Monday, June 22, 2015

metanoia (re-think)

Eucharist celebration the last day of the meetings
This past week Dean and I and a few others from Montreal drove to Cambridge, Ontario for 4 days of leadership meetings. We gathered together with folks from all across Canada representing different Vineyard churches and national Vineyard initiatives. Let's get the complaints out of the way first. Well, there is really only one: the Cheetos only appeared on the snack table on day 3. Where were they on days 1 and 2, I ask? Despite this minor setback, I have to say that the gathering, which was a pilot for future get-togethers under the moniker, Metanoia (re-think), lived up to its name. I know others will have different perspectives, but here are some of the treasures I brought away with me.

Re-think how we connect: We didn't spend a lot of time listening to professional talkers or the big cheese(s), but to each other. We heard each other's stories, dreams, failings, hurts, disappointments, and hopes. We laughed together, cried together, said thank to each other, prayed for each other, ate together, worshiped together, read the scriptures together, and listened to the Holy Spirit together. Building authentic relationships is not easy, not in an urban setting which skews one toward isolation, not in a church movement with a great deal of diversity in the mix, and not in a country as geographically vast as Canada. And yet, we find ourselves always pulled toward each other. As Thomas Cranmer said, "What the heart loves, the will chooses and the mind justifies." We have a desire to love deeply, to foster genuine friendships, and to do so despite all the obstacles which are present in our context. The focus at the gatherings was not on building a structure to develop connections, but to fan the flames of love and let that love forge pathways between us, to let that love find a way to express itself in creative and constructive ways.

Re-think how we move forward: For the most part, there were no grandiose strategies or visions of the future presented to us. Instead of "Here's the plan, folks," ideas still in the germinating stage were offered up as possible ways forward, and we were invited to wrestle with them, adjust them, add to them, and critique them from our different contexts. There was a sense that we are all building something together, that each unique voice is needed in the mix, and that how we get there is as important as where we are going. "We come together because we can't do it alone," someone said. The way forward is not a strategy but a call to become a people who prophetically advance the story of God. In order to do this, we need to draw on wisdom found in many sources: history, scriptures, communal discernment, and learned discourse, to name a few. Especially important for us in the church is the ability to see where we have gone off-course, where we have made idols out of such things as cultural relativism and numerical success. If we don't walk humbly, we won't be walking for long.

Re-think how we approach current issues: This was one of the most important takeaways for me. Scholar, historian, and human being extraordinaire, Caleb Maskell, urged us to re-think how we respond to the challenges of our day. If we try to take the issues head-on, we are bound to become hopelessly entangled in the controversies and find no way out. Caleb insisted that we spend our time and energy on long-term formation of God's story, and ultimately of the image of Christ, within us. In other words, let us get the story of God inside us and ourselves inside the story of God. Out of that amazing narrative which recalls the goodness of creation, which offers loving and merciful redemption to the unworthy, and which invites us to feast at the table of God, we can respond to crises or issues or conflicts or shifts in our culture, always looking for the kingdom of God in all its scandalous suffering and breathtaking beauty.

Speaking of beauty, I so appreciated the concerted efforts of the organizers to surround us with beauty in every aspect of our meetings, from the setting in a former Jesuit monastery to the local artwork present in the meeting spaces to the flowers, candles, couches, lighting, and general attention to aesthetics. A special treat was an art film viewing and a wine and cheese reception at the spectacular renovated barn loft of a local artist. We found ourselves rendered speechless in the face of beauty, and that's a good thing. It is easier for us to listen and be humble in the midst of beauty. It is harder to speak harsh, judgmental words when we are staring at loveliness. Beauty invites us to be overwhelmed by the abundant nature of our great, generous God. Let us become lovers of beauty in the world and in each other.

Thanks to David and Anita Ruis for their generous, spacious leadership and the folks at the Cambridge Vineyard for their hospitality and welcome this past week. We didn't solve all the problems in the world, but I believe the world became a slightly better place because we gathered in the name of Jesus and listened.

1 comment:

Jon said...

Amen and amen.