Northumberlandia, the naked lady.
On Friday travelled up to the north-east of England to visit some of my favourite people, the people of Cramlington. The purpose this time was to be part of the celebrations of Geoff and Lynne Reed’s 60th birthday. Two people who have become so precious to us as part of our ongoing journey. Real friends for a real journey. How could we not help celebrate their special occasion, even with a twelve hour coach journey ahead of us. For the first time Allison accompanied me to the north, and we stayed with two more precious people Al and Paula Coates, and their amazing family. The celebrations were great, how could you not enjoy a 60th birthday party where they play Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ :). We were truly embraced and welcomed into Geoff and Lynne’s family during the weekend. Love you guys. While there we were taken to Northumberlandia by Al. This is a redeveloped site that caused a stir because a human land-form sculpture of a naked lady reclining was put on this site. Complete with peaked breasts and nipples she was created for all to see and walk upon. This created a stir when first proposed and created within the local press, and there were a few protests going on, even from Christians denouncing the paganism within it all. What I discovered on the visit there though was something of incredible beauty. We really love a good old protest about stuff that God does not give a fig about. But what I found really interesting was that the view from the top was not just of amazing panoramic views, but of an open cast mine. A mine that in reality should never have been built so close to residential areas. The reality was the naked lady was a sweetener to hide what was really going on. The issue of mounded breasts of a naked lady was never really the issue. The issue was not the real issue. But how we love to get distracted on the things that are not really the big issues and often then never get to the crux of the matter. This reminded me so much of the journey so many are upon. Issues become the issue that are not really the issues.
The Naked Church.
I find on the journey the main issue has become about being inside and outside the walls of the church structure. Those inside the church judge those who have stepped outside as being out of fellowship, lone rangers who walk for individuality rather than a corporate body, hurt, offended, rebellious outsiders that refuse to submit to leadership or sit under authority. They accuse them of being backslidden and just going through a phase. Those outside the church walls accuse those inside of being servants to the system, being controlled, manipulated, serving a monster system created by man that needs to be de-constructed and demolished so that something freer can be established. These people cannot understand why people still feel the need to go to church religiously every week. Both view the other with equal suspicion. The problem is what has become the issue is not the real issue. It has never been about whether you go to church or don’t go to church. It is not about living inside or outside walls. This has become the issue with many but it is not the issue. I know I have used the phrase ‘outside the walls’ many times myself, but that phrase creates another faction, an us and them scenario that we are trying to get away from. We need to live not inside or outside walls, but live as if walls do not exist. Like Jesus after His resurrection appearing to His disciples inside the locked room. They tried to create a wall, an us and them, but Jesus walked through the man made partitioning and walked among them as if the wall never existed. That is now we need to live. It is not about being so radical I can live without church and Sunday worship etc. We may walk there and for good reason, but leaving church was never the issue. I would never tell anyone to leave church if that is not what they want to do, that becomes as much control and manipulation as being in church and making everyone feel guilty for not going. Now we can so easily make them feel guilty for going. Going or not going, not the issue. My wife Allison still feels the need to attend a place of fellowship on a Sunday. Over the next few weeks I am hoping she will tell a bit of her story on here. That could be an issue to us, but it isn’t. She has reasons for going that are bigger than the issue of going, and only anyone who talks to her will discover those reasons. I support her 100% in her decision and in her walk, as she support me 100%. When we talk beyond the issue of going or not going we find heart that so often agrees. Not on everything, but hearts that are discovering expression, freedom, love, journey, reality. If we made the issue that issue then our relationship would probably be on the verge of crumbling, but there are real issues at stake here.
So what are the real issues? Love, faith, hope, you cannot get bigger issues than those. Freedom, expression, heart. To challenge all levels of control and manipulation of mankind upon mankind in any shape and form. The challenge of empire and hierarchy over a Kingdom where all are equal sons and daughters. Where all have a valid place of expression and contribution. Where the voice and vision of one has suppressed the visions of all. Where submission becomes following me and not about one another. Where what one has to say is more important and correct that another’s voice. Where my interpretation and doctrine is the only correct opinion. These and many others are the real issues we face. The daily experience of people being crushed, spiritually abused, wounded and nullified for the sake of building a church. Where leaders make the option to not go, not an option. Where attendance overtakes life and family and self preservation. Going out of guilt and pleasing others. Never being free to wander, even if it is the wrong direction. To never think another way or hold different perspectives. To protect the few against the evil world, that in reality is full of precious humanity full of the Divine. To therefore see the world as evil and something to avoid. To allow people to walk and express in the way that they see as right for them with full support and love and hope and joy at what they are discovering. I walk where I walk because I walk here. It is not about having left the church because I cannot leave Church behind wherever I walk. It is not a place to come and go to and then leave. It is what we are in all it’s glorious expression. I find myself here and at this juncture it is right. There is much to discover in the wanderings. But not going to church is not the issue. It is rediscovering the naked expression of faith. Next time we protest about what people are doing step back and think awhile. Why are they where they are? See beyond the issue to the real issues. Speak into the real issues and not fuss about the issue. It is often never about what we really think it is.