Sunday, 2 September 2012

Stop, look and listen

Installation by Jeppe Hein

Turns out the book of James in the New Testament is a good antidote to gospel preaching fatigue. Refreshingly short on doctrine (sorry, Luther; know you hated this) it brings you up short with its no nonsense pithy images (mirrors, tongues, bridles) and its exhortation to action.


From the Lectionary this Sunday we had James 1:17-27:
v. 22: 'But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror, for they look at themselves and on going away, immediately forget what they are like.'

The Danish artist, Jeppe Hein, has an artwork installed in the Saatchi Gallery called Mirror Wall (2010). When you approach it, it vibrates slightly, making you reassess yourself and the white background behind you. It's spookily interactive.

When we approach God' Word it should be similarly two way. If we are open, it reflects back to us what we're really like. It looks into us ans we look into it. 


In theological college we did a scary listening exercise - a cross between 'Just a Minute' and an embarrassing counselling session. In threes, the first person was given an unprepared subject on which to speak for two minutes; the second had to listen and report back afterwards; the third observed the pair's body language. 

As a speaker, it was pretty uncanny to be seriously listened to for two whole minutes. 

As a listener, it was really hard work, listening for two whole minutes.

As an observer it was fascinating to watch body language, mirroring, eye contact and to assess what was going on.

The whole experience profoundly changed the way I approached communication.

So James is right about the importance of listening. James 1:19: 'You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to wrath...'

Imagine a world, a church, where everyone was so busy listening to each other, misunderstandings were cut by 50% or more, and even the voiceless felt valued.

And a final thought: those long lists of James's about the vices we ought to rid ourselves of...'Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has power to save your souls...' (v. 21)

...I do LOVE the King James Version of this: we should definitely rid ourselves of  our 'superfluity of naughtiness' don't you think?

Thank you James and King James.

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