repulsive good

“I thank your ladyship for the information concerning the Methodist Preachers. Their doctrines are most repulsive, and strongly tinctured with impertinence and disrespect towards their superiors, in perpetually endeavoring to level all ranks, and do away with all distinctions. It is monstrous to be told that you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl on the earth. This is highly offensive and insulting, and I cannot but wonder that your ladyship should relish any sentiment so much at variance with high rank and good breeding.”

From a letter by the Duchess of Buckingham to the Countess of Huntingdon. Lady Huntingdon was a supporter of the Wesleyans.

So much has not changed.

I love the snippet of disdain shared above.  It is the response of a woman not too keen on being challenged to live the gospel.  To be lumped into the whole of humanity rather than cosseted by class was offensive and insulting to the dear soul.  She would have none of it.

How different is the response encountered today?

I natter on often through sermons and other writings about the significant challenge it is to live in the ways of Jesus.  Situated as I am in a middle to upper class congregation in the midst of a groaning mission field, a goodly portion of work goes into trying to peel back the walls of the church and our hearts to see the realities lived by our neighbors;  to see those realities, and to know them as our own.

There is push-back.  It’s human and natural to want to distance ourselves from pain, particularly when apprehending that pain means we take it into our bodies as our own.

Living the gospel means we are called to question all things that enslave and keep bound the hopes and bodies of our community.  It means practicing “impertinence” and “disrespect toward superiors” in order to explore how it is systems of government and culture countenance the gouging of the poor.

There are mutterings about the political nature of ministry and sermonic messages but I ask you, how can followers of Jesus “go along” with impertinence in check when the gulf between the rich and the poor widens and the aches of the displaced are so often silenced by derision and class cocoon?

I am blessed to be pastor in a congregation that “allows” such impertinence and challenge.  It isn’t always welcome, and it isn’t always appreciated.  But we know that what binds us is stronger and more powerful than the so-many forces that seek to silence the call to wholeness for all of God’s people.

On this day, I am grateful for a community that sanctions the speaking of the repulsive and saving message of the Christ.

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