We as church have heard many times the story of Samuel, the prophet who as a child listened to the voice of God in the night – and now today as an aging prophet, Samuel resists the willfulness of the people and reminds them to listen – to see with God’s eyes.
Like us here at TUC, the people seek another leader and they insisted on a leader that would bring prestige, a symbol of power – one who would be just like their neighbours. They sought the political structure of a kingdom. The problem was God’s first choice for them was another kind of leader, a completely different structure – one who would offer prophetic, spirit-filled leadership rather than a political kingdom ruled by kings but the people refused to listen. An unruly people – insisting on what they assumed was best for them rather than God’s way. Their agenda – not’s God’s, yet God ‘in giving them up’ does not abandon them!
The nature of God is to salvage the very system God didn’t want them to have in the first place. Samuel concedes finally but in fact, we know the first king, Saul, didn’t turn out so well and Samuel is sent out to find a new king, and while meeting the sons of Jesse he too gets the wrong idea – Samuel’s perception of what a king should be like needed tweaking too! Like the Hindu elephant wisdom, this Hebrew story is also one of perception.
As the story continues, God provides the way into the future for the people through David, a child shepherd. God, in contrast to human understanding, looks into the hearts of the people and calls forth their potential. Yet, Israel’s future is limited by their short-sightedness and their unwilling to seek and trust God’s way in their life as a people.
God’s ways, so unlike our ways, invites us to see with different eyes. Jesus, attuned finely to his heavenly father sees deeply, assuring his listeners that God’s realm grows from tiny mustard-seeds beginnings, the smallest seed becoming the greatest shrub. (Next week)
As we move through the time of transition here in TUC, we are invited to see with God’s-eyes. Trusting in things that are beyond ordinary means of seeing – to look beyond appearances and see a new and different potential / possibility in our future takes transforming Spirit work! – Discerning who and what kind of leadership we want here – in the conversations – a multitude of questions arise like: What is the Spirit calling us into here at Trinity? What surprises do we need to keep ourselves open to? Are we listening, attentive to the Spirit’s direction? Are we open to seeing with the eyes of God rather than our own willful perceptions? Are we willing even to let them go if so led? These are discernment questions that demand reflection and take a lot of hard soul-searching. Are we willing to do the work? Sometimes we have to let go – unbuild – like in another story:
“Pathway to Renewal” Practical Steps for Congregations
by Smith and Sellon
This is a story of a builder carpenter in a certain kingdom who had received an invitation from his king to dinner and so he set out on the journey. It took him through all kinds of twists and turns and he encountered various ‘teachers’ / fellow travellers, one called unbuilder along the way – sometimes as he journeyed he lost sight of where he was going and needed the support of another to keep on track – mostly he learnt to let go – to unbuild a whole lot of assumptions about the journey – gradually he learnt to trust and to respond in love – and to take one step at a time – he discovered the importance of keeping focused on the one who had invited him on the journey in the first place – he learnt to watch for others along their journey too – sometimes he became impatient and simply wanted to know the answers to all his questions and it was then the unbuilder taught him the pearl of wisdom in the simple words be still. Be still! How can you get anywhere if you attempt to stay in place – he was a doer! A builder! Be still! And then he discovered that there was so much more to being still than simply stopping. And slowly he learnt that in all his unsettledness, he could stop worrying and focus on being. This builder, after a long journey of unbuilding all his assumptions, learnt that the journey of transformation centered in the importance of being in God, with God and it was then he was most available along his journey to be for God.
2 Corinthians 5 the apostle Paul’s wisdom urges us to ‘walk by the faith and not by sight’; to trust in different possibilities and realities from the world around us – to be open to an inner renewal of the heart for in Christ everything has become new! Where and what the Spirit is and will call us into we cannot know today, but we are called to trust that the Spirit works in us and one another – as we listen, as we open ourselves to Spirit guidance. We celebrate the Spirit (in this season of Pentecost) , who speaks deep in our hearts, who knows, understands our concerns and longs for our transformation along the journey. The Spirit is creatively and redemptively active in us, challenging us to live and move and walk not only in what is familiar, but also in places of risk with trust – with faith. As we listen, we catch a glimpse of God’s vision and we are asked to play a part, to become a piece in the puzzle that reveals a new picture/ vision!
If the church is really serious, if you and I are really serious about transformation of the Spirit, then somehow that shift has something to do with how we participate in, how we live and move and have our being in God’s story. It has something to do with how we see the other person sitting beside us in the pew, how we work together as a covenant team, how we listen and engage with one another as we do our work of church in board, in worship, in stewardship; it is about how wide open our personal and community doors swing to new ways of being the church. It’s about how well we listen – truly hear another congregant express an viewpoint different from our own. Its about intentional conversation. Its about all these things and more. This work of seeking what God’s purposes are for us will call on us to let go of previous assumptions and ways of seeing in order to be re-shaped, re-molded, renewed in Christ. Before we can build we may well need some unbuilding!
This path to transformation – a path that is not a single time event but life-long – the path to renewal is calling us to let go of our expectations, and make room for our own brokenness to heal and be transformed. It is a community path where each of our ministry teams and larger faith community is called together to make space – holy time and space in our business of church as well as our daily routines for the spiritual journey that we are part of but is not necessarily ours. We do resist such reshaping, transformation; we haven’t got the time; there is a security in the ‘walls’ we built around us long ago; unbuilding/ letting go is a place of risk. Renewal invites us again and again and always to focus on the Christ as the one who invites us on the journey. And as we are still the Spirit addresses our very core/centre, and takes us into deep places of redemption, restoring, repairing and renewing so that we can better live out our mission and our vision in God’s world.
There are big challenges ahead – each of us and all of us together as a congregation – need to take time to be still. To listen to what the spirit of the churches is calling us into. In this transitional time of the church, we asked to be open in the place of risk, of not knowing, yet trusting that the wind of the spirit will move us forward. Re-birth, renewal, transformation feels like wind and rain, even lightening at times. Remember: Christ will do the transformation of seed to shrub. Abundantly blessed by the love of Christ, as we plant our seeds of mission and ministry, let us take on with courage what is ours to do because we know God is with us; in this time of renewal, together, we can sail where the Spirit winds blow us, trusting that the builder knows best.
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