Lord, as we rise to leave this shell of worship, called to the risk of unprotected living…
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These lines of Fred Kaan’s diagnose the questionableness of religion: it gives us a shell to live in, even though we are not snails, and it hardens the shell with the validity and the beauty of worship.
Religion and Church are far from being everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, but there are many other shells available. They constrict and separate but also give shelter. Like isolation and bubbles in Covidated times they have value. But they irk and we long for the return of ‘normality’. Sadly our dream of a safe and easy normality is another evasive shell, for what we are called to is ‘unprotected living’.
In any case ‘we rise to leave’ - living is made up of leavings:
Abraham, when called, went out not knowing where he was going. (Heb 11.8-12)
Rise let us go hence, said Jesus, when he had done praying in Gethsemane. (Mark 14.32)
It is good to be here, let us make three dwellings, said Peter, till the cloud covered his confusion and Jesus led them down into the valley of need, struggle, and faith. (Mark 8.5ff.)
Moses led the people out of slavery to worship God in the desert; once there, they moaned: If only he left us in Egypt, where we had bread to eat. They had to risk unprotected living. God let them have no more than a movable tent, not a temple, in the wilderness.
In fear, the disciples met within locked doors, but Jesus got in and said, ‘As the Father sent me, so send I you’. (John 20.19-23)
We live within the shells of ethnicity, locality, language: Holy Spirit breaks the shells, building open communication without destroying the beauties and vitalities of varied identities. (Acts 2)
Unprotected living is often a terrifying prospect. It is a hard struggle to rise to it and we need all the help we can get. It can only come from fellow travellers. Shell-dwellers may offer to help, but, beware, they only know how to build shells for us.
Read Johanna at Daybreak, by R.C.Hutchinson and walk with Johanna as she struggles to leave her shell and come back to unprotected living, ‘the harsh, acceptable, exalting road’.
Written by Haddon Willmer
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