In the Beginning was the Word
I have many fond memories of reading Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons books as a child. Dad had a 16 ft sailboat and we used to do a lot of sailing throughout the summer. I remember though being mildly disgusted by the idea of blood brothers and sisters when it came up in the books. This idea of mixing your blood with somebody else’s seemed horrible – I didn’t cope well with the sight of blood.
Even mentioning it makes me feel a bit woozy. Of course we now know mixing peoples blood together is incredibly dangerous, but there was something about the idea of creating a link between two people, as if they were blood related. A loyalty and friendship as strong as blood one might say.
My grandmother died when my father was very young, the family stepped in and helped out, one son was taken to an uncle on the Isle of Wight, one aunt moved in and looked after the other two. When family needed help that’s what they did. The uncle on the Isle of Wight also took in a young Jewish refugee from Europe escaping second world war. She too became part of the family. As are her children and grandchildren today. They have been shaped by my extended family, but they too have shaped our family. Our lives are always shaped and changed by the people we share them with – or else we wouldn’t truly be sharing our lives with them. That is what relationships do, and that is the risk we take when building relationships with others, that we don’t know how that relationship will change and transform us.
In business studies they talk about the way teams are made, and remade when personnel change. There’s a catchy description of the stages of developing an effective team. Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. The idea is that no matter how well a team first appears to get on when they are forming, eventually personalities clash and people try to push boundaries. It’s only when a team passes through this storming stage that the people start to find ways of getting on and working together. It is going through this storming and norming which transforms the group and makes them cohesive. They are each changed by those who they are working with and you could say they are now brothers and sisters.
We are each transformed by our relationship with Jesus. In today’s readings we are reminded that he was there at the creation of the world, he knows us intimately, even if we don’t know him. And yet he is born fully human and is our adopted brother. Perhaps that is one way of understanding what he meant when he shared the cup of salvation and described it as his blood. In Christ our human blood is mixed with divinity, in his body our flesh becomes a part of God. In everything that we are, in Christ we are drawn into the middle of the eternal dance of love which is the Trinity. After the pushing of boundaries, the storming of the fallen world, Jesus transforms us back into God’s image, and we become a part of his ever-transforming body on earth – the Church. As this body we eat and drink this eternal meal,
his body and his blood, together. Eating together is one of those things that families do. Sharing food with our brothers and sisters maintains the relationship we have with one another. As such we are also transformed by those with whom we share this bread and wine. Our brothers and sisters in Christ. At times that can be painful, even undesirable. The church has been notorious over its history of being unwilling or unable to be shaped by those who are a part of Christ’s body. In Canada the church was used as an extension of the state in an attempt to instil European Culture into those who were described as savages. In this country a generation of faithful christian immigrants were ignored and made unwelcome in Anglican churches. I am all too aware of the fraction and divisions which exists within the church. The horror of Christians who have gone before us and have failed to live up to God’s calling to them. And the patience, humility and strength of those who have remained loyal to the example of Christ’s loving service. But the church is in it’s nature human,
like any political party or ideology, it is flawed. We were reminded in today’s letter to the Colossians that Christ is the head of the church. It is therefore in Christ and not by our own resolve or abilities that the church will, in the fulness of time be united and reconciled with all of creation to one another and to God.
It is by Christ’s actions; giving of himself with grace and love that people are reconciled to God, not by our actions. And it is by the mixing of our own humanity with God in the body of Christ, born of Mary, that we are drawn into the centre of that loving, transforming relationship between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams