I write in order to clarify my thinking. I develop ideas and projects, invitations to stations for worship events, journal entries, liturgy, and until recently, most weeks a sermon/talk/reflection/homily. I mostly write to and for myself, even my sermons.
A lot of what I write stays caged in zeroes and ones in my laptop. Most never escapes into the wild. When something does get loose its as much as anything so I can keep track of what I am thinking, and maybe get a perspective or two from outsiders to help shape my thinking.
(Mike Riddell recently reflected much more meaningfully about how and why he writes https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10158460971985844&set=a.271581080843&type=3&theater.)
So thank you for your comments on my recent thinking about my “belly flop”. Martin Poole and Steve Taylor’s comments reminded me that what I said about the importance of “be-ing” was only half the story. Megan Williams reminded me that I first spoke about this in a sermon at Cityside Baptist Church (turns out it was exactly 24 years ago last Sunday. I illustrated with overhead transparencies, and an LP record (vinyl)).
The message was called “The ‘B’ Side. The ‘A’ side was the Great Commission in Matthew 28, “Go into all the world…” I wanted to offer an alternative perspective on doing and going to do witness and evangelism – that of being in the world; of entering deeply into a relationship with Jesus so that I was changed more and more into the likeness of Christ; of having what I do and say integrated with who I was becoming under Christ. Integrity. Wholeness. Being a witness.
Going is much easier than being. Much easier to measure. And its sibling Doing, similarly. Churches are happy when their “missionaries” report what they have done. Every youth group wants to go on a mission trip and do something useful (useful to them but rarely so to the hosts); preferably something photographable, and ideally with children of a different colour skin to that of the “go-ers”.
When I worked with World Vision it was virtually impossible to get church groups from New Zealand willing to spend their money to travel overseas to sit and listen and simply be with the local people and learn from them. We joked about the need to have a fence in various developing world countries that mission teams could go and paint and report back on what they had “done” to change the lives of their hosts.
We have misinterpreted “Be doers of the Word and not hearers only.”
I’ve spent the last four weeks feeling nauseous much of the time, and unusually tired. (More so than my normal fatigue.) I was diagnosed as having an unusual reaction to my flu injection on top of my physical and emotional belly flop (referred to here.)
Nausea is nasty. Ask any woman who has had it during pregnancy. Its debilitating. Energy sapping, unpredictable. I have a new appreciation for pregnant women. Prescribed remedies had no effect. Even a high dose of Colustrum didn’t fix it. I was close to making a trip to my essential-service pharmacy for a pregnancy testkit. I grew to love the New Zealand made homeopathic remedy with the fabulous name, Nux Vomica! Four drops every 15 minutes. Unfortunately Donald Trump hadn’t yet come out with his range of cure-alls so my options were limited.
Nausea forced me to be. I could not do. It forced me to think about what I would do and why I would do it if I could do it. But I couldn’t. I could only be. Sit around, lie around, and be.
Covid-19 testing bumped me off the lab testing jobsheet. Telephone appointments with my doctor weren’t ideal. It was just Nux Vomica, nux dairy, nux fat, nux food much at all, and me.
When I did eventually get a blood test it indicated I had a parasite in my gut – yep, worms. (Diet of Worms? Sorry, church history joke.) Almost certainly picked up from the decades-old dirt and droppings in the nooks and crannies of rundown storerooms at church when I was packing out my gear prior to leaving before Lockdown was imposed.
Teresa was a good Catholic girl living in 16th century Spain. As a teenager she was into flirting with boys, clothes, and rebelling against her very strict father. Some things never change. He sent her to a convent where her passions were indulged by an interesting group of nuns who said nux to very little. Teresa set out to reform her religious order, and was violently oppossed by the establishment. She believed that the most powerful prayers were those that led to action: that being should lead to doing; that her deepening relationship with God should result in increasing commitment to God’s vision for her world.
Teresa of Avila, as she is now known, apparently struggled with nausea for 40 years. Generally unable to do anything significant before early afternoon, even getting out of bed was difficult for her. While I can imagine the latter, I cannot imagine what that depth and breadth of nausea must have been like, nor how she could have done anything of significance in her physical state.
Teresa is the parton saint of headache sufferers – perhaps because she caused them for so many other people? I think she should be the patron saint of all who question traditional church structures, and of nausea.
Doing is necessary. Steve Taylor was right when he commented that the Church and world would be a poorer place if Martin Poole had stopped “doing” at the behest of his mentor 40 years ago. Creativity, beauty, arts, music, food, economics, health, housing, employment, business, relationships, law, justice, equality, all need to be “done” in our world.
That doing needs to come out of being if its going to change our world for the better. Doing needs to come out of who we are becoming – out of becoming the flourishing human beings we were created to be. Anything less and we become do-ers of what can be a half-baked reflection of our own bent ego and unredeemed desires.
We need to move to reflection-action rather than our preferred action-reflection (if we get around to it).
We are well into a world where action is desperately needed if humanity is to survive (let alone the church). Equally desperately needed are followers of Jesus who act out of their deep and deepening relationship with the God who is our creator, and who likes us, all of us, a lot.