Saturday, April 6, 2013

Life at the Intersection - Michael Cobbler column

Easter peace and blessings to you all! In my continuing journey in congregational, church and community renewal, I have met a new friend and deep thinker—The Rev. Dr. Carrie Call, who serves as the Associate Conference Minister of the Indiana-Kentucky Conference, United Church of Christ (UCC). In seeking to describe my efforts to build ministry and community over the years to her and a group of UCC leaders, I said that wherever I served, I worked to create a “coalition of possibility.” Rev. Carrie took the phrase to heart, reflected on it, and then wrote the following in the “Conference E-Pistle” the following week:

A coalition, technically, is a loosely connected group of people who come together to act for a common cause. A coalition draws its power from the singular vision or goal of the group. Usually, a specific outcome is planned, expected or demanded. The coalition of possibility, in my mind, is different in several ways. While it may gain shape around an issue or concern, the outcome is not a given. The process in this coalition is open to the movement of the Spirit—there is room for surprise and experimentation.
Rev. Carrie then goes on to make the distinctions between “coalitions of certainty” and “coalitions of possibility.” She further writes:
How often, after all, does our certainty bring us to grief? How often is certainty of outcome challenged in scripture, showing how God’s action leads to unexpected and amazing results? What would it look like if instead of planning the outcome (and accepting nothing less) we approached our causes, fears and concerns with a spirit of possibility instead of a spirit of certainty?
Rev. Carrie’s powerful reflection moved me to ask, “How is the 'coalition of possibility' even possible in places where life intersects with oppressions? The Wednesday night Renewal Teaching and Training Event at Union Community Church UCC, Valparaiso, Indiana, gave me a clue. We were sharing insights on the Second Sunday of Easter Gospel text (John 20:19-31). The disciples were gathered in the “locked room” because of their fear on the first Easter evening, and Jesus appears. Surprise and rejoicing! He then gives them the Holy Spirit and power. A participant said, “So Jesus Christ breathed the Holy Spirit on the disciples, so that they, and we, would have the power to act in Jesus’ name.” I thought, “Well, I won’t have to preach this Sunday—I’ll just let the Renewal Teaching and Training Team testify!” If we are paying attention, Jesus will appear! Jesus turns “coalitions of fear” to “coalitions of possibility.” Jesus reminds “coalitions of certainty” that they can become “coalitions of godly surprise” through the Holy Spirit, if we only notice! As Jesus said in Matthew 18:20 (Cobbler translation), “When a coalition of my followers gather, I show up!”

Rev. Carrie concludes the E-Pistle with a prayer:

God of possibility, open our hearts and our minds.
Open us to the possibility of your future, your plans your will, your vision.
Create in us a humble spirit, where certainty doesn’t hinder and where we can align our hearts with yours.
Be present in our actions and our plans, guiding us always toward realizing and participating in your wish for the world: the beloved community. In Jesus’ name. Amen
Next week, let’s “practice resurrection!”




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