By the time you read this the Christmas rush will probably be coming to an end. We’ll all of eaten too much, spent too much and, if we’re very lucky, celebrated too much.
In our lives together, as St. Anne’s Church, we’ll be gearing up for our first Messy Church of the year (4:30pm-6:30pm, 4th January), which we’re doing combined with our usual New Year Light Party. This is open to absolutely anybody, of any age. Regardless of whether you are married, single, young, old, regular church-goer, a definite non-church goer, or anything else you care to list. We’ll be having crafts, sports, worship, candles, music and food. Dinner is provided and it’s completely free. If you’re a member of St. Anne’s Church and you’ve been wondering what Messy Church is all about, this is the perfect opportunity to come and find out.
I remember during our first Messy Church, one family were putting icing onto biscuits and they turned to me and said, “I didn’t realise it was going to be this Messy!” I answered, “Well the clue is in the title!” Which got me thinking about are weekly Sunday (and Thursday) services and how maybe be need to put some clues in the title – maybe our Sunday service needs to be called Messy Church too.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting our Church on a Sunday morning is always untidy, or messy (although with Philip’s love for water and sand I’m not promising it won’t be!). No, what I think we need to realise is that we come to church with messy lives – and that’s ok. So often we can put on our tidy faces and make out that our lives are all sorted out before we come to church, and yet that is not what is supposed to happen. Some feel they have to do this – “I’m far too messed up to come to church!” they think (and, sometimes even say!) and yet that’s precisely how we’re all called to come to church. When we come to church we’re not supposed to leave the mess of the world at the door, but bring the mess in with us and hold it before God, and find mutual love and comfort with one another.
I’d like to share a poem with you, it’s written by Adrian Plass and it’s called “The Real Problem” and can be found in his book ‘Clearing away the rubbish’. It’s written as though a child is speaking about their parents:
Sunday is a funny day,
It starts with lots of noise.
Mummy rushes round with socks,
And Daddy shouts, ‘You boys!’
Then Mummy says, ‘Now don’t blame them,
You know you’re just as bad,
You’ve only just got out of bed,
It really makes me mad!’
My mummy is a Christian,
My daddy is as well,
My Mummy says, ‘Oh, heavens!’
My daddy says, ‘Oh, hell!’
And when we get to church at last,
It’s really very strange,
‘Cos Mum and Dad stop arguing,
And suddenly they change.
At church my mum and dad are friends,
They get on very well,
But no one knows they’ve had a row,
And I’m not gonna tell.
People often come to them,
Because they seem so nice,
And Mum and Dad are very pleased
To give them some advice.
They tell them Christian freedom
Is worth an awful lot,
But I don’t know what freedom means
If freedom’s what they’ve got.
Daddy loves the meetings,
He’s always at them all,
He’s learning how to understand
The letters of St. Paul.
But Mummy says, ‘I’m stuck at home
To lead my Christian life,
It’s just as well for blinkin’ Paul
He didn’t have a wife.’
I once heard my mummy say
She’d walk out of his life,
I once heard Daddy say to her
He’d picked a rotten wife.
They really love each other,
I really think they do.
I think the people in the church
Would help them – if they knew.
I love that poem because it sums up so much truth. So often we put on a respectable face as we enter church, and yet we’re supposed to be a family who love one another and support one another through the hard times. The church is not perfect, it never has been. Read about the early church in Corinth, or Ephesus or Sardis in the New Testament, and you’ll soon find that, just like us, they were churches made up of imperfect people. And that’s precisely how we’re called to come to God. Not thinking we’re good enough to come before God, but in the knowledge that God loves us precisely as we are – faults and all.
As the old hymn puts it.
Just as I am without one plea,
but that your blood was shed for me,
and that you bid me come to thee,
oh lamb of God, I come.
We’ve just celebrated Christmas, the time of year we set aside to remember the awe-inspiring, conscious-changing, mind-shattering truth that God comes to us in our mess. God chose to come to us, not in divine power and majesty, but by becoming one of us. And he didn’t become one of us by being born among the respectable, or the rich, the powerful or the pure. But chose to be born as a illegitimate bastard child, visited by socially ostracised shepherds and spent his young years as a refugee, in a foreign county, in fear of his life.
God welcomes the messy, he meets those who don’t have it together and comforts the confused. In this sense, every church should be a messy church!
God bless you all,
P.S. This is the article I wrote (for the parish magazine) which inspired a previous video blog, see below: