If Mary is an image of hospitality upon whom we may reflect, it follows that we have something to learn about receiving. I’ve been thinking about this today, which was prompted by something that happened yesterday.
My work in Gillingham as a pioneer demands that I move around, be seen, get to know people, and through that try to hear what the community is saying. This listening involves listening to the people I come into contact with, and those I deliberately seek out like police officers, local councillors and so on. I am still very much in that listening phase of this work, but soon I hope to be able to ask the question ‘what does loving service look like here?’ In other words what can the ‘church’ give here, how can we help in our God given mission of transforming communities so that they are better places to live in (good news!)
Before we can ask that question, I have started to wonder if maybe we need to learn how to receive from the community first. Maybe we actually need to receive from this community, and experience what that feels like, before we are able to give anything back? Maybe we need to accept that involvement in this community of Gillingham can, and needs to, transform us before we look to join with God’s transformational work in his community.
In pioneering roles it is easy to think that we are called to bring God into the community. I know I have said over and over again over the last decade that God is already rooted in the community, but sometimes it is hard to remember that. It is easier to think we have ‘a message’ to take than it is to look and discern what God is quietly doing and join in with that.
So receiving, being able to receive, learning to receive is my thought for this day as we continue our Advent journey.
And what occurrence yesterday, you may ask, has prompted this thought? Very simply, the person behind the counter in one of the cafes refusing to take my money for the coffee. I felt uncomfortable and wanted to give. I did not want others to think I was looking for freebies. I didn’t want to give an impression of being in need. I felt awkward, and I felt like everyone was watching. Is this what others experience when well-meaning Christians try to help? An awkwardness in accepting a gift?
But … then i realised, in that situation yesterday, which is a unique moment in time, that in my acceptance and receiving I was allowing another to give.