Thursday, September 29, 2011

Theology and making noise

I have recently been marking a few post-graduate dissertations. One of them impressed me very much, not because the argument was good, but that one can clearly sense that the writer was not only writing about spirituality, but that the writer was sharing spirituality. Do you know what I mean?

I notice spirituality in the writings of several other writers: Wesley, Barth, Moltmann, Bell... none of whom were or are saints, and one does not agree with everything they say, but there is an honest journey with God, based on love, which is reflected in their sharing. I think one of the tests every theologian (whether "professional" or not) should undergo, is the test of self. Let's be blunt. There are those in the spirituality industry, whether in churches or academia who do theology, but it barely makes it out the office door along with them when they leave for home. A lot of noise, or the aim of making a name for themselves by trying to be shocking with controversial statements, articles or presentations. But when one looks at their lives, it is difficult to

Let me not judge, for I must undergo the same test each day myself. But I think you catch my drift. It reminds me of that passage in 1 Corinthians 13:1 "If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal" (NRSV). 'A noise gong', a powerful symbol. A lot of noise, but that is all it is. No integrity, no integration between belief and knowledge. No integration between life and faith. A noisy gong.

Now, if one gives a gong attention, it aims to make a louder noise. If one tries to stop it, it keeps clanging away, trying to drown out any question. It is not subject to scrutiny or investigation, for its own sound is the only sound that seems valid. Gongs try to dominate relationships and conversations. Gongs can make a contribution through.

Take for instance the cymbals in an orchestra. There are points in a musical movement where the cymbals clash. It does so occasionally, under control, but in harmony with the rest of the instruments. One does not find any musical movement where the cymbals dominate. If they do, the audience will leave with a headache.

Love. If love does not saturate and direct one's life, then whatever comes out your mouth and performed through your actions, will be nothing but noise.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Feeling affirmed...and confused...and appreciated

Tonight at our Bible study we watched Rob Bell's DVD "Dust". It is all about what it meant in Jesus' times to be a disciple. We were all challenged by the insights shared on this DVD.

At the end of our hour together, I felt the need for us to share with our neighbour in one sentence, something that we find inspiring in that person. Call it an act of affirmation. We were supposed only to share with the person on our left and on our right. Needless to say, people bubbled over with compliments and insights for people sitting across the table, in the corners, etc. What hit me the most were the words of affirmation passed in my direction. I sat there feeling overwhelmed.

Working as a minister is not easy. It is much easier to slip into cynicism and a general disguntled sttae of being than feeling motivated and affirming. I must admit, that at times I have wondered whether this much time and effort is warrented when one seldom sees results. But here it was. Things that I did not see, gifts which I did not recognise as such were and are making a diffference in someone else's life. And then I think, "Man, I hope I can do this for the rest of my life". I am not a good minister by any means. I follow my own gut way too often for the liking of people who are around me. I follow the path of discernment rather than the path of policy, belief rather than plotting a journey, playing it by ear rather than having fixed objectives. I know it irritates some people, but I am more instinctive in ministry than aims-driven. This does not mean that I don't plan or don't have a vision. Quite the contrary.

Tonight was special and I wish to thank my Bible study folk for such generous sharing, not only to me, but that everybody left that place feeling affirmed. I think this is the Jesus way.

So, "may you be covered in the dust of your rabbi".

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


Today I went on a day retreat with my colleagues. This was one of the best retreats ever. This is what I did:

Reclined under a big tree, looking at the sun shine through the leaves and branches

Read Psalm 139


Listened to Mozart's Requiem


Listened to Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor, Opus 64


Left in peace.