Today's thoughts and prayer comes to us from M Barclay of the newly launched enfleshed. Rev. M Barclay is serving as Director of enfleshed. M formerly served as Director of Communications at Reconciling Ministries Network where they advocated for queer and trans inclusion in The United Methodist Church. They have also enjoyed working as a hospital chaplain, youth director, justice associate and faith coordinator for reproductive justice in Texas. Enjoy!
There is so much chaos surrounding us today.
Institutional churches are scrambling to figure out how to deal with declining numbers and political differences.
Our government is enacting values and laws that are making the lives of the most vulnerable anything but stable.
Thanks to climate change, even our weather patterns are out of order!
And now, here we are, moving into the winter holidays which are often nothing short of a frenzy.
When I think of prayer in the midst of all of this chaos and more, the first image that comes to mind is that of standing in the eye of a hurricane. Prayer centers and grounds in the midst of all that is swirling and destabilizing. It helps us to remember that though the winds may blow at exorbitant speeds and though we hold our breaths to see whether or not there will be destruction left behind, God is “the solid rock” on which we rely upon. And while I do think that image bears truth, these days I’m more interested in a different approach.
Though I can be tempted to imagine God is the one to help me differentiate from the chaos, to spiritually opt-out so to speak, I am increasingly drawn to a God who is also in the swirling.
These days, my prayers draw me more towards looking for the Sacred in the midst of the chaos, trusting that the Spirit is active and present in the raging winds, even when all I want is stillness - perhaps, most especially then.
This kind of prayer, that draws me in, keeps me and my conception of God grounded not only in a spiritual feeling of stability but in the world around me. Too often we pray out of our desire to end the chaos rather than to be drawn into it.
Perhaps God is depending on our wading into the institutional anxiety of our churches. Maybe it’s in the tears, stories, shared fears, and letting go of things not working that we will actually find guidance.
Perhaps God is depending on our wading into the lives of those who are facing the consequences of harmful and hateful leadership - of finding our spiritual grounding in joining them in the chaos - of meeting them in the middle of it to break bread, offer support, protest in the streets, or wherever else we might be needed.
Perhaps the winds themselves are the voice of God - crying out for the earth’s redemption.
God is most certainly in the stillness and silence. But God is also in the frenzy, the wild, the unpredictable, the disconcerting. God does not remove themselves from any area of our lives or world when things get dicey - God draws in more intimately. God is made manifest in exactly those places and if we’re not willing to get swept up too, we may just miss out on what we need the most.
It’s this belief that led me and my colleagues to launch a new ministry called “enfleshed.” Providing progressive spiritual resources that talk about the things that matter most - like addressing white supremacy, queer values, trans lives, and the rawest and most rewarding parts of being human together - enfleshed wants to bring what matters back to the gospel for justice, liberation, and delight. Through liturgies, sermon prep material, online pastoral care, and preaching and teaching, we seek to join God and others in enfleshing our faith.
God of holy chaos, you don’t protect us from getting swept up into relationships and systems and experiences that are messy, but you do promise us that you will be found in the midst of them. Help us to remember that when the world was aching, you drew nearer, putting on flesh. It was through that enfleshed reality of love, that you transformed our world. Relationship with you is not an escape - it is the hope and courage we need to dive right into the mess of things. You, O God, are enfleshed in our beautiful but aching earth, in our work for a just society, and in our efforts to love and be loved. May our prayer life be invitations into that life with you. Thanks be.