Bishop's Letter: Holy disruption and the prayer Jesus taught

    From the Bishops
    20 February 2016
    Bishop Lee

    Bishop Lee

    This month Bishop Lee reminds us that God’s Kingdom is often unsettling and messy. If we are going to pray ‘Your Kingdom come’ in spirit and in truth let us be ready to welcome rather than resist this.

    For fans of science fiction the term ‘disruptor’ may well bring to mind the weapon used by the Klingons in Star Trek. For business people the term is likely to evoke a thrill or a shudder and a practice which can be as lethal to a company as the Klingon weapon was to the Starship Enterprise. Disruption has become a new modus operandi in commerce and describes the impact which radical and game-changing approaches can have on whole industries.

    Disruption has come through the advent and application of technology which creates very different ways of operating and connecting with markets. Most of us are familiar with how smartphones have transformed consumer electronics. One small box now replaces an MP3 player, an electronic organiser, a satnav, a video player, and the remote for your TV. In fact, a smartphone can replace the TV itself. Companies such as Amazon and Google have recast an entire sector at the expense of former giants such as Sony. This is disruption.

    Disruption has also been applied to the learning process and recognized as an essential requirement for learning itself. At the outset of the new leadership programme aimed at resourcing CofE bishops we were introduced to ‘disruptive learning’ – the immersion in new thinking and behaviours which may be enjoyable but can also confuse and produce anxiety. Disruptive learning affects how we see what is and generates fresh ways of seeing and acting which can be very uncomfortable.

    In one of the parables of the Kingdom of Heaven recalled in Matthew chapter 13, Jesus compares God’s Kingdom to a mustard seed which grows to become a tree in which the birds of the air make their nests. Through comparison with other texts of that period, some scholars are now questioning whether this seed was more akin to a weed than a cultivated plant. Paula Gooder likens its nature to mint in swiftly spreading beyond the patch in which it was planted. Such a mustard seed has a further disruptive quality about it in attracting ‘the birds of the air’, not usually great friends of the farmer and a term used in Jesus’ day of the Gentile nations.

    Through the lens offered by this parable, praying ‘Your Kingdom come’ means to invite and welcome disruption; God’s Kingdom is neither neat nor predictable and once it takes root it may lead to a great deal of untidiness. We see this clearly with Jesus who was better known for attracting tax collectors and prostitutes than the reputable and respectable. And Jesus’ disciples experienced highly disruptive learning, discovering for themselves that transforming work of God which was both exhilarating and deeply disturbing.

    If we are serious about creating connections with God, with each other, and with our communities; if by the grace of God we are to make disciples, grow leaders, and engage with younger generations; this will not come without disruption - in our church life and in our personal life. To pray the Lord’s Prayer with integrity requires you and me to invite and welcome God’s disruptive work among us. I wonder whether this month you would dare to ask the Spirit of God to do a disruptive but holy work in you and your church fellowship before you utter those words which begin, Our Father..?


    March 2016