Sometimes in my role as priest, it is possible to get caught between two worlds – the public ‘me’ and the personal ‘me.’ This in-betweeness is uncomfortable because it is not managed or controlled, it comes from another direction; not of my own making. Not that I am ever simply a priest or a child, husband, father, friend etc. Most of the time the two worlds merge happily together – public and personal, but on occasion I get arrested. Such was the situation last Sunday when I was caught out doing a publicity stunt. Read on, it isn’t as bad as it sounds.
Our church, like many throughout the land, have been asked to promote a prayer initiative sponsored by the Archbishops’ of Canterbury and York. They have coined it Thy Kingdom Come from the prayer that Jesus taught us – the Lord’s Prayer. The purpose of this prayer initiative is to create a wave of unity, healing, wisdom and love in support of the transformative work of the Church corporate. The timing is crucial here, the wave of prayer has been designed to hit the nation between Ascension and Pentecost, in other words between our Lord’s departure from this world and the arrival of the God’s Holy Spirit marking the birth of the Christian Church. My publicity stunt was supposed to demonstrate just one simple idea that could be used for people to participate in this wave of prayer.
I was asked to pick out a folded piece of paper from a bag, a lucky dip, and read the prayer out to the congregation, so that they might do the same. This is where I got caught out. I was not expecting the prayer to speak to me as directly and forcibly as it did. I was arrested, I found it difficult to shape my mouth to form the words of the prayer – the public and the personal ‘me’ was being spoken to and I had no place to hide, no sound to utter, no recourse, nothing:
“Let God look at you, be open to God’s gaze: the gaze of one who loves you more than you can imagine.”
The prayer was familiar, I recognised the language of love and the unconditionality of God’s grace. But I was not speaking the words, God was speaking to me. So I want to ask if you have ever felt this type of arrest? Have you sensed the full force of love and it’s invitation to share the wonder and mystery of our creation? Have you lost yourself in the midst of ‘the other?’ This type of revelation is not uncommon. We are creatures of love and we are deeply attracted to God’s gaze because it sees us as we truly are, not one thing or another, but whole, real and vulnerable people. Be open to God’s gaze.