Monday, June 26, 2006

Golden Calves....more thoughts on that book.

Peterson “What does it mean to represent the Kingdom of God in a culture devoted to the kingdom of self?”
“Far from radical and dynamic, most religion is a lethargic rubber stamp on worldly wisdom”

In response “Ouch”…
It is so terribly easy to become enmeshed in consumer religion (specially if your context is one where the congregation expects the bulk of the clergy time to be spent building up the life of the church (small “c”,- the building and the events that take place in and around it))
How do I discern what in my ministry is a response to God, and what a response to the prevalent assumption that loving my congregation means pleasing, reassuring, affirming them…? I’m not good news if I can never articulate the need for individual and collective transformation. On one hand, there’s a residual culture of anxiety and even fear that has been embedded into the understanding of many at St M’s. People need to really believe that they ARE loved, before there’s any hope of their moving towards loving others. On the other, it was not hard to recognise ourselves in Peterson’s description of a church where there is “conspicuous absence of the cross….puzzling indifference to community and to relationships of intimacy”
That avoidance of intimacy is very much a trade-mark here. The collection of protective masks is truly impressive…last week I decided
“Part of my calling must be to accompany others to a place of open engagement with God, to help them to become vulnerable to him and be with them in the pain of unwrapping the layers of protective self-delusion. Then to speak his love. Again and again.”
It is too easy to engage with people only on the superficial level that they present,- to take them on their own estimation and never engage with the potential they conceal. I have a card tucked away, the gift of the priest who lead the ordination retreat before I was made Deacon, 2 years ago…on it were words he used again in the ordination service
“We have no right to call anyone ordinary”.
Nor to allow them to believe that about themselves.

Peterson points to God’s response….looking on our reality and saying not “therefore” but “nevertheless”….offering forgiveness and not an imprimature on what we think we are…
for me, that connected Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler
“He looked on him and loved him”, though the young man was saddened and perplexed by the invitation to redefine himself as someone who had nothing, who had given away all he possessed, everything through which he established his own self-image.
Of course, Mark doesn’t give us the end of the story…Did he find the courage to unburden himself, to set aside his mask and stand naked before God? Knowing my own attachment to various protective coverings, my suspicion is that he probably didn’t.
But there is ample room for hope in the confirmation that “For God, nothing is impossible” and that, having no respect for our masks, God just gets on with loving the self beneath.

“Salvation, God’s will for every creature to experience the love that redeems, is not a casual or cool abstraction. It is a wild and extravagant energy, not reducible to human control, nto to be harnessed to the service of a religion job” (p68)
Of course, that’s not actually what most people want!
They’d prefer what Peterson describes (delightfully) as “Ancilliary idol assistance”,- religious words to give them a sense of comfort and meaning when times are hard.
We live with our failures of imagination if we think that ministry is about religion….we are called to something very different
“We are there in our congregations to say GOD in a grammar of direct address. We are there to preach and to pray. We are there to focus the overflowing, cascading energies of joy, sorrow, delight or appreciation….for as long as we are able, on God.
We have no other task”

to be continued....


see-through faith said...

Thanks for this Kathryn :)

Fiona said...

Please do continue - but if at all possible do it slowly - all this is so thought provoking and thinking is making my head spin!
Yes, I know you are talking about ministry, but it applies so much (to me anyway) to life in general and parenting and marriage in particular, and thinking, while undoubtely very good for me, is making my brain hurt.

Rebecca said...

I thought this might interest you:

Give Loooseeeee a hug from me :)

Rebecca said...

The end of that link is:


Tony said...

I'm glad you're enjoying Eugene Peterson: he is one of the writers I've found most helpful in recent years. Especially the notion that what the church needs is contemplative pastors, rather than busy busy rushing workaholic manager pastors.

Still a lot to learn there, for me, because it is so counter-cultural. Counter-church-cultural, I mean.