We had one last marathon session for Disciple Bible class yesterday. In typical fashion, we were supposed to meet for six hours, but it went 7 1/2. This would be the type of thing the normal Julie would be so irritated and frustrated about -- infringing on MY precious time, my precious schedule, my plans, etc. But by the time I left, I didn't want to leave behind all these wonderful people, and the gifts they had given me and each other. It was a special day.
I was the last one to arrive that morning, and felt that familiar resistance to being there. Being with all these other people, and having to pretend I was glad about it. I don't always feel like such a grumpy hermit, but I do when heavy things are on my mind.
Of course, things quickly improved. My mood lightened as the conversation flowed. The morning session was fairly routine, until it came time to talk about our spiritual gifts.
When we we got to the roundtable discussion of spiritual gifts, we went around the table, first naming our self-assessed gifts, then going around the table to talk about the gifts we perceived in one person at a time. I was the only one to forget my self-assessment. So I sort of guessed at all the scores I had made on at least a dozen spiritual gifts listed.
By far, the most meaningful time was when we talked about the gifts of others, one at a time. This is where time stood still. I remembered that I had been hungry at least an hour earlier (at 11, snack time), but those physical needs vanished for that time. This was simply too important to interrupt. It was one of those brief moments of complete openness and vulnerability, between disparate personalities, that is stunning when it happens.
You can sense that it will not continue -- but just for that instant, you are all together on the mountaintop, and the fog has receded far below. A moment this precious does not happen at random, but because of the combined hard work of all present -- and, of course, the Holy Spirit. For us, it took 9 months to get to this point. Scott Peck has described in his books the thing that is most sacred to him, this true community. Some people search for the Holy Grail -- he has dedicated much of his life to trying to build communities, more quickly and efficiently, to attempt to solve the problems of the world.
There was great celebration of one another, several displays of weeping (not just by me), and we learned that two people at the table of nine had experienced the call to full-time ministry -- either at some point in their lives, or at the present moment. (Not me, by the way.) I knew this group was special. The other indication of what kind of group I was in, happened at the two services I attended this weekend (one to watch Austin play guitar), where the "graduates" were asked to go up and say a word. There wasn't a bashful one of the five of us who were there between the two services -- no prompting was needed. We had lots of leaders in our group.
Another remarkable thing was that my inventory of others' gifts was eerily echoed, in most cases, by others around the table. It wasn't because they had just heard it and were seconding the idea -- it was already written in their books, too. It was quite clear that this one was a prophet, that one a healer, and that one had absolutely pure faith. Several had a great musical gift. These things were as clear as anything gets in this muddled place, anyhow.
I got some kudos about my writing abilities. That was nice, and unexpected. Too bad it's not a paying position. Just goes to show you, money is far from the most important thing, though it is necessary.
Pastor Janet gave a good sermon today, based upon a scripture from John where God spoke to Jesus. She emphasized that some of the people who were there with him heard thunder. Others thought angels had spoken. And some, not many, heard the voice of God. She said it's important for the church to come together, at places like annual conference (where the bureaucracy of the United Methodist Church convenes to make decisions) to discuss our various views about pressing issues, with respect. Who thinks it just thundered? Who heard the angels talking? And who heard the voice of God? And let everyone have input into whether it really is God talking, or not. There is nothing more frightening and humbling than to be a prophet. A reality check is desperately needed.
So, when we were all gathered at the table yesterday, did we feel the powerful rumble of thunder? (We definitely did the night before, when all the storms came through.) Were the angels singing? And did we actually hear the voice of God? Yes, I think. Yes, yes, yes.
Almost makes me want to take another class!
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