Sunday, August 05, 2007

listening to the Spirit during weekly church

Today was a Sun-day when the last thing I wanted to be was a pastoral leader.

Some background. I had preached last week, a reflection on Ezekiel 37, and all week have been getting email and comment back about what I had preached. People challenged, people inspired.

All week, the intuitive part of me was saying “pause Steve. listen Steve.” You see, I’m like a magpie. I like bright and shiny things. It easy for me to approach the Bible like that, always looking for a new bit of information. It is easy to approach church like that – last week’s sermon was good, what will we be fed this week. I suspect those narratives are strongly at work in many of us.

The ordered part of me had a sermon topic – starting a 3 week series on Jesus and money – to work away on. Besides, how can you pause a week after you’ve preached something. There would be people absent last week, but present this week. There would be visitors, new to the church. It’s not very welcoming when they start to hear all about a previous something they’ve missed.

So by last night I had a sermon, needing the usual Sunday morning polish, but ready to go.

This morning I read today’s lectionary reading. In the cycle I use, it is Ezekiel 47 and it beautifully mirrors and reflects last weeks Bible text, Ezekiel 37. And I sense that God is wanting me to ditch the ordered sermon and go with the intuitive wondering. Which would be fine if this was 24 or even 48 hours ago, but church is 2 hours away.

God, find someone else to be a pastoral leader. Find someone else to balance preparation with intuitive trusting the Spirit. Find someone else to discern what needs to happen. Grump over. Back to work.

My partner created a handout, summarising last week and giving 2 questions for reflection.

I stood and explained what would happen:
1. A short introduction, asking us to consider how we as the people of God engage the Bible. Are we magpies? Does God only speak through preaching, or can God also speak through Scripture reading and through the body of Christ?
2. Summarise last week and read Biblical text
3. Give 4 mins for individual reflection, using handout.
4. Open microphone time for people to share
5. A 10 minute spoken reflection on Ezekiel 47 and how it mirrors Ezekiel 37, thus offering some fresh content for those fresh to the process and who like sermonic input.

Anyhow, these are my summary notes of what was shared during (4) at the open mic:
– Ezekiel 37 reminds us that we need to be willing to let God do something different.
– Ezekiel 37 reminds us that it is not up to us as humans to rattle dead bones. Rather it is God doing something. Our role is simply to speak “lavish kindness”
– Ezekiel 37 reminds us we need to pray every day “fill me afresh Spirit today.” This was being integrated into a spiritual practise that had been suggested earlier in the year.
– Ezekiel 37 reminds us God has given each of us talents, so none of us need to be a dry bone.
– Ezekiel 37 reminds us it is easy to look at dry bones and lose hope. Yet following God is about faith in things not yet seen.
– Ezekiel 37 reminds us even though things have been hard in my life (and thanks to my home group for supporting me), I need to keep working on it.
– Ezekiel 37 reminds us that we should never give up. Dry bones are like all those unanswered prayers.

A very stressful Sunday. How does a group of people who meet weekly pause and listen, in a way that is not inhospitable to visitors?

Posted by steve at 03:24 PM


  1. i think i would like your church
    might almost tempt me to pull up a pew again

    a community we were part of in Melbourne was very good at pausing and listening, it was the one place, the only place, I found that was about connecting with God and other people, it was not about pleasing or entertaining people

    and you know what, some visitors didn’t cope, they were used to being entertained; but many visitors loved what they found – a space where silence was okay and real communing took place

    Comment by kel — August 5, 2007 @ 7:44 pm

  2. Be encouraged – we need more silence and ‘being’ in our world of busyness that in some ways does a violence to us. Being counter cultural is part of what we are called to, and your sunday sounds like it is on that journey. If visitors sense an open integrity in the way you listen and gather, that is their invitation. Loved reading this!

    Comment by Claire Russell — August 7, 2007 @ 6:40 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.