Did You Hear the One About… 40 Days with Cartoon Church
Day 4 – Saturday after Ash Wednesday
From the Scriptures:
We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
Many of the conversations I have with colleagues, parishioners, and the church hierarchy can be put into one of two pejorative categories, either ‘gilding lilies’ or ‘damning with faint praise’. There are other voices, ranging from ‘disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ who condemns everything that does not comply with their own prejudice, to the ‘huggy hippy’ who only sees goodness in everyone.
But it is, as the advert for a new vicar shows, the half-truths and the almost lies, the nudge-nudge and wink-wink of discourse, which bedevils our common life. For myself I have grown used to this ecclesiastical innuendo and have, too often tip-toed carefully in the work of the Gospel rather than always choosing to ‘boldly go’ in the name of the One Who Loves us Best.
Yes, speaking the plain facts is needed, but how is it that many Christians seem only to work with extremes or shallowness?
‘Speaking the truth in love’ does not mean shouting scripture passages at passers-by and roundly condemning them to the fire of hell.
‘Speaking the truth in love’ does not mean ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and covering up things in our common life which are sinful (and even illegal) in the name of some twisted concept of ‘unity’.
‘Speaking the truth in love’ does not mean a shrug of the shoulders and a resignation to the fact that ‘things never change’ so there is no sense in exploring what has been in a quest for the truth.
‘Speaking the truth in love’ means realising to whom we are speaking.
We are not called to ‘Speak the truth in love’ to outsiders.
We are not called to ‘Speak the truth in love’ so that we can ‘other’ people with whom we disagree.
We are not called to ‘Speak the truth in love’ so that we can have a quiet life and a short Church Council meeting.
We are called to ‘Speak the truth in love’ to ourselves.
Yes, we are called to proclaim words of love to all but that is not the same as ‘speaking the truth in love’. This command, like so much of the New Testament is a word to those who are already ‘followers of the Way of the Lord’, not those who have not yet heard the Good News. These are our ‘house rules’ describing how we should be helping each other grow as members of the Body of Christ. Knowing that as we learn to love each other we love ourselves (Ephesians 5v28).
‘Speaking the truth in love’ is much more than attempting, and inevitably failing, at some sort of polite opprobrium. It is choosing to spend time with our sister in Christ who needs help to follow the Way of the Beloved. It is to open our arms to a brother with whom we disagree because we are one. It is deciding that there is no part of the Body of Christ that is to be whispered about, tolerated, or abused.
As the words of the hymn remind us:
Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live,
a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive.
Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ shall end divisions.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.
No conditions, no prevarication, and nary a nudge or a wink. ‘Speaking the truth in love’ means first, last and always loving others in the same way we love ourselves. Anything less and we bring tears to the face of the One Who Loves us Best.
Almighty God, the Father of us all,
we ask you to inspire the people of this land,
with the spirit of justice, truth and love,
so that in all our dealings with one another,
we may show that together we are one in you,
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Anglican Church of Southern Africa
1) Have a look at your church bulletin and notice board to see if they do indeed say that ‘all are welcome in this place’.
2) Next time you are tempted to ‘Speak the truth in love’ pray for the patience to bite your tongue.
Listen to the hymn ‘All are Welcome’ here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sba9cHv9TG8
All Cartoons are copyright © Dave Walker. Please visit http://www.cartoonchurch.com if you would like to laugh even more J
Prayers are from the collection ‘Praying with the World Church’ compiled by USPG.
Please support their work by visiting http://www.uspg.org.uk
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘Did You Hear the One About…’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2017