Monday, March 30, 2009

Lessons from Isaiah and the Slinky about the Ideal Church

For a number of years now I have been receiving a weekly email called "Rumors" from Canadian writer Ralph Milton who along with writer Jim Taylor founded Woodlake Books. They continue to write and bless many of us weekly. Early each Sunday morning I get an email that discusses the lectionary texts for next Sunday, and it usually includes a wonderful assortment of humor. One person remarked recently that it becomes a ready made Sunday school curriculum--share the humor, read the texts, and then get into the reflections on the texts that Ralph and Jim share. Check out the blog link to the side, which also has information on getting the weekly email.

This week I was drawn to Ralph's summary of next week's text from Isaiah:
Isaiah 50:4-9a – Most Rumors readers, both lay and clergy, are leaders in the church. Which means that the very first sentence of this passage is directed at us. “The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher.”
The leadership instincts and skills we have are a gift, which we have received so that we “may know how to sustain the weary with a word.” But the most essential skill of the leader is to listen. God who “wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.”
How are we teaching? How are we listening as learners? How are we sustaining the weary? What words might sustain us? I'd like to suggest the word: Slinky.

Yesterday was my "graduation" service from CPE. The turning point in our interpersonal relations group seminar was the day I brought in an antique slinky in its original box, and we played together and then were able to talk about the boxes we were putting each other in. Yesterday's graduation sermon had three lessons from the Slinky that I'd like to share (thanks, Michelle!).
1. Don't judge a Slinky by its box.
2. Slinkies are designed for movement.
3. Slinkies are made for delight and connection.
We are all slinkies.

I'm still reading Clergy Women: An Uphill Calling and have been mulling over their research question about whether the ideal church would require ordained clergy. I grew up in a part of the Baptist tradition that had more farmer preachers, not the learned clergy of the Anglicans, Puritans and congregationalists. Surprising to the researchers of this book, but maybe not to me given my own background and context, more Unitarian Universalists thought that an ordained ministry would be necessary for the ideal church, and fewer Southern Baptists thought that. If you think the Spirit can call farmers to preach, then all of that education and rigmarole might seem unnecessary.

I return to the Slinky for answers to these questions.
So, then what box do we put ordained clergy in and what box are lay people in? If women are not equally ordained, what box are they in? What does learning have to do with call or ministry?
1. Don't judge a Slinky by its box.
How does the learned ministry constrain or enhance our call to ministry?
2. Slinkies are designed for movement.
How might we balance the Isaiah text about being teachers and learners with the Baptist notion of the priesthood of believers?
3. Slinkies are made for delight and connection.

My prayer for today is that we reclaim and sustain the lessons of the transforming power of play and connection contained in the Slinky.

1 comment:

  1. From Debbie, some further notes about slinkies:

    and who knew that it was the official state toy of PA?