Lincoln Advent: 8 December

Advent Prayers, 8 December
The Joy Foundation

And when you turn to the right or to the left, your ears shall hear a voice behind you saying: “this is the way, walk in it.”
(Isaiah 30.21)

Rules. Always tricky. We know, on the one hand, that rules are meant for our well-being. They show us what is expected and help us to get along. But rules rarely fill us with joy. They rub against our sense of freedom: our hope and expectation that we will instinctively know what to do.

It was risky to couple this sentence from Isaiah with a charity that supports children’s education. It is possible — just possible — that one could read Isaiah as a stern school-marme: ‘When you turn to the right or left, you will hear a voice saying “This is the way. Walk in it.”

Often, that is indeed how we have greeted children in church. Be quiet. Be still. Behave. One of the saddest stories I heard when I was first ordained was of a woman whose better nature fought with her inner school-marme. She loved God. She wanted children to love God. On a good day, she marvelled when children entered the sanctuary: going to see angels and animals, touching the Benedicite she had only ever known as hard chant. But sometimes — if a child stroked an angel’s wing, or danced around the altar — it made her angry. Why should they get to do this? She had not been allowed. Ever.

Finally she named it: “I was taught, as a child, that I must never bump into anyone in church. I must never brush against anyone, or touch them as they went to communion. Whatever happened, I must not disturb them: they were at their prayers.”

All her life, she went to church with sharp defences so that she touched no one, was touched by no one, and she did this in the name of God.

Christ is formed in our midst. We reveal God in our presence, in our actions, and in the rules we set for ourselves and others. There was never a time when the church meant to teach that God wanted us to avoid each other at all costs, or the prayer mattered more than kindness. But somehow, that is what she heard. It shaped her sense of God, and her sense of self.

In Advent, we welcome a God who disrupts our images: who comes when we least expect and tries to set us free.

We pray for The Joy Foundation, which works with children throughout Lincoln. We pray that through their work, adults and children will see the presence of God, and be set free.

the original post is here.

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