The February Pastoral Letter from the Rector
Do you really want to know God? Do you want the power and the depth of God’s peace to flow with your life? Do you want to take the risk of offering your life to the mystery of God’s purposes for you? Are you ready to sacrifice all your wants and desires and simply want and desire his love? Are you ready to give him your life and say ‘Let it not be me who lives, but only you in me!’
If you do, then you must be prepared to become more vulnerable than you have ever been before. And so I must ask you – are you prepared to become vulnerable, to enter the strange adventure of faith, to be immersed in the mysterious depths of God’s being?
Sometimes I think we’ve got the whole thing hopelessly wrong in the church. We believe that we have been saved and that, therefore, life is safe. Nothing will go wrong anymore – we live enchanted lives. And if anything does go wrong, then we pray about it so that it comes right again. But, oh dear, if our prayers are not answered in the way in which we’ve asked, we start to question and to doubt this cosy God in whom we believe we have found safety from the ravening realities of the world.
But that is not the gospel. In Christ we are saved, but the Christian life is not one of cosy safety. It is about taking costly risks, risks of love, risks in exploring the perimeters of thought and feeling, risks in allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to others. The Christian life is not one of spiritual cosiness and emotional stability. It is a life of extremes and risks in which we are called to be vulnerable. And the moment we decide not to be vulnerable, to protect ourselves from the possibility of pain or rejection, is the moment we find we have nothing remotely resembling life in the Spirit of God.
The Christian life is a life of facing up to our essential vulnerability – that’s the way God has created us to be, and the sooner we face up to that the better. It is only when we know we are vulnerable, when we accept and embrace that vulnerability is a gift from God, then he can come and live in us. Someone once said, ‘God can only enter a heart that knows its brokenness’. Only in vulnerability, in the giving of oneself can love ever be known.
God dared to become vulnerable, dared to become a tiny infant, sacrificing all power to become subject to and dependant upon those around him to whom he was given in love. In his final earthly days, when his radical teaching on the dynamic, forgiving and unconditional love of the Father prompted people to kill him so as to silence the power of this love being preached, Jesus made himself vulnerable even top the point of allowing others to take away his life.
At the Eucharist God dares to take the risk of coming to us in Holy communion, his presence in that special way, in a fragile wafer, so light and brittle and humble. God becomes vulnerable because that’s the only way we can meet with him – and we need to become vulnerable if we are to truly meet with him. It’s the story of the camel going through the eye of the needle isn’t it? Jesus says it is easier for that camel to pass through the eye of the needle than it is for a powerful person to enter the kingdom of heaven. The eye of the needle refers to the to the small doorway set in the city wall which people could enter through because it was about their height, but camels, because of their size and the fact that they went loaded, had to go through one of the main city gates. A camel could only go through the needles eye door if it got down on its knees and took of its load, bowed its head and crawled! Well, there’s a truth. Not a triumphant passage, head swaying with power and grandeur with all one’s trappings upon ones back can one enter the kingdom of God, but naked, upon your knees and with head bent. We must humble ourselves and become vulnerable if we are to meet with God.
The Church is notoriously good at not facing up to that one. She talks about humility and vulnerability, but only from positions of power and safety. But then, aren’t we all too good at protecting ourselves with the garments of power, garments which are all too like the ‘Emperor’s new clothes!’ And the child in the crowd who dares to laugh because he sees us for what we really are - is Jesus Christ himself – laughing at our pomposity, laughing not so much with judgement as with love, laughing at the trouble we take to disguise who we really are in our naked vulnerability.
Oh that we would face up to the essential truths about ourselves. We are weak. We are vain. We are essentially vulnerable – and that’s a gift from God. Let us not dress up in the emperor’s new clothes, but rather let us come as we are before the God who made us, the God who loves us for who we are. The God who accepts us as we truly are. Let us come and be embraced by the one who became vulnerable in the cradle and on the cross and know the love that can truly set us free.
Your friend and priest.
“The commitment of faith means involving ourselves in the world of men and women which God created and loves. It means taking the risk of relying on our own depths, on other people, on the way things happen. We don’t need to be starry-eyed and unrealistic and to suppose that we shall never be let down if we open ourselves to others in this way. Christ made himself vulnerable and suffered in consequence. The crucifixion of Christ has placed the possibility of being let down at the heart of the Christian’s faith. But behind the ignorance, fear, selfishness and folly………God is at work, so Christian’s believe, bringing good out of evil, turning tragedy into triumph.”