Sunday, 28 August 2016

Our Expertise or God's leading

In life we often  can achieve the our goals through hard work and believe that we have arrived when we our considered by others to have a certain amount of knowledge.  However, sometimes and quite often in a faith setting, our knowledge becomes a hindrance and is often not conducive to a happy and sustainable community. In life we are often honored for our knowledge and we allow this honour to become part of our expectations in all of life's settings not just in the situation in which our knowledge is recognised.  In Luke Christ warns against this type of behaviour using the illustration of a banquet (Lk. 14.7-14).

We can see this happening in all walks of life as people position themselves into places so that they can achieve power, authority and often at the end of the day notoriety. It is difficult for us not to promote ourselves within an economy that values those who are deemed to be 'expert'. (I am always reminded of the old definition of an expert which goes something like this. X = an unknown quantity, Spurt = water under pressure, a drip = an unknown quantity of water, hence expert = a drip under pressure).  Of course in any discourse that involves the subject matter that is the provenance of the 'expert' it is the purpose of the person to have their knowledge acknowledged and thus their view predominate.  In academic discourse this is part of the rough and tumble of academia and is carried out through conferences and forums that the various 'experts' attend.  In everyday life such behaviour tends to lead to cliques, clubs and politics.  We can see where that leads to as there is a tendency for those groups to use hierarchical power, the 'expert' at the top, as a means to stop conversation and deny the voice of the other.

Do we consider ourselves as being 'experts' in relationships?

In the faith setting this sort of self proclamation becomes an issue as there is a tendency to once again form us vs them cliques.  This can be clearly seen in an over exaggerated form in the issues in Northern Ireland regarding Protestant and Catholic.  In this over exaggerated case the situation devolved into violence in much the same way that the extreme fundamentalist does in any religious setting.  In the parochial setting the result may not be as vicious, in terms of physical violence, but is just as bad in terms of relational violence.  We often do not appreciate the violence that is generated as quite often the group as a whole ignores the issue and bows down to a laissez faire attitude that gives permission for the situation to continue without resolution.  Once a 'power base' has been established by the group or individual then this is used to exploit the situation and impose the view of the group/individual on the others within the community.

In many parishes there are Catering groups or Opportunity Shops that are valued as they often bring in a large proportion of the income for the Parish.  These groups tend to attract those who have a tendency for this self promotional style of behaviour.  The 'expert' is often the person who has been around in the group as a leader for an extended period of time and when attempts are made to curtail or align the group to the new direction a community is taking then umbrage, chaos and upset occurs.  Thus, breaking up the communal relationships that have ignored the growing situation as being normal and coming to understand that it is the community that has been 'bullied' into conformance as a result of their reliance on one group or another.  This is accepted and normal behaviour in many groups within modern society.  Yet, Christ offers us another and alternate way of behaviour that does not rely on our self proclamation of expertise and need for power / authority to lord it over others in however small a manner and in however 'irreplaceable' we believe it to be.

We are each of us called into ministry by God at our baptism.  It is God who calls us into the place where we may have some 'expertise' but it is also God who guides and directs us in that ministry.  God is the host who will elevate us into a more prominent position in the light of our peers but it is also God who may decide not to promote us despite what we believe or think of ourselves. Our self recognition as an 'expert' and therefore the right to be heard or even for our viewpoint to be the prevailing viewpoint,  has to be one that is counter intuitive to our desires.  Our behaviours should reflect a viewpoint that believes "Despite my belief of my own self worth, there are others who may be of more consequence than me."  Only when we realise that our own opinions of ourselves do not matter within the community will we begin to recognise that it is our relationships of mutual understanding and love that are of more importance.

It is pertinent for us, especially for those who think that they know more than others or think because they have been doing something forever, to stop and listen to others in the community.  This can not be a single event in the life of a community but an ongoing understanding of ourselves as a community. In doing so we begin to heal the rifts that our behaviours have caused and begin to listen to God's direction of our ministry and not our own self imposed authority.  But remember as soon as we start to think "I was right all along." and vindicate  a position we have held in our own situations, we fall into the same trap. We not called to elevate ourselves for the honour and glory which is fleeting but we are to await God's blessing and call for a more lasting satisfaction and blessing on the community as a whole.

No comments: