From the Scriptures:
If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
It has been said by some that the song ‘Let it Go!’ from the movie ‘Frozen’ was written especially for Anglicans as its final line states ‘the cold never bothered me anyway!’ I don’t know what it is about Anglican Churches in general and the Church of England in particular but you could easily be mistaken in thinking that a tenet of our faith is ‘being blue-with-cold is next to godliness!’
In one of my churches we have spent all winter saying to each other, ‘something really must be done about the heating’. Today, at last, a heating engineer visited who will service the heaters and get them working properly. Good news with the exception that by the time all the spare parts have been delivered and everything fixed it will be high Spring and time to turn the heating off!
Keeping warm in church can be hard work and the problem isn’t always solved by singing action songs, having a hip-flask, or getting ordained so that you can wear extra clobber without looking like Nanook of the North. Being part of a ‘warm’ church should never mean the thermostat is always set on a steady 20°C. Wouldn’t it be good if Christians could give the lie to the epithet, ‘God’s chosen frozen’ and prove that, regardless of the temperature of the building, their fellowship is always warm and their welcome attractive?
What we really need is not better heating – though that would be nice – or extra clothing, but greater ‘’ shared amongst us. All too easily, and I know this is not just the experience of Anglicans; we slip into an insular faith that degenerates into just looking after our own needs. I am not quite sure how it begins. A cold-shoulder from a fellow worshipper? Not being chosen (again!) to lead the prayers? The vicar too busy to stop and listen your heart’s hurt? There are other things that nudge us to become ‘God’s frozen chosen’ and the more they happen the colder we become until our faith becomes about self-preservation instead of setting the world ablaze with the message our Our Beloved’s love.
When the hymn ‘Jesus, bids us shine’ was first written it was an anthem for action in the world regardless of which ‘small corner’ of it we found ourselves. For many it has become a parody of self-serving Christianity that sees the church tending its own light instead of sharing it in a dark cold world.
The apostle James warns us of the danger of thinking that physical warmth alone can hold the whole of the Gospel. We are each to be warmth to the other by sharing the Body Warmth of the Body of Christ. These traditional Apache words (often used at modern weddings) are both a call and a challenge to us:
Now you will feel no rain,
For each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
For each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no more loneliness,
For each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two bodies,
But there is one life before you.
An Apache Wedding Blessing
We, the Body of Christ are called to bring ‘Body Warmth’ to the whole world. This is for those inside the church, the Chosen Frozen, and also to those outside our buildings, our naked and hungry family, who are too often left in the cold. Until we learn to share our ‘Body Warmth’ no amount of visits from heating engineers or balmy weather will make our churches warm.
How do we do this? How do we, who have grown used to taking care of our own needs, learn to spread ‘Body Warmth’ to others?
Recently a very dear friend spoke publicly of the distance between him and an old friend. Tempers had frayed and things were said that perhaps should have not even been thought. It was tempting for my brave, hurting friend to walk away from things and give up on this part of the Body of Christ. To be honest I would have not have blamed him if he had left and chosen to let his light shine in his ‘small corner’. But he didn’t. Instead he turned to the scriptures and this verse about Jacob’s struggle with the angel spoke to him anew:
‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ (Genesis 32.36)
Taking this verse into his soul he reached out in love too the many who found themselves cold and naked because our church has gotten used to being ‘God’s Chosen Frozen’ and, in refusing to ‘let them go’, ignited the warmth and love of the Body of Christ amongst all who heard his words.
I wept at this, in fact I am weeping now. You see, too easily we let each other go, condemn people as not worth bothering with, or too much trouble, or just plain awkward, and as they leave part of the Body Warmth we all need leaves with them…
Let us no longer be Christians who pretend that the ‘cold doesn’t bother us anyway’ and ‘Let it go’. Instead let us become shelter, warmth, companionship, and even life each to the other.
Teach me, O God,
not to pass judgement on my neighbour
until I have walked many miles in his sandals
and carried his burdens on my shoulders.
Instead, make me mindful
of the needs of my neighbour.
from the church in Chile
- If you are part of a ‘hugging’ church take a little more time when sharing The Peace this Sunday. After all it is Mothering Sunday and extra hugs may well be appreciated.
- Pray over the words of the verse, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ Ask God if there is someone with whom you do not have as close a fellowship as you once had and pray for the strength to share some ‘Body Warmth’ with them.
Just for Fun:
If you would like to see if your denomination has a line in the song ‘Let it Go’ have a look here.
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