This spring I am taking a personal blogging hiatus and have invited some folks to blog in my stead. It is my intention help share some new voices and perspectives with a larger audience and keep my blog active during my break. If you are interested in guest blogging, feel free to submit an idea. Today I welcome to the blogging crew, Adrian Williams, Director of Educational Ministries at Harbor View Presbyterian Church in Charleston, SC. He completed his M.Div at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond and loves teaching, coaching, and all that jazz. And if any of you know him as KeepSetting on Words With Friends, you have surely been humbled. Welcome Adrian! Connect with Adrian: FACEBOOK | TWITTER | BLOG
I know you’re in a bit of a hurry to do what’s next and to stop being behind the rest of the world, but I’d like to ask you to slow down and do some of this “discerning” work that our scripture and traditions are full of. We are busy trying to find a majority who think alike, or even a sense of consensus that leads to nothing more than a bunch of separate groups appearing to be together but really all just complaining that we’re heading in a direction that isn’t exactly what they think is right. This to me sounds a lot like most things in the society we live in, which is why I think that now is the time to truly consider what a call to discernment looks like as we seek the “sense of the meeting.”
Sense of the Meeting is a Quaker idea. It’s main point is to give God a voice in our decision making process and to move towards what it is God is calling us to do. That seems a lot like what we’re told being a Christian is all about in scripture. What is faith? Is it simple belief? Is it some deeper realization of truth? Or does it have some active component? If it has some active component is it a moral component? Is it about good works? Or is it about some inner action that leads to outer action? I would like us to consider the possibility that it is the last one, and that the inner work is actually more the point than even the outer act. That isn’t to say we’re not to act in this world, or that we’re allowed to use our inner work as an excuse to not act, actually I would argue quite the opposite.
We are good as a church at stating what we should be doing and then backing it up with a list of why arguments. Yet, I think faith(fulness) means that the searching of the whys is essential to the acts themselves. We want to follow God’s voice, but we never seem to stop debating long enough to let God speak. We never want to let go of our hill, let go of our arguments that we are the ones that are “right” in order to listen. We have decided that we speak for God on all subjects and in all times.
Thus, we step up not just to act as we feel called, but to defend the church and God against those who think we’re wrong. We label each other, fundamentalist, liberal, progressive, conservative, evangelical, left wing, crazy, fake and the list goes on and every term states that there is one right way and I’ve already found it. If we had truly found all the answers I do not think others would be blind to it, our actions would attract all people to us. I have yet to meet anyone, or any group that comes close to that.
Yet, I do believe we do want to do what is right on the whole. I don’t think we aim to be selfish, but we are afraid: afraid of silence, afraid that God will say something we’re uncomfortable with, afraid of who we’ll be told to love just as they are, afraid of feeling alone, afraid that worshiping, celebrating, confessing, and serving together is to let God down somehow. Do not fear, God will answer, God is not silent in this time although some may think it seems to be that way. We need to get back to seeking that which our innermost desires. We need to get back to naming what our corporate heart really wants. Do we really desire unity? Do we really desire justice? What is it that God has placed there, that answer that presses us forward with God in the lead?
We look so often for simple answers and the simple answers do nothing but pit us against one another. God has a purpose in mind, church, we have to be willing to do the work to hear what it is. To seek deep within ourselves, not with an end result in mind, but putting aside questions of “what does the church look like going forward?” or “how do we speak to this generation?” or “how do we interpret God’s word?” or “how do we move forward together?” We have to put aside these questions and ask one simple question “What is it that is at our core, that we feel God saying to us at this moment?” and then we must rest in and wrestle with those answers moving towards the light of God’s illumination. Focusing not on what we’ll do when we find the answer, but on the process of letting go of all that we want and actually listening for God.
This means we must slow down. No matter how long it takes, the process does more for us than any answer could. It brings us together, it unifies us behind that which brought us together as one body originally, it turns us all inward together rather than focusing us all outward protecting something that doesn’t need our protection. We need to be free to be the church, we need the freedom only God can bring, we need the freedom that comes with admitting we don’t have the answers but we know who does and we’re going to keep seeking until we all find it together.
Scary? Hardly. Does it mean that we have to actually be continually transforming, continually discerning, continually humble? Yes. Does it mean we have to stop doing what we currently think is right? No, not at all, but are you willing to give it up if God calls you to do so? Are you willing to actually look at things not as either/or, not as right/wrong, not as black/white but as that which God will illumine to us all together? God has answers, answers beyond our ways of thinking and I think we may be at a point where Billy Joel may be speaking prophesy: “You may be right, I may be crazy, but it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for.”
Church, I love you, but you’ve got to slow down. You’re burnt out. You’re too tired to do good work. And a midlife crisis or a career change is not going to fix it, just set it all back in motion full speed ahead. I appreciate that you want to find your place in the world and get to what is next, that you desire to feel important and valued, but focusing on these things is not going to accomplish any of them. Look inside, slow down, look deep into yourself and find that which is making you church right now. Take time to discern, to be faithful, to let go of those ideas, and to seek instead the process of finding that still small voice that speaks throughout the eons to us all. God is speaking, let us go find what it is that is being said.
Grace and Peace,