Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ruminations for a Wednesday

It seems that everyday I am faced with challenges, small and large, that I would rather evade than face. I have learned through my experience that there is more to be gained by facing them than by trying to evade them, especially when they are the kind of challenges that do not go away by ignoring them, even if they only linger in my mind.

By being treated instrumentally, judgmentally, and dismissively, I am provoked to treat others the way I want to be treated. This provocation very often comes after the initial waves of reaction ebb; becoming defensive and desiring to return evil for evil. Another thing that I have learned very starkly in recent weeks is that it is just as important to stand your ground as it is to retreat, trying to convince yourself that you are being humble. It is a matter of discernment.

A valuable lesson I have learned over the years about ministry, lay and ordained, is that it is not about me. Too often our service is self-service. We see putting our gifts at the service of the community as our chance to shine. As a result, we become rigidly locked into a way of doing things that has as its rationale boosting our ego. We need to cultivate an openness to the Spirit while being careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. I think it is most difficult to recognize the movement of the Spirit through another person, largely due to ego. A bruised ego is often manifest by hurt feelings. We think that if it is not the Spirit moving directly in and through me it can't possibly be authentic. This is where the ability to listen, not just to the Spirit, which is a metaphor anyway, but to another person is so necessary.

Even in parish ministry we must put into practice what we believe with regard to institution and charisma. In other words, we cannot pit the two against each other and see institutional leadership in the church as having wholly succumbed to the Weberian institutionalization of charisma. Neither can we dismiss the Spirit moving in and through people outside formal church structures. Again, it is a matter of discernment. Discernment starts out with the practical. So, this does not mean that, after listening, there cannot be questions, concerns, and suggestions. Collaboration is necessary for effective ministry, just as change is necessary. The Spirit moves us.

1 comment:

  1. Loved reading this. I am a big ruminator, always chewing some thought cud or another.

    I have learned, experienced, so much about observing the Holy Spirit in another in the last year or so. It has taken a long time for me to be willing to accept that such a wonderful thing could actually occur before me, here, now.


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