Buzz Word Bingo
When visiting suppliers in Industry back before I had the collar on, I remember playing buzz word bingo with my colleagues. Looking out to catch the supplier using the buzz words and phrases that were so often used to get around actually admitting a fault or supply problem. One such phrase was that the supplier felt they needed to: Manage Expectations. It generally meant lower people’s expectations, so they wouldn’t have any negative feedback when they failed to meet deadlines.
Of course managing expectations can also mean encouraging people to hope to achieve more. In change management it is about communicating and moving people from one set of expectations, one paradigm to another. The difficulty is we aren’t very good at listening. Usually we are thinking about the next thing we want to say, or we are relating what somebody is telling us to the set of expectations we have – assuming they are telling us what we already know. To actually listen we have to be shocked out of our assumption that we already know what we are being told.
I remember when I was first learning to drive a manual gear shift. I grew up in Canada – so Automatic shifts were the norm. When I got my license here I had to learn to drive again. When you are learning to drive a manual shift car you need to think about each step in the process. Left foot on clutch, right foot off accelerator, shift to neutral shift to new gear. Now, of course, I shift gears without thinking about the steps – until I’m jarred by going into the wrong gear by accident – or, more embarrassingly, stalling the car. Suddenly, loosing where you are in the automatic sequence, you need to take a step back and figure out what the situation is. The process of having your world view challenged, of having a shift in our understanding of the world around us, can be very painful and unwelcome – even if it is part of our becoming more enlightened.
In my family there is a recording of a small boy struggling with the concept of tape recorders. Not because they were obsolete when the recording was made, but because the small boy couldn’t accept that when he was listening to his father’s voice being played back to him that his father wasn’t actually in the tape recorder. The recording includes several attempts by the boy’s father to explain logically that
there aren’t people in the tv – no, there aren’t people in the radio – no, so is daddy in the tape recorder – yes.
Today we heard John’s telling of Jesus resurrection. It is Mary Magdalene who first finds the empty tomb and goes to get the others, Peter and John in particular. They race to the tomb and we are told they believe, but what? Despite Jesus telling them again and again, despite his having tried to manage their expectations, to be far greater than what they could have asked or imagined, they still hadn’t expected this. They had, undoubtedly, been feeling lost and confused. Deserted by their teacher who had promised to free them from oppression. Mary alone stands by the tomb – trying to understand, but unable to. And a man approaches. Of course she thought he was a gardener – she was in a garden. But it is that personal direct calling of her name ‘Mary!’ that is like the car stalling, suddenly everything is not as she had expected. Suddenly she realises everything has changed.
For the disciples, the idea that Jesus was the Son of God, one with the Father, must have been such an enormous shift in their understanding of their faith. To a first century Jewish man or woman, the idea that God would be in human form was completely outside of the realm of possibility. Jesus’ resurrection completely changed their outlook. Suddenly these confused timid followers of Jesus go out from Jerusalem, empowered by the Holy Spirit, proclaiming the Good News – becoming leaders themselves.
This moment, the resurrection of Christ is the thing that changes everything. Of course he died – we will all die. But the resurrection changed the horizon on which our expectations are hung. No longer is our hope only what we can achieve. But by the love of God, working in us and in the world around us, our expectations need to be ready to be set beyond what we can imagine. God gave his son, not to simply to die for us, but to live that we may live. To flourish so that we too may flourish in the certain love of the God who created us, sustains us and will always be there for us whenever an wherever we find ourselves.
The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams