There surely has to be some connection – however imaginary – between the English language’s use of “Lento” to tell us it’s time to play music slowly and “Lent” to tell us it’s time to prepare for Holy Week. In faith formation, there are times to go slowly and times to go fast. The headlong rush of one who has just discovered God’s presence is a moment of emotional, spiritual sprinting. But the cultivation of a prayer life, or a life with scripture, can call for a slow, deliberate discipline of watchfulness. Velocity is a spiritual discipline.
Post-Easter, John’s gospel in particular describes women running from the tomb – and the disciples to whom they deliver the message of Christ’s resurrection are likewise seen running toward the tomb, full of wonder and joy. (If you can’t speed up in light of the Easter message, when can you?) In other gospel moments, we are told of Jesus slowing down out of a pressing need for rest and prayer. It is crucial, though, to know when to speed up and when to slow down. Velocity is a spiritual discipline.
For most church boards, there are important issues that have crept along in the slow lane far too long, because of the perception that making a decision on them will sow division, cause hard feelings, or risk failure. At other moments, boards lurch forward with a sense that “we need to get this done and keep moving,” even though there is no clarity of vision or sense of the Spirit’s push. (As a wise ministry mentor once said: “never run a yellow light.”)
In his poem “Say Yes Quickly,” thirteenth-century Sufi poet and philosopher Rumi challenges us both to “get up” and “pray”:
Say Yes Quickly
(transl. Coleman Barks)
Forget your life. Say God is Great. Get up.
You think you know what time it is. It’s time to pray.
You’ve carved so many little figurines, too many.
Don’t knock on any random door like a beggar.
Reach your long hands out to another door, beyond where
you go on the street, the street
where everyone says, “How are you?”
and no one says How aren’t you?
Tomorrow you’ll see what you’ve broken and torn tonight,
thrashing in the dark. Inside you
there’s an artist you don’t know about.
He’s not interested in how things look different in moonlight.
If you are here unfaithfully with us,
you’re causing terrible damage.
If you’ve opened your loving to God’s love,
you’re helping people you don’t know
and have never seen.
Is what I say true? Say yes quickly,
if you know, if you’ve known it
from before the beginning of the universe.
- What do you make of the first stanza? What is Rumi instructing us to do?
- Why does he want us to say yes quickly?
- When did your church last say yes quickly? What happened?
- How do you discern, as a church board, when to speed up on something and when to slow down?
- What are those items, right now, that are in need of a “velocity adjustment” in your ministry?