Our faith community is spending much of Lent praying as one, taking stock of our journey with God in a Jesus way. This first week, our focus is:
we will ask, listen to, and obey God
As I prayed and reflected on this, I came back again & again to the work of Otto Scharmer. In his books Presence and Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges, Scharmer invites us to see the world in new ways—and
to learn from the future as it emerges. Scharmer suggests that it all hinges on our attention: If I attend this way, it emerges that way. But what often keeps us
from "attending" is what Scharmer calls our blind spot"¦the inner place
from which each of us operates. Unless we become aware of that blind
spot—both as individuals and as communities and larger systems—we won't
be able to successfully address the pressing issues and challenges of
I have found a great deal of value in the "U" methodology of leading profound change that Scharmer has worked with others to frame: By moving through the "U" process we learn to connect to
our essential Self in the realm of presencing - a term coined by
Scharmer that combines the present with sensing.
There is a phrase that is popular in some communities:
she gets it they don't get it i don't think that's it
For me, there is a fundamental block in this idea - that some how it is a transaction, an effort to tune in and receive, almost passively, some it. The Jesus way seems to fundamentally re-arrange this mindset. In Jesus, God took skin and moved into the neighborhood. We are invited to ask, listen, obey - as co-creators, as co-sensors with the Word Made Flesh.
That Word is not simply some signal we must tune in to, some secret message accessed by those with conjuring skills. That Word is a network we enter into, fused with mystery and ambiguity, teaming with new life and wonder. There is no core it to get or not, but rather a web of love that entangles us into meaning making with one another.
The word in this week's reflection I struggle with the most is obey. My mind's image of the word is like some trained animal, that responds to its owner's voice like a machine. Scharmer's ideas of presencing call me back to the core definition of obey: to give ear to. Most often, this giving ear to engage shared practices, disciplines to listen to and with one another.
fixed-hour prayer, fasting, Sabbath, the sacred meal, pilgrimage, observance of sacred seasons, and giving
MacLaren argues that these activities can be called life practices or humane practices because they help us practice being alive, and humanely so. After describing the Abrahamic practices which grew out of wilderness experiences, McLaren describes Jesus not as initiating a new religion but as proclaiming a new kingdom formed and transformed by spiritual practices. St. Paul follows with an emphasis on walking the path of love, viewing the faith as a process of "learning Christ" through training and exercise.
Like so many other groups, our faith community is struggling to ask for help, to listen and to obey - to give ear to the Voice that is within us and all around us. Just as the "U" methodology is counter to our ready posture of planning & making things happen, in getting it and sharing it , faith as a way of life based on practices offers a viable alternative to the reactive fundamentalism & consumerist spirituality that too often dominates the noise of churchinaity. As McLaren has said, it is not about practicing our faith, but rather faithing our practices.
In this season of entering into the chaos of our inner selves, of falling awake - I pray that we can reach for our very essense as a gathered people, present and co-creating, nurtured by the practices that are the very life blood of all we do.
A few weeks back at a worship gathering in our faith community, a wise woman suggested that this moment of economic meltdowns and global struggle might actually be an awakening. That simple idea from Kate has really stuck with me, the idea that we all had been lulled into a fitful slumber, that we were able to sleep because we had convinced ourselves that money was limitless and pain could be outsourced.
It strikes me that Lent is all about coming awake, about shaking off winter's blanket of darkness. In these 40 days, we awake to a part of the Jesus story that has always challenged the core operating system of success. New life comes from death, communities can betray and redeem, age-old traditions and rituals can renew. This awakening - of Lent, in our moment - seems to be about how hope is an alarm clock, a wake-up call, a loving shaking out of the depths of sleep.
What is hope? It is
the presentiment that imagination is more real and reality less real
than it looks. It is the suspicion that the overwhelming brutality of
fact that oppresses us and represses us is not the last word. It is the
hunch that reality is more complex than the realists want us to
believe, that the frontiers of the possible are not determined by the
limits of the actual, and that, in a miraculous and unexpected way,
life is preparing the creative events which will open the way to
freedom and to resurrection.
But, hope must live with suffering. Suffering, without hope, produces
resentment and despair. And hope, without suffering, creates illusions,
naiveté, and drunkenness. So, let us plant dates, even though we who
plant them will never eat them. We must live by the love of what we
will never see.
This is the secret of discipline. Such disciplined love is what has
given saints, revolutionaries, and martyrs the courage to die for the
future they envision; they make their own bodies the seed of their
What a transforming hope Alvez frames, a contagion that is all caught up in this moment and this season of Lent, this falling awake.:
let us plant dates, even though we who
plant them will never eat them.
we must live by the love of what we
will never see.
It was so moving to listen to screenwriter Dustin Lance Black as he won the Oscar for Best Screenplay for “Milk,” the story of California’s first openly gay elected official, Harvey Milk:
....if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he’d want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told they are less than by their churches, or by the government, or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value. And that no matter what everyone tells you, God does love you, and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally across this great nation of ours.