Truly excellent CME session yesterday (and not just because it meant that I had a day off from the parish). I always enjoy these gatherings, as I benefit so much from being with others engaged on the same journey, and have so many good friends in the group. Sometimes this is the only real gain of the day, but not this time.
The session was entitled “Who on earth is God, what is he doing and what does it have to do with me?” and set out to explore theological reflection as a tool for ministry, achieving pretty much exactly what it said on the tin. Of course, the concept wasn't in a way new to me, but I really did need to be brought up short to consider what, if anything, I was actually doing about it. In the course of the day, I realised gradually how much of my time I spend doing simply what comes next to be done, - as lovingly and faithfully as I can, to be sure,- but reflectively??
So I’m forced to conclude that I probably also spend much of my time doing things that have nothing at all to do with why God put me in this place (though I am confident that it was indeed His intention that I should be here).
Among the thoughts that I found specially helpful/challenging was the question (to ask about our churches, as much as of ourselves)
We can believe that God does everything….but do we believe that he does anything in particular?
(tbh, I'm not sure I dare consider that one too closely in terms of our church at present...but we are planning a Lent series on prayer, so that might be the time to engage with it seriously)
We may spend time asking WWJD as if all his actions were limited to the period of his Incarnation in 1st century Palestine…but we should rather be asking what IS Jesus doing…expecting Him to be alive and active in his world today and constantly on the lookout for those things which He invites us to join in.
I’d certainly admit that so often I’m busy doing those things which I imagine God wants me to do (what my children describe as my Good Little Curate mode comes in here, I guess…but it’s not just the more consciously “churchy” elements of my routine) that I’m potentially oblivious to the things he is getting on with around me. It's another reminder, too, that the Church has never held a monopoly on God...and the reason I am excited about "fresh expressions" is because they can acknowledge this reality, and encourage us to work where God is already engaged. More on that later...
Perhaps against this, I was also challenged to consider the historic tendency of the Church to
“serve the world for the sake of the Father” rather than reversing the priorities, so that we “serve the Father for the sake of the world”….doing socially useful things on the basis that these will be pleasing to God….
I’m still trying to get my head round this.
How can I, in all my smallness and inadequacy, offer anything to God except where I encounter him in those people he sets in my way?
I guess it’s all a question of whose agenda I’m following, how hard I listen…
After all, I can’t discount all that stuff somewhere in the Bible (yes…that’s another area where I’m feeling a tad insecure; a post for another time, I think) about how impossible it is to love God, whom one hasn't seen, while hating one’s brother, whom one knows all too well…or that quoted so helpfully by urban army in today's post on love.
Make sure you don't take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship--a different kind of "sacrifice"--that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets. (Hebrews 13:16 The Message)
I think I’m beginning to feel a bit like the centipede lying in the ditch, counting legs….time to pray that Merton prayer again, and then keep my eyes consciously open for God in the world as I get on with the week. If I'm really brave, I'll blog how I get on!