Called out of the Shire

Ipswich Unitarian Church.

I had the great privilege this morning of taking the service at Ipswich Unitarian Church for the first time. See upcoming dates. My address was titled ‘Called out of the Shire’. I spoke on leaving the familiar and entering into the unknown; my primary reading was taken from Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring - Frodo taking the decision to leave the Shire. The Shire for me is a metaphor for so many places I have found myself: Churches, Theological seminaries, cocoons of the unreal, places in which they tell each other comforting fantasies which cover over the horrors of out there. I spoke on how being real is about daring to be lost, to confront the unknown, to shed the persistent fantasy of satisfying our Big Other.

I contrasted Frodo’s leaving of the Shire with Abram’s leaving of Ur, putting your fears in the hands of God, or not allowing emotions to dictate our choice of stepping out from our comfort zones.

Prayer from the service.

Together, we enter into reflection…

To You, from whom everything is received and from nothing is lost, I give myself up this day. Be with us, as we search our thoughts, and meditate here together, bring us into your divine love.

We give thanks for when your presence has been felt, when our words have failed, and our reason has been confounded. We thirst for the Kingdom of God to be reawakened once again within us.

May the knowledge that we belong to a gathered people, even when we find ourselves seemingly alone, help us find peace and purpose in this confusing and broken world.

Here in community, we bring before you the hurts and sorrows of all those here gathered, give us the courage to be instruments of love in each other lives, give us eyes to see, and still hearts ready to serve. Make the pains of those around us plain to us, show us the imprisoned, the sick, the hungry and the thirsty, and give us the courage to be ambassadors of the Kingdom of God on this earth.

Give us a heart for our neighbour, our neighbour sitting next to us, our neighbours in this town, our neighbours in United Kingdom, our neighbours from every people group of every land. Make us peacemakers, stewards of creation, comforters of lost souls, and children of God.