1.7.09

...until September

...we ate together.

Christianity.

What other faith unites its disciples as sisters and brothers, encourages them to share all that they have and most often around the table? Table-fellowship - eating and talking. We share our lives and wonder how we might add members to the family; how we might go out to be salt and light. We are encouraged to share our diversity and marvel at it, how each one of us is made unique by God with particular gifts which we can use to his glory. Living passionately and gratefully and looking to Jesus as an example for what life and death should look like, we are accountable to one another and to God.

It is a truly radical and exciting way to live. To take your hands off the wheel and allow God to drive the vehicle (don't push the metaphor too far), you do not know quite where you will end up but only that God will be there behind you, in front of you and besides you and so you will be okay...you'll be more than okay...

...we ate together. We all came together with a diversity of needs and backgrounds, with concerns and questions, some about the health of our children, some about landing times in Chicago, some off to start a ministry in a seaside town in Wales and some of us with no idea what the future might hold but a confirmation that a husband and wife ministry will develop with outreach to the Muslim community and that this is what the last three years had been about; one to start ordination training at Ridley and others to continue in their house groups, one to speak for Torch Trust and one to sing in a Pentecostal Church...

...and me...well, who knows...

...so until September...

May God keep us all safe in whatever we might do, walking with him daily, our guiding light and the reason that we have all come together to eat.

Today was my last day at college. I will return in September; maybe as an ordinand and maybe not as an ordinand. In some ways and in the bigger picture, it matters very little.

I am very grateful to all the people who have helped to rub my rough edges a little smoother this year. I am also very grateful to all the people who helped me to become a little more comfortable about the things which make me - me; to the people who celebrated my 'energy' - how kind; who smiled at my muddled wonderings...

Looking back, I started theological college on a mission. But whose was it? Was it God's? Was it mine? I had my questions. They needed answering! Wow! My questions are everyone's questions and everyone is wondering about the answers. I wasn't the first to ask them and nor will I be the last! Have they been answered. No. The fundamentals - yes. The secondaries - no. So we live with the tensions and that's okay and we live inclusively. We submit to one another as to the Lord. We elevate the other as God exalts Jesus and we see the Jesus in one another. So, there is nothing that can cut us off from the love of God, not our gender or our sexual orientation, our creed or colour or culture. Denominational difference is nothing to the Lord, nor are political affiliations or stance on secondary issues. So I have mellowed a little. More passionate about some things and less so about others. I no longer battle an imaginary injustice but care more about the real injustices. I no longer race at this thing, cramming as much of it into my brain as I can but realise instead that God has all the time in the world, beyond world. I no longer bristle at the thought of the quiet times for there is no longer a 'nothing to do then' but an 'everything to be then'. So unfinished but at least at the starting line with a vision of the road ahead but asking to be equipped for the long-haul and not so much running as being carried.

My lecturer Daryl will return to teach the Pauline epistles to some blessed students in America and in the evenings he will wait tables (the original deacon). Daryl taught me much: about the Old Testament - a little and about life, a lot. He did suck the marrow from the bones of life and considered every day a gift. He did live vibrantly and expect life to be vibrant. He looked for the beauty and the sorrow in everything and wore his heart not just upon his sleeve but upon every part of his attire with each of its beats so raw and on view so that he might inspire us too to live a little more honestly and vulnerably, extending invitations to all, as if saying come witness the near mess I made of it all but in God I am redeemed. Come see my soul and find the dark places amongst the bright. It's okay. There is always hope. So love God, love his Word and love life and make sure you live it in relationship with God and other people no matter how hard that can be.

I have not cried so much in a classroom since I was five years old!

Thank you dear Daryl who referred to us all as his 'dear-hearts'.

I have learnt loads this year about myself and God and other people. It's all just beginning, whatever it is and I am so happy to be here.

10 comments:

poppy tupper said...

As you ask, both Sikhs and Hindus have fellowship meals as central parts of their life and worship.

Rachel Marszalek said...

Yes, interestingly the Hindus also worship a saint called Ishu, who was born in a cowshed, was visited by three holy men, performed many amazing miracles, walked on water and spoke a wonderful sermon on a mountain! Jesus, in effect. He isn't God though as we understand him to be in the trinity.

However, I think Jesus lends to Christianity a special sacredness in terms of eating and drinking, though.

He redefined the meals had by Mithras and followers of Adonis, Attis, Osiris, and other Pagan Gods of the Mystery Religions.

There is something very deep going on in Christianity when we eat together, or at least that is how it felt to me on Wednesday.

Jane said...

HAve you ever been tot he Sikh temple at teh time they put the scriptures to bed? Or when meals are cooked for the whole community? IT doesn't mean to me what the eucharist does but it is powerful stuff and very moving and deep

poppy tupper said...

I really appreciate your reverence for the specialness of the Christian, sacramental meal, but I'm uncomfortable with your implied suggestion that there is not 'something very deep' in the worship meals of other faiths. I'd also mention the Sabbath weekly meal and Passover. All of these also have a 'special sacredness'.

Rachel Marszalek said...

Yes, there will be something very deep for Hindus and Sikhs when they meet together in this way, which I can respect whilst at the same time dwelling on the uniqueness of Christ and how awesome the eucharist is.

poppy tupper said...

I'm going to press you on this. Of course, Christ is unique. But isn't the Buddha unique? Isn't Guru Nanak unique? Aren't you unique? Just saying that someone is unique isn't actually saying anything. Usually, in Christian terms, it's code for saying 'better'.

Rachel Marszalek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel Marszalek said...

Hi Poppy

Interesting to ponder and these wonderings might be bound up with us all asking ourselves how unembarrassed we are to proclaim that Christ is the ONLY saviour. (Unique)

I can in no way articulate best practice for how Christians might witness to Jesus being the 'way, the truth and the life' to those of other faiths. This is something I hope I will get to engage in the future. I have more experience witnessing to New Age/Pagan followers so far.

Doing this and maintaining unity and mutual respect whilst at the same time loving those who hold to other faiths enough to share the uniqueness of Christ must be something we engage in prayerfully and carefully.

But you're right to pick up on the idea of the 'uniqueness of Christ', which I use in my exchange, for I do mean more than you are implying by your suggestion that Buddha also is unique or I am unique etc.

God is at work amongst those of all faiths and none, but we are asked to undertake mission and evangelism amongst those of other faiths.

To quote from The Mystery of Salvation, p.184:
We believe that God has chosen to provide the fullest revelation of himself in Christ, and the fullest revelation of his love for all humanity in the cross and resurrection. Hence we naturally pray that God will bring all people, including those of other faiths, to explicit faith in Christ and membership of his Church. This is not because we believe that the God revealed in Christ is unable to save them without this, but because Christ is the truest and fullest expression of his love, and we long for them to share it. In the Lord’s words in St John’s Gospel, ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’ (John 10.10).

poppy tupper said...

Hi Rachel, I've been away for a couple of days, so I'm a little behind in this. I'm interested to note that you have now introduced the word 'saviour' into this discussion, which began with a reflection on shared meals. If I follow your argument correctly, the only conclusion that I can come to is that you are saying that all Buddhists, all Jews, all Hindus, all Sikhs, all Conficians, all followers of Shinto, all followers of tribal religions, and people who I haven't mentioned who aren't Christians are not saved, and will therefore eternally burn in hell. And that's not just the ones living today, but all the ones who have lived in the past and all the ones who will live in the future. Well, you're free to beleive that, and it is, of course, what Richard turnbull specifically said at the Reform conference. For my part, I don't believe that the God who organised destiny in that way can in any sense be called the Christian God. So, to call Jesus 'unique saviour' seems to me to be unchristian.

Rachel Marszalek said...

Hi Poppy
I believe that Jesus died to reconcile the entire cosmos to himself (the triune God). I do not believe that those of other faiths will be damned to Hell. I do believe that when we give an account of our lives God will understand the cultures we were born into, the pathways we took to know him and the ideologies we have inherited. He understands.

It is difficult though isn't it when Jesus said that he is the narrow gate and the way to the Father. I am working it out, I might never come to an answer so for now I am concentrating on thinking through the words from The Doctrine Commission:

'...mission remains the central task of the Christian Church. The task is to proclaim by word and to display in action that God has created a world that is good, and that we are responsible for that creation; that the kingdom of God, the kingdom of justice and peace, has already begun in Christ, and that we can be assured of its future consummation through him; that the gift and assurance of salvation and eternal life is available now, and the mark of this life is love. We deny the fullness of that love if we deny the truth and goodness which Christ, as Logos, and God by the Spirit, can also inspire in those of other faiths and of none. We believe that God has chosen to provide the fullest revelation of himself in Christ, and the fullest revelation of his love for all humanity in the cross and resurrection. Hence we naturally pray that God will bring all people, including those of other faiths, to explicit faith in Christ and membership of his Church. This is not because we believe that the God revealed in Christ is unable to save them without this, but because Christ is the truest and fullest expression of his love, and we long for them to share it. In the Lord’s words in St John’s Gospel, ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’ (John 10.10).'

Just working it through, like the rest of us.

Do you think that there are numerous pathways to God without Christ?

Blessings
Rach

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