Sunday, 22 July 2012

Making a cold place warm

This morning's sermon was given by an ordinand who has been attached to St. Mary's for a few  weeks as part of his training.

The subject was, of course, Mary Magdalene., and the general theme was about making judgements about people.  Gossiping, name-calling, and generally coming to  conclusions about others without any evidence other than our own perceptions.

He drew the analogy  of Christ's acceptance of Mary, warts and all, trusting her and not pointing a finger at her, despite what was said of her by those around him.

A simple enough description of the way we, as Christians are supposed to behave to those in our communities who have very different histories from our own, and in some cases, whose reputations are tarnished.

Much is preached and talked about in the Christian church of love, and we are encouraged to try at least, to love our neighbours as ourselves.  Not a selected few, not the ones most like us but all our neighbours.

Not an easy prospect for most people, and even those who are, so to speak, professionals in the church, from time to  time have been known to 'smite with the sword' rather than offer a hand in peace.

Occasionally however, a spirit of true love, warmth, friendship can be felt, almost tangibly, and it is then that the spirit of the Lord truly moves in us, and informs our behaviour.

Suddenly the miserable isolated unhappy individuals in the group are drawn to  the warmth of the flame and all judgement and criticism is suspended, even if only for a while.

Sometimes all it takes to make a bad-tempered, unfriendly person into a softer more open individual is as simple and small a thing as a listening ear.

It is all too easy to decide what kind of person A or B is from a single glance, or an overheard (often misheard) remark, or worse, from someone else's gossip, and so simple really to talk, ask an interested, not a nosy question, and watch someone suddenly lose their other two heads and become just one of the group.

Many marginalised people will not dare to enter the 'charmed circle' of an existing group, in church or elsewhere, and remain frozen on the fringes until some, enlightened member of that group looks with open eyes and mind and heart, takes their hand and invites them in to the warm.


  1. I so agree with all that you say here Ray. I remember once asking a Christian why they thought it was okay to judge a particular behaviour in a group of people. Their response was to get upset at the thought that I was saying they were being judgemental. Until we all stop being judgemental as you say there will be groups that stay 'frozen'.

  2. a thought provoking post Ray - thank you for this :))

  3. A great posts and I so agree, Ray. Christians above all should be open and welcoming, but sadly we so often aren't.

  4. Jane, Judith, Perpetua. Have only just regained control of an uncooperative lap-top, sorry for the delay in responding.

    I think what I am also trying to say in my rambling way, to quote yet another biblical reference is, "let he who is without sin, cast the first stone".

    Anything which makes us think we are superior in some way to others and then makes it somehow alright to exclude others because we see them as somehow inferior should act as a 'wake-up' call.

    Even in the local welcoming 'coffee and chat' situation in a church this behaviour is not that uncommon.
    So sad really, when what attracts the lonely and marginalised to these gatherings is the hope of social contact, and even friendship.

  5. Well done Ray. You have put your finger on what can be a real problem. I often tell congregations to go out and find people to smile at. Even if they think they've found the village loony it makes them feel better!

  6. Hmmm. Not sure about smiling. It doesn't come naturally to me, despite being a fully paid-up village idiot, but I do agree that we should at least try to make the first move. Often that's all it takes.

  7. Churches can be lonely places, oddly enough. It's often the elderly, I notice, who get overlooked because they aren't very mobile and can't join in quite as much as the younger crowd.

  8. I don't know how typical our church is (fairly so I would guess), but most of the congregation is elderly.
    At the other end of the scale we have young (ish) couples with children, nothing much in the middle.
    I can only speak from my own personal experience and though I am now more confident after two and a half years, at first I found it very difficult to 'invade' any of the apparently closed circles which have formed over a number of years.
    This is not always entirely the fault of the group, it can be diffidence on the part of the new individual which makes them appear 'stand offish'.
    So an effort needs to be made by both parties.