Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday five: but how, then, shall we live?

Sally of the RevGals writes:

This has been a good week for British Methodism, The Annual Conference has discussed and debated many things and not shied away from some difficult stuff. New Ministers have been Ordained and received into Full Connexion. Add to that the fact that two amazing ladies; Alison Tomlin and Eunice Attwood have taken up their posts as President and Vice-President for 2010/2011–and that they have both inspired us in their speeches and preaching , and you begin to get the picture. In the Vice-President's Address Eunice gave an inspiring account of the type of church she wants to be a part of:

I want to be part of a church that is prayer-filled -
A church that is resourced and sustained by the Bible,
A church that can offer hope even in a credit crunch,
A church that can live well with difference and diversity.

I want to be part of a church that welcomes the wealthy, those who have power and influence -
A church that knows how to party and celebrate life,
A church that acknowledges death and speaks boldly of resurrection,
A church that doesn’t pretend to have all the answers but encourages all the questions.

I want to be part of a church that throws parties for prostitutes -
A church that welcomes those who seek asylum,
A church that longs and yearns for justice,
A church that listens to those no-one else wants to listen to.

I want to be part of a church that believes in transformation not preservation -
A church where all who are lost can be found,
A church where people can discover friendship,
A church where every person takes responsibility in sharing the good news.

I want to be part of a church whose hope is placed securely and confidently in the transforming love of God -
A church that engages faith in its communities,
A church that makes and nurtures disciples of Jesus.

A church where the story of God’s love is at the centre.
I want to be part of a church that offers outrageous grace, reckless generosity, transforming love and engaging faith.
This is God’s story Transforming Love: Engaging Faith.

My prayer is that by the power of the Spirit of God at work amongst us, it will increasingly be our story.

I want to be part of that church too, and at the danger of trying to add to such a wonderful litany of dreams/ visions and prayers I wonder which five things would you echo from or add to this. What kind of church do you want to be a part of in the 21st Century?

Bonus: Is there a hymn or a Bible passage that you would make your inspiration?

Well. That's a thinker, isn't it? Here's my answer:

I want to be part of a church that is

  1. humble–that can find a different standard of belonging than dogmatic “right” and “wrong.” That can be fully in conversation with people and institutions whose ideas, strengths, commitments are different from its own, for the betterment of all. That can admit when it’s wrong by its own standards, repent and do better next time. That cares less about its image in the world than its effectiveness in the relief of suffering and of spreading (or, at the very least, not impeding) the love of God. Talk with me about babies and bathwater all you want; I’m pretty sure that genuine love is the fulfillment of the Law. I want a church that isn’t so comfortable that it has all the right answers; that’s a kind of living death. I want a church that will recognize its own “-olatries” and work to tear them down. And could we maybe even (dare I say it) laugh at ourselves sometimes?
  2. engaged in a positive way–that truly sees the suffering/injustice within its walls, down the street, and around the world (which will require a good dose of characteristic #1, particularly in first-world environments) and wants to provide that cold drink of water to a child more than it wants to preserve itself. That seeks out the gifts of its body and brings them to bear on the problems it finds. However, the church should act within the political system of its country more as a voice of conscience than as a political power in its own right; it should be about raising questions about how we are to live together, instead of seeking power for its own sake. And–hear me now–its methods are every bit as important as its results. Scapegoating and scaring people into thinking they’re losing their grip on everything they hold dear so that they’ll support a particular political engine is hypocritical, reprehensible and, in the end, counter-productive. Witness the treatment of GLBT folks in the last twenty years as just one of many examples. We should be about tikkun olam.
  3. awake to the unfolding beauty of the world–that observes, listens, ponders and responds creatively. Where beauty is taken seriously as a characteristic of the Divine. Where the planet is celebrated and protected as our astonishing home. Where spirits open in song, art, dance and story, in response to the unbelievable gift of being alive and together under the sun, in God’s gaze, as part of the ongoing story of God’s people. Where, as the hymn says, “through the church the song goes on.”
  4. un-self-conscious about holding love of God and neighbor as its highest values. Period. Worship is vibrant, fresh, the central practice/equipment to the life of faith for all people–and I do mean ALL people–so that they may be sent out to love all the world. Not to convert them, just to love them. It must be extravagantly welcoming to everyone, as if love really does cast out fear. Doctrinal agreement and social conformity are not defining characteristics of this community; for once, it’s more about “us” than about “me.” And–don’t get me wrong–I’m not talking about a squishy “we are the world” sentiment here; I’m talking about honest, vigorous, creative, brave, get-your-hands-dirty love. Not onstage; in the trenches. And sometimes, we are the ones in need of help and teaching. Two-way relationships.
  5. hopeful, faithful, confident and patient enough to pour itself out as Christ did.

And let me just say this; it’s easy to talk about it on this level. The hard part is when we try to answer the question, “But how, then, shall we live?” Because working all this out is messy. Feelings get hurt. Dignities are affronted. Turf is impinged upon. Scabs are pulled off. Put your helmets on, people; this is a contact sport. But if those things don’t happen, from where does the growth come? Truly, if we’re not changed by the experience, what are we doing? And this is where the good stuff always comes–where we can be surprised by grace, by joy, by love.

Oh, and my answer to the bonus question? Albert Bayly's wonderful hymn does it for me (sung to BEACH SPRING):

Lord, whose love in humble service bore the weight of human need;

who, upon the cross, forsaken, worked your mercy's perfect deed.

We, your servants, bring the worship not of voice alone, but heart;

consecrating to your purpose every gift that you impart.

Still your children wander homeless; still the hungry cry for bread;

still the captives long for freedom; still in grief we mourn our dead.

As you, Lord, in deep compassion, healed the sick and freed the soul,

by your Spirit send us power to your world to make it whole.

As we worship, grant us vision, till your love's redeeming light

in its height and depth and greatness dawns upon our quickened sight,

making known the needs and burdens your compassion bids us bear;

stirring us to ardent service, your abundant life to share.

Called by worship to your service, forth in your dear name we go,

to the child, the youth, the aged, love in living deeds to show;

hope and health, goodwill and comfort, counsel, aid and peace we give,

that your servants, Lord, in freedom may your mercy know and live.


Anonymous said...

Hi, unrelated to your post, but thought you'd enjoy this story:


Sally said...

love it, and that how then shall we live question needs to be at the heart of our walk as disciples- well played!

Mompriest said...

It is hard to live it out, but I have hope that it is not impossible. Well said.

Mavis said...


MaineCelt said...

Oh, Heavens! Oh, Earth! Yes, THIS is the Kin-dom for which I'm willing to work.

Thank You!

Jan said...

I appreciate and can identify with your succinct answers, plus your amplifications. And your question is always the question; pay attention! Thanks.

Cecilia said...

Lovely. And I love the hymn... Beach Spring is a favorite hymn tune of mine.

Diane said...

yes yes yes. and this is my favorite. hymn. ever.