No entry code here

It struck me one morning this week how many entry codes I carry in my head!

First, morning prayer in church – a code to disarm the alarm.  Then pop into school for a short conversation with Barbara – key in the entry code.  A few minutes later over the road to Hillcroft to say hello to Nora.  Another code, one of the more memorable.

Finally, back to the vicarage.  Jacqui was home and so no need to punch those four digits before the alarm sounds.

My life is now dominated by entry codes, PINs and passwords, and not just online.   There are those (which are innumerable) which I chose for myself – to access an ATM or turn on my iPod, for example. They are the easy ones.

But the challenge is to remember those chosen by other people – how to get into the labour ward late at night (as chaplain, I hasten to add) or to visit a church member in their flat.   I think I carry about ten in my head.

Of course, sometimes you can just ring the doorbell but there is usually a long wait for a staff member to let you in.  In fact, there have been times when in my impatience I have tried random numbers.

For four digits you have just 10,000 attempts, 5040 if each digit can only be used once.  Sometimes it can be quicker.

Daily I thank God for Mrs. Shepperd-Barron who one fateful day in 1967 persuaded her inventor husband that four digits was plenty.   This pioneer had been working on a six-digit numeric code.

We live in an age of passwords and codes.  Just like the early Christians.

You probably may not realize this but in the world of the early church mystery religions were big.  They were everywhere and dominated Greek life

To quote Wikipedia:  “The main characterization of this religion is the secrecy associated with the particulars of the initiation and the cult practice, which may not be revealed to outsiders.”

You needed to know the code to get in.   Outsiders were kept outside. Justin Martyr identified them as “demonic imitations” of the true faith,

So when the apostle Paul uses the word “mystery” (which he does 16 times in the New Testament), he is taking these counterfeit faiths head-on!   The cross of Jesus has turned everything on its head.

So the imprisoned apostle writes: “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.”  (Ephesians 6:19)  He uses the word ironically.  His aim is to include and welcome.  In computer-speak the Gospel is open-source.

It is the church of Christ which pioneered inclusion – and we stand in this tradition.  No in-crowd allowed.

I can’t remember if I have told in this letter the story which gave birth to our church’s watchword.  Most of you will already know this but for those of you who don’t, here it is!

The pastor of a local church, who has since retired, was arguing with a recalcitrant member.  Eventually he threw his hands into the air and exclaimed in frustration:  “You might as well join Christ Church, Aughton- they’ll have anyone!”

So we will have anyone.  And our challenge is to make sure that we make our church open and welcoming, not just for members only.  Not as easy as it sounds.  The first thing I did when I became a Christian 50 years ago was to buy a suit.  I wanted to belong.

We need to imitate Christ.  After all, he welcomed us with opened arms!