me wondering how many of us feel like we don’t fit in? How many of us feel that the way we are, who we are, what we have to offer – just ain’t good enough?
How many of us are afraid of “coming out” to friends and co-workers about our faith? How many of us are very very careful who we tell that we are followers of Jesus?
And so we conform to what’s deemed presentable, proper, affordable, easily consumable, and most palatable. We get strokes from those external Voices when we fit in with the ever more oppressive media presentation of “be like this – or else. Inflame the fear of your debts – or else. Change the world – and put the costs on credit - or else."
But the truth is found in an unseen kingdom. The truth is discovered when we listen to the unspoken voice of the One who made us just how we are. The One who tells us it is our childlike love of free expression and silliness that will save us.
Those who listen to what their bones have to say. Those who listen to what their guts and genitals, butts and backs, hearts and lungs have to say. Those who can listen and share what the Prophet within is saying. Those who can hear the music in the discordant squawks, squeaks, and squeals of a people trying to drown out the noise of shame, should, and shall nots. Then…
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.
Not from without, but from within…
1“Shout! A full-throated shout!
Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
thanks to Richard Choe for the photos this week www.wondergaze.blogspot.com