It is a truth less than universally acknowledged, that someone in your church will let you down. Maybe they’ll promise to do something, then fail to do it. Maybe they’ll say something thoughtless, offensive or belittling; maybe they’ll misgender you. Maybe they’ll always seem to take and never give. Maybe they’ll miss that something big is going on and hurt you through their lack of curiosity, or their absence. Whatever it is, one way or another, sooner or later, you’re going to feel hurt, disappointed, let down, even betrayed, by someone; quite possibly by the pastor.
Each year on our birthday here at Sanctuary, we re-form the congregation for another twelve months. We commit to a bunch of good things: to worship, work and play together; to be a village for all ages; to offer hospitality; and to share in the responsibilities of being a church. But we also commit to something more: to seek justice, reconciliation, wholeness and peace: and this implies working through hurts, disappointments, and conflicts as they arise. Because they’re going to happen: we’re just a bunch of ordinary humans wobbling along together.
So to those of you who are committing on Sunday to another year together, be ready for this. Decide now that you’ll hang in there, and that you are sufficiently committed to work through whatever emerges: to love well, to speak truth, to acknowledge hurt, and to offer and receive forgiveness. And why?
Because this is when we grow. Not when everything’s all hunky-dory, but when we come face to face with our own fears and failings and reluctance to forgive. It would be nice if we were all perfect, and never stumbled or tripped. But we’re not. And so we have this space in which to practice being Christlike: both human and divine. Human, in that we hurt people; divine in that, when we admit our failings and where we have gone wrong, our hearts may be cracked then healed through the pain and joy and intimacy and relief of forgiveness: that is, by the gift of grace.
Kintsugi is a Japanese practice of visible mending. Broken or chipped ceramics are repaired in such a way that the mend itself is highlighted, often with gold. I wonder if this could be a metaphor for us, with God as potter and kintsugi master? Perhaps the experience of grace, that is, perhaps receiving unearned love and forgiveness despite everything, is the visible mending, the golden seam, which holds our fractured selves together and renders us more tender, and more beautiful, than ever.
PS – Of course, this is about ordinary hurts and disappointments. If you see that someone is deliberately causing hurt or misusing power in destructive, even abusive, ways, please speak with me, a member of the leadership team, our Regional Minister, or the BUV’s Professional Standards Worker. (Unless the complaint involves me, it’s best to start with me.)
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