This Tuesday we are discussing Chapter 3 “The Magic of Paying Attention” of Tim Sorens’s book, Everywhere You Look: Discovering the Church Right Where You Are.
Last week, we discussed the TED talk of Simon Sinek. His basic lesson is that inspiring people and organizations ask three basic questions and always in the correct order: (i) Why does an organization exist? (ii) How does it carry out this purpose? and (iii) What specifically do they do? These questions form three concentric circles beginning with the Why in the center. Sorens writes that our Why, the church’s Why, should be God’s Why. For Sorens, God’s Dream is that of the reconciliation and renewal of all things (2 Cor. 5:18), and we should align the church’s Why with God’s Dream.
The middle concentric circle is concerned with How the church carries out the Why. This is the topic of Chapter 3. The short answer is that the How of the Church is the same as the Why of the Church. That answer is also God. More specifically, the answer to the How is to “listen intently and pay attention to the Holy Spirit, who is already at work” and simply join in. p.37. Paying attention to God’s ongoing work in the world is how we go about pursuing God’s dream in our communities. p.36.
Sorens cautions us as to the consequences of not listening to and joining with the Holy Spirit and simply going off on our own. The temptation we have is to make God’s story of healing and reconciliation our story, and then simply take this story to make it useful in our getting to work. God does not need to be active in this work, and it is all up to us to implement God’s dream. As Sorens writes “Once we feel like we have the answer and our job is simply to strategize and implement, we are on a slippery slope toward either pride or shame.” p.41.
When we put ourselves in charge of the How, then success becomes measured by our metrics: attendance, budget, and whatever else goes in the parochial report. Because we are in charge, when we meet these goals, we suffer from pride, and when we fail, we suffer from shame. On page 42, Sorens lays out what he terms his figure-eight spiral of deception where pride and shame interact with each other.
On Tuesday, part of our discussion will be on the topic of how can we, individually and in a community, better listen intently and pay attention to the Holy Spirit. One way to better listen is through stillness and contemplation. This was the topic of Dr. Albert Rossi’s book Becoming a Healing Presence which we discussed for our Easter study in 2018. For Dr. Rossi, the key to actively listening to God begins with the command to “Be still, and know that I am God” for it is only in still waters that we can see what is happening below the surface. Ps. 46:10, Ps. 23:2. To be still and know God, Dr. Rossi commends to us the ancient Christian practice of simply becoming aware of our breath and breathing the name of God. For it is God’s own breath through which God animated the person he formed from the clay and so it continues to be. Gen. 2:7, Ps. 104:29.
Scripture gives us the example of Elijah who looked for God in the activity of the whirlwind, the power of the earthquake, and the excitement of the fire; but who only heard God in that still, small voice of sheer silence. 1 Kings 19:12. Elijah heard God in the silence, not by doing or by talking but by simply being still. Rossi, quoting Kallistos Ware, writes: “When you pray you yourself must be silent; let the prayer work. Silence is an attitude of attentive alertness, or vigilance, and above all of listening. The person who prays is the one who listens to the voice of prayer and understands that this voice is not his own but that of Another speaking within him.” p.26.
For Tuesday, think about different ways for us to listen and be attentive to the Spirit.
Dinner is at 6. The menu is cheeseburgers. Discussion about 6:45. Compline at 8. Hope to see you here.
Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”Luke 10:38-42