It’s not about the numbers. If it was about the numbers, it would be about my ego, and one thing that Blesséd definately isn’t about is my ego.
Just under 30 people came to the Holy Week Mass last night. That was, after all, 30 people and all those who came were moved by the liturgy, engaged in the worship, were fed by his holy and life-giving sacraments. To that end, it was entirely worth it; but it took an awful long time to clear up and even now, I know with a great deal of guilt that I have left the Church resembling a bit of a bombsite.
I suppose one of the things that we must dwell on is the importance of vulnerability: if Blesséd was strong and well-attended, lauded by authorities and celebrated by peers, then it wouldn’t be what it ought to be: “a ramshakle poor little urchin” on the edge of the Church of England (a quotation from a chapter in a book published next month). Maybe it is through our weakness, our struggle for numbers, and our continued antagonism of the Church and its structures that we become more Christ-like.
[caption id=”attachment_1040″ align=”aligncenter” width=”479″ caption=”Some of the Blesséd's people after Mass, and welcoming a group from Warsash Maritime Academy”[/caption
If just one person has the opportunity to worship, then that should be sufficient. But my selfish ego, and my failings as a pastor and a priest interfere with that and at least for just a moment, the numbers do matter, before I shake off the niggling undermining of the enemy and remember what it is really all about. Christ didn’t care about the numbers – some walked away from the Gospel and its ‘hard sayings’ (John 6:60-68)
60On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”
66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
67“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Blesséd makes its offering to God on behalf of the whole church. If that offering is in the dark, almost unheard, quite unseen, then that is what it is called to do by God himself. Success stories are only really for those who pay for massive inserts of Alpha News inside my Church Times which are so overblown, so contrary to the humility of the Gospel, so against the subversive and radical message of the Gospel and which have replaced it with a shiny new saccharinised “I-have-success-because-God-blesses-me” rictus grin. No, it is not about the numbers, because for those of us who made holy sacrifice last night, it was about Christ; and for that we give thanks.