Hanging by a thread

 

Thinking about church and the transfiguration I found a piece of conversation jangling around in my mind like loose change in a pocket.  It was a conversation about “church”, where we are now and where we were 10 or 15 or 20 years ago, those of us who are part of church community.  The conversational fragment went something like, “then we still thought we could turn it around . . . “.  And now, the implication was, we know we can’t.

This fragment joined on to another conversational piece, also from last week, about the future of the church and what it would look like.  The frequent emotional attendants of these conversations are anxiety or resignation or even fear.

The frequent embodiment of these emotions are frenetic activity, dogged grasping or lethargy.  The first expresses itself in a reaching into the whirlwind of new modes and models, pulling out some bright, glittering shape to try to pull down over the hips of your congregation,  your regional or national structure, regardless of whether it does anything for you, regardless of whether it’s ‘you’, heedless of what it looks like in the mirror of the Holy.  The second, keeps the past firmly buttoned, right up to the neck, even though the fabric is straining and the gussets have popped.  The third, well, what does it matter who or what we put on.

In the pocket of my heart this morning, this phrase, “we no longer think we can turn it around” brings a sense of relief.  It is perhaps, in this relinquishment of optimism, that hope begins.  And it is hope that so catches us with quiet wonder that we are compelled to sit down, right where we are, and look at the substance of it.

Because Transfiguration is so unlike us turning the church around so unlike any kind of figuring it out.

What if the future of the church is wonder?  What if we can’t even begin to imagine it without that sitting down with the substance of hope in our hands; sitting down regularly, faithfully, crazily, fingering its inchoate texture.   What if the sitting down with hope in our hands is the most vital thing we can do?[1]   What if we remember that creativity isn’t just about expressivity but  receptivity?    It’s about cupping our hearts for grace.

What if is is about knowing ourselves and our church as “hanging by God’s thread of pure love”[2] and marveling, each time we gather, at the gift.  What if we know ourselves turned on that bright filament and wait, hearts practiced, to gather the material of Grace in our hands and put it on.

[1] I’m tempted to say that the models and the modes are important too, and they are, but I’m just mentioning that in the fine print because really, they’re just gaudy without the sitting down part.
[2] Catherine of Genoa.  Shalem Institute Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats:  Transforming Community materials

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