Becoming a little child

We know the verses from the New Testament. ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.' Matthew 18:3

Gordon Atkinson (Real Live Preacher) writes on the Christian Century blog page

Yes, you can become a child again. But do not think it is something you will recover from quickly. When you become vulnerable and allow your life to rest in the hands of others, you live only in the present moment. Your eyes are open to the world around you. In that moment you begin to understand what it means to live in the kingdom of heaven.

This is a profound insight into the way discipling ourselves to Christ will gnaw into our vitals and change us. It is worth reading the full post from Gordon, who in his usual deceptively simple story telling, shines a light on our calling.

As I walked to the train this morning, I remembered, for some reason, that night we spent over an hour discussing at Elders' Council, whether the parish should discuss the new Uniting Church Report on Alcohol! In a church with a strong Methodist heritage of abstinence, this was a contentious issue. The debate was a little prickly at times. I chaired the meeting, and my clergy colleague, Cliff Birch, provided input. At the end, I noted our strong opinions and suggested we should perhaps vote formally in deference to people's opinions. I asked for those "in favour," and those "against." Then with my best deadpan, which normally alerted people I was up to something, politely asked if anyone "wished to abstain." Cliff beamed a wide smile at me from the body of the meeting. No one else showed the least sign of noticing. As he said to me later, "How can we be so serious?!"

It's a problem in a busy life. We get so focussed we don't see what's happening around us. For many of us our inattentiveness is so self focussed it becomes destructive. I noticed Sojourners blog quote of the day when I arrived at work this morning: Selfishness ... feeds an insatiable hunger that first eats up everything belonging to others and then causes a creature to devour itself. Dom Helder Camara Serendipity indeed.

It is easy to judge the unconscious, hedonist Australian who's off to the Royal Show this week in Adelaide. Inattentive, selfish, apathetic- just give me enough money for ice-cream and iPods. For we who consider we are attentive and discipled, it's harder to see that this attentiveness, can also become selfish.

What protects us from inattentiveness, I wondered on the train? I thought about purposely stepping outside of our norms; making this part of our disciple. For me that means standing out in the middle of the backyard late at night, looking into the sky. It means walking slowly down North Terrace in the mornings, and watching the people around me. It means being concerned with the lives of the people in my parish, and getting outside myself; letting me be challenged and frightened as I try and talk with refugees only a month in the country, and with little English. And of course, laughing at the ridiculous, and remaining playful with words and ideas.

Finally, we need to let life talk back to us, instead of doing all the talking. Gordon has been to the Dominican Republic. He has let the experience talk to him, and break into his thinking. He has been playful, reflective, and contemplative of the experience. This is the essence of the spiritual life. We do the daily disciplines of faith, we watch and listen, and let life talk back and lead us further.

Gordon Atkinson's Article
Andrew Prior. Andrew is the Web Minister at Scots Church Adelaide

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