The Revd Stanley Njoka SCP
One of the common questions that I am regularly asked is “where are you from, and usually, my answer is Camberwell, another question follows on asking… but where are you really from?
May I speak in the name God the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
One of the common questions that I am regularly asked is “where are you from, and usually, my answer is Camberwell, another question follows on asking… but where are you really from??
For those who have been following the discussions in the general synod, you may have heard a motion which was tabled by Fr Andrew Moughtin-Mumby and the response from Archbishop Justin. He said and I quote ‘Personally, I am sorry and ashamed. I’m ashamed of our history. I am ashamed of our failure. I’m ashamed of our lack of witness to Christ.'
When I reflect on the question of where I come from and reading such deliberations in the synod or just following the twitter comments and our politics, I ask myself a rhetorical question-
“Where do I belong?” It is both a practical question and a spiritual one. Jewish writer, Eliezer Shore has written, “Spiritual living is the experience of paradox, living at once within and beyond one’s borders.” We belong here, and we belong elsewhere. As an Immigrant I know this experience well. I live the paradox of only partially belonging anywhere, being both within and beyond present borders. I can’t think of inclusion without a better understanding the longing to belong.
We don’t have to look far to find the truth. The stories of exclusion are everywhere. The stories of boundary crossing are right here, right now. There are many families that have suffered broken hearts and broken dreams because the government has forgotten our countries values and the church is no longer seen as a place of refuge or witnessing to Christ. – The newspapers were quick to label the church as racist after the general synod’s discussion!
What label does Jesus use for himself? The only name or label Jesus really uses in the gospels and especially in our second reading for himself is ‘son of man’, by which he means human being. Jesus only identifies himself as a human being. Not as a Jew, or as an Israelite, or a citizen of the Roman Empire. He is a human being, and that is what the incarnation teaches us also. Jesus is a human being and he identifies with and suffers alongside all humans, especially those who are despised and rejected, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him..'
Either way, Jesus wanted to identify his kingdom with the inclusion and raising up of marginalised people. He eats and associates with the outcast. Being a human being and having solidarity with human beings, especially all those who suffer at the hands of injustice and marginalisation were the things which were important to him. The healing of a boy with a demon, is demonstration of God’s love to all, without checking where the family was from or where they were really from but being able to share in their struggles and bringing restoration.
As Saint Paul, reminds us in his letter to the Galatians; There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Similarly, hear these words daily when the priest is celebrating Eucharist ‘We break this bread to share in the body of Christ. Though we are many, we are one body because we all share in one bread.’ This calls us to think of the labels we use and identify people with but to remember, in God’s mission and ministry we are one – There is no rich and poor, black and white, male and female, Jew and Gentile, gay and straight but we are all one in Christ Jesus.
Martin Luther King not only said he has a dream! But he also said 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere' Jesus showed throughout his ministry – from the very first declaration of his mission in gospel to the very final conversations with Pilate before his death- that, it about rolling back boundaries, deconstructing categories, and flattening every moral and social hill in light of our inclusive God.- He declared all foods clean, he healed the bleeding woman, he taught the inclusion of Gentiles into the kingdom, he ends boundaries that place people in categories of clean and unclean, in the basis of gender, socio-economics, race, or stigma attached to a mental disorder.
As we approach Lent, it might be an opportunity to reflect, and listen carefully, whether we are loving enough or inclusive enough as God’s mission for his creation. I encourage all of us to listen to that call of unconditional love and work towards making the place we live a place where love is more demonstrated than hatred and social class, race, language or sexuality are not defining the character of our people.