Home was a weird place for me growing up. It was not really a safe harbour – it was inconsistent and I had a hard time sometimes knowing where I fit and school was the same.
Since leaving home and public school I’ve worked to create home. Looking for welcome – creating stability and a place that everyone was welcome, including me. There was just one problem with these places, God kept showing up – and pushing, calling me back to community and people who loved me – irritatingly challenging assumptions that I had made or wanted to make, like that I wasn’t enough or that I didn’t really need people.
And church – once I found it – was a place that I belonged. It seemed glad to have me. There were people as awkward as me there. I could be left alone or welcome to join in. I don’t remember caring when we brought in a new prayer book or about what happened in the liturgy. But I really cared about the people there and they cared about me. Asked me how I was – noticed when I was missing.
I had one Sunday school teacher when I was a teenager who, was also my friends mom and when she would bump into me, she would ask: when was the last time you had communion Marnie?
That always caught me off guard and sounded weird – what teenager thinks about that? Not me and not me in front of other people. But she wanted to know- what she was telling me was that I had missed something.
Always, for as long as I can remember there have been small things that have drawn me back to church – back to the table – back to the people there. Often I went reluctantly, so that the nagging feeling inside would stop for a while.
In my later teen years it was the provincial youth movement and then a retreat centre called Sorrento Centre – always it was the people there.
And so when I read tonights Gospel – despite the fact that commentators want to align God with the unjust judge – my experience has been that God is more like the widow. My experience has been that God is always there – always asking for me and my attention and reluctantly I give in, sometimes so that God will shut up and leave me alone!
‘When was the last time you had communion Marnie?” Who knows? But maybe if I show up at church she will not ask me that again in front of other people. So I would go – and then I would get there – and be welcomed and cared for. And I would find myself grateful that I had been asked.
When I was 16 I worked at Sorrento Centre for the summer – because I was 16 and it was a summer without my parents and my friends were going – so yes please. But it turned out that God was there too. In the deep relationships that were built and the love that I found, in the campfire songs and the late night teen angsty conversations
And that place became so important for me in my journey – it would be where I applied for seminary – where I would meet really important people in my life. It would be the place that taught me the value of community.
I would wander away and always there would be someone who pulled me back and remind me that I was loved and that I belonged. And always reluctantly, I would give in and then be so glad that I did.
I have no idea whether or not the unjust judge was glad in the end that he offered the widow justice or not – but I do know that every time I have given in and paid attention to God, it’s been life changing for me.
When Bill started his contemplative prayer group – which it turns out that I love and am always more centred for – I only went because I love Bill and wanted to support him – not because I think that sitting quietly is a good plan for me.
Ask my family – I am generally terrible at sitting still.
I can’t do it for more than 5 minutes at a time before I head off to wipe a counter or fold laundry. But I went and Bill was there with Andrew and Kenny so were some others – and so was God. And it was beautiful.
While I was still in seminary I went to spiritual direction because my Bishop said that if we are going to be ordained then this was an important practice for us. I had NO idea what that was or what it meant and I had NO idea how to articulate anything about my spiritual life and talking about me for an hour sounded ridiculous. But I went – and there was my spiritual director and so was God. And it started what has become a really important practice in my life.
Over and over again God has shown up in persistent and beautiful ways that I would never have chosen.
I relent because I love the person, or it’s my job or my Bishop says I have to – and then my heart is broken open and I’m more grateful that I’ve ever been.
Many of the things that I am asked to do as a priest I feel completely underqualified to do: show up at a hospital bed, preside at a funeral, offer absolution when I am fairly certain that I am the biggest sinner in the room and over and over again it’s as though God says just go, you’re not going to be the only one in that room – I’m there too, you are also forgiven. And I’m broken open again.
SO the question at the end of this parable where Jesus asks: when the son of Man comes, will he find faith, is so interesting to me.
Because much of the time for us, justice looks like showing up and noticing others.
Justice looks like leaning into love and regardless of our fears – going to where we have been asked to go – even when we don’t want to. And the faith, at least for me is in the knowledge that I don’t do any of that alone.
God delivers justice through God’s people and through our love for one another and for creation.
Love is the ultimate act of justice.
But I don’t think that we believe that. I think we feel overwhelmed or busy or full.
I would not have gone back to church if the people there hadn’t welcomed me. I would not have gone to find communion if I didn’t feel loved when I got there. I would never come back to work or stand at a bedside if it was only ever hard and terrible or if I had to do it alone – but every time whether I notice it or not – love is in those rooms or colleagues call afterwards to check to see how I am or grab me after a funeral and let me cry before heading out to the reception.
Love shows up. God is already here just waiting for us to pay attention or to let ourselves be asked.
God is persistent and waiting.
I spent a long time like the judge not really caring about God or liking people very much. But I went to church, not by my choice and I met God in the people there and it became the place that I belonged. I loved the people that I met – I had to be convinced of God. But God never had to be convinced of me – God never has to be convinced of you. God waited. Eventually I relented and now I know that God loves me. Despite my crazy, grumpy, too quick to get angry self.
God waits on us. And persistently shows up asking if we are ready yet to pay attention to the love in the room. And we can refuse but that doesn’t mean that God is going anywhere.
So maybe your experience of church hasn’t always been like mine – maybe you haven’t always felt welcomed or loved but that doesn’t mean that God isn’t here waiting for you – it means that sometimes people aren’t very good at seeing it.
The justice that any of us can offer to this world is to love it. To resist the evil of abandonment or exile to notice where love is in the room and to welcome it in and then follow its lead.
Where is faith? Faith is in love. It is in welcoming each other and offering safe harbour and noticing when one of us has been away.
A few of us have been attending Anglican 101 on Tuesday nights and on the first night I led a short workshop on Anglican Spirituality and Temperament and we had to go around to pieces of paper that were taped around the room and talk about where we resonated and where we did not.
And the last exercise was to go the one that you think best shows up in your church and a little group of the St. B’s people went to ‘Being in Community with God and with Others.’
And then you talked about how when you came here you were welcomed and when you were away people noticed and welcomed you back.
Love shows up here.
My heart is broken open here – it was broken open that night when you talked about the things that you love about your church – because you have made it this way.
So let me say this again – God is persistent in loving you and in waiting for you to notice the love that is in the room. And whether you give in reluctantly or open to it with open arms – God will take it and run.
Because what God wants you and wants you to know that you are loved not despite anything but because you are.
And then God wants you to do the only thing you can with love, to offer it to someone else.
Gods love is here to be shared – to be offered freely and willingly – It’s just too big to stay with one person or one group – so that when the Son of Man shows up – in whatever form God finds love.