I love pub crawls and safari suppers, but even as a vicar I had not experienced a gathering of Christians on the scale of Copenhagen’s Kirkevandring.
Pentecost early this year
Some 800 people gathered in ecumenical witness from Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches in the city. Some had done this oldest continuous walk of witness many times. As a first-timer myself, I’d thoroughly recommend it for fellowship and friendship. It got me thinking …
In a society in which I’m told repeatedly the last great taboo is religion – why did so many people gather on one of the coldest nights so far? What was it that drew Christians who would otherwise be diffident in confessing their faith to walk the pilgrim way?
Perhaps because we want to attest that in Jesus Christ the full range of what is possible for humans is made possible – that it is set out in a unique way. To be fully human is to trust in God’s gift and generosity to the world made possible by the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a conviction not just of who God is or who we are – it’s the great ‘could be’ that Jesus announces.
The Jesus-shaped hope that liberates us is why Christianity is ecumenical and universal, and contrary to contemporary mythology, it is neither dwindling nor linked to language, culture, age or wealth. It is a universal hope.
Learning from the other
It gets difficult, however, when one begins to think about those who don’t share the same conviction. However complex, it is how and where we stand alongside our non-Christian neighbour that excites me.
If God’s purpose for humanity is love, compassion and joy, then we are looking at those with whom God is already involved. We understand how we are all made in God’s image when we engage with those who think differently. God is already there. What they’re saying about God, in different ways, is part of God’s involvement with them.
They too have something to say that will actually lead us deeper into the mystery of God. Why should we be shocked or resentful if someone who is not Christian has something to say about God?
They enlarge our world-view. Conversations send us into a deeper, more profound and larger vision of the living God. When you see Jesus Christ in unexpected places or people, there is humility, expectation, excitement and gratitude.
Part of the gift is to recognise it again and again. The spiritual exercise is to build deep friendships and listen eagerly for our faith to grow. It is not a betrayal of Jesus, but a commitment to the living, universal God.
Christ in the classroom
I’ve rediscovered this insight at sprogskole. Shoulder-to-shoulder with people from all over the world, I’ve had conversations and support from those who come from all faiths and none. And by it, I have been held, supported and nurtured in what has been a challenging time personally.
Although we have not learned this yet as a class, I’ve discovered Danish already has a word for this sense of reaching out and being open to the other: ‘rummelig’.
Being spacious doesn’t quite capture the multiple, difficult, complex riddles we have to wrestle with, but with hope replacing fear and suspicion (along the lines of Gerard Manley Hopkins), in Kirkevandring and in class I have seen Christ “lovely in limbs not his”.