Blog-land is an easy place to point the finger. Even when we don’t mean to. I wrote the previous post originally as a talk for my little congregation, and I thought I would share where it changed at the end as I preached. Because I think I began by pointing at the mythical ‘they’, and ended up pointing at very real ‘we’.
Jesus saved – the Greek word is loosed – the woman in Luke 13 from being physically bent double by her condition, and from being socially and psychologically bent double by her religious leaders. That is great and it is interesting and like all Jesus’ actions, in itself it stands alone as worth telling. But the question is always, what about us? What about me?
I love my small congregation. With some notable exceptions, they are mostly ladies over 70, who have been following Jesus all their lives. I know some of some their stories. When you’ve lived over 70 years there is a lot of story to know. The question for me was, have any of these wonderful people been bent double by the weight of obligations and expectations from their religious leaders? From me?
The same question is for you. Have any in your congregations? If you, like me, are a ‘religious leader’, have we done it ourselves? How have our people – even us – been treated by the church (which is us) as we have gone through life? If we’ve been divorced or got pregnant outside marriage; if we’ve fallen out with the vicar or the powerful people in the church; if we see life differently; if we find it hard to read and so cannot offer ourselves for the rota; if our children no longer come. Things might be ok now, but we humans can carry hurts for so long. A year becomes 5, becomes 10 becomes 30 and we still hurt. We become bent double. Who is holding us down?
Sometimes it is easier to keep people down rather than let them challenge us, sometimes the oppression is easier to maintain and safer to implement than to allow free-thinking and free expression. Sometimes it is easier to let people think the clergy/priest/minister/pastor is different, on a higher level, above reproach, got a hot-line to God and a ticket to the front of the coffee queue than it is to join the queue for coffee at the back and wait like everyone else.
There is a difference between leadership, which we have to do, and elevating ourselves, which we must not do. There is a difference between encouraging people to be good apprentices of Jesus, and accidentally enslaving them on a conveyor belt of expectations and obligations.Even with my low view of ordination and the priesthood, I sometimes find myself enjoying the tiny pedestal some people put me on by virtue of my collar. I am part of the establishment. There is no ‘they’, only ‘we’.
So let’s not always think the liberation is for others and the liberating has already happened. And let’s not underestimate the hurts people carry with them from school all the way through to old age. If we are a part of it, we need to address it. We are our people; our love must not betray, dismay or enslave, but it must set free. It starts with we. With liberation from we. For that is what Jesus did. Simples.