July 20, 2014
Then there was more reading alongside Quiet. The other book is by Stephen P. Bouman, leader of the domestic mission unit of the ELCA since 2008, entitled, The Mission Table: Renewing Congregation and Community. There is much to consider in this book. He puts forth many ideas, many challenges, and much food for thought as he ties together scripture and life situations.
An example I found most powerful came under the heading: “a congregation in mission faces paralysis with courage.” He began with the story in John 5.1-9 about the man near the pool, Bethesda, in Jerusalem who for thirty-eight years had been lying on his mat waiting to be put in the pool when the water was stirred so that he could experience a miracle. Thirty-eight years he had waited, unable to make a move!
When Jesus saw him, his question to him was, “Do you want to be made well?” Stephen Bouman goes on to talk about the man’s reaction to this question, how he was stirred into action, probably through frustration, even anger. Then he writes: “Do we want to be made well: it’s the only question for congregations stalled in their ministry, timid in their stewardship, lax in their discipleship, stifled in their imagination about the future, afraid of the changing communities outside their doors.”
He continues by explaining that grief over “the way things used to be” can keep us from acting now. It can make us apathetic. He writes, “Jesus’ question stirred him to grieving anger,” explaining that putting voice to our grief can break our hearts open again and make them open to God’s work, God’s direction, God’s renewal.
Summarizing this heading, Stephen Bouman writes, “The call to healing does not make light of the divisions among us, of what our congregation has been through, of what we have lost. It is a call to walk away from apathy and also from hot anger. It is a call to cool “angr,” the grief of the gulf between what was and what has become, between what is and what should be. It is a holy longing to be well. It is a resolve to turn our gaze from the pool that is reflecting back our paralysis and apathy and to look into the eyes of Jesus standing with us in our paralysis - Jesus, the one who calls us to the place of anger transformed to healing grace for the life of the world.”