Thursday, October 31, 2013

November Newsletter

How many failures do you have in your back pocket? Do you have enough? Are you willing to grab for them?

Last month, as a part of the program at the Banff Men's Conference, a group of us heard from the Right Rev. Dr. Gary Paterson, moderator of the United Church of Canada. As a part of his speech (sermon?) Gary reminded us that for every project that makes it big there are 9 or 10 that were abysmal failures. And then for each of those that even get to the point of being produced there are 9 or 10 that never made it off the drawing board. So in the end approximately1 out of 100 ideas makes it big.

The challenge of course is not only to deal with the (quite likely) chance that your idea will not work. The big challenge is to know how to learn from the failures. The challenge is to not get disheartened by the lack of success, but to be bold enough to fail again. He even suggested that if you don't have a long enough list of failures (and learnings from them) that means you are playing it TOO safe, that you are not risking enough newness. After all remember that a truly new product is not just putting a clock into something that already exists, newness is more than just tweaking the existing (despite what some advertisers might try to tell us).

Why did Gary share that bit of trivia with us? He was talking about the future of the church, how the United Church might move into that future. Why talk about the ratio of product ideas that make it big?

Maybe because we expect everything to succeed? Maybe because we are afraid to fail?

Twice in the last month I have heard the phrase “safe fails, not failsafe” (granted both people I heard it from attended the same event this summer so they may have had the same source). In most of our lives we spend a lot of time trying to make things failsafe. But how can we create an environment in which people feel safe to fail? How do we give room for experiments that may or may not work, or may take several tries to be a “success”?

Last year when Gary spoke to us he read the story of ScaredySquirrel, a squirrel who is afraid to leave his tree until one day circumstances force him to and he leaps out to find that he is in fact a flying squirrel. This year he told the story of workers on a oil platform that caught fire. They know that the chances of surviving the ocean (which is cold, which has oil floating on it that could also catch fire, which may have sharks in the area) are low. On the other hand, the chances of surviving while on a burning oil platform are pretty much zero. So at least one worker decides that low is better than zero and jumps.

Why would he tell us those stories?

Maybe because we need the courage to jump. Even if it seems like going from frying pan into fire, maybe we need to jump and trust.

So, the courage to fail, the courage to jump, the willingness to risk. Is that the way into the future?

I think so. The way into the future is going to involve more than playing with and adjusting the way we currently do church. The way into the future will mean trying new things. The way into the future will mean taking risks, trying new things, embracing the possibility of failure, jumping out of our safe trees without our emergency pack. Can we do that?

What new thing do you want us to try? What risky jump do you want us to make? Are we ready to jump into the future?

And remember that the God in whom we live and move and have our being, the God in who we trust, the God we gather together to worship every Sunday is the God who proclaims in Scripture “Behold, I make a new thing, I make all things new”. May the God of the new thing give us the courage to take risks.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Looking Forward to October 27, 2013 -- Reformation Sunday

The Scripture Readings for this week are:
  • Habakkuk 2:1-3
  • Revelation 21:1-7
  • Jeremiah 31:31-34

The Sermon title is Que Sera Sera...

Early Thoughts:  There is a tradition (more strongly recognized in some churches than in others) that the Sunday before (or closest to) October 31 is a day to celebrate the Reformation [because according to tradition October 31 is the date on which Martin Luther launched the Reformation by posting his 95 theses].  But Reformation Sunday is not just about remembering the saints of the past, it is also about asking what Reformation is happening/could be/should be happening in the church of the present.  Because Reformation is a constantly ongoing process.

Reformation is a challenging business.  It makes us uncomfortable.  We are the inheritors (in part) of a Spiritual tradition that prized life being lived "decently and in good order".  True Reformation often is neither decent not orderly.  True reforming of our lives, our understandings, our structures is a messy, disorderly, untidy business.  In the process there are ragged edges, there are things we might find irritating or unwanted but that we need to hold on to for a while to see where they get to.

And in the end it is not us who is in control.  [Which may be the most unsettling aspect of the whole process.]  We certainly want to be in control, to shape the process, to work towards some pre-determined goal.  But we are the church.  As people of faith we claim the Someone Else is in control. And so to a degree part of being reformed is letting go, is learning to live -in trust- with some disorder, is waiting for the first signs of new fruit.  And in the end....what will be will be.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Looking Forward to October 13, 2013 -- Thanksgiving Sunday

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Deuteronomy 26:1-11 
  • Luke 17:11-19
The SErmon title is You Are Blessed, Be a Blessing

Early Thoughts:  It is Thanksgiving.  Why is important to give thanks?

It is about more than just manners.  It is about how we view our lives.

A thankful life changes how we see the world.  When we remember how we are blessed (most importantly when we make ourselves remember that at times when we are tempted to feel hard done by) it changes how we interact with life.

God calls us to be a blessing to the world around us.  Can we do that without knowing that we have first been blessed?  Plausibly we could, but I would suggest it is easier and healthier to be a blessing because we know we have been blessed.

There is a common activity around Thanksgiving dinner tables to ask each person at the table to name one thing for which they are thankful.  That is a good start to our celebration.  I have another question or two to follow up...
What about us are people thankful for?
How can I be a blessing to the world around me?

What are your answers?????????