Reflections to start the week
Monday, September 23, 2013
Can we talk?
Let me begin with the wisdom of one of my favorite commentators on matters social and religious. That would be Dave Barry, columnist extraordinaire and eccentric. He offered an insight that resonates with anyone who has been held captive by unsolicited religious or political opinions at a cocktail party, in a crowded airplane row, at a family holiday dinner, in a pew, or on your doorstep when proselytizer appears. It’s happened to all of us. Maybe some of us have been the perpetrators. Anyway, Dave Barry keenly noted the following:
People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.
We’re told that in polite company, it’s best not to talk about religion or politics. Just don’t get into it. There’s good reason for that, of course, as noted above in those various experiences of captivity. But it does make me wonder if there isn’t some way, some significance in discovering ways to talk about our faith, without making other folks uneasy, without making them feel “less than”. The fact is, these kinds of conversation don’t always happen at church. The exchange of the Peace allows for a fleeting greeting. Coffee hour is nice for niceties, but rarely allows for deeper comment on things of the Spirit. We come in (sometimes a bit tardy) and leave but don’t find much opportunity to talk with others about what we’ve experienced, or what has caused us to wonder, or what challenges us, or where we experience pain, or where we see hope.
If we want that kind of discourse to happen, it calls for intentionality. Granted, it’s not a particularly Episcopalian thing to do, but it can be a growth opportunity when we articulate what faith, what things of the spirit mean to us. Small discussion groups, prayer groups, bible studies and book groups can be good venues, for sure. But I learned the most about it from the youth group who were my teachers when I served in Illinois. They’d go on an annual work trip and at the end of each day, would gather for what were called “God-sightings.” These sightings were beautiful. They were “I” statements, as in “I saw God at work today in the person who brought us lemonade when it was 100 degrees.”, or “I saw God at work in the life of the 90 year old lady who couldn’t afford air conditioning in the North Carolina summer but was still grateful.” These were elegant observations, not dogmatic impositions. What those youth taught me and our congregation is that we can keep our eyes open for the ways God is at work, and we can simply share them, talk about them, celebrate them. It’s not a debate about a theological or political issue. It’s a witness. Everyone can do it. You. Me.
So give it a try. Share this morning, this day, this week, something about how you see God at work in your life, in your world. I know it’s a stretch for Episcopalians. It’s a stretch for me and I’m a priest! And as you do, don’t forget the sage advice of Dave Barry. He points out that anytime we want to share our religious/spiritual experience with others, we need to be ready to listen to their experience, to be hospitable and humble in that way. Who knows? We might learn something.
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.