"The adult is not the highest stage of development. The end of the cycle is that of the independent, clear-minded, all-seeing Child. That is the level known as wisdom. When the Tao Te Ching and other wise books say things like, 'Return to the beginning; become a child again,' that’s what they’re referring to. Why do the enlightened seem filled with light and happiness, like children? Why do they sometimes even look and talk like children? Because they are. The wise are Children Who Know. Their minds have been emptied of the countless minute somethings of small learning, and filled with the wisdom of the Great Nothing, the Way of the Universe."
(from, The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff)
It was G. K. Chesterton who kept alive the spirit of Kierkegaard and naive Christianity in modern thought, as when he showed with such style that the characteristics the modern mind prides itself on are precisely those of madness. There is no one more logical than the lunatic, more concerned with the minutiae of cause and effect.
Madmen are the greatest reasoners we know, and that trait is one of the accompaniments of their undoing. All their vital processes are shrunken into the mind. What is the one thing they lack that sane people possess? The ability to be careless, to disregard appearances, to relax and laugh at the world. They can’t unbend, can’t gamble their whole existence, as did Pascal, on a fanciful wager. They can’t do what religion has always asked: to believe in a justification of their lives that seems absurd. The neurotic knows better: he is the absurd, but nothing else is absurd; it is ‘only too true.’ But faith asks that man expand himself trustingly into the non-logical, into the truly fantastic.
This spiritual expansion is the one thing that modern man finds, most difficult, precisely because he is constricted into himself and has nothing to lean on, no collective drama that makes fantasy seem real because it is lived and shared.
(from, The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker)
Text: John 21:1-19
Who am I? I have been called the Episcopal Church’s expert on new ministries. “An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field.” (Physicist Niels Bohr)
“I live to serve the Spirit in all of creation by being a loving, compassionate, courageous, playful, outrageous & provocative midwife to the Spirit’s life and joy that are longing to be birthed in this moment.” (tlb 2000)
Chose this passage for an odd reason: it disturbs the coherence of our status quo way of being the institutional church.
There are three significant challenges posed by this story: the reversal; the rigging, and the riddle.
Peter was the finest Eeyore the world has known. He didn’t say, I’m going fishing – it was more like, “OK … I guess there’s nothing left for poor old me to do other than to go fishing.” Jesus chose to leave us so I am going back to my old identity.
They thought they were living out the effects; Jesus lets them feel the power they have as causative forces in the world. Effect and Cause. Cause and Effect.
Break it down with me … What would Peter describe as the cause and effect link?
The cause? Jesus leaves the circle of his trusted disciples and he doesn’t come back. Jesus, you left us and you didn’t come back!
The effect? Peter reverts back to the old Peter – the fisherman who knows his business. As usual, he takes a few with him. He goes at this with his whole heart, you know?! He’s standing their naked on the deck – offering his whole naked unguarded self to this venture. (BTW, I find it curiously ironic that when the earliest popes chose to copy Peter, they decided not to imitate this part of Peter’s lifestyle choices!)
Jesus offers them (and us) an antidote: He says, You have the power – much more than you realize. No more Eeyore! You thought you were living out the effects when in reality, you are a powerful causative force in the world.
Break it down with me … The cause? Jesus leaves the circle. The effect? Peter reverts back to the old Peter – the fisherman who knows his business. He expected Jesus to be King – Lord – Conqueror – Mighty God. That’s not how the story shakes out, though.
This story is Jesus’ version of “inversion therapy.” His followers think that they are the living effects of Divine abandonment. The malady that Jesus addresses here is the malaise of despair and the loss of personal agency.
Peter Block explains that, “To reclaim our citizenship is to be accountable, and this comes from the inversion of what is cause and what is effect. When we are open to thinking along the lines that citizens create leaders, that children create parents, and that the audience creates the performance, we create the conditions for widespread accountability and the commitment that emerges from it.”
You, many of you, your great challenge will be that of changing your self-image. You think you have certain gifts that the world hopes to receive from you. In reality, your commitment to the life and teachings of Jesus are to be a causative and powerful force. You are not subject to societal forces – you are called to be a societal force.
The rigging: They thought they knew how to use their equipment – they were professionals. Jesus invites them to the disciplines of the chaordic path.
Boats rigged one way.
Jesus asks them to cast off the other side, not turn the boat around.
The reason they struggle is because Jesus’ directives bypass their professional skills.
They cast off in the midst of chaos and they are overwhelmed with abundance.
Consider the following:
We cannot demonstrate any correlation between seminary education and congregational vitality.
We cannot show that the recent proliferation of consultants and subject matter experts can stem the decline in our old line churches committed to their old ways.
We are now clear that we have fished all night in our favorite fishing holes and we have caught nothing.
What is our equivalent to casting off the other side?
The riddle: Which Jesus do you love?
OK let’s do a quick run of JEOPARDY! – America’s Favorite Quiz Show® I will not imitate Merv Griffin but let’s give it a try …
Here is the category: Early images of Jesus as Son of God for $600
Risen triumphant king who would exalt his followers to their rightful place in power. (Answer: What kind of Jesus did Peter expect to follow?)
Early images of Jesus as Son of God for $800
Vulnerable and passionate servant who chose love and affection over power and dominance. (Answer: What were the characteristics of the Jesus whom Peter struggled to identify from the boat at daybreak?)
No wonder Peter could not recognize the voice of the one he has followed for three and a half years! This casual man calling to them did not fit the images he had of the post-resurrection Jesus.
Humberto Maturana is a Chilean biologist and philosopher who has spent much of his life researching the biology of cognition. In other words, Dr Maturana would be keenly interested in the disorientation produced when we encounter the “other” in a new context. If he were here with us today, he would ask us to imagine interviewing Peter about the moment right before he recognizes Jesus and the moment right after.
He would also be interviewing you about your visceral responses to this moment when you encounter someone you think you know well but you simply cannot recognize.
Today is the day to divorce yourself from the mediocrity associated with half-believed truths and disoriented cause and effect thinking.
“Will you do all in your power to support these in their commitment to seek/serve Christ in all persons?” “We will!”
Starting the new year out right asks us to reconsider how we prioritize!
In the worlds of sociology and psychology, heuristics are simple, efficient rules proposed to explain how people make decisions and solve problems, typically when facing complex problems or incomplete information. The field of study explains how we make use of “satisficing” – situations where people seek solutions or accept choices or judgments that are “good enough” for their purposes, but could be optimized.
Of course, in situations exposing us to high risk, ignoring relevant information is probably folly. But this is not so in a world of uncertainty. A world of uncertainty includes the presence of chaos. In moving from risk to uncertainty, we move from many moving parts to a scenario of moving parts each with their own motivations and force fields. Scientists can now show that, in this case, if you try to anticipate all of the factors or the “variables” of chaos, you are likely to make a poor choice.
Let’s assume that you resist the typical urge to “control” these variables in an attempt to minimize chaos, OK? Let’s assume that we already have tools at our disposal for managing this complex work of prioritizing our efforts, our energies, and our focus.
Baseball outfielders and transformative leaders both struggle to explain the decision making processes they use to catch a deep field fly ball or to initiate and sustain a vibrant faith community. It is often such an intuitive process that when scientists attempt to explain it, they often over-analyze the constituent steps and make the process unrealistically complex.
The Gaze Heuristic is an explanation of a remarkably intuitive and simple (not easy) process. The gaze heuristic is a adaptive mental process employed by individuals when trying to catch a ball. Experimental studies have shown that even the smartest of sports brains do not calculate windage, velocity, acceleration and spin before running to the predicted point of landing. Instead, they fixate the ball with their eyes and move so as to keep the angle of the gaze either constant or within a specific range. Moving in such a fashion assures that the ball will hit the catcher.
It was this same heuristic that allowed the pilot to save a jetful of passengers during the Miracle on the Hudson’s Flight 1549. Chesley Sullenberger had to determine whether or not they could make it back to LaGuardia with no engines. They had very little time – certainly not enough to calculate the flight trajectory of a jet with a full payload of fuel and passengers. Guess how this experienced pilot made the calculations! He looked through the cockpit windshield at the distant air traffic control tower of the airport they’d just left. He knew that if the image of the the tower rises higher on their horizon, beyond a certain point, they would not make it – they would crash. In that event, they would have to find the best spot to make an emergency landing in a very populated area. Fortunately, the entire crew and all 150 passengers survived! When asked later, “Sully” explained that everything in him made it clear that he needed to ignore all the warning bells and the gauges and use everything he had to guide the plane to a safe emergency landing. The point was not to interpret all of the data. The point was to choose best outcomes. He was using one simple heuristic – the same one that the outfielder or the trained dog uses in catching the ball!
So, here at the start of 2014, how will you manage all of the data and the variables and live in the presence of chaos? Will you give in to the temptation to “control” or will you find your own chaordic path?
Some questions to consider, together:
What do you believe we might learn from this Gaze Heuristic parallel in the world of prioritizing our ministry efforts?
What might be the equivalent of the air traffic control tower on your horizon?
When you look back at the Core Values you have been using in your 90 Day Micro-strategies, which one or two is foundational for your measure of success, on an ongoing basis?
How might you adjust the way you manage all of the variables (maybe even the “chaos”) of your ministry environment?
What metrics might you focus on, to the exclusion of the ball’s windage, velocity, acceleration and spin?
____ Joy Index?
____ Laughter Meter?
____ Fun Factor?
____ Ratio of Chit Chat to Hear to Heart conversations?
____ Ratio of insider ministries to outsider ministries?