Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Discerning God in our everyday

John 20:19-21
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

If I'm asked to describe Path of Renewal (which I am frequently), I most often describe it as an opportunity to create space, to take a step back (or several steps back) and discern what God is revealing of how we are being invited to join in the mission of God wherever we are today - Something that is different for every context, congregation and individual. That discernment involves deepening our own relationship with God and with the communities we serve and demands our own transformation before we can begin to transform the world around us,
For most of the time I've been involved with Path of Renewal, I've also been undertaking a Diploma in Pastoral Supervision. Both of these pursuits involve creating space for discernment - discernment of God's call on our lives. As a facilitator in Path of Renewal and as a Supervisor in Pastoral Supervision, my role is one of creating space, a space for listening and, out of that nuanced listening, occasionally offering alternative images for consideration, always recognising and honouring the wisdom and creativity of those with whom I work. To be involved in that process is a sacred gift.
Discernment invites us, in community, to recognise the presence of the risen Christ in our midst and to hear the call of God on our lives. It is not a mechanical discipline but a spiritual practice involving transformation of hearts and minds.
The disciples in the locked room, confronted by their risen Lord, could not rely on their knowledge or expectations, they could not revert to former roles and practice - this was a whole new ball game and they had to find a new level at which to engage with Christ"s presence and with his commission to them: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you."m
Discernment, whether undertaken with one other person or with a whole community, involves that same sort of switch- going beyond what, in our heads makes sense, to believing in our hearts the way that God reveals and then following that way, sent into the world transformed by the risen Christ to serve the world today.
Diana Butler Bass in Christianity For The Rest Of Us shares this:
Emerging Christianity is about change—about changing from spiritual tourists to pilgrims—about transforming our selves, our congregations, and our communities. We are going there, to a change of heart that revolutionizes one’s whole life. 
In our changed landscapes and culture today, the risen Christ invites us on a journey of discovery and transformation - and breathes his peace into us as we set out on our own particular path of renewal.

Monday, 3 July 2017

The slow work of love

“It saddens me to see how many are still locked down by the belief that if they just work a little harder, if they just collaborate better or build a bigger network, if they just develop a new approach, they’ll turn the world around. Can we please abandon these self-destructive beliefs?”
Margaret Wheatley, So far from home 35

This may sound a little defeatist for the work we are about today but also very freeing. If we can somehow abandon the mindset that our one task is to find that key that will unlock renewal in the church, not only will we save ourselves a lot of heart ache and frustration, but we will also be clearing a path for the Spirit to breathe through structures that obstruct and control and break down barriers that are hindering God's reshaping for today. We are making way for the great spiritual rummage sale of this era if we can stop tinkering at the edges and begin to glimpse the new thing that God is doing and in which we are invited to participate.
That work isn't corporate or outcomes driven - the Holy Spirit doesn't recognise such confinement. Rather, it will emerge from individual discernment of God's calling and purpose. Leaders in today's church are being asked to deepen their own faith by cultivating spiritual practices that keep us rooted and grounded in God and in the power of the Spirit and then to invest in others to encourage and enable spiritual growth that helps others to recognise God at work in their context and the work to which God calls and equips them. It's not about the latest trend or quick fixes but about the slow work of the Spirit moulding and shaping a culture that allows the free reign of God to flourish.
In the words of Paul: Ephesians 3:16
I pray that, according to the riches of God's glory, God may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through God's Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.
The world conspires to convince us that we do not have time for such slow work in the church today nor the power to effect change. But the Spirit of God beseeches us to harness the power of the Spirit while exercising patience with ourselves and with others to allow new seeds to be sown that will, in God's good time, produce a harvest. We may not see that harvest but, meantime, as we reconnect with the grounding power of love, we can reach out and transform the world around us with the much needed love and compassion of God, preparing the ground in which the Spirit can flourish.