Thursday, 7 November 2013
Dear Inner Circle,
In Adelaide’s CBD once I was walking past a building site when a hammer dropped at my feet. I was about 19 years old at the time and I simply kept walking. It was only on my way home that I fully realised that I had come within half a step of instant death. I reported this event to my parents who just assumed I was exaggerating which, I have to admit, is a bit of family tradition. I was still quite naive at that age and convinced myself that 'everything happened for a reason'. Now that I’m old I can’t bear to hear that phrase. It’s cheap and shallow comfort and better avoided. Even when it comes from a good heart, it has the effect of throwing petrol on a fire of suffering.
There is no God pushing buttons that makes a hammer miss my head by a hair. We are not puppets and nor are we set in some jigsaw puzzle with the task of making everything cohere. I saw a father carry the white coffin of his infant child to our altar so that we could bury the child. This loss did not happen for a reason; it just happened. Recently I sat at the bed of a good woman whose life was a rare gift to this community. She went to hospital for a minor operation and the doctors opened and closed in the one action. Only a couple of weeks later she was gone. This week a man with five dependant kids was sent home from hospital with nothing more the doctors could do. What remains is weeks, and perhaps months, of the journey to the end; a journey that is so familiar to me. I can only hope that they are spared the nuisance of some religious ding-a-ling who suggests that if the man had enough faith the cancer would go away or someone that tells the children that Dad is dying "for a reason”.
All of us know that to love is to relinquish control. The act of love is to become vulnerable to the other. Love doubles our joy and also our sorrow. What hurts the other, hurts us. I can’t see how this could work differently for God than it does for the rest of us. A God of love must be a God of sorrows and when we love and embrace the pain of love, we know God, whether religious or not. To be betrayed by a kiss; to look into a face whose beauty the owner cannot see; to watch a person, who is a fine human being, destroy themselves for no reason; all of this is to participate in the life of a God of love and a God of sorrows.
So, there is nothing level about this playing field. 'Sh*t happens' it says in the bible (somewhere) and you would think it ought to give us the incentive to recognise in everyone who is doing it tough, that it could have easily been us if it wasn’t for others who believed in us, educated us, encouraged us, used their contacts for us; loved us. There is no ground for any of us to feel above anyone. In truth there is no 'us and them', there is just us.
Our hall has been equipped with audio and lighting and soon we’ll celebrate this amazing achievement. Our new commercial kitchen is finished and just waiting for a tick from the City of Sydney before we can use it. This facility will revolutionise what we can do with food and it will help us meet the ever-growing need in our cafe. It will also provide training for people that could lead to employment in that field. We’ll celebrate this achievement shortly. The upgrade of the hall was made possible by the NSW Government and the kitchen was constructed via entirely private donations. Our Kokoda trekkers are home now and soon we’ll gather them here to hear their stories and to celebrate their mighty achievement.
At the Imperial Pub in Paddington this Sunday night we'll be hosting another of our monthly community events. Come for 6pm to organise some food and at 7pm I’ll interview Reverend Elenie Poulos, the Uniting Church’s voice on social issues. There will probably be some surprises and an opportunity for Q&A. The goal of the evening is not to solve the world's problems but rather to create community. We'd love to see you there. Email Guy Cooper if you're coming so we have an idea of numbers.
With love and thanks for being part of our inner circle,
Rev. Graham Long
Pastor and CEO
The Wayside Chapel
Click here to listen to podcasts of past Inner Circle's, aired on ABC 702's 'Afternoons with James Valentine'
Be sure to follow Graham on Twitter if you have an account; @waysidepastor
Previous Inner Circles
31 October: I am therefore I think
24 October: We are surrounded by heroes
17 October: When you least suspect
26 September: A wayside wobbly
19 September: Knowing a gift
12 September: Advancing at the retreat
5 September: A little dose of good
29 August: Fighting with a feather
22 August: The boom is just beginning
15 August: True riches
8 August: Small is beautiful
1 August: Sensitive people miss all the best views
25 July: A whole lot going on at wayside
18 July: Kings Cross a place of courage
27 June: Holy ground