Sometimes there are events in church that, although they are technically "outside hirers", we feel so committed to and involved with that we go along. And I have just been sitting in on one, or at least part of one, this afternoon. I was there for the opening worship. We started by singing that great hymn "O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the works thy hand hath made".
One of the most memorable times I sang that was standing in the archaeological remains of the synagogue in Capernaum with a group of Baptists from across Europe as we gathered for our annual Council meeting. Finding hymns we could all sing together is always a challenge, but this one is known across the European Baptist world, - and can often be sung without needing books or screen, because we know it so well. And I was thinking of that as we sang this afternoon.
And then we segued into a song I didn't know, but which has a chorus including the line I have used as the title of this post; "I am loved by you - it's who I am".
It's a powerful line, and a deeply transformative one for anybody to be able to sing. To know ourselves completely, unreservedly and unchangingly loved by our Creator and God - really to trust that and let it be the deepest truth we know about ourselves; that would heal and free and forgive and challenge any of us, taking us into new freedoms and new possibilities.
I looked round the church - pretty full this afternoon, - at the faces of those who were singing it.
It moved me to tears.
Today's meeting is a gathering of Two;23. It's a regular gathering of (mainly young) LGBT folk, some of whom are not out at their church, and sadly many of whom are no longer in churches because they have discovered themselves to be unwelcome or at best, regarded with discomfort. And here they all are, singing "I am loved by you - it's who I am". Each has found - or is finding - that truth, often mediated through other people, that the love of God is not bound by all the rules and prejudices and assumptions that all too often we are taught it is.
If you want to know more about Two:23, check here; Two:23
It is a delight to host this group. It is a privilege to worship with them, and to remember that we are all, whoever we are, loved beyond our understanding or expectation.
I pray that as a church, we may be worthy of the presence of this group, and ever open to discover more and more of what it means to be this loved, and how to live it fully.