Monday, June 6, 2011

how to 'be' the church

I think the church spends too much time worrying about what to 'do'. Church is about 'being', not 'doing'.

I've written my Pentecost sermon--I haven't preached since Easter and am chomping at the bit. I love Pentecost and I love baptisms and I love 'beginnings' and Sunday will be all. The church in Killingworth has been closed for repairs from the Mother of all Winters and is reopening on the Feast of Pentecost when we celebrate the birth of the church. And there are baptisms. And the fire will fall and the wind will howl....

I quote Antoine de Saint-Exupdery in my sermon. A problem since I can no more pronounce that with my distinctively Celtic mouth than I can turn coal into diamonds. He's the guy who wrote "The Little Prince", one of my favorite books and a book so spiritual it sings.

Here's what he said: "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders....Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea...."

I urge you to read that a couple of more times and ponder it a bit. It is ponderable in the extreme.

Building a ship, he is saying, has next to nothing to do about what you 'do'. Building a ship requires a people who 'be' yearning for the vast and endless sea. That distinction is enormous. A ship built because someone 'in charge' gave orders, would certainly sail. But a ship built because a people longed and yearned for the 'vast and endless sea'--ah, that's a ship on an adventure, a ship devoutly to be wished, a ship to sail to what is magical and mystical and as yet unknown.

That's the model for the church. Neo-gothic buildings like the one I served in for 21 years in Waterbury, have a part of the building called 'the nave'. And if you look at the vaulted ceiling, it looks like the hold of a great and wondrous ship. The earliest Christians were fishermen, after all, they knew about boats and there are multiple stories in the gospels we have about being in or on or around boats....

We have to give 'the church' (by that term, I mean 'the people who are the laos, the 'laity', the 'people of God') a vision of the vast and endless sea. Yearning and longing and being surprised by what shows up next creates people who know "Who They Be" and their 'being' will tell them what to 'Do' and how to construct the boat, the ship, the church. Being before Doing, always the right order.

The little cluster of four churches I serve now for a month as their Interim had a Cluster Celebration in Westbrook on Sunday with Bp. Curry and brass and confirmation and the sure and certain proof that the 'sum' is more than the total of the parts. This is all new to me but so exciting. I love each of the four distinct and quirky communities that make up the Cluster. Seeing them all together was like a breath of fresh air.

These are people who know how to BE. The battle is half-won and it hasn't even begun....

These are people who yearn for the vast and endless sea already. God bless them.

I just want to have a part in telling them the stories of the sea and make them yearn more and get out of the way while they 'create' the ship out of nothing that will take us there.

A story I heard somewhere, somehow, from someone:

"The people who lived by the sea built a great ship to take them to 'where they were meant to be'. They sat off, but being people of the land, folks kept falling off the ship and the ship would have to circle back and fish those overboard out of the sea.

And, amazing as it might seem, by endlessly circling and pulling people to safety, the ship arrived, unexpectedly and suddenly, at the place the people were 'meant to be'."

That's a parable of the Kingdom. That's a story of a people who yearn for the vast and endless sea. That is how to build a church as well as a ship. That is how to "BE" so that you can "DO".

"Being" before "Doing", I believe. That's the way to the Kingdom, to the place we're meant to be....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.