Finding God…in the Dirt

This sermon is the first in a series about the different places we can find God around us.

SCRIPTURE – Genesis 2:4-15 – In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

10 A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. 11 The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12 and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.

SERMON

Last week, I talked about how, before my three-month sabbatical, I had lost Big-G God and replaced God with a smaller, cheaper version. I shared with you the different ways I experienced Big-G God while on sabbatical, and how I’m now working to pay attention to God here at home, so that I don’t lose the mystery and the majesty I experienced while I was away. Today, we start a sermon series called, “Finding God.” I hope to share with you the different places and ways I found God while I was gone, and what that means for our life together now that we are reunited. Big-G God is here, if we know where to look.

One of my favorite purchases for my sabbatical was my first pair of hiking shoes. I thought it was kind of crazy that I’d never owned hiking shoes, until I remembered that I’d never hiked before. If you don’t hike, you don’t need hiking shoes. But I was planning on doing some hiking while I was in Alaska, so I thought I should at least look the part and get hiking shoes.

These shoes were pretty awesome. They were slick-looking, came from Eddie Bauer, and I got them at half-price. Score! I purchased them a few months before my sabbatical started so that I’d have plenty of time to break them in. So I started hiking. I wore them while hiking around Target. I wore them while hiking around Wal-Mart. They were waterproof, which came in handy when I stepped in a puddle while hiking from the parking lot to the mall. These shoes were ready for Alaska!

I got to put them to use my first day there. After checking into my hotel in Anchorage, I drove outside of town to Flat Top Mountain, a popular hiking site whose website included phrases like “easy-to-follow trail” and “low-key circuit tour.” It said that fit hikers can go up two or three different times. Hey, I’d hiked around Fayette Mall two or three times, so what’s a little mountain? My shoes and I were ready!

I found hiking up Flat Top Mountain to be pretty easy. As I was walking the trail, I looked up and saw the plateau at the top, and then a much larger mountain in the background. I said to my shoes, “Sure am glad we’re not climbing THAT one!” Then I realized the big mountain WAS Flat Top Mountain. My shoes immediately complained, “We can’t do that! We barely made it around the mall!” But I trudged ahead, because I didn’t want the money I spent on my shoes to go to waste. The “easy-to-follow” trail disappeared about two-thirds of the way up, blocked by a recent snow and huge mud ponds. I navigated my way around, finally making it to the top to enjoy the gorgeous view of downtown Anchorage and they bay beyond it. But then I looked down at my poor hiking shoes, covered in mud and snow. They looked like they had…well, climbed a mountain! And my first thought was, “Oh no! I got my hiking shoes dirty!” Take a minute to let the absurdity of that comment sink in.

I don’t like to get dirty. Growing up, I was not your typical boy. I had no desire to make mud pies or splash in puddles. I didn’t like dirt because it was so…dirty. Even as a boy scout, I preferred to stayed in my tent playing cards than go trapsing through the forest. I had what author Richard Louv calls “nature-deficit disorder.” Louv claims that many children today are living in a de-natured environment and are missing out on the benefits of spending time in God’s creation. He lifts up the example of a young boy who was asked his favorite place to play. The boy said, “I like to play indoors because that’s where all the electrical outlets are.” I bet that boy didn’t own any cool hiking shoes.

For the most part, we are a de-natured society, cut off from the land, surrounded by a buffer zone of technology and convenience that keeps us from having to interact with creation. For us, the land is one more thing to be controlled, mined, managed, in order to get what we want. We don’t feel any special kinship with dirt; dirt is something to be washed off and removed.

That’s a far cry from what the Bible tells us about our relationship to the land. In the Genesis passage we read, you’ll notice how God made the first man, Adam, whose name is derived from the Hebrew word for “dust.” God scooped up a palm-full of dirt and breathed life into it. Adam was literally animated dirt, and each one of us who have come after are made from the same material. We have a soul-deep connection to the ground around us. It’s not a commodity to be used up; it’s a part of us.

Land played an important role in the development of the Israelites’ story. When God comes to Abraham he promises him two things: ancestors and land. Moses leads the Israelites out of the land of Egypt toward the land flowing with milk and honey, the Promised Land. To be in that land was to be close to God, and the worst punishment the Israelites could suffer was being exiled from that land, which happened when they disobeyed God’s commands.

Jesus picked up on that theme, telling agriculturally-based parables about farmers clearing fields and seeds being scattered on different types of soil. The Bible animates creation, telling us that rocks cry out and rivers clap their hands and mountains sing for joy. You’ll remember that in the very first book of the Bible, when God made everything, first God made the earth, then humans. The earth was here before us. When we finally came along, it was because there was no one to till the ground, so God made us and gave us our marching orders to “keep the land.” The earth is alive, and we were created to be its custodians.

But we haven’t been very good at following those instructions, have we? The Industrial Revolution drove us off the land and into the cities. The soil became something to manage or remove. Farming has become a mechanical process of food production, not a relationship with the soil. And the church has done its share of the damage. By focusing on the importance of getting to heaven “up there,” we’ve sent the message that the earth “down here” is only a means to an end. We’ve lost our connection to the place from which we’ve come. And in doing so, we’ve demonized the very ground under our feet.

Does that sound too strong? Let me ask you this: as the saying goes, what is next to Godliness? Right, cleanliness. We often talk about baptism as washing away our sins, as if they are a layer of grime covering our soul. Salvation means cleansing us of our spiritual dirt. It’s only a short leap to say that anything unclean is unholy. Our dog, Sadie, loves to run around our yard, especially when it’s wet, so when she comes back in it looks like she’s wearing black boots. We playfully scold her about tracking dirt into the house. How dare she sully our pristine house, which we work hard to keep clean, by bringing in such earthy filth? Even the primary definition of dirt on Dictionary.com is biased: “any foul or filthy substance, such as mud, grime, dust, or excrement.” How did we get from the stuff God used to make human life to…excrement? We’ve lost our connection with the land.

That connection is one of the things I experienced most strongly while on sabbatical. I was blessed to see places where there’s not a Starbucks on every corner or a mall waiting to be shopped. On my flight-seeing tour of Denali in Alaska, we flew over parts of that state that were completely undeveloped. I don’t mean there weren’t any Walgreen’s; I mean there weren’t any roads. It was untamed, and it was a beautiful, because it’s something we so rarely see anymore – God’s creation being what it was created to be.

There are so few places like that around here, and I believe that’s created a hunger in each of us to reconnect with creation. Here’s an example: raise your hand if you have a garden at your house. The National Garden Association says that one in three households are now growing food, even in urban areas. We love going to farmer’s markets and eating at Kentucky Proud establishments. Leigh and I started a garden last year, three little plots with tomatoes and zucchini and green peppers. Leigh grew up in the country, so she gets all the credit for anything edible that we pick. But having a garden is a big step for this city boy. When I was young, I thought potatoes grew in bins at Kroger. But there’s something deeply satisfying about digging your hands into the dirt, planting a seed, watching it grow, reaping the benefits.

Obviously, there’s more at stake here than just some weekend hobby. Our land is responsible for feeding us, and yet we mistreat it to the point of crisis. Because of over-development and climate change, we are losing farmable soil four times faster than it can be replenished. As author Diane Butler Bass says, we literally need to gain ground in order to keep this planet alive. No soil, no food, no us.

But I would argue the crisis goes even deeper within us. There is a natural connection we have to the earth, one that’s been severed by our desire for progress. I certainly was a victim of that, and didn’t realize how much I was missing until I experienced God’s creation first-hand. Standing on the Matanuska Glacier in Alaska, watching the crystal blue water flow through tiny canyons as it carved its way down from the mountains. In Ireland, we saw sheep and cattle grazing in the green fields. In LA we saw put our toes in the ocean and saw seagulls swooping and feeding. This earth we inhabit is alive in wondrous ways, and the only way it’s going to stay that way – and we’re going to stay that way – is if we take seriously our role as custodians.

It might be helpful to remember that the God who we’ve traditionally thought of as “up there” isn’t really up there. God has come to earth in order to be with us in the form of Jesus. Theologian Paul Tillich called God “the ground of all being.” We are grounded in God, who made us from the ground. From dust we are made, and to dust we shall return.

But thanks to Jesus Christ, we don’t have to stay there. Through our faith in Christ, we are promised that one day we will also rise from the ground, like all living things rise from the gorund, to experience the new life Jesus offers us. Because God chose to come down here and get God’s hands dirty with us, we can know the life God offers us, the life that started when God scooped up some dirt and infused it with life. All life comes from the ground. It is not something to be feared or avoided, but sought out and enjoyed. The creation is here for our pleasure, not our abuse. Put on your hiking shoes, plant a tree, nurture a garden, get your hands dirty, and remember the land is not just a gift entrusted to us, it is a part of us. From dust we have come.

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This Week’s Sermon – Losing God

This is my first sermon back from sabbatical. I was as nervous as my first Sunday at Crestwood! It was good to be back in the pulpit again.

SCRIPTURE – Job 38:1-18 –

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

“Who is this that obscures my plans
    with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?

“Who shut up the sea behind doors
    when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
    and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
    and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
    here is where your proud waves halt’?

12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning,
    or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
    and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
    its features stand out like those of a garment.
15 The wicked are denied their light,
    and their upraised arm is broken.

16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
    Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
    Tell me, if you know all this.

 

SERMON
Losing God
Job 38:1-18
August 21, 2016

One of my prized possessions growing up was a baseball. But it wasn’t just any baseball. It was a baseball that I got at a real baseball game. But it wasn’t just a baseball I got from a baseball game. This baseball also was signed by the San Diego Chicken.

If you know the San Diego Chicken, then you know his importance place in the history of our country. OK, that may be overstating it a bit, but he was pretty cool. The Chicken started in 1974 at the San Diego Padres baseball stadium. He was one of the first sports mascots, and he would travel around to different ballparks with his zany antics and comedy routine. In 1982, the Chicken crossed the road to Louisville to visit their new minor league team, the Louisville Redbirds. It’s never safe for a chicken to come to the home of KFC, but he did, and he was hilarious. I was at that game with my mom and grandfather.

I was lucky enough to get a foul ball from one of the bullpen pitchers, and after the game I stood in line for an hour to have it signed by the San Diego Chicken. Seems only appropriate to ask the Chicken to sign a “fowl” ball, right? From that moment on, the San Diego Chicken baseball became one of my favorite things in the world.

That lasted for a few months, until I wanted to play catch with a neighborhood kid. Problem was, we didn’t have a ball. “YOU don’t have any baseballs?” he pleaded. Well, I did have one. But it was signed by the San Diego Chicken! In the end, the desire to play catch won out over my Chicken worship, and from that point on, the ball was in play. The signature gradually faded, and at some point I lost the baseball, probably up on a roof or in a dog-guarded yard. That ball went from the pedestal to the playground to…who knows where.

I’m sure you can relate, right? Growing up, you had a favorite stuffed animal, or a favorite baseball card, or a favorite blanket. You carried it with you, you slept with it, you guarded it like a dog guarding a lost baseball. You were devoted. But then, as you got older, grew up, it wasn’t cool to have a favorite doll, so you moved onto bigger and better things, or at least things that did a better job of holding your attention, and that once-revered item was cast aside, relegated to the pile of things that you used to care about.

I’d like to say today that we do the same thing with God. At some point in our lives we were excited about our relationship with God, we couldn’t get enough of Sunday School or youth group or Vacation Bible School. We prayed regularly and made sure we had something each Sunday for the offering. But then, as time passed, the relationship softened, the passion dulled, God was just…there. It’s not that you kicked God to the curb, but God got pushed aside for bigger, better, shinier things, things that had more allure and promised more of a payout and were actually real. And God went from the pedestal to…who knows where. Of course, God is still there if we REALLY need God, but God is not our favorite thing anymore. We’re no longer devoted.

In hindsight, I think that’s something like what happened to me before sabbatical. It’s not that I gave up on God or stopped believing; in fact, it’s a bit of the opposite. God didn’t grow distant from me; instead, God grew too familiar. God lost that other-worldly quality, that mystery and majesty that makes God…God. At some point, I stopped worshipping God and starting working with God. God got demoted from Creator to co-worker.

In Old Testament times, households would often have their own sets of gods, little carved images that would sit on a table as reminders of these little-G gods’ presence. At some point, I became so familiar with God, the Big-G turned into a little-g. God became so familiar to me that I started taking God for granted. I domesticated God. My Lord’s Prayer became, “My buddy, who’s just hanging around, what’s up?”

In some ways, I blame my job for this. I study God, I teach about God, I help others understand God. At some point, I began to believe I must know God pretty well. Take God out of the box, show God off, put God back in the box. I believe God expands or contracts to fit our level of reverence. The lower our reverence, the smaller our God. After 15 years doing this work, my God had gotten pretty small. I had respect for God, but not reverence. Big difference.

How big is your God? Does God still have the ability to take your breath away? Does God still command your attention, compel your response? Do you look forward to worship, to prayer, to time with God? Or is God just…there? Our little household god, sitting on the shelf, waiting for us to actually need God, to actually pay attention. I wonder if our God is too small.

The one overarching thing I was reminded of while on sabbatical is just how big God is. God is so much bigger, so much grander, so much more majestic than I ever gave God credit for. During a string of blog posts I kept alternating between the phrases “awesome majesty” and “majestic awesomeness” because I ran out of adjectives to describe the God I was encountering.

I first experienced this when I stepped out of the airplane at the basecamp of Denali, the tallest mountain in North America. We were about 8500 feet up, and surrounded by these 18,000 and 20,000-foot peaks that absolutely dwarfed us. And as I stepped onto the crunchy snow and looked up, I heard God say, as God said to Job, ““Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Tell me, if you understand.” And at that moment, I realized that I didn’t understand, that I had seriously underestimated who God is.

Standing at the basecamp of Denali, looking out over the Pacific Ocean, taking in the view from the top of the Empire State Building, standing among the ruins of Clonmacnoise monastery and Stonehenge. The source of all this majesty and awesomeness is God, pure and simple. Only God. God did this and so much more. I think I know God, I think I understand God, I think I can explain God to others. Then I see the mountains, the oceans, the diversity of my brothers and sisters, the wondrousness of the Cliffs of Moher and the Eiffel Tower. It was as if God was saying to me what God said to Moses. “I AM.” And my only response was, “You sure are!” I had forgotten that.

The irony of my sabbatical was that it was designed to bring me closer to God, but instead it caused me to step back from God, to get a better view, to take in the bigger picture. And I learned that I don’t know God, not really, not even close. I know my version of God, but that is such a miniscule mis-representation. But I also learned that what I think I know doesn’t matter. What matters is that God knows me. The God who made all those things knows me. And you.

And, as I came to understand, that knowledge compels a response. If we truly believe that God is that big and loves us that much, then we are compelled to respond, not out of duty and obligation but out of gratitude, out of a sense of privilege for being called “child of God.” The same God who made all this also made and loves us. Us! We are compelled to respond.

That response takes many forms, some of which can be lived out through the church – worship, generosity, service. But other forms of response go deeper within us. They are not as much behaviors as they are perspectives or worldviews. The ancient Christian writers would call them disciplines. The one discipline I learned I need to practice is that of paying attention. To put it a bit more bluntly, it’s the discipline of shutting up when God is trying to speak. That may be harder for preachers than for anyone. But several times on this trip I was so awestruck by what I was seeing that I literally speechless. My family will tell you only God has the power to do that! My experience of God in those places was so palpable that all I could do was take it in. There were no words. God was there, tangibly, palpably there, in a way I had not experienced for a long time. I had lost that God and replaced God with a smaller, cheaper version.

Now that I’m on the other side of sabbatical, I’m still wrestling with this revelation, because I’m back in the setting where I thought I knew God, and I feel the old forces tugging at me, tempting me to go back to my small, domesticated God. So much easier to explain, so much easier to control. I can’t walk out of my house and see a mountain, or drive a few minutes to the beach. There are no sights of majestic awesomeness to render me speechless. At times I feel like I left God in those other places in order to return to Kentucky.

Have you ever felt that way? You take a trip or attend an event or have a mountain top experience, and you just want to stay there, to linger in God’s presence, to be reminded over and over again of God’s bigness. But you can’t stay there, so you reluctantly return to the carpool and the drop-off lane and the grocery store line and the stoplights. And you grow nostalgic and melancholy, because when you were at that other place, you really felt like God was present with you. God was SO big!

But is God only there? Does God only reveal Godself in the grandest of places, the loftiest plateaus, the most expansive terrains? Or is God also in the most mundane of places, the lowest plateaus, the most paved-over terrains? If God can be experienced in the grandeur of the Palace of Versailles, can God also be found in Versailles? If God is tangibly present in the mountains of Alaska, is God also present in Mount Sterling? If God hovers over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, does God also hover over Tates Creek? If I’m expanding my understanding of my lack of understanding about God, then I have to admit that God is in all these places, not just the ones where I open myself up to experiencing God. If my experiences of God only happen in awe-inspiring places, if I can only experience God by getting away, then the issue may not be with God’s presence; the issue may be my lack of vision to see God right where I am. Maybe my God is too small.

If we can work on the discipline of paying attention, I pray that our eyes will be opened to seeing God everywhere, to find God in the most familiar of places, and then to respond to God’s presence with our gratitude. Yes, God is in all the places I experienced this summer. And God is in Versailles. And on Tates Creek Road. And in the grocery store. And in the garden. And in the traffic jam.

At some point over the last 15 years, I lost God, at least capital-G God. But by being able to step away, I was reminded that the God I had fabricated in my mind wasn’t the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the great I AM. I found that God in all the places I traveled, but much to my surprise, when I got back home, I found that God was here, too. Right here with us. And God’s not my co-worker or my companion; God is my Creator, my Savior, the source of all good things in my life. I feel like I should have seen that all along, but I wasn’t paying attention. I am now.

 

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Spinning Around

I read a great quote during sabbatical: “The Swahili word for ‘white man’ – Mzungu – literally means ‘one who spins around’.” Here’s what the all-knowing Wikipedia has to say:

“Literally translated it meant “someone who roams around” or “wanderer.” The term was first used in the African Great Lakes region to describe European explorers in the 18th century, apparently as a result of their propensity to get lost in their wanderings in Africa. The word Mzungu comes from Kiswahili, where ‘zungu’ or ‘zunguka’ is the word for spinning around on the same spot. The word was assigned to the first white people arriving in the African Great Lakes because they often became lost.”Tiltawhirl

I used to love the Tilt-A-Whirl at the county fair. The faster it spun, the better. Then I rode it a few years later while I was in seminary and felt like I was going to toss my corndog and elephant ear. A bout with vertigo a few years ago brought an end to my enjoyment of any ride that was the least bit spinny.

The problem with spinning around is that you move a lot without going anywhere. “Circling the drain,” they say. How many of us are “very, very busy” but don’t feel like we’re getting anywhere? Running from this meeting to that event to this child’s activity to that social gathering. Mzungu. “This word was assigned to the first white people…because they often became lost.” It wasn’t just the first ones that become lost.

As I navigate my re-entry from sabbatical, I’m very aware of the places before were I was spinning around, and I’m already feeling the centripetal tug to rejoin the dizzy dance. Not that what I do isn’t important (or at least makes me feel important), or doesn’t need to be done (because it does…right?). But I can already feel my vocational vertigo starting to kick in. So much to be done! So many priorities to attack! So many expectations to fulfill! Mzungu. Lots of spinning around, no forward motion.

So how do we be more purposeful about our movement, making sure we’re advancing rather than spinning? Two guiding questions come to mind. First, does our movement bring us closer to God? In other words, are we becoming more like the person God has called us to be? And second, is someone else benefiting from our movement? These questions can help us redefine our Tilt-A-Whirl of life, helping us to see we don’t necessarily need to stop doing what we’re doing, but remember why we’re doing it.

spiralThat meeting I dread going to? The people at that meeting have given up their evening to do God’s work, and look to me to lead them. Oh, and the Holy Spirit just might show up, too. That kid’s activity I feel obligated to attend? Our children may not remember what was going on, but they’ll remember we were there. That rut I feel stuck in? From a different perspective, it may be a groove of grace, guiding us closer to dependence upon God. If we look closely enough, our spinning around actually  may be dancing, with God as our partner. I wonder if the answer to our spinning around isn’t to stop spinning, but to step back and remember that God works in three dimensions, so what feels to us like an endless circle may actually be a spiral, helping to move us – albeit in fits and starts – closer to the Us God has called us to be. Forward motion.

 

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Temporary location

Hi folks! On Monday, May 2, I start a three-month sabbatical. I’m keeping a sabbatical blog so that my congregation can follow along with me. You’re welcome to hop over there to see what’s happening! The address is:

https://korysabbatical2016.wordpress.com

Blessings to you!

Kory

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This Week’s Sermon – Time-out!

SCRIPTURE – Deuteronomy 5:12-15 –  Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 14 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. 15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and theLord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

SERMON
Time-out!
Deuteronomy 5:12-15
April 24, 2016

What was the preferred method of punishment for you as a child? C’mon, don’t act like you don’t remember! When you acted up, when you got out of line, what form of justice did you face? For some it was a good ol’ fashioned spanking. I was sent to the principal’s office in first grade for acting up, and the principal gave me a spanking. Remember when that was fashionable? I braced myself as the principal prepared to smack me – she had a reputation as a real home-run hitter. She must not have eaten her Wheaties that morning because she only struck a glancing blow. I said without thinking, “Hey, that didn’t hurt at all!” I can tell you the second, third, and fourth swats hurt a lot more!

Maybe you suffered your share of groundings as a kid. A particularly effective one used against me was no dessert. Leigh still uses that from time to time. Today, one popular method of discipline has become the timeout. Leigh and I used the timeout quite effectively with our older daughter Sydney when she was little, but our younger daughter Molly didn’t quite get the concept. When we said, “If you don’t behave, you’re going to do a timeout!” she would say, “Okay!” and run to her timeout chair.

Why is the timeout as discipline so effective? Here’s the philosophy behind it. To make our children stop their destructive or unruly behavior, we take them away from the things they are doing and put them in an isolated place that forces them to slow down, be quiet, stop their activity, and reflect on how they are behaving. The goal is, of course, transformation, a change in behavior.

Now, what if I made this invitation to you? In order to help you put a halt to some of the unruliness in your life, I would like to invite you to take a break from your daily routine, to find a quiet spot in your house or neighborhood, to turn off all your electronic devices and means of communication, and simply slow down, be still, and reflect on the life God has given you to live. How does a short time away from the demands of life sound? Maybe WE need a timeout.

The Bible has a word for taking a timeout: it’s called the Sabbath. A Sabbath is simply a block of time, usually a 24-hour period, which is set aside for the purpose of rest and relationship-building with God. We tend to think of Sabbath as a thoroughly Jewish word. After all, Jews place a strong emphasis on their Sabbath or Shabbat, which lasts from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. It’s woven into the fabric of their faith. But Christians, with the help of our chaotic culture, have lost their grip on the meaning and significance of Sabbath.

Of course, the idea of Sabbath originated in the beginning of the Bible at creation, when, after six days of work, God rested to enjoy what God had made. This time of rest was so important that it made God’s Top Ten List, the Ten Commandments, which instructed the Israelites to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. One day of the week is to be set aside for rest and worship, to allow our land, our workers, and our bodies to recover from the previous six days and rejuvenate for the week ahead.

“Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy,” the Bible tells us. You realize that this commandment is placed alongside the commandment not to murder, not to steal, not to commit adultery? It’s that important. In God’s eyes, forgetting to rest is akin to murder. Remember the Sabbath. I bet it was worded that way because God knew we were going to forget. And God was right. We don’t take timeouts anymore.

A whole day not doing anything? In our world today, that sounds like crazy talk! While the Christian Sabbath day of Sunday used to be protected as sacred by Blue Laws and family traditions, our culture has encroached upon that time so egregiously that it’s unrealistic to think we’ll ever regain Sunday as a holy day on a societal level. We can place the blame wherever we want, but the fact is unless you work at Chick-Fila or Hobby Lobby, Sunday sabbaths are gone, and so is any culturally protected time to take a break from the demands of our life.

And if we’re willing to admit it, we like it that way. In a culture that measures a person’s worth by their productivity, we pride ourselves on being busy. We prove our value by how much we do, so that our exhaustion becomes a trophy and the ability to get everything done a mark of our character. The demands on us seem too great and the time we have to meet them in seems too short. How often do we say, “I wish there was more time in the day”? Of course, if there was, we would just fill it with more to do.

Which makes taking a Sabbath seem strange and impractical. There’s so much to be done! Who can afford to take a day off from being productive? Who has time to just stop and reflect? We see Sabbath-taking, not as holiness, but as laziness. We see resting as a sign of weakness, not a divine prerogative. We can’t afford to take a day off; that would just make the other six that much more chaotic.

So we ignore the Sabbath. It doesn’t fit into our understanding of our on-the-go spirituality. We love the other six days, because that’s where we can pursue spiritual progress and accomplishment. We are do-something Christians.  But here’s the truth, as I see it. We’re not too busy, too important, or too needed to take a rest. We’re too scared. Too scared to relinquish that bit of control we think we have. Too scared that the world can’t go on without us, or even worse, that it can. Too scared that if we “waste” that time, we’ll never get it back.

And yet, what are the dangers of not doing a timeout? What are the consequences of not resting on regular basis? I think we’re living them every day. The United States leads the world in a number of health-related categories, most of them not good. We are more economically successful, have the fastest pace of life, and have the highest rate of heart attacks and obesity. The unreflective life has its costs.

Our society feeds into this in insidious ways. Author Wayne Muller calls it the theology of progress. This belief says that everything is getting incrementally better, which means today is not as a good a day as tomorrow. And if we can just get to tomorrow, things will be better. Until we get to tomorrow and realize things aren’t quite as good as they will be the next day. We have to keep making progress, and we can’t do that if we stop. So we don’t stop, because the good life, the finish line, the end of our work, is just one day away.

Or one purchase away. Our culture sells us happiness, but in reality it is designed to produce suffering. We see commercials that imply that if we buy this product, we’ll be happy. But the people in the commercials aren’t happy because they own the product. We see them taking a drive in their new car or smelling their clean sheets or enjoying a cup of coffee. We’re told that if we buy these products, we’ll be happy, too. But their happiness doesn’t come from owning the product. It comes from the fact they have stopped to enjoy that new car or that cup of coffee. They’re happy because they’ve stopped. And you can’t buy stopped. You simply have to stop.

Stopping is built into the rhythm of life. Everything must rest in order to produce. Everything must lie fallow in order to be fruitful. Our land, our bodies, were created with this natural cycle of rest and activity. Did you ever wonder why God raised Jesus on the third day? If God had the power to bring Jesus back from the dead, why not do it on the first day, or the second day? Muller said it’s because everything must rest. Maybe Jesus needed to rest before his resurrection. Maybe God needed to rest after watching his son crucified. Everything must rest. You can only do so much before you need to rest.

And yet, we feel like if we can just do a little more – not a little less – then we can make life better. There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “Who is it that can make the muddy water clear? But if allowed to remain still, it will gradually become clear by itself.” How many of us thrust our hands into the muddy waters of our lives, thinking that if we can just move them a little faster, the water will clear up and we will see. But there’s only one way to find that kind of clarity.

Or think of it this way. When we inhale, we don’t take in enough air to last us a week, or a day, or an hour. We take in enough breath to last us until our next breath. At some point, we must exhale. When God made this world, the first six days were this creative inhale, and the seventh day – the Sabbath – was God’s exhale. You can’t live your life only inhaling; you’ll suffocate. You have to exhale.

Starting a week from tomorrow, I’ll be exhaling for three months after six years of inhaling. My sabbatical – the word comes from “Sabbath” – will be a time of resting, of stopping, of exhaling. I’m so thankful that this church provides me this opportunity for an extended Sabbath, and I plan on honoring it and keeping it holy. After six years, the waters have gotten pretty muddy, so I’m ready to be still and let things become clear again. Part of me doesn’t want to stop; I love what I do! But it’s time.

The fact of the matter is that the Sabbath is not going to elbow its way into our lives. We have to make room for it. Maybe taking a whole day isn’t realistic. I know one family that takes a Sabbath from sports and activities for one season a year, and uses that time to be together as a family. Maybe there are Sabbath moments to be found in each day, time to turn off the TV or computer, time for rest, reflection, and worship. Whatever works for you, find time to exhale. It’s not just a nice break; it’s a commandment from God.

My prayer for you is that you find time in your lives to be still, to do nothing, to let the waters clear. I know we all have demands placed upon us by kids, jobs, and family. I’ve even had retired people tell me they’re busier now than when they had a job! This gift of life is from God, and life is not supposed to make us tired. It’s supposed to make us happy. And we’ll miss that happiness if we pass it by at 70 mph. You can’t buy stopped. You simply have to stop. Maybe it’s time to take a time-out.

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This week’s sermon – Part-time Agnostics

SCRIPTURE – John 20:19-31 – When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

SERMON
Part-Time Agnostics
John 20:19-31
April 3, 2016

How do you follow a week like last Sunday? It’s hard to top the message, “He is risen!” Do you remember seven days ago? The sanctuary was filled with lilies and tulips, the music was outstanding, everyone was dressed in their Sunday best. But now, the last notes of the Hallelujah Chorus have faded and the only thing left in the Easter baskets are a few strands of plastic grass. About the only saving grace of the post-Easter depression is that Reese’s eggs are all 50% off. Praise Jesus!

Last week it was easy to shout “He is risen!” and truly believe in God’s resurrection power. But now a week has gone by, a week filled with harsh reminders that life still goes on, regardless of what last Sunday was like. There are still bills to be paid and losses to deal with and things to get done. Life has changed since last Sunday. And it’s changed for the disciples, as well. We aren’t reading about rolled away stones and empty tombs and dazzling angels. No, today it’s locked doors and disturbing doubts and fearful disciples, who’ve slipped back into their Good Friday paranoia.

In the midst of that paralyzing fear, Jesus comes to them through locked doors and offers them what they need most at this hour — peace. Jesus also has some follow-up instructions for them: “As the father has sent me, so I send you.” He breathes into them the Holy Spirit, anointing them to do God’s work of forgiveness. So there we have it! The disciples’ fear is wiped away by the risen Lord and replaced with peace and assurance and a sending forth to be the church and spread God’s love and forgiveness and everybody lives happily ever after. Cue the credits and the theme music. A nice, tidy ending to our story.

Except for Thomas. While the other disciples were getting their marching orders, Thomas was AWOL. We aren’t sure where he was, why he wasn’t with the others. We all deal with grief in different ways. Maybe he was praying, maybe he was getting drunk, maybe he just needed to be alone. Whatever the reason, Thomas wasn’t there.

When the disciples came to him with their glorious news, al filled with excitement and stumbling to get their words out, Thomas refused to believe. There are a lot of things in life we’ll believe without seeing, but for Thomas, a resurrected savior is not one of those things. “Show me,” he says and thus earns the unfortunate nickname Doubting Thomas, as if the struggle to believe was a bad thing.

But the Bible has in it a rich history of doubters, and Thomas is just taking his place alongside other folks whose faith grew through doubt. Doubting Abraham laughed in disbelief when God told him his 90-year-old wife Sarah was going to give birth. Doubting Moses told God several times that he had the wrong guy when God tapped him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. And Doubting Peter asked Jesus to let him walk across the Sea of Galilee, but got a nose full of sea water when he started to doubt. Abraham doubted. Moses doubted. Peter and the rest of the disciples doubted. So if you have doubts about God, you’re in good company, and we can add Thomas to that list.  If those people doubted, and they made it into the the Bible, then having doubts can’t be all wrong, can it?

Do you ever have doubts? I do. I sometimes doubt the extent of God’s power, or I doubt the breadth of God’s love, or I doubt the reach of God’s forgiveness. Is God powerful enough to silence a tornado? Is God’s love big enough to include those who actively practice racism? Can God forgive even a child molester? At times, my only answer is, “I don’t know.” I know I shouldn’t, but like Thomas, I have my doubts.

Clarence Darrow once wrote, “Just think of the tragedy of teaching children not to doubt.” I don’t believe in a doubtless faith. To have a doubtless faith you either have to be perfect, which none of us are, or so narrow-minded that there’s no room for questions, which none of us are, either. We have faith, we want to believe, but sometimes, like Thomas, we need something more than words or books and second-hand testimony; we need to experience Christ for ourselves. Doubt is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of a strong, vibrant faith, a searching and active faith. Frederick Beuchner once said, “Doubt is the ants in the pants of faith. It keeps us awake and moving.”

I think all of us, when faced with the story of the resurrection, respond at some level with disbelief. How can you not? What we’re talking – coming back from the dead – is physically impossible. And yet I think we are so familiar with this story that we run the risk of taking it for granted. I heard a comedian once joke about how we do this in our daily lives. He said, “I heard a lady complaining the other day about how her plane sat on the runway for 40 minutes before takeoff. I wanted to say to her, ‘And then what did you do? Did you sit in a chair and FLY through the AIR?’” The comedian said, “Everybody on every plane should constantly be going, ‘Oh my gosh! Wow! We’re flying!’”

I think our world has made us jaded to the miracles around us like technology and flight. We’ve come to expect to have the internet in our pockets without a second thought. And when it comes to resurrection, we’ve heard the story so many times that we’re prone to hear it without realizing the magnitude of what has happened. To understand Thomas’ doubts, you have to put yourself in his sandals. If someone came up to you and said, “The guy we watched die on cross three days ago is walking through walls and bringing us words of peace,” how can you respond with anything but, “I don’t believe it?”

But how many of us heard the story of Easter last week and left the sanctuary going, “Resurrection? I don’t believe it!” A man rose from the dead. He was dead. Now he’s alive. Every one of us, everybody who professes belief in Christ, should constantly be going, “Oh my gosh! Wow! Resurrection!”

In a sense, that’s what Thomas does. After expressing his doubt, he’s not shunned or ridiculed. He’s not told he just needs to have more faith. Jesus takes his doubt seriously and answers Thomas. He comes to him and says,” See my hands? See my side? See what I did for you? Touch and believe.” And Thomas responds with the greatest statement of faith in the whole Bible: “My lord and my God!”

Despite his doubts, or maybe because of them, Thomas did find a deeper, richer faith. Do you know when, though? It wasn’t on Easter Sunday, or the next day, or the next day. It was eight days after Easter. That would be tomorrow. That’s pretty significant. Can you think of a less inspirational day to come to faith than a Monday? It’s easy to believe on Easter, when the place is packed and the choir is rocking and the joy is overflowing. On Easter, it’s easy to cry out, “My Lord and my God!”

But have you ever tried doing it eight days after Easter? On a Monday, of all days? When the lilies are gone, when the Easter hats are packed away, when all the discount Reese’s eggs have been eaten. Can we still make the same confession tomorrow that we made last Sunday? A doubtless faith can’t do that. I believe only a faith that has asked the tough questions and persevered in the search for answers can proclaim Jesus as messiah eight days after Easter. I bet those were a long eight days for Thomas, waiting, wondering, doubting.

But I believe Jesus built the church around folks like Thomas. There’s a reason our mission statement says that we “invite questions about how faith and life intersect.” People who ask questions are the cornerstone of the church, people who hear the Good News and scratch their head and say, “Risen? No, I can’t believe it.” Christ’s church is meant to be made up of people with ants in their pants, whose faith is kept awake and moving by their questions and the search for answers.

And I believe Jesus answers us. Just as Thomas was given the invitation to touch and feel, we are given the invitation to taste and see. Each time we come to communion, we are reminded that the risen Christ is among us, bringing peace, offering forgiveness, sharing the Holy Spirit. Communion is our opportunity to ask our questions, name our fears, hear words of assurance like “This is my body, broken for you,” and then to respond faithfully. When you taste the bread, when you drink the cup, Christ says to you, “I am here.” And we are compelled to respond, “Oh my gosh! Wow! Resurrection!”

There’s one more quote from Frederick Beuchner worth sharing. He said, “An agnostic is someone who is not sure whether there is a God. That is some of us all of the time, and all of us some of the time.” If he’s right, and my experience tells me he is, at some point in our lives, we all doubt. Look at this world we live in. How can we not at times have doubt? If Thomas, who was there, still doubted, how can we, even the most faithful among us, not doubt when faced with the reality of life?

I hope you have doubts. I hope you have persistent questions about God. I hope you never are faced with the awesomeness of God’s work and say without passion, “Yep, I believe it.” I hope you keep asking questions and voicing concerns and expressing doubts, because the story of Thomas shows us that when we are willing to voice our doubts, Jesus shows up. And when Jesus shows up – through a particularly moving hymn, or a well-timed hug, or a simple cup and loaf – we are moved to respond with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” Even in the midst of your Monday doubts, never forget that Sunday is coming, and it will be Easter all over again. Oh my gosh! Wow! Resurrection!

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Do Not Be Afraid sermon series – Fear of the Other

SCRIPTURE – Mark 15:33-39 – 33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

SERMON
Do Not Be Afraid sermon series
#5 – Fear of the Other
Mark 15:33-39
Rev. Kory Wilcoxson

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? That’s the question the song asks us as we approach Holy Week and the events leading up to Jesus’ death. I wonder what it would have been like to be there. Can you imagine the sights – the streaks of blood on Jesus’ face, the splintering wood of the cross beam? Can you imagine the sounds – the pounding of the hammer on the nails, the wailing of the women? Can you imagine the raw emotions – anger, grief, shock. Could we have understood the magnitude of what was happening? For the eyewitnesses of the crucifixion, it must have been a heart-wrenching, devastating experience.

Well, except for one guy. For the centurion, it wasn’t the death of the Messiah; it was just another day of punishing criminals and dealing with traitors to the Roman Empire. It wasn’t a Good Friday. It wasn’t a bad Friday. It was just Friday. This crucifixion didn’t bother him in the least; it was simply the execution of three more bad guys. Hanging Jesus probably affected him as much as hanging a picture in his living room. Jesus was no one of importance; he was a Jew, a criminal, not worthy of a second look, certainly not worthy of the fuss being made over him. And yet, Mark tells us, “When he saw how Jesus died…”

Today we conclude our Lenten sermon series called, “Do Not Be Afraid.” We’ve been looking at some of the fears we deal with in our lives – the fear of what other people think, the fear of failure – and spending time with some of the people around Jesus who overcame those fears in order to be closer to him. Their courage allowed them to grow in faith as they walked with Jesus to his death and beyond, and can serve as an example for us as we face our own fears.

Today, our character is the centurion at the foot of the cross. He isn’t dealing so much with an outright fear as he is with a general feeling of disdain or dismissal. He doesn’t fail to understand Jesus because he’s afraid of him; he misses Jesus because he doesn’t even see him. To the centurion, Jesus isn’t a person; he’s a task, something to check off the to-do list. And yet, when he saw how Jesus died…

The centurion was a ranking officer in the Roman army, in command of a group of 100 men. He would have been a career soldier, well-paid and well-regarded within the Roman Empire. He had probably fought in many battles, seen many men die, most likely killed a bunch by his own hand. So this day was no different. This wasn’t murder; this was work, and not particularly desirable work at that. He didn’t care about Jesus. Maybe didn’t even know who he was. What did he know? This man was a Jew. This man was a criminal. This man was going to die. That’s all that mattered. Jesus the person didn’t matter.

I have very vivid memories growing up of the racist attitudes of some of my extended family. At family gatherings there would always be a number of racist jokes being told, and the N-word was used frequently. I remember a great-aunt telling about the Klan rally she had recently attended. I didn’t know any better, so I listened to her story and repeated those jokes to my friends. I just assumed that if my family thought this way about black people, it must be true.

Then I met Demetrius. Demetrius lived in the apartments near my grandparents, which my family called by a racist name. I just assumed anyone who lived there fit the negative portrait my family had drawn for me about black people. I don’t remember how Demetrius and I met, but I do remember two things: (1) he was the first black person I’d ever spoken with, and (2) he was nothing like what my family said about black people. Demetrius and I became great friends, meeting after school each day to play Wiffle ball on a vacant lot in the apartments. After we became friends, I stopped repeating those jokes. To paraphrase an author I read recently, Demetrius interrupted by assumptions about black people.

Vijay Singh was the first Indian person I ever knew. He was one of my professors in college. He was extremely intelligent and very funny. Leigh and I took him to his first horse race at Churchill Downs. We had epic arguments over games of Scattegories that still cause Leigh to roll her eyes at me. I didn’t know any Indian people before Vijay, but I had assumptions based on what other people had told me about their clothes and their food and their religion. Vijay interrupted those assumptions.

Greg was a fellow student with me during college at IU Southeast. We had several classes together and worked on student activities. Greg was a lot of fun to be around and had a passion for serving others. He ended up working in the Career Center at IUS, helping students find their first job out of college. He was also the first openly gay person I ever knew. Believe me, I had drawn a lot of conclusions about what gay people were like, but Greg didn’t fit any of them. He interrupted the assumptions I had made about homosexuals.

The centurion had dealt with a lot of Jews in his day. Because he was stationed in Jerusalem, he probably had the assignment of keeping the Jews in check so that they didn’t cause too much of a ruckus for the local Roman rulers. He had probably whipped them, locked them in jail, and even crucified them. He had heard their taunts, watched them spit on him, felt their hatred. Oh yeah, he knew what the Jews were like. And yet, when he saw how Jesus died…

What did he see? He had probably been with Jesus all day, so he would have seen him beaten, mocked, disrobed, weighed down with a crown of thorns. And yet, Jesus didn’t retaliate. The centurion watched Jesus make his way through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgotha, heard the pounding the nails through flesh and bone, saw the blood and sweat on Jesus’ face. But he also heard Jesus say, “Forgive them, Father, for they don’t know what they are doing.” He prays for his killers? He heard him bring together his mother and the disciple John, making sure they looked out for each other. He looked into Jesus’ face when Jesus said, “It is finished,” and let out a loud cry. When he saw how Jesus died…

I believe Jesus interrupted the assumptions the Centurion had about the Jews. For the first time in his life, the centurion wasn’t dealing with a faceless group of people; he was dealing with Jesus. And when he saw him for who he was, not for what others said about him, he saw something there that led him to say, “Truly this man was God’s son!” one of the greatest statements of faith in the Bible. From that moment forward, his understanding of Jesus and of the Jews in general was changed. They were no longer the Other; they were human beings.

In our world today, we are encouraged to see those who are not like us as Others. If they don’t look like us, if they don’t believe like us, if they don’t live where we do, then they are the Other. And we’re told that the Other should be feared, because the Other wants to do us harm, because we are the Other to them. And if we can get them before they get us, then there will be no more Other to fear.

Who is an Other to you? For many folks, it’s Syrian refugees or Mexican immigrants. Maybe your Other is a Muslim or a Hindu. For some people, the Other is a Republican; for others, it’s a Democrat. Could your Other be a young African-American male in a hoodie? Could it be an out-of-touch senior citizen? A troubled child in your classroom or a neighbor who speaks a different language? Maybe it’s a homeless person you see in downtown Lexington. Can we admit that we all have an Other in our lives that causes us discomfort, even fear?

We’re told we should fear our Other because they want to hurt us, to do us harm, to take over our country. We’re conditioned to cross the street to avoid them, to not waste time helping them. But I don’t think that’s the real source of our fear. I think our real fear is that if we decide to actually engage our Other, we’ll learn they’re a lot like us. I believe our real fear is that we’re afraid to have our assumptions interrupted. Because if they are, then we have two choices: (1) ignore what we learn and continue living in fear, or (2) change our assumptions.

And there are consequences to changing our assumptions. For the centurion, who had pledged his allegiance to serving Rome, the only son of God was the emperor. For him to call Jesus a son of God was treason, punishable by the same death he was used to doling out to others. We don’t know what happens to him after the crucifixion. Does he renounce his allegiance to Caesar and follow Jesus? Or does he ignore what he experienced at the foot of the cross and continue his service to Rome? You know, the second choice is easier. It’s safer to continuing living out his prejudices. He stands to lose so much by changing his perspective.

What do we stand to lose? If are willing to come face-to-face with our Other, to see them as a human being, to hear their stories and how they overlap with ours, to discover those commonalities and connections, then we have a choice. Either we change our perspective on them, stop demonizing them, stop fearing them. Or we hold onto our prejudices, because that’s easier. If we do that, we wouldn’t lose our friends. We won’t alienate our family. We won’t have to admit we were wrong about them all along.

Christian singer Chris Rice sings about this dilemma in his song, “Face of Christ.” He sings, “After sixteen years in a cold, gray prison yard, somehow his heart is soft, but keeping simple faith is hard. He lays his Bible open on the table next to me, and as I hear his humble prayer, I feel his longing to be free. How did I find myself in a better place? I can’t look down on the frown on the other guy’s face. Cause when I stoop down low and look him square in the eye, I get a funny feeling, I just might be dealing with the face of Christ.”

Every single day we face the choice of fearing the Other or moving past our fears. We have the opportunity to look into the face of our Other, to enter into a conversation that might interrupt our assumptions and change our perspectives. Who could you invite to coffee? Who might you stop on the street to talk with? What group of people have you made judgments about without really knowing anyone in that group? “Yeah, there just another one of those people.” I wonder what would happen if we took the time to get to know someone we’ve been told to fear. Instead of crucifying them in the media, on Facebook, in our own minds, I wonder what would happen if we heard their stories, walked their journeys, looked them square in the eye? This week is an opportunity for you to change your perspective on someone, to move from fear to understanding, to talk with them instead of about them. What will happen if you look them in the eye?. Who knows who you might see in them.

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