A few weeks ago, I had never heard of Zoom or Microsoft teams and the idea of broadcasting Morning Prayer live from my house to any number of people filled me with fear. Then we were locked down we needed to find new ways to connect. I was invited to join the Daily Office team and to lead Morning Prayer Live twice a week from our home.
The diocese set a helpful instructional video, describing how to create inviting services online, how to ‘dress your set’ and avoid clutter and distraction, how to use lighting to make your ‘set’ inviting. Both clergy and lay people have been on a steep learning journey!
So now, I sit twice a week with a nice back drop of calm green walls and a pleasant artwork of garden birds as decoration. To anyone watching, it must seem as though we live in a show home. This is far from the bigger picture. Our wider home is strewn with Lego, Peppa Pig stickers in random places, poster paint and finger smudges inadvertently blending into the walls. Right now, as I type, I can count two half-empty cold cups of tea and three half full beakers of juice around the living room. Family life is messy. Our lives can get very messy.
It may be a while yet until we are able to invite anyone into our homes physically, some of you may be relieved, others desperate to have company. but that too can be stressful because we often feel we have to scrub and polish and arrange our bookcases before letting our friends and family step through the door. I admit, I have been known to be so tired out tidying by the time a friend arrives for coffee that I haven’t enjoyed our chat or been fully present to them. A few years ago, I read a blog by an American priest, Fr John Knox, coining the term ‘scruffy hospitality”. In his words: “Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together."
It makes sense doesn’t it? And it is worth thinking about when we are able to share fellowship with one another more closely. We realise that our friends come to spend time with us, in our company. Not because we have used a gallon of Pledge on all the surfaces!
In the same way, we cannot hide the scruffy, hurting and sinful parts of ourselves from God. And why should we? God is waiting right now to be invited into our hearts. He doesn’t care about the mess, or the clutter. He knows about it even before we can speak of it out loud. When Samuel is afraid being unable to choose a new King he is told: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
We can be so very good at creating little ordered pictures of ourselves for the benefit of others be this on social media platforms or face to face (when we can). We avoid or hide the messy or embarrassing parts of ourselves that don’t fit the ideal. And it’s true, people may still judge and make decisions about us at a glance. We only have to look at the news to see the results of prejudice and discrimination. We only have to glance at a magazine to read how celebrities have ‘let themselves go’ in lockdown. We can be so hurtful to one another.
We know however that there is one person, our heavenly father who knows us and embraces us despite all the mess because we are his children. Invite God into your messy, picture-imperfect heart and he will set up home, transform you from within and help you to know that you are loved, just as you are.