St. Mary Nanoose Bay
WORLD DAY OF PRAYER
March 1, 2019
“Come, everything is ready….” So…. there is nothing more to be done. The waiting is over. We have been invited. We only had to make the decision to come. And ….. here we are! How wonderful to come from different denominations to listen, reflect, to pray and give thanks together! I think the joy I feel is more than just my own. Every Sunday the banquet table awaits us; God offering love to us in abundance. Are we not blessed?!
Yet, so many do not enter our church doors; so many do not know the God of abundance, of lavish generosity, of love and compassion; so many don’t feel or don’t even know they are welcome. So many are waiting, but for what, they don’t know.
I was one of those people. I grew up in a non-religious home and had the unforgettable experience of being dragged to church by a friend’s father one Sunday when I was about 11 years old. That experience turned me off church for a very long time. That dinner invitation left a sour taste in my mouth. But over time the invitation was extended to me in ways I could respond to. But I wasn’t able to discern what was happening until years later. The invitation came through the lives of people I kept bumping into; through my relationships with them; through their love for me. I think of my cousin Pam. She was a Christian which made me uncomfortable but we became friends when our boys were born and we started spending time together. Hers was a home that was in disarray all the time. House cleaning was not her forte. But she didn’t apologize for it. No, when I would drop in unexpectantly, her face would light up, she would clear some space at the table by pushing things away with her arm and say, “Sit down! Tell me, what’s new?” and I would have her full attention as I spoke. I couldn’t have cared a less about the state of her house. I came to see her, not her home.
It’s not usually our church buildings that draw people in. It’s the way we welcome them, putting aside all the mess and concerns of our lives, and being present with each person we greet.
I met my future husband Jim when he was a seminarian. He intrigued me and I found his stories about the church hugely entertaining. I never knew religion could be so light and alive. Weren’t religious people supposed to be pious and holier than thou? Obviously not, because here was a very human, warm and funny man who was very much alive and open in his spirituality. He was interested in me and intrigued by what I believed and how I found meaning in life. Our conversations have always involved mutual curiosity and respect.
It’s not our piety that draws people into the church to learn about God; it’s the way we treat people and are interested in them, not pushing our own ideas. It’s the way we answer questions honestly and vulnerably share our own journey.
Right from the time we were married (and we weren’t married in a church – that seemed hypocritical to me), I attended church with Jim because I wanted to be with him on Sundays. I was curious to know church was like, and I loved the music and then sense of peace I found there. I didn’t engage with the liturgy, it was foreign and strange to me. I just sat quietly happy to think my own thoughts. Until 10 years into our marriage ….. I began noticing a tugging at my heart every time people headed up to the altar for communion. That tugging became a painful longing after some months. I didn’t know what was happening but a long story short, I was baptized soon after, and as you can see, my life took a very different direction.
We do our part, and God does the rest. We can never know how the Holy Spirit will move, that’s not for us to know. But we can be welcoming, present, respectful and encouraging. And we can invite people to come with and see what church is all about without pressuring them.
Church is not a building… church is the community; the body of Christ. Once a month here at St. Mary’s we host a Community Dinner. Around a 100 people come to a sit down home-cooked meal in our hall. It is a neighbourhood event. The people who cook and serve come from our church, the neighbourhood and from a local charity that we provide rent-free space to. The people who come to eat come from all walks of life, they are poor, they are wealthy, they come alone or with others; they are our neighbours, friends, and family. One day I was bemoaning the fact that we have more people at any given Community Dinner than at church on a Sunday. Trefor, a retired priest who worships here and helps out at the dinner, reminded me that wherever there is a meal and people gathering to eat together, it is a sacred time and we can pray for and bless all those who come (silently of course, we don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable!)
When we share God’s abundance and when we celebrate together, we bring the kingdom of God that little bit closer. We are feed the people, sit down with the people, and enjoy God’s bounty together.
We can’t know how God works through us. We just need to let go of that and allow God’s abundance in our own lives to flow in and through us in ways that express joy, love and gratitude. That light shining through us is the best thing we have to offer – the light and love we were created to be. So let us leave this place today emboldened to share the abundance of our lives; letting our lives be the invitation to come to the banquet of love.