Hey, not perfect yet? Growing, though!
For a whole lot of reasons, I’ve been revisiting the words of a favourite theologian, Rev. William Sloane Coffin, “I love the recklessness of faith. First you jump and then you grow wings.” My business friends love these words, and my pastoral friends think I should read something else but, you see, they are concerned with healing and not so much with growth as the business folks are.
When I look at the Christmas story, I see a lot of risk in this great story that I and others use as a guide, a spirit leading. I remember two very difficult pregnancies, I remember crying at the baptism (United Church) and presentation (friends meeting) of our two lovely children. How could I send our children out into this world as my faith communities were telling me to? The faith folks said to offer these children to the world with wisdom and care. To look at this chaotic world and then a tender babe, the risk felt too great. It was.
In spite of all my care and wisdom, my children have been hurt by the world. By the holy work of life and the spirit they have become so wise, so resilient, so loving, so trusting. They are well versed in the healing work of the spirit, and love of community. They amaze me! I’m sure many of you look at your children and others around you and think the same — how amazing they are!
Mary and Joseph embarked on a journey of life together, and depending on which story you prefer, they may have started with a little glitch in terms of the pregnancy. They were poor, they were dependent upon the mercy of others and they lived under an oppressive Roman regime that had suspicions about people of the Israelite royal lineage. They were scared. They were followed by a star — or so it seemed. There was a sense of miracle about this birth, and there was more than that in this simple birth: the clear comprehension of angelic hosts around them, and a sure understanding of their preciousness for the whole human race. What, for everyone? Well, yes, because it’s a story about a human birth ordained, chosen, blessed and held — like yours, like all. You don’t have to be Christian to appreciate the message of a story about the preciousness of human life — all life.
William Sloane Coffin quipped, “It is often said that the Church is a crutch. Of course it’s a crutch. What makes you think you don’t limp?” There are many places in our hearts where we can open up to new growth, many places in community where we can live more trusting and trustworthy, more radical and free. Risking the vulnerable truth of ourselves in love, is the hope of the world. So risky, too! But what is the risk of not growing as vibrant, alive, spirit-filled humans? Fear.
Let us all risk a Christmas journey in our own lives. Think about growing in light and love instead of worrying about being seen as perfect, follow the leadings of your heart, leap in faith into the unseen and grow wings. This may be a radical business model but, more importantly, it is a path of transformation and growth. Nelson Mandela was a fine imperfect model. He spent 27 years in jail and was a visionary world leader for hopeful change and reconciliation through to a new way beyond apartheid, in our time.
The miracle of transformation in this world is real, it’s healing, hopeful and can be yours. This life is a journey of risk in love. You are tender, but be brave as the holy family you are and dare growth.
Rev. Shelley Stickel-Miles is the pastor of the Trinity United Church.