I’m just back from the Fresh Expressions Associate Missioners’ Conference. Lots to ponder and unpack, but for starters, it really is a good thing that Messy Church is so closely tied to Fresh Expressions: it gives us a deeper pool of wisdom to draw on than just Messy Church (check out the FE website for starters) and it gives Fresh Expressions a huge pool of practitioners to see in action on one particular form of fresh expression.
But one thing that jumped out at me from Dr Paula Gooder’s talks and some time in quiet reflection was the little interchange of Jesus on the cross with the messy character hanging there with him. ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ ‘I tell you, today you’ll be with me in the garden.’ (Or paradise, but Paula made the point that this is a direct reference to the Garden of Eden, and I like the idea of a scruffy ne’er do well being welcomed on to sacred ground by the ferocious and bemused angel with the sword.)
It was something about this word ‘remember’ – the re-membering, as in the opposite of dis-membering – the putting back together of a person who is totally broken: for Jesus and for the oik on the cross, this meant literally that their bodies were dismembered, torn apart. And here is this messed-up person at the moment when he’s weakest, begging Jesus to put him together again.
If we’re doing nothing else in our Messy Churches, are we putting broken people and broken families back together again? Are we re-membering them by giving them an identity, a community and a story to which to belong? By humbly offering the resources that may help them build themselves back together with God’s help in their homes, schools and workplaces?
And what does this say about the ‘remembering’ that Jesus asks us to do in the bread and the wine? Someone said something along the lines of, ‘We are the people we are because of what we remember about ourselves.’ Re-membering. Putting together a broken world. A massive, impossible task, starting with the tiny possible tasks of welcoming one child, smiling one smile, starting one conversation, sharing one meal.