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A final bit of Sabbatical feedback. The first entry in my sabbatical journal following my first trip to St George’s Crypt was “An uncomfortable place initially, because it was so strange and such people I don’t usually mix with”.
If we are to ‘Mind the Gap’, then the distance between our comfort and our discomfort is one of the most dynamic places God can do His Kingdom work. There is a little service of worship in the Crypt dining room every week, and I realised that the people who couldn’t bring themselves to sit on the front row, but skulked around on the edge of that little worshipping community were the people who contributed the most to the service being so real and meaningful. Prayers about the legal custody of children, the theology of “are we all condemned because we’re all sinners”, and the bravado Jack-the-lad character who asked if his daughter who died three years ago would go to heaven, mix with the presence of a cross dresser singing from Mission Praise, and a scarred young woman sitting sobbing quietly, and you realise the presence of God. The work of the Holy Spirit was so real and tangible, you could be walking in the pages of the gospel – for here was Jesus present in worship with those who both need and want Him in their lives.
Discomfort. For several sessions of volunteering, I worked in the kitchen. Washing up, helping the cook, mopping the floors, serving the lunches; Through all of it I looked out upon that dining and social area at the clients who value that place and it’s staff and it’s work so much. Sometimes I got angry about why they were being served and I was doing all the work, and a few stories of Jesus began to whisper themselves into my heart about the first being last, the return of the prodigal, and the judgement offered by the arrogant upon those who have too long been held captive, imprisoned, or shut out by the powerful. Love is tough, and loving is uncomfortable. Emotions run deep and needs are layered over with inadequacy and vulnerability. I tried to hide the fact that I was a ‘vicar’, but when one employee found out he said graciously but firmly “If Jesus was to be resurrected today he wouldn’t go to church he’d be with these clients”. I chose not to argue with the finer points of his theology, but to agree with his sentiment.
It’s nearly Christmas, when again we celebrate “Jesus being resurrected today”, we shall tell a story about not fitting in, hardly being welcome, and God sliding quietly into this world that didn’t understand him and tried to exclude him as a vagrant problem. Discomfort is the place of God, it is where his dynamic Kingdom work is done.
I hope there is some discomfort in Christmas this year, it’s the place we’ll find the Lord at work.
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