There have been several things over the last few weeks that have got me wondering… about wondering. I’m not sure this post will make a whole lot of sense, it’s more a conversation of ideas, that may have considerable significance for me, or for the church I minister in, in the future. However, if you can bear to follow through and respond, perhaps with ideas or examples of how God has used the ‘power of wonder’, I’d really appreciate it:
It started with a conversation with Laurence Gamlen of CPAS in preparation for my recent sermon on our “outward value”. He suggested that to engage people in how the value might be relevant to the way they behave and how we seek to “be” St. Peter’s, the preachers should pose questions like, “What would it look like if…” or, “What would we need to change if…”
Although it was a technique that was suggested in Reader Training, it wasn’t one that I had used till now. From some of the verbal responses that I’ve received, the sermon provided a stimulus to thinking ‘outside the box’ and in doing so, presented people with some significant personal challenges. As yet, I’ve not progressed those conversations to discover more of what those challenges might be.
Then I read a book with a chapter by Revd Dr Samuel Wells which was sort of about the use of imagination in ‘preaching’ in an UPA (using Godly Play techniques). This passage (among many) particularly struck me:
Wondering does not test knowledge. A sentence that begins ‘I wonder’ does not have a question mark at the end. Wondering stretches the imagination, challenges compassion, provokes empathy, trains perception. The newcomer may bring as much or more to this exercise of listening and discerning as the most established regular…”
It got me thinking about how we miss out on exploring the gospel with adults who can not read and write (something I’ve become more aware of since taking a Romany funeral recently), and who may feel the constant use of the written word in worship, liturgy and preaching is patronising and ‘alien’ to their culture.
All this got topped off by reading a recent blog post by Bishop Nick Baines all about Imagination where he talks about how God creatively imagined this world into being, and how Jesus challenged us to radically re-imagine the world into a place that better reflects God’s character.
I have frequently struggled with a poor recall of Bible passages, ideas and ‘theology’ – it contributes to a sense of inferiority that I sometimes grapple with when placed into a conversation where people want to argue a theological point. What I can talk about is what God has done in my life, and how he speaks to me through the processes of creating an act of worship, or a sermon. God speaks to me through my imagination, and enables me as a result to (sometimes) ‘bless’ people with God’s peace, encouragement, or challenge. I think there is something here about the future shape of my ministry, but in the pressures of our vacancy, I’ve not completely sorted out what that might be yet.
On a less personal, and more parochial note, if we are called to take Jesus into people’s homes as I suggested in my recent sermon, however hidden those people may be from the representation of our local social demography that sits in our church week by week, then perhaps the transformation we should be seeking from the Holy Spirit (our ‘upward’ value) is to imagine and wonder more. If we pray to be given the power of wonder, where might God lead us?