...in the congregation
In my computing work there is always a clamour of competing demands; the boss, several clients phoning at a time, colleagues needing assistance, three computers on the screen at once... the list goes on. In all the urgency, the direction the business is meant to be taking can get lost, and loudest squeaky wheel can take up all the time- even though it is relatively unimportant. It's just like... a congregation.
We have a list of "big rocks" in our office; the key issues that need to be addressed and achieved. They sit, bullet pointed, in the top of my in-tray, and we check our progress against them each week. The demands of the moment are measured against them. New opportunities and directions are assessed besides them.
The big rocks are not inviolable, or 'holy writ.' They also are re-assessed. But they are our daily guide and health check. Wondering about heading back towards work in the church- I don't think it will happen- I made my own list... just to remember. Not holy writ... up for revision... a work in progress... and the beginning of one more mud map.
I think the Church should:
Be a place for meeting God.
Be a place for salt and light in our societyand world
The Church can do this by:
Seeking always to relate to the ultimate reality which we call God
As I note below, there is no sacred and profane. There may be "thin places" where we are more aware of the Divine, but none of life is to be lived as though God was not there, or that what Jesus would do was of no account in that place.
and, as Christians, who see Jesus as a definitive pointer to God, live by asking ''What would Jesus do here in our shoes today?" And then trying to live that.
And I mean not some ethereal (or Victorian) Jesus in flowing robes and sandals, with blue eyes and a beard. I mean a Jesus living here in my town, working in an Australian job, facing our issues, but speaking the words and the meanings that we find on his lips in the New Testament texts.
Refusing the heresy that there is sacred and profane.
By this I mean that there is no place that our faith does not reach and affect. We may not be in church in our work, but even in an environment hostile to the Christ, we still seek to live as Christ would. Sunday church may be far from the place we work, but the hymns and prayers and preaching should speak to the places and struggles in which we work. To healthily be Church, we cannot worship in a way that denies where we live, and we cannot live in a way that denies what we say in worship.
We must also include all of life in our theological thinking. We cannot ignore science, or psychology, for example, simply because they challenge aspects of the faith we have received. This does NOT mean we are to accept all that these disciplines say. Often they are driven by agenda which are not disinterested, but which reflect values which are profoundly anti Christ.
If we belong to Christ, and if the sacred and profane is a false duality, then global justice and peace, for all people, and for all creation, is the sine qua non of Christian discipleship.
Piety which does not strive in its local life to be mindful and responsive to global issues, has already begun to fail. Piety which cries loudly of the global issues and ignores the same issues locally, is in a kind of denial and avoidance. And faith which concentrates only on personal piety, is a heresy.
We begin that task by:
Loving and supporting each other.
"See how those Christians love each other." How can we speak to others if we cannot even live the life ourselves? Loving and supporting each other is part of the discipline of conversion. It is the acid test of our gospel and community. If we cannot love those to whom we are closest, how will we love others?
Being compassionate to others and
Com-passion means literally in passion with. A key part of being Christian is to be in passion with people. To let ourselves feel what they feel. It is the nature of Christ to be merciful, to feel with, and to work for justice and to uphold the Law and to do what is good and right from that position. If we are not in passion with people we have not learned what it means when Jesus says "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." If I am not feeling with you, if I am not in passion with you, then my attempt to help you is not compassion and mercy. It is me helping me feel good by doing good works. It is me being patronising by deciding what is right for you. I can only be Christian by standing for you by standing with you.
stepping outside of ourselves as people and as a parish. Making our survival the most important thing means we won't survive.
True compassion means stepping outside of ourselves. As long as we keep ourselves as the central person, there is no real compassion and there is no real personal freedom, joy or happiness. Keeping "I" at the centre is ultimately an I-dolatry. It makes I God. Indeed, I am here. I am. But what matters is We-The-Whole and also ,that which is Ultimate, which we call God.
There is no place for the old piety which demeaned ourself and made us a good for nothing, self hating slave, in a denial of the Grace of God. Often that became a different kind of elevation of the ego that was just as self-centering of the I. But until we have stepped outside of ourselves, the I- our selfishness, our self-awareness and self focussedness- will always be in the way of the path toward God. Compassion is part of the process of stepping outside of ourselves.
When I am struggling to remember what this all means- on those days when it has slipped out of focus and the I looms large- I remember the happiest times, which are those when I forgot to think about me and being happy and knowing God, and just was.
Living in hope- not hope as a feeling, but hope as a choice.
As Christians I think it is common now to understand that to Love does not always mean to like, or to concur, or to condone. We act for the very best, with the greatest regard, courtesy and respect. We seek to reach out and communicate, not reject or condemn. That is to live with Love.
In the same way, Hope is not a feeling. Hope is a choice. We can live as hopeful people, making the Jesus inspired choices we would make at the best of times, even when it all feels hopeless.
My role as a Minister of the Word is to
1. Live alongside, and as one of, the people of God by:
Striving to remain attuned to God so that I can be a ''thin place" for the people who put their trust in me.
Loving the people of God.
I will try and have one ''non-business" pastoral ''visit" each day.
By nature I am introverted and a bit of a loner. This is one little discipline to help keep the people and the community of the congregation central in my life.
Remaining aware of the life and community issues through and in which people live.
2. Bring to the people:
Encouragement in the value of their discipleship, and what it gives to the world
Help them dare to see God in the world.
Help them step outside themselves and trust God.
3. Remain healthy in mind and body by
Having some fun
Taking plenty of exercise
Keeping in touch with friends
Posted March 23 2007