This evening, I had the privilege of hearing Chris Howson speak at St. John's College in Durham. Chris gave a mission lecture three years ago, and it was a really memorable occasion. In March this year I got hold of a copy of his book, 'a Just Church: 21st century Liberation Theology in Action' which is a fantastic little book. But this isn't what I want to talk about.
If you don't know Chris, then you could do worse than to hear him speak at Greenbelt 2011 or to have a read of his book. Chris is into mission in a big way and sees liberation theology being a key expression of God's mission in the world. But this isn't what I want to talk about.
Chris spoke to us about things he's been involved with in Bradford, things he describes in his book. Chris would probably be the first to admit that there are some real complexities in the campaigns he is involved with, Us and Them doesn't quite cut it, though it's sometimes where things end up. But this isn't what I want to talk about.
Chris has a really interesting take on mission and in his conclusion he says somethings I've read elsewhere, but in a down-on-the-ground-PRAXIS way that I really love. But this isn't what I want to talk about.
Chris' argument is strong, even if there is one big-ish area I disagree with him on and would love to have a chat over a pint with him about. But this isn't what I want to talk about.
As Chris spoke there was a buzz, of some folks agreeing with somethings and some folks disagreeing with somethings. It was really good. But this isn't what I want to talk about.
Because what I want to talk about, is sometimes we need to PAUSE, take a breath, and hold in the question, the thought, the minuscule bubble of doubt that will soon dissipate and let things just go.
With the approach I've just outlined there is a real danger that too many things are let slip and before we know it, we're either living out a heresy, or being pastorally naive, or even break relationships and doing damage to the cause we are attempting to support.
But sometimes, we just need to stop. And listen, and pray.
Because, sometimes, we just have to say, "thank you for what you are doing"
Not, "thank you for what you are doing, but I think you're not realising the implications of liberation theology expanded to the nth degree"
Not, "hmm, I like your point but how would that suggestion manifest itself on a global scale"
Those aren't real questions raised in Chris' seminar, but the danger is we too quickly belittle what someone is doing.When at the very least they are doing.
And at the most, they are building a part of God's kingdom, most of us don't even second glance at.
I suppose, I've been affected by Stephen Cherry's Barefoot Disciple (which Clare and I read over lent).
In that great little book, Cherry talks about the difference between grumbling and prophecy. Grumbling, simply is when we moan about something that is bad, but don't do anything. Prophecy is when we see that something is bad, and want to speak against it, to transform it.
It would be easy to grumble about things we read, or hear, or things that people do with good intentions. It can be easy to belittle the efforts of others.
Instead of grumbling, let's try being prophetic.
Or as the old phrase goes,
"PUT UP, OR SHUT UP."