Think Slow, Church

Posted: December 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

This evening at the Bluegrass worship service I shared a meditation on the slow journey of the Magi as they searched for the Christ. I drew on some of the key insights of a recent book that is quite worth the read, Slow Church (Smith and Pattison, 2014). The authors’ work reflects a larger slow church movement in the United States, one that is, yes, slowly gaining traction.

They recognize, and I think rightly, our cultural captivity to the idol of fast, efficient and personalized. In the same way that “fast food” has devised efficient and delivery systems for food, so we have commodified all aspects of life – what some have referred to as the “McDonaldization” of everything. But fast and efficient does not always equal better. In fact,they may often work against deep communal life and values.

This has created what Smith and Pattison have called a culture of impatience. From a spiritual standpoint this impatience has created church structures of fast delivery. The problem is, of course, that the Spirit doesn’t work in that kind of way. In the same way that a “slow food” movement arose against the “fast food” invasion of culture, so a “slow church” movement has arisen to offset the insidious invasion of “fast church.”

Here is the way that I allowed the insights of Slow Church to intersect with the narrative of the Magi and its implications for life in the Spirit:

“You see the slow pace that was required of them, how the way forward could only unfold in time. There would be no rushing of it. Only slow, deliberate, uncertain progress could be expected.

Seen from 30,000 feet, the ways of God are ponderous and emerge and flourish over incredibly long periods of time, much longer than any one lifetime. And in terms of individuals the time required for faith to mature, grow and shape the soul is equally long. Some things cannot be rushed and are only the result of the spirit acting over long periods of time.

The way the spirit works is often unseen by mortal eyes even after long journeying. We are left with questions even after arriving in Jerusalem. And that is why it is called faith.

If there is one, great gift this story can provide us it is found in these words: Slow down, Church. Slow down and look for the star. Slow down and follow. Slow down and ask your questions. Slow down and trek forward stage by stage. Slow down, Church. Stop your frantic activity. Don’t force. Stop trying to dish out fast food faith. The way forward will not be found that way. It never has been…

What would happen if we received the gift of the Magi to trek with them, to slow down? Many things, I think.

We could offer and receive the gift of unhurried hospitality. We could discern the wise way forward rather than an impulsive, unthoughtful one. We could begin to understand things not in terms of years or even decades, but in the light of centuries, millennia, yes, even eternity. We could deliberately join in God’s rhythm in the world rather than our own. We could tune ourselves to the large seasonal arc of nature…

Slow down, Church. Wait, watch, follow, question, surrender, love, bow down. All in good time. Slow down, Church. Follow the star.”

  1. Lee says:

    Thank you for the much-needed reminder, especially resonant during our culture’s mad dash to the 2014 finish line. A wise friend once gave me the same advice: “Relax…be at peace…all is well.”

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