I’ve found that people like to be helpful by telling us what to do and how to do it. To give us the rules and then also expect that we will all follow the same rules. This is what you are supposed to be reading and using. This is what I should be telling other people to do and how to do it.
This is what you should be preaching and this is what your sermon should be saying. Make sure everyone is very clear on what things mean and what the answers are.
I’ve never been very comfortable with this idea of telling others what to do. It usually doesn’t work. Or confining us all to one happy, little, perfect box. One that we’re all trying to fit in. One that our job is to make sure we fit in. If you’re not doing it this way, then you’re wrong, and you don’t fit or you don’t belong.
Let’s face it, the worst experiences of life have been when someone has said: we’re wrong or not doing it right or we’re not good enough. Usually meant to be helpful: “Wouldn’t it be better if ___” or (with a giggle) “You’re really not that good at ___” or (with a laugh) “Don’t quit your day job” or (with a gasp) “That’s not how that’s done”.
As Van Gogh put it: “If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” Reminding us that often our worst critic, and limiter, is ourself.
There’s so much of the way we’re supposed to do things. So many rules. So many how-to’s. A lot less creativity and exploration and being ok with mistakes and failures and unusual triumphs (that don’t fit the mold). The imperfections. I love, love, love hearing (and offering): “You’re finding your own way.” “You’re doing just fine.” It might not be perfect, but with patience…it is enough. Thank you.
There’s definitely a “mold”. A lot of this simply comes from: this is the way it’s always been done and molds feel safer.
Maybe we’re not supposed to continue to do things that way, just because it’s the way “it’s always been done”. It’s been a year and half of “the way it’s always been done” turned upside down. Take church as a big example. Church has always been a place of consistency, of ritual, and of “the way it’s always been done”. In a very big, and often very comforting way. But, we’ve also seen where that can keep us stuck. Very, very few churches are doing anything “the way it’s always been done”.
Church is a very different place now than it was two years ago today. Not just here. Everywhere. And it’s ok. We’re doing just fine.
Churches, and people, will be stronger for embracing new ways and challenges to evolve and to…grow. To grow through adversity, instead of becoming stunted and stuck in how do we do this the ways it’s always been done, when it’s impossible to do things the way it’s always been done?. We grow.
Growth is never easy. That’s why we like boxes.
We can try to stay in our box, with our safe people, and our safe lines, and our safe rules. We can open our doors to people only to people who think the same way as we do. Boxes are safe. Fixed rules are safe. We like safety. It’s easy to cleave to safety. But we don’t grow in a box (and if the rules were meant to be clear and obvious, there wouldn’t be such confusion and conflicting stuff in the Bible). Study and Wisdom.
Maybe growth and love is a lot more like a tree. We talked last week of the importance of “roots”. We plant our roots firmly down. Tradition. Lineage. The Bible. The stories. The Stories. Some of the foundations of what to expect when and that sense of safety. But we aren’t only our roots.
We are a trunk. A solid trunk, reaching up and out of the deeply rooted foundation to explore and rise up into the sunlight (son-light?). Solid. Stable, but not deeply grounded roots. The thing that bridges the roots and the branches. Maybe this is church.
We are branches. The part that reaches for the sunlight (son-light?) And takes in the light that nourishes the trunk and the roots (it’s all important). We evolve and grow in our own beautiful and unique ways, but a rich part of the whole. Some branches reach right up for the sun. Some reach outward first, or are even dragged down, or drooped down, by some weight or challenge. Some branches bloom bold and bright. Some bloom a little more humbly. Some struggle to bloom. Some are afraid to bloom. Even on the same tree.
Sometimes our branches entangle and support one another. Sometimes, we can drag each other down. We also reach out to other trees.
Perhaps too, we can be mirrors to one another, reflecting the sunlight from our leaves to one another. Similar, like trees, but different. With different needs. Rooted in different places, even within the same forest.
Instead of a sermon or preaching, we reflect. We share scripture stories. We share life stories. We share words of encouragement or silent comfort. We take time to be with one another and we offer each other a different way of seeing and being in life. Sometimes, it resonates (another beautiful word). Sometimes, not. Either way: reflect.
Why does it resonate? Learn and grow and explore that way or story.
Why doesn’t it resonate? Learn and grow and explore this way or story.
Reflecting takes patience. It takes being open to being imperfect and learning and growing.
Reflect. There are no right answers. That’s why it’s called a Mystery. Can we be still and settle into the Mystery. Can we be with one another and reflect both light and shadow, hope, fear, challenge, joy, suffering, grief, triumph, faith, and failure?
Life. The stuff of life. Can we reflect on how better to be present in the world and of service? How to comfort and be comforted (often very hard to accept comfort)?
Life is a gift to reflect on. Friendship is a gift to reflect on. Love is a gift to reflect on. And yes, those we dislike, are a gift to reflect on.
Our stories are a gift to reflect on. Our lineage. The Mystery. The roots. The trunk. The branches. The blossoms. The leaves. The sun. The son.
We sit with one another and share stories, formal and informal. These are gifts for us to reflect on and contemplate and ponder and meditate on. Ways of bringing meaning to our simple and complex lives. On living. On dying. On doing and being.
On the Mystery. The Spirit. The Word. The word made flesh.
Can we settle and be ok, and just fine, finding our own way (with patience and courage) in this great Mystery?