By Caroline Sharp
“The Christian life has three spiritual temperatures: a burning heart, on fire for God, a cold heart, and a lukewarm heart. The lukewarm Christian is comfortable, complacent, and does not realize his need. If he were cold, at least he would feel it!” Beale, G., Mounce, R., and Mulholland, M. (2009). The Transformation Study Bible. Revelation (commentary). Colorado Springs. 2159.
I am not a cradle Anglican. I grew up Roman Catholic, left church as a teen and began a spiritual pilgrimage, only to return to a Christian Reformed church many years later.
I came to the Anglican church after I met my husband and started going to his church. I found that Anglicanism offers the best of both worlds and what you find at one parish, you will find something completely different at another. It was, however, at the Christian Reformed church that something was ignited within me and got me started on my path towards priesthood (and I’m not there yet but I persist). The passage above was one that stood out for me.
When we fall into the rhythm of things, we sometimes make the mistake of complacency or we take things for granted. My short time as a missionary will forever remind me that everything I have is from God and that I must be thankful for it whether it be the clothing I wear or the food I eat, the roof over my head, the ability I have to speak, see and walk, etc. This has also given me a “burning heart, on fire for God.” This burning heart has lifted me higher than I could ever have imagined and has shaped my worldview and the actions I take to strive for fairness and justice. I have been called to be the hands, feet, and voice of God in this world. As such, I cannot afford to be lukewarm.
Maybe you’ve heard it somewhere before, perhaps in a sermon - these three temperatures refer to water. Hot water is useful for many things, as is cold water. But lukewarm water is useless and is a breeding ground for bacteria and dangerous germs that make people ill or lead to death.
Yes, complacency can be bad! You might find lukewarmness in institutional settings with groups of people who have been doing the “same old” for too long. We can no longer keep doing everything the way we’ve always done it before, this gets stale, this closes churches!
We need to ignite the fire of the Holy Spirit within us and act on those things in which God has made us passionate about. This is the true heart of ministry. This is why I became a member of Social and Ecological Justice Huron (SEJH), and this is why we have introduced a series of conversations that will take place in 2021. Our “Conversations with …” is a series of workshops to help us engage with a multitude of voices within the context of faith.
There are social justice issues that remain problematic such as how people with disabilities can be excluded from worshiping and participating in the community of the church , or how certain people are discriminated against (i.e. people of colour, indigenous people, 2SLGBTQ+) or feel judged within the confines of church walls.
Many of us have witnessed this uncomfortable urge to shut out someone who doesn’t fit in a preconceived box. It was why I left church in the first place. I felt judged, and it didn’t help that the God I grew up with was a God of wrath and punishment whom I would never be good enough for. I often wonder how visitors (and in some cases current parishioners) in our churches see us, and pray that they don’t feel judged or have been made to feel that they are less deserving of God’s love.
My own passions lie mostly in environmental issues and spiritual development. It would bring me great joy if everyone loved Creation and held strong personal bonds with God like I do.
Along my spiritual journey, I have been discovering how tightly connected many social justice issues really are! For example, environmental issues do not stand alone amongst other social justice issues. Our lack of concern for all things “green” affects all human beings! The pollution caused by manufacturing companies around the world have caused clean water to become undrinkable. You might be surprised to learn that watertoday.ca lists 74 boil water advisories in Ontario with most of them being on reservations. Some of the advisories have been on this list since 1995 (Neskantaga First Nation) which is also around the same time that the last residential school was closed. How might this affect Truth and Reconciliation efforts (a Conversations with Truth and Reconciliation coming this spring)? “Fast Fashion” is a growing trend despite the fact that these clothes are often made in poor countries where workers get a pittance and they work in dangerous conditions. The dyes and other chemicals used in the clothing industry run out into the rivers and the people living downstream no longer have clean drinking water and they get sick. My heart is on fire when I hear stories like this. I believe that the other members of SEJH also have hearts on fire and act on their social justice passions to try and make a difference. We also want to share these passions with you.
Our first Conversations with... series regarded people with disabilities and how we must make changes to our language, attitudes, and physical space to be inclusive to them. We looked at the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and how it desperately needs to be taught to all staff and volunteer within the church. If nothing else, this conversation has at least got people thinking about how they can do better to make their church more inclusive. Our second Conversations with… was in February on 2SLGBTQ+. It provided an opportunity to hear stories from the 2SLGBTQ+ perspective, especially as they relate to faith. Please join us in future Conversations with… and let’s keep putting our heads together so we can move in a positive and lovingly forward manner in addressing these social justice issues.
Upcoming conversations include Creation, poverty, people of colour, truth and reconciliation, women’s rights, etc. Keep an eye out in your emails for upcoming dates or follow us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Social-and-Ecological-Justice-Huron-108315993854435).
Our next session is Conversations with Creation on March 13. All conversations are scheduled for 10am to 11:30am. Please email SEJH@diohuron.org to register.
Caroline Sharp is a tri-chair of SEJH.
(Illustration: "Do not be lukewarm". John writes to Laodicea)