Sunday, November 15, 2009

Down and Up

I was off from work with a bit of a nasty bug the week before last - getting that real God-given imperative to STOP and not do things fora while. It was worthwhile for sure. When I was feeling much better, Michael and I went to see UP which is an excellent film. It is deeply surprising. It's not the cheery happy-go-lucky film you might expect it to be. It mixes deep tragedy with hope and manages to tell the story of a lifetime in only a few minutes with great expertise. having chatted about it to various people since, I've discovered I was not the only one to blub during it either (one person told me they saw it in 3D and found the 3D specs a handy thing to hide behind!)

What UP does have is an amazing sense of HOPE, of the impoprtance of dreams and the need to reconnect the generations, something a friend of mine got me thinking about at a meeting in London the other week. Today, when I was exploring a project I've been pondering for a while, I came across a site which no doubt I'm behind the times in finding and you all know about it already but it is new to me and intrigues me. the site is called 43 Things and invites people to register things they wantto achieve in life, in terms of personal relationships, dreams, aspirations, achievements or goals. Now I've never been much of a person to know "where I want to be in5 years time" the few times I HAVE made such goals, God has nudged me gently to realisation that the opposite is going to happenand be so much better most of the time too! I'm not sure I'm going to be registering my 43 things (or more or less I don't think it HAS to be 43!)

What fascinates me about the siteis that you can see other peoples aspirations and the goals they've achieved, how long it took them and how it made them feel. The site also groups people's entries underheadings and you can see the most popular ones according to type. So for all of us working in ministry, it might be useful to know that the top ten aspiration sin terms of spirituality and belief for this entirely random selection of people are as follows:

1. be more spiritual
2. find a religion that will fit my beliefs
3. tithe
4. read the bible
5. pray more
6. meditate
7. go to church
8. witness a miracle
9. meet the Dalai Lama
10. become an ordained minister

Now I don't suppose there is that much surprising in there. Christianity has a fairly strong presence but that's to be expected asmost entries are probably from the US. What it mademe think about though is that the spiritual dreams and desires of people in general are not asdramatic and exotic as we might think. When we're working in ministry, we may tend to need everythign to be the latest, snazziest most alt., emergent piece of unique worship. We might think the Psalm has to be just right, the candles in the right places, the vestments perfect and co-ordinated, the worship band the best they can be, the actions in perfect unison, the drama well-timed and audible etc etc etc. Yet the people want the inspiration to meditate, the pray more, to read the bible, to be more spiritual.

Sometimes I wonder why it is I and so many others find a true spiritual home in Taize and I realise in many ways it's because it manages that great simplicity. The music is solidly Bible-based, melodic, yet not showy or "catchy". The community encourages you in a simple way to pray more, to be more spiritual not just at times in the church but in serving others in the simple things. The Bible is at the centre od so much that is done there, through the books the brothers write, through the art and music they create and the sessions they lead with young people. Now I know that this great simplicity has many complicated systems that keep it going - organising food for 6,000 young people three times a day doesn't just happen - and yet the simplicity is what counts. Why is it though that finding that simplicity can be so much more complicated?

I've been watching a bit of Diarmaid MacCulloch's new series on Christianity and our 2000 years of Christian history can be a source of great inspiration but also a burden of disputes and complications. I think my favourite line so far was this:
"Jesus taught that it was more difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle - and some Christians listened to that!"
We can over-complicate our lives and our churches when we look to the trappings and the consumer culture of getting church just how we want it. Sometimes the simpler things work better.

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