I am preparing for Church Council meetings, it is an ongoing thing, and I guess I should not be surprised that the same questions of what we are going to do and where our future lies are once again raising their heads...
The trouble is I think we ask both too much and too little of ourselves at the same time! Let me explain, when questions of survival are raised it is easy for us to focus inward, to draw up lists of our faults, failings and inadequacies. When we do that and we become our own focus it is easy to make anyone who suggests the terrible "C" (change) word the enemy, we ask to little of ourselves because we feel that we are simply unable to do everything. Of course the truth is that we are unable to do everything and the key is to unwrap the gift of that and to see it for what it is. Conversley it is easy to ask too much of ourselves, to make ourselves the architects of "our future" and to run ourselves ragged in trying to push what often seems like a weighty boulder uphill, once again, those who don't want to be moved uphill become our enemies. The result of both is that we isolate ourselves from the communities that we are placed in/ called to and we fail to be the salt and light that Jesus calls us to be.
I know that I am back on my "old soap box" if you want to see that see here, and here, and here; and yes I am rolling out the same quote because for me it is fundamentally important to our ability to engage with a sense of mission, vision and calling: Sarah Savage and Eloene Boyde-McMillan in their book "The Human Face of Church", citing Max Weber they say:
“Weber argued that any great vision require a human process to carry it through time, sometimes in the form of “a man, a mission, a movement, or a monument”. Even with the Body of Christ, the life giving charism has to be embodied in a routine – in some form of human organisation. Yet, life giving visions do not fit easily into neat boxes. So the very process that gives the vision continuing life also begins to kill it. When the maintenance of the institution (which protects the charism) becomes the institutions primary purpose, the death of the charism is on the horizon. Only spiritual revival or reform will re-ignite the gift.” (Savage and Boyd-McMillan 2007. p4)
Too often our desire to either return to a golden age ( which I doubt in truth existed) or to simply mnaintain and protect what we have, causes us to draw up the sides of our neat boxes and repell all boarders whilst worrying , yes still worrying about how to keep that box afloat in a storm.
A recent report comissioned by one of the churches that I serve from an outside party has pointed out that the church is running around circles, it seems that we have adopted the "what do we do now syndrome", I know very well that it was in this mode before I came, and I pray that together we might find the strength to stop running.
More and more I am convinced that this is the answer, the Body of Christ seems to be in crisis, and as I ponder this I ponder the fact that so often we are blinded by our need to succeed, we fear failure above all else and our fear in turn blinds us to the deep and abiding love of God. More and more when faced the question of what shall we do I find myself answering longing to answer, " lets, stop, let's let go, let's love the people in front of us and take things step by step until a wider and greater vision emerges.
Now I know that, that probably sounds like a cop out, but I really don't think it is, because with the stopping will come an intentional letting go and a deep listening. I wonder if while we may think we have been listening we have been too busy running and repeating the same old question so often that we don't realise we are asking it. Letting go calls us to see our emptiness, our inabilities and our lack of vision and to offer them to God, I suspect that maybe it is only then that the blessing will begin to emerge. Maybe being at the end of our own rope will turn out to be a deep blessing:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule." ( Matthew 5:3 The Message)
or to quote Richard Rho on the beatitudesr:
Each of these invitations, for that is what they are, are concerned about vulnerable and outpouring relationship, which is necessary for the second half of life, in the same way that the Ten Commandments serve for ego-identity in the first half of life. The Beatitudes are descriptions of a mature human person much more than prescriptions for other-worldly salvation. They offer something astoundingly new to human consciousness, which is a lifestyle based on vulnerability, mutuality, service--and thus a willingness to be usable for God, history, healing, and one another.
So maybe it is time to let go of our fears and need to suceed and see what emerges organically through us:
“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples. (John 15: The Message)