Where is Christ's church today?
I often wonder what Christ would think. Sometimes I am fussing over something quite inconsequential and then find myself with a feeling of his presence, right there in the middle of it, helping me to make the right choice. When I wonder why would he be so bothered with such nonsense, I am often surprised by an awareness he wants to be part of my whole life. The little things, the stupidites of daily existence are as much part of the journey to Christ and with Christ.
Our egos tend to want to be seen to be doing the grander things - being successful, recognised, a perfect life. All worldly illusions, yet how many Christians fall prey to such things. Even sitting here and writing this blog is, in part, an ego trip. I am putting out my 'I' to be mulled over, read, commented on or most lilkely ignored. What I say is not important and at the same time it is important. There is a paradox here.
It takes courage to create: paint, draw, write, perform music, act. To be seen and judged by others, to put one's deepest thoughts and feelings of the time out for inspection. Is it any wonder that writers and artists are often the first to be imprisoned in controlling regimes?
Talking of controlling regimes:
"What are you doing that for?" my mother would say, in carping tone. Followed by, "What would the neighbour's think!" The thoughts of the neighbours being paramount. The rules of social convention make us not extend ourselves, so we can fit in with the groups or cliques we surround ourselves by. To operate outside of these rules is cause for exclusion. To keep within them is to keep heads down and be safe, not risk losing face, not be seen to be making mistakes.
Christ operates outside of the rules, yet he does not flout the law. He says he fulfils it, quite clearly. He has another persepctive, a wider, more universal perspective. Those who followed the law made it fit within their own small natures and small ways of thinking - even though they felt themselves to be important personages. The results of such manipulations made it hard for the poorest to live.
How do we make it hard for the poorest and most vulnerable to live? Surely, if we followed our beloved Example then the church would be filled with the poorest, the most excluded and the most distressed of society. There are, I am certain, places of refuge like this, but it is not the norm. We can see in the Gospels Christ made friends with everyone who was deemed unworthy. When he did seem to look down on the foreign woman who begged for help for her daughter, she put him right and he accepted her response with equanimity. He treated women and tax collectors as equals, he made no bones about anyone's actions or past but encouraged them to become new in him, to follow him.
I often feel the ones who bear the worst sorrows of the world are carriers of the cross of Christ for us. They do not have to be Christian but they are doing what all 'safe Christians' are not doing. Suffering, being isolated, ridiculed, punished, spat on.....
The early Franciscans, took on the mantle of this kind of suffering gladly, indeed they often sat in the middle of a town and rejoiced at being jeered at. In this way they were spared the haughtiness of ego, the need to be special in the eyes of others and when they did succeed in establishing a flourishing monastery, Francis would move them to places where they were unknown, so they could start again without the burden of ego getting in the way.
My icon of Christ above is just a sketch but his presence fills my studio even so. Just a few lines making up his face has such an impact. With just a few quiet indications and promptings he steers my days and my activities. From simple cleaning tasks to engaging with humanity. He has put me in a place where I can have time to listen to him and time to offer succour to those who are doing his work in his church in the world. Christ's church is filled with people and barely any of them can be found in a conventional church. I am grateful to this congregation as I see so much courageousness and forebearance. I can see the suffering Christ on the Cross in each one and it fills me with overwhelming compassion and love.
Let's not bother overmuch about what others think and step out and walk alongside those who are carry the cross for our sake every single day all over the world, from all cultures and all faiths and all backgrounds.