At 7:30 on most nights in our house, my husband and I gather ‘round and turn on the game show Jeopardy! (exclamation point, theirs) to test our wits and memories. Between us, we make one decent Jeopardy contestant. I answer religion, bible, some literature, some music, some gardening, and all cooking and food related questions. He covers science, geography, history, sports and also some music and literature. He also gets a lot of the religion and bible questions right which is a little shameful if I happen to get the same question wrong. We both flunk popular culture, fashion and mythology. The “catch” about Jeopardy, of course, is that each answer has to be phrased in the form of a question. Without the proper form, you will lose, even if you have the right idea.
It’s all about the Questions.
John Arnold, a guru in design movement at Stanford University teaches a course called “How to Ask a Question.” He claims that “Each of man’s advances was started by a question…knowing what questions to ask and how to ask them is sometimes more important than the eventual answers.” (https://thewaytodesign.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/The-Way-to-Design-1.pdf) Arnold says that the question is the center of design work- its most profound level- and until we get to the right question, the design won’t take shape.
Here are the questions that I am thinking about these days- as a person living through a pandemic, as a member of the Jesus Movement, and as the leader of a diocese engaging in a re-imagining, re-shaping process:
- What draws us closer to a long view that is built on love?
- What is my part in getting us there?
- What do I need to do today to move one step closer to the loving long view?
The entire gospel message can be boiled down to the concept of love. Presiding Bishop Curry has done a great job in these past 6 years exploring that with us. Compassion, offering mercy, feeding people, clothing people- that’s good “love work.” But so is working up righteous anger at injustice, speaking out, and being persistent about what matters. That’s love work, too. And love work is also caring enough about something like racial reconciliation to get our (white) selves to do the work of understanding the sinful system of racism, and then casting the work of dismantling it. That’s love work.
This time of the pandemic is asking us to take a long view (I cling to Dr. Fauchi’s words that “this will end,”) and it also requires us to move through our everydays with extra measures of grace and understanding. Whether we show it or not, we are all under stress. Add isolation and loneliness and adapting to change on top of all of the other things that stressed us out in our pre-pandemic worlds and we need to dig deep to live in harmony, loving ourselves and our neighbors.
Love work in our parishes- after the feeding, the clothing, the praising, and the praying- is about being bold and to seeing the long view of our faith communities beyond our own generations, and in evolved designs. This critical design work is not what we do when everything else is done, but it is what we do alongside the work today- so that we can remain vital and strong and effective builders of the Kingdom. A more granular set of questions needs to be asked as we design the long view: What does our parish want to contribute to this community in the future? What is the best way to make God’s mission of love really sing in this place? What resources do we need? What do we do to get there? Love gives us feet, and wings. Love calls us to participate in something that we call a “movement”- the “Jesus Movement.”
Membership in the Jesus movement lifts us out of the parish and into a larger Body of disciples and apostles- disciples who are committed students of our Lord, and apostles who are sent to live in his Way of Love to witness to our sore and sorry world.
We will not be in this place forever.
Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who lived 500 years before Jesus, said, “Change is the only constant in life.”
The Christian life, the Jesus Movement is all about change. In Romans 12:2, Paul writes, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
What questions are you asking these days?
What questions do you need to be asking to bring about your transformation in love?