I recently spent a week at an intensive Transitional Ministry training in northern New Mexico at Ghost Ranch retreat center. Nestled at the foot of Kitchen Mesa, a gloriously stratified rainbow of rock which changes colors with every millimeter’s movement of the sun, it is a “thin place” where the veil between this world and the eternal world is thin. It is easy to lose your bearings in the expansive desert, and to find new ones. Or not. Either way, thin places jolt us out of old ways of seeing the world, and therein lies the transformation.
For me the transformation came in how I understood the question God is asking King of Glory. When I drove there through the San Louis valley sweating, swearing, and saying beneath my breath, “How can I figure out if we should sell our property or not?” When I drove home six days later, I knew why that question was so stressful: it’s the wrong question.
The first thing the facilitators asked us to do was allow ourselves to be vulnerable. As you well know, this is never an easy thing to do, especially among strangers, especially about a something I am afraid I will do poorly. You see, I am afraid. I am called to be your Pastor, and I am afraid that, in answering this question God has put before us, I will fail you. I am afraid I will hurt you or push you away.
Naming this fear revealed where my heart lay: I realized right at the start, the question God is asking us is not about our property at all. It’s about our people. I care more about you than about any outcome. I had it backwards: I was thinking I was going to have to “bring you along,” and now I understand I need to follow you. We need to follow one another. But how?
First, we remember in baptism we are children of God and the Body of Christ in the world. Our baptismal call is to proclaim the love of God in Christ through word and deed. Here or there, with money or without, be we three or three hundred, our first call is to be the Body of Christ.
Trusting in God’s baptismal promises, I invite you, too, to allow yourself to be vulnerable. What moves you deeply? What do you care about, and why? Sharing our fears and our hopes is scary and difficult and oh, so rewarding.
So, trusting the Spirit has put our purpose on one another’s hearts, instead of focusing on the property , let’s ask “What in God’s name is going on here, and what could we do now?” What in God’s name is already happening at KOG? What do we want to see more of? Remember, the question God is asking is not about the building, it’s about the people; it’s about us.
As my training week continued I allowed myself to be honest about how truly ambivalent I am about the question. Ambivalent means having strong feelings in competing directions. Some moments I am deeply connected to our history in this place, and other moments I’m thrilled by newness and the future. I can see wonderful possibilities if we remain together here at 58th and Kipling. I can see wonderful possibilities if we choose to answer God’s call in some other way in some other place.
I can see possibilities! And I can see a process for us to work together to discover our purpose in these possibilities, to discover how this congregation uniquely proclaims God’s love in Christ through words and deeds, a process for us to discover together which possibilities can become realities.
When we are clear on our purpose, the steps we need to take to make that possibility a reality will become clear. When we know what we want to be next, what we should do next with the property will become a clear. Staying or selling will feel like the natural, right step because it will serve our larger purpose. So let us ask about purpose.
We have two more resources going for us, too: we have each other, and we have time. Lutherans understand the Holy Spirit to speak most clearly through the community as a whole. We need everyone to speak up, and I know for some people that is a challenge.
Together we can invite the Spirit to speak loudly. Jesus said, “everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” We will use a method called Appreciative Inquiry to help us listen with love to one another’s wisdom and fears. God has not left us to figure this out on our own; we have one another, and the Spirit is present and speaking in each of us!
So we may be loving listeners, I am offering an Appreciative Inquiry Training @ 11:00 – 12:00 this Sunday, March 3. I invite you to discover ways to have powerful, fruitful, and cooperative conversations around difficult topics. Would you be willing to join us?
We have another resource, too: time. We have twelve to eighteen months before we need to put pen to paper. What a rarity and a blessing to have time! So let us relax into discussion without stress or hurry. Let us take the next few months to imagine and dream. Our Town Hall Meeting on Sunday, March 10 after worship will be the first of many as we journey together to discover our purpose. Sometime next fall we will arrive together at a vision for our purpose, then we will entertain logistical questions about how to make that possibility real. So let’s not put the cart before the horse. How can we know if selling or staying is best if we don’t know why we’re doing it?
God has not brought us together to tear us apart. God has not put a challenge before us to divide us, but to unite us. Let’s come together to listen for what ignites fire in our hearts, for what we share in common, for what our next step together might be.
Two weeks ago I wrote to you about a Question Worth Considering, but I got the question wrong! The real question is: What in God’s name is going on here, and what could we do now?
Would you be willing to share what God has put on your heart, and hear what God has put on the hearts of others? Come learn more about Appreciative Inquiry on March 3 from 11:00 – 12:00, and please share your hopes and fears at our first Town Hall Meeting on March 10 from 10:30-12:00.