Referring back to my desire to foster a community where we tell stories, which was a blog post some while ago... here... Here's some more thinking about how we can follow Jesus' example in inviting participation in the sharing of the stories of faith.
This is a repost of a blog I posted in a previous incarnation at 'Grace Ground' - where I posted as a part of my last church group 'The Five Alive Mission Community' - I didn't manage to keep up that blogging regime (surprise!) but I do want to preserve this post. I might not write in such a way now, this is two years old, but the heart is still what I would want to say. I have recently rewritten this post for our local Paper too... I might post that here after publishing in order to compare and contrast!
I was on a ‘Life Coaching’ day yesterday provided by my Diocese to explore the possibility of either training some Clergy in Life Coaching or offering this facility with regards to working through projects or objectives raised by our Continuing Ministerial Development reviews.
That’s just background, a discussion about the ‘professionalisation of ministry’ or the value of Life Coaching can probably wait until another time.
The day began, though with a look at this poem by Mary Oliver entitled ‘The Summer Day’ AKA the grasshopper. I’ve not reproduced it here as it might be under copyright, so I thought I’d link to it and quote!
It is a great poem and the small group on this training day agreed that it some how gave permission to the reader to consider being themselves – even in idleness. There’s a wonderfully resonant image of being ”idle and blessed” which helped our small group of Ministers remember that salvation doesn’t come through what we do but through resting in what Christ has done. We so often bind ourselves up in concern with what we are and aren’t doing rather than what we are and aren’t being. God calls us to be loved, before we are called to do loving things…
But there’s a potentially a harder edge to this poem as well.
“What else should I have done?”and
“what is it you plan to doIt is as though the reader is being challenged to respond, as though we might consider the writer’s use of a day in relaxation and idleness somehow wasteful but are being asked why we might consider such to be the case and – by implication – whether our own choice of path is any better.
with your one wild and precious life?”
Yet, and this is where my title comes from. These two interrogatives are softened, made expansive even by these two words…
The poem ends with these striking lines:
Tell me, what else should I have done?Tell me – two words that invite. They may preface a challenge, but in themselves they are warm, grace-full words.
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
When my children come home from school I say ‘Tell me what you did today’. An invitation, I want to know. In it I want to communicate my longing to hear them, and my intention to listen.
God is a ‘tell me’ God.
The invitation to share in prayer is not a demand but a longing on God’s part to be woven into the fabric of our daily life. Yes, there’s challenge – and truly opening to God in prayer is a risky business that will result in transformation and growth, possibly via pain and loss. But God has shared his story with all humanity in the person of Christ and longs for us to share our story with him in return.
And if we as the people of God in the Church are truly to mirror God’s Mission, his reaching out to humanity with open arms on the cross, we must be a tell me church too. As we ask people to tell us their story, and we hear it without judging or criticising but loving and understanding. As we allow people to tell us their fears and darknesses and we hear and respond to them with love. As we allow people to tell us what they need without feeling the need to tell them first!
Expansive, grace-full, loving, inviting to life.