The Jesus Movement We’re Looking For

Next week, we start summer at Reservoir. Soccer Nights starts a week from tomorrow, and it’s not too late to sign up to volunteer. Next week, we’ll also shift to our single 10:30 AM service, and rather than a series, our pastoral staff will preach however we’re led from the passages in our Read the Bible Together program, drawn from a Bible reading program used in all kinds of churches.

Today, though, on this final Sunday of spring, I’m wrapping up our five-week series The Jesus Model for Everyday Interactions. We’ve been inspired by a book by our friend Carl Medearis that looks at the kindness and presence and bravery Jesus had in his short interactions with friends, enemies, and strangers, and asks: what if we were to try to see and interact with people that same way?

So our past three weeks have invited us to Be Kind, to Be Present, and to Be Brave. And I drew the book’s final topic to speak on today, which is to Be Jesus. And my first thought was: this is ridiculous.

One, it’s repetitive. We’ve already been talking about Jesus being with people as a model for our own relationships with friends and strangers, so what more is there to say?

Two, it’s presumptive. Like if you ask someone their name, and they tell you, I’m Jesus Christ, what do you think of that? Or if you ask someone about their life goals and they tell you to be Jesus Christ for their whole world – well – we call that delusional, or a Messiah complex. It’s not a good thing.

But still, I couldn’t shake this topic, because I wonder, what if for many of us – each in our own way – being Jesus isn’t our life’s deepest aspiration, the path to our own greatest fulfillment and freedom, and the very thing our crazy, violent world needs?

I was sitting on my porch last week, reading news on my phone and I came across an editorial in The New York Times. It was called “I Want to Hate,” and it calls to mind the time that our president took out a full-page ad in New York papers after a rape in Central Park in 1989.

Now, to be clear, all crimes of sexual violence, rape included, are horrible, shattering events. We partnered earlier this year with the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center to hold a Speak Out Sunday, where we spoke about how sexual violence has no place in our future. We’re committed to be a truth-telling and a healing church around sexual violence.

But the circumstances of this crime and the punishments meted out for it were particular. Five boys – 14 to 16 years old – were arrested for this crime. They were deprived of food and sleep and drink for 24-hour hours before they gave confessions. They were then tried and found guilty, only to be exonerated 12 years later. Their confessions were false, given under enormous stress, and there was DNA and other evidence of another man’s guilt by that point.

Here, though, is what our president paid money to say to his city after their initial false arrest. He wrote:

“Our mayor has stated that hate and rancor should be removed from our hearts. I do not think so. I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer, and when they kill, they should be executed…. Yes, I want to hate these murderers and I always will.”

What do you think about this repeated phrase, “I want to hate.” As I read it, I thought, there it is – the politics of fear and resentment and division and yes, hatred, that fuels our current presidency. And maybe broader, the spirit of fear and resentment and division and yes, hatred, that fuels much of our public life and discourse, from many directions.

I’m probably naïve, but when I was a teenager, back when these words I read were first printed, I think if I had gone around my community and asked people: who do you hate? Most people I think would have been surprised by the question more than anything else, and I like to think many wouldn’t have answered. But if you go around the communities we live and work in today, heck, if you go around the world and ask people at random: who do you hate?

I think most people will have a ready answer to the question. Do you?

But while I was sitting on the porch, I saw something else someone had brought to my attention as well. I saw this video of the pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber talking about forgiveness, about the antidote to hate, about separating ourselves from a cycle of evil and violence, being unchained to resentment.

It’s just two minutes long. This is the bit that I warned you would have some saucy language in it. I think it’s worth it, though, but fair warning.

So I found myself, there on my porch, thinking, which do we want?

Do we want to go, unthinkingly, wherever our hates or resentments take us? Do we want a narrower, more punitive, more violent way of life? Or do we want profound freedom, radical love, impossibly bold forgiveness?

All this good is at the heart of the Jesus movement we’re looking for.

The first book of the New Testament, the good news of Matthew, frames the life of Jesus as a new Moses, come to liberate God’s children. Jesus, like Moses, is rescued from possible death after his birth and comes out of Egypt into Israel. And then, like Moses, Matthew has Jesus head up a mountaintop and tell us all how to live.

It’s the first big segment of the life of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew, these teachings gathered into the collection in Chapters 5-7 that we call the Sermon on the Mount.

In the late 90s, I read a provocative book by a philosophy professor named Dallas Willard who asked what if we could all become students of the way of Jesus? And what if Jesus taught us much of what we need to get started on moving forward with the Spirit of God into a new and beautiful life with God and others in this world.

This seems to be Jesus’ own intention, as he closes this teaching with the words:

Matthew 7:24-25 (NRSV)

24“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 

A good life on a solid foundation, ordinary people apprenticed to the way of Jesus.

What does that look like?

Well, that’s in a way what we talk about every Sunday at Reservoir – how to flourish by following Jesus. But for the sake of wrapping up this series on the Jesus way of everyday interactions, let me highlight three major themes of the Sermon on the Mount that show up in our everyday interactions.

The first is profound freedom.

I was out on a bike ride with my boys the other day and as we were crossing a street, a noticed this scene playing out just ahead of us. A kid, pre-teen, maybe 10 or 11 or 12 years old, was tearing down the sidewalk on his own bike, I mean really cruising. And too late to stop, he saw a pedestrian, a middle aged man in front of him, and he jammed on his brakes, but as I said, it was too late, so he slowed down but still hit the gentleman.

Thankfully, the guy seemed OK. He was a full-grown man, and the kid wasn’t that big and had managed to slow down before hitting him, but what the man did was start tearing into the kid. He was using foul, aggressive, violent language – full of curses. And I was shocked, so I went over, got of my bike and stood near him while the kid biked away in shock, and my own kids biked on. And then the man turned to me and starting to lay into me, wondering why I was looking at him. To be honest, I was too startled by the whole scene to be as helpful as I wanted to be. I think I said something like, I’m just making sure everyone gets away OK. And after he cursed and threatened me one more time, he walked away himself.

But I thought afterwards, Dang, to be so imprisoned by your own rage, that you can’t help express it. That’s sad.

The late priest Henri Nouwen suggests that we all tend to be imprisoned, though, in our own ways. He writes:

“… we all have our obsessions. An idea, a plan, a hobby can obsess us to such a degree that we become its slave. These addictions, compulsions, and obsessions reveal our entrapments. They show our sinfulness because they take away our freedom as children of God and thus enslave us in a cramped, shrunken world. Sin makes us want to create our own lives according to our desires and wishes, ignoring the cup that is given to us.”

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, suggests three things that commonly keep us from freedom – hostile anger and resentment, lust for people and bodies that aren’t ours to desire, and a mix of love of money and anxiety over not having enough. Does anger, lust, or anxiety reduce your freedom?

I’ve had plenty of bouts with all of these.

To all of us, Jesus says things like this

Matthew 6:22 (NRSV)

22“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light;


Matthew 6:33-34 (NRSV)

33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Cultivate health and righteousness – right ways of relating to everything and everyone – from the heart. Focus on and turn your longings toward the good that is available to you. Make peace with the people around you. Accept the terms of your life today, and don’t be troubled about what you don’t have now or what you might have to do tomorrow.

Jesus is inviting us into a profound freedom. Freedom that God and what God gives us is enough in this world. Freedom from compulsive, greedy, clutching ways of living, wanting what we don’t have. And freedom to contentment and joy in our lives.

It’s an expansive freedom to, with implications for our relational and public world of systems and structures.

I’ve been reading Professor Frederick Ware’s really excellent introduction to African-American Theology this month. And in it, Ware argues that freedom as a central category of African-American experience, and freedom as an important concept in all of American culture, is at the center of the contributions of African-American thought and talk about God. He defines freedom broadly, as “the ability and condition necessary for human fulfillment and flourishing in the cosmos.”

Jesus wants to lead all people into freedom.

Freedom not just from personal moral failure or compulsion, but freedom from “systemic evils rooted in social structures” too – freedom to full human flourishing.

This takes being aware of not just the inner things but the outer things that bind our freedom and flourishing, or the outer things – the systems and structures and sins that hamper the flourishing of other people.

To paraphrase what Jesus was saying, take the log out of your own eye, to be sure, but if you see someone jamming logs into other people’s eyes, well, do something about that too.

This is one way we practice the second of the three hallmarks we’re looking at today, which is radical love.

Jesus taught,

Matthew 7:12 (NRSV)

12“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.


Matthew 5:44 (NRSV)

44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

We’ve tried in this series to dial down the intensity and make this really simple and everyday. Talk to people who are strangers to you, give other people your full and undivided attention and kindness for at least 42 seconds. As often as possible.

If there’s nothing else you remember from this series, that’s good enough.

But I want to dial things back up a minute and remind us that Jesus did all this in super memorable and intriguing and high impact ways by really going for it. Letting whatever holy impulse gripped him when he was with someone else and running with it.

Someone I know that does this, that seeks this everyday life of radical love is a person whose work our church supports through our Reservoir partnerships team. Nate Bacon is a long-time friend of our founding senior pastor Dave, and has worked with his wife Jenny in organizing and leadership development among gang members in the Bay Area of California and for a decade of so they’ve been in Central America. They live in Guatemala as members of what’s called a Christian order among the poor. Basically, they’re trying to live out the way of Jesus we’re talking about today in the particular context of some of the world’s most marginalized peoples.

And Nate is someone whose presence and Jesus-like love, and his really gracious but also truthful advocacy as well, have moved me over the years.

So it my huge delight when I was thinking about this talk, and Nate emailed me out of the blue, on short notice, saying he’d be in town with us this weekend. So I’m going to take a moment and invite Nate to join me and share a story of love in the way of Jesus with us all.

Let’s give Nate a warm welcome.

[In audio: Nate shares his story, Reservoir prays for Nate and his family, Nate prays for Reservoir.]

Well, I’m going to move toward wrapping up here, but I just want to bring things full circle and mention a third and final hallmark of this way of Jesus, of becoming our fullest, freest selves as become more like Jesus as well.

And that is deep and persistent forgiveness.

We watched that video from Rev. Bolz-Weber at the top, where she talks about forgiveness as a way of combating evil, of disconnecting ourselves from evil, of refusing to be chained to the worst actions of our enemies.

At the heart of Jesus’ model prayer, he encouraged us to pray in this forgiveness and added a little coda to it, praying:

Matthew 6:12-14 (NRSV)

And forgive us our debts,
        as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.

14For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.


I don’t think that last bit is meant to be threatening or anything. It’s just that closed, bitter hearts bound by evil, even bound by the evil done to us, can’t receive grace and love. Jesus wants us free.

Forgiveness to someone who has done us harm is not saying that harm is OK; it is breaking its ongoing power over us by refusing to be defined by it anymore. I have repeatedly forgiven people that each week nearly kill me through their bad driving and I have repeatedly forgiven the broken and sick young man that sexually abused me when I was growing up. None of that calls those things OK, but it says I’m not going to be bound by reactions to it. And I’ve been forgiven by people I’ve casually an inadvertently done wrong to and by others who I’ve deeply wounded. And when that’s happened, I haven’t ever felt excused. But I’ve seen someone fighting for their own freedom even as they fight for mine as well. And that has profoundly changed the trajectory of my life as well.

The way of Jesus is deeper and harder and better and more impossibly beautiful than any other way I can imagine trying to live.

In seeing if we can be Jesus to our world, to embody in our own unique selves the tremendous freedom and radical love and deep forgiveness of Jesus, we’re giving ourselves and the people and systems around us a shot at beauty, a shot at laughter, a shot at flourishing.

The tips to try today are in your program – embrace profound freedom, and practice radical love. There are some more detailed suggestions on the front and back of the cards our pastor Ivy has again created for us in the dome. Please take one of those on your way out and wrestle with the invitations there. There’s a lot of power in them for us all and for our times.

Be Brave

Imagining Bravery

I have a pretty vivid imagination.

And one thing I’ve thought about now and then, ever since I was little, was how brave I might be in really extraordinary situations.

I’ve thought about how I would handle myself if I were a soldier at war. Would I be able to run into danger, to charge that hill with my comrades, or would my courage fail when it counted most?

When I was younger, I’d imagine sometimes what it would have been like if I’d lived in the nineteenth century and gotten married and had children but lost my wife in childbirth. If I’d suffered that kind of tragedy, what kind of man would I be? Would I be tough and stoic enough, or have enough help to find my way forward, or would I be consumed by my own sadness?

I didn’t grow up in a particularly tough neighborhood, so I didn’t get into many fights as a kid, but I’ve wondered how I’d handle myself if I were jumped. When my kids were young, and I used to run hard at night after they were in bed, I’d sometimes train my mind for this while I was training my body as a runner. What would I do if an attacker jumped me? How would I handle myself? Would I be brave?

I’ll acknowledge what I know you’re thinking right now – this is a little weird. It is. But here’s the weirder thing.

All this imaginary bravery for difficult situations I’ll never see hasn’t necessarily translated into the actual kind of bravery I need for my real, everyday life.

Say, for instance, like in owning a home. I have the extraordinary blessing or fortune or privilege – whatever you want to call it – of owning a home. But I have got to be one of the world’s worst home owners. My wife Grace gardens and beautifies and she fixes things when they break, but when something falls onto my shoulders, it just doesn’t happen. Or it happens years later than it’s supposed to, or just half done.

Some of this is busy-ness, some of it my ADHD, some probably general laziness, but it’s also that fixing and improving things scares me. I usually don’t know how to do it, I think I can’t learn, and I don’t want to ask for help.

See, like you, I expect, I have tasks I don’t want to deal with and people I don’t want to talk to because they stress me out or tap into my insecurities and fears.

Dream as I might about being brave when someone’s life is on the line, sometimes I’m short on the everyday bravery that I need to power a better life.

We’ve been talking the past few weeks about the Jesus model for everyday interactions. Two weeks ago, I talked about being kind as we welcome God’s deep kindness for us. And last week, our pastor Lydia talked about being fully present, with the God who is with us in our past, present, and future.

And today I want to look at bravery, which isn’t really a third quality of interactions, it’s more like the courage to be kind and present at a different level, even when there’s risk involved.

We’ll start by taking a look at Jesus, who strikes me as the bravest person who ever lived.

The Bravery of Jesus

Of course, Jesus was brave in the big, extraordinary ways at his death, but as I read the gospels that tell his life story, I’m equally moved by his day to day bravery throughout his life.

Let’s look briefly at just three of the times when Jesus risked something to be present and kind and truthful to what he knew to be important.

In the first one, Jesus risks his reputation. The scene starts by telling us that Jesus had to go through Samaria. Which isn’t true, really. Jesus didn’t have to do anything, and he didn’t have to travel through this section of Northern Palestine that Jews like him normally avoided. America, and Boston in particular, has our history of beltway highways and segregated housing and all kinds of zoning laws that were designed to keep Whiter and wealthier people away from contact with everyone else. The first century wasn’t as advanced with their fear and separation, but Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries not only avoided Samaritan people, but avoided the neighborhoods where they were likely to run across them.

Maybe this is why Jesus had to go through Samaria. Because avoiding people isn’t his way. Here he is.

John 4:4-9 (NRSV)

4But he had to go through Samaria. 5So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

7A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”8(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)

It’s interesting to me to just read the start of this scene. It’s become a famous Bible encounter by this point, so it’s easy to miss where it starts, which is Jesus put in what most people in his shoes would have found an uncomfortable situation.

Jesus is hot and tired from an hours-long walk, and so when his students head into town to find lunch, he sits to take a rest by himself. When he’s approached by a stranger, a stranger that our text points out, Jesus would have two reasons to have nothing to do with her.

But Jesus pushes past that and starts a conversation – could I have a drink? – a conversation that goes to the most interesting places.

Encounters with strangers can be awkward. We don’t know who they are, and so we don’t know what to say, and at least in this part of the world, it can feel like we’re breaking some kind of weird unspoken contract of mutual public coldness if we engage with a stranger.

You know what, though, I was listening to a report on a study about social connectedness. The premise was that most of us are lonelier than we wish we were, and the researchers wondered what effect it would have for people to experience more social connection throughout the day. So they had a control group that ignored strangers or kept interactions with them as short as possible, as we do, and another group that were asked to start conversations with strangers whenever possible.

And they found – one – that the difficulty wasn’t with other people, it was with the subjects. Most of the strangers were actually happy to talk. But the person in the study had to overcome their own shyness or discomfort to make a comment or ask a question. Starting the conversation was the hard part. Keeping it going was easy. But the second thing they found was that even though this was hard, people really liked doing it afterwards. The experience had a very positive effect.

Maybe Jesus knew this – that he’d be a happier man if he connected with people. Or maybe he didn’t care about social convention and reputation. Or – and I think this is true – maybe Jesus had the same hesitations and shyness and awkwardness that we all do, and maybe when that woman approached, the first thought that went through his head was his dad’s voice from when he was a kid that good Jewish men don’t talk to women alone and maybe the second thought that went through his head was – Oo, she’s a Samaritan – and some kind of awful negative bias about Samaritans flashed across his brain. But then, Jesus thought, I’m not going to live in a world where this disconnects us. I’m going to present and kind. I’m going to talk to this stranger, and see what good comes out of it. Let’s give it a try.

And that’s brave.

If we’ve been reading John, this won’t surprise us, because Jesus has proven himself to be pretty darn brave already.

Two chapters earlier, Jesus is visiting the temple in the city of Jerusalem. It’s holiday time, when Jesus was used to heading to the city to worship. But this year, when he got to the temple, his eyes were clearer, and he didn’t like what he saw.

This happens.

John 2:13-15 (NRSV)

13The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.

This wasn’t just Jesus risking his reputation, but risking his life.

Now there are a number of theories as to why Jesus does this. Some people think Jesus was upset by the crass commercialism of the scene, that this holy place for worship is starting to feel like a mall. Some people think Jesus is deliberately trying to stir up a conversation about what it means to know God at all, that the sacrificial system of the temple has seen its day, and God wanted a new way, a more internal, spiritual mode of connecting with God going forward. Other accounts of this scene imply that Jesus was troubled by the injustice of the temple, that the outer court, which was the only place Gentiles – non-Jews, and in some cases women, even Jewish women, could worship – that this outer court was so filled with the commercial transactions of the merchandise for worship, that everyone other than Jewish men were being denied their opportunity to encounter God.

But I’ll tell you what, regardless of why Jesus did what he did, most recently, I’ve been struck by how he did it.

I read this passage recently using a method called lectio divina. Lectio divina just means divine reading, or spiritual reading. It’s a mode of reading the Bible people have been using for over a thousand years, where you read a short passage, slowly, often more than once, and notice how it speaks to you. Chew it over for a while and observe your response. See where that takes you. Be open to the possibility that this is the Spirit of God speaking to you through what you read.

So I was doing that practice with this text and what struck me was the single phrase: making a whip of cords.

I pictured Jesus sitting in the corner with his craft project, and I was like how would one do that? I just told you at the top, I can’t make or build anything, so I was kind of mystified, like this is some kind of McGyver moment with Jesus, where he’s making a whip out of found materials. But I give that to Jesus, because he was trained as a carpenter, a furniture-maker, he knows how to make things. But the thing I thought was that this must take a while, to make a whip. It’s not a thing you do in a minute or two’s fit of rage. This takes steady consideration, to sit down for minutes, maybe hours, to build that whip before you used it.

And I thought, this is brave. Because to explode in anger at something that ticks you off – that’s not brave, that’s just impulsive, or rude or violent. But to watch carefully, slowly, and to observe an injustice, and to say to yourself, I need to disrupt this activity, and to take your time to figure out how to do that, and to devise the plan, and then to act boldly – at risk to your own life. Jesus could have been arrested and killed, and doing this is part of why he eventually was. Well, this is exceedingly brave.

One more scene, though, because I want us to see that Jesus wasn’t just brave with strangers and public injustice. Jesus was brave with the people closest to him as well. Jesus was brave when he needed to be with his friends too.

Last scene for the day:

Matthew 16:21-26 (NRSV)

21From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

24Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

Whoa, Jesus! This gets intense kind of quickly, doesn’t it? I mean listen to Peter: God forbid, Jesus. This must never happen to you.

That sounds awful, Jesus. No, no, no, that’s not going to happen. It’s alright.

This is how friends talk. This is what friends do. They cheer us up when we say gloomy things. They put a more positive spin on it.

But when Peter does this, Jesus turns and calls his friend Satan, and goes into this whole intense moment about the bravery it takes for anyone to follow Jesus.

I’ve got to move toward wrapping up, so we can’t look at every angle on this important moment, but for now, I just want to notice that real friends, Jesus-style, don’t just smooth things over. They don’t just go for easy.

They speak their truth. They stay authentic, even when that risks conflict, even when that risks the relationship itself.

For Jesus, this wasn’t a small thing. This was the center of his life mission and destiny that he was talking about. And Peter’s like, come on Jesus, that’s not you. And Jesus actually finds this tempting. That’s what Satan means – the accuser, or the tempter. That’s what a stumbling block means – an innocent looking thing that can trip you up and cause you great harm. Jesus would probably love the easy life.

That’s the great insight of that novel by Nikos Kazantnakis, The Last Temptation of Christ, that Martin Scorcese turned into a film. The idea was that Jesus may have been tempted again and again to be a wise person who lived the easy life. So when that harm to him and his cause comes from a friend, Jesus knows that to really be kind and present, in a way that’s authentic to his truth, is not to brush it over. It’s to speak his truth, even though it stirs the pot. Even though it risks the friendship.

So speak his truth he does.

I saw a friend of mine doing this recently and it moved me.

Given the circumstances of my life, I’ve known a lot of teenagers over the year, and now and then those people return in some form when they’re all grown up, and you get to talk.

And a while back, one of these all grown up teens and I met up for coffee – which by itself, by the way, is an awesome thing, to meet up for coffee with someone you knew when they were 12 or 13. This is a good reason to put yourself in a position to know kids and then to stick around so you can know them when they grow up. Side note: that’s just really rewarding.

But then in this case, this person wanted to show me a letter they had written before they sent it. Because they were wondering if it was a good idea.

And as we talked about the letter, I learned that a coach in this person’s life had really done them harm. It wasn’t the coach was overtly abusive or did anything they’d lose their job over. It’s just that the whole premise of the relationship and been patronizing and demeaning. It had driven this person off the team that had been important to them. It had lodged some hurt inside of them too.

And they had been wondering what to do about that now that they were out of the situation.

And I’m thinking to myself, well, you’re out of the situation. That’s a win. You get to move on and never talk to this person again. Never have anything to do with them. Which is great, right?

This is my preferred strategy for people I find difficult. To minimize my contact with them, and to doubt that they could ever really change, because people tend to be stuck in their ways.

But while I’m thinking this, my friend is saying, the thing is there are more people who are going to have my experience after me, and I feel like I have to say something, for my own sake but also because maybe my coach will listen. Maybe they can change their mind a little.

And I thought to myself, wow – you are a better person than me. Because to speak the hard truth that might really benefit someone else isn’t easy.

And then I read the letter – how clear it was, but also how humble and how gracious – what a perfect example of what the Bible calls “speaking the truth in love” and I thought, wow, now you’re really a better person than me.

Because to do this is really brave, right? To not just move on from the people and situations that trouble us, but to do our best, with great love, to interrupt what’s wrong. To interject some truth spoken with great love, and see if a different story might play out. Doing this takes time and creative energy, and it risks disappointment and hurt.

But it’s also the stuff that changes lives, that changes history.

This is pretty much every famous, courageous person we admire – in our own times or in the past – saying how do I not just accept reality the way it is, but interrupt it, with truth and love?

You’ll notice I pointed out too that my friend was really humble and gracious with their words.

Because we’re in a church here. And when bravery is talked about in religious contexts, it’s usually about winning or self-justification. It’s about doing the bold, offensive thing for our faith, for our side, to show the ignorant world how wrong it is. It’s about battles for truth or territory. This is the role religion has played in wars and terrorism, it’s the role religion has played in the culture wars of our time too. And that may be its own form of bravery, but it’s not bravery Jesus-style. It is not the Jesus model of everyday interactions.

Jesus’ bravery isn’t offensive battle-making, even that whip-making temple moment, where he didn’t hurt a single person, or say anything personally demeaning or attacking at all.

No, Jesus-style bravery is presence and kindness magnified, even when it takes boldness and risk. It’s speaking our truth, but with great, great love – not just what we would call love, but what the other would actually experience as love.

It’s the courage to have conversations we’ve been avoiding, to do the hard things we and our world would be better off if we did.

This isn’t just for Jesus or for heroes of for remarkable grown-up teenagers either. It’s in reach for all of us. Let me end with two ways how.

Try This

  • The first thing I’d like to invite you to try is that mode of Bible reading I talked about: Practice Lection Divina in the Four Gospels.

Lectio divina again is that slow, meditative reading of the Bible where you pay attention to what’s sticking out and speaking to you. The New Testament of the Bible begins with four versions of Jesus’ life story, named for the purported authors: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Just pick one and start reading bits each day, and see how brave Jesus is. See how brave Jesus speaks to you. Notice how Jesus challenges, or inspires, or encourages, or provokes you.

In this five-week series, our pastor Ivy is making these little business cards you can carry around, with take-aways from the talks – one on connecting with Jesus yourself, and the other on practicing Jesus-style interaction with other people. They’re awesome, and this week’s has the Lectio Divina instructions on the first side. They’ll be in the dome art gallery on your way out.

  • And the second thing is simpler: Do one more hard thing.

Sometimes the hard work we need to do is what Lydia talked about so well last week, what I’ve been doing this year – facing the hard parts of our past.

Sometimes the hard thing we need to do is taking care of ourselves, asking for help, opening up and asking for the things we need to keep living, and keep growing hope.

Sometimes it’s a task we’re putting off because we’re scared or think we can’t do it, or are worried we’re going to fail.

And sometimes the hard thing is a conversation – starting to notice and be kind to strangers, interrupting a pattern of injustice that’s going on in our families or workplaces. Sometimes it’s even speaking our truth to a friend who needs to hear it, even if that risks the relationship.

That good thing you’ve been wanting to do, that hard conversation you’ve been meaning to have. Ask yourself what that is, and a take a step toward doing it today.

I gave you a four-step process that you’ll notice on the card. First, think of that good but hard thing or conversation you’ve been putting off. Then, ask Jesus to be with you. Then do the hard thing, with as much presence and kindness, and as much truth and love as you can.

And then finally, notice how you feel afterwards. What did you learn?

See, bravery isn’t a special gift that only some people have. Bravery is more like a muscle we exercise, where the more we use it, the easier it gets, or the more prepared we are to use it in hard situations.

Bryan Stevenson, the lawyer behind the Equal Justice Initiative, whose work and writing and talks have inspired so many of us, tells a story of getting to meet Rosa Parks before her death, earlier in his career, and telling her about all the work he planned to do. Legal aid for people on death row, who were unjustly convicted of crimes, or who committed their crimes but when they were profoundly mentally ill or just kids. Ending racial injustice in our country’s legal system. Helping our country come to grips with our overall legacy of racism and racial terror and violence. All of which he’s working on still, by the way.

And he told these things to Ms. Parks, and she said to him: All of this good work is going to make you tired, tired, tired. So you know what. You’re going to need to be brave, brave, brave.

Oh, so true. Sometimes we need a rest. Rest, self-care, is important to the good life. But sometimes we also need to learn to be brave. And Jesus can grow this in us.

Be Present

I am the youngest of 3. I have an older sister, 4 ½ years older than me, and older brother 6 years older. Although my brother is the eldest, my sister is the pillar of our family. She’s the one to text us when somebody’s birthday is coming up, and we’re like — ‘Oh yeah, it’s somebody’s birthday!’. She takes care of our parents’ needs the most. And she hosts all the family gatherings at her house. And she’s really good at it! She puts together the best cheese plates. And it’s so awesome because she puts together these cheeses and olives, with tiny cute toothpicks — I dunno where she buys em, variety of crackers, and she’s who I found out about The Unexpected Cheddar cheese from Trader Joe’s, it’s my favorite. If you don’t know about it, you’re welcome. Go get some. It’s amazing. And she’s just so natural at it. And we all gather around the table, reaching, eating, talking, drinking, laughing, all the while, my sister is constantly replenishing the spread with things that quickly run out, busting out another pack of the unexpected cheese as soon as it looks low. Most of us don’t even notice her doing this. It’s so natural and it’s always been this way. I’ve only recently noticed that she’s doing this, as my husband Eugene has joined our family gatherings, and himself being the pillar of his own family saw my sister and pointed it out. She still talks about that first family gathering where he noticed her taking out the trash while everyone’s watching TV in the living room. How she felt seen and it was so weird, and how nice it is to have someone notice her work.

We’re talking about how to “Be Present” today, in our series of The Jesus Model for Every Day Interactions, anchoring the point in the story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10:38-42, where the two sisters are hosting Jesus at their house, and Martha is busy and Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to his teachings. Let’s hear what Jesus has to say and unpack that a little bit for our today’s context.

Jesus Visits Martha and Mary – verse 38

38Now as they (the disciples) went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

The story is interesting to me because it seems like a very practical issue. And honestly, I can relate with both Martha and Mary, although in my family my sister is Martha and I’m Mary for sure. But in other ways, I’m very sympathetic to Martha. Many women know what this feels like in a more traditional role sense, where she’s doing a gazillion things that others don’t see — cooking, cleaning, beautifying, childbearing, and looking good while doing it all. And I’m interested in what Jesus is saying and what he means, because I’d love to sit and chat instead of running around — yas please!

I’m sympathetic to Martha because my mom was also a Martha. My father was a pastor, and as the pastor’s wife, especially in their generation, it’s a weird un-glorious role with expectation to be the host as the pastor’s wife, bring out tea, cut the fruit, be only gracious and serving, but of course no leading or teaching.

Many sermons have been preached from this text with the moral of the story being that learning about God is better than preparing a meal, washing dishes, or doing house work. I mean, somebody has to grocery shop, prep, cook, and clean! It doesn’t happen by magic! Some commentators have leaned in to raising women from traditional role of housework, to become disciples and theologians. Yes, good, but it seems weird to make comparison as to which is better… I mean, in just one chapter before, Luke 9, the disciples are arguing about who is the greatest, and Jesus answers “whoever is the least among you is the greatest.” I liked that because it wasn’t my favorite things to see only my dad get respect and honor from people, while my mom’s hard work, which too was ministry, went unappreciated.

And in Luke chapter 22, Jesus says — Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.

I know it might feel like I’m making the text more complicated than it seems, but I think it’s important to unpack the story and see what Jesus is actually saying. It’s important because people have often used bible texts to defend something, taking a line out of a story and applying it with assumptions. So I don’t want us to just make assumptions about this text, simplifying it into a Christian jargon with just the takeaway of, “don’t be a martha!”

You know what I think? I think Jesus saw Martha even deeper than how she saw herself. You know how sometimes we project things unto others, things we haven’t reconciled within ourselves, we pick out at others. Martha was pointing to Mary, complaining, blaming,“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?” and bossing Jesus around, “Tell her then to help me.” Something’s going on with her. And I think Jesus was not making a comparison about what kind of role is better, but trying to get to her heart.

You see, the work Martha was doing, we make assumptions that she was probably doing housework, sure she’s a woman hosting someone at her house, of course that’s what she would be doing, but that’s our lens of prenotions about that. The text says, “Martha was distracted by her many tasks;” And some translations have even added words like, “Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing” but the original text doesn’t say that. They added it for “clarification” or “to paint a picture”.

The original text simply says, Martha was distracted or anxious, about or with, many or a great number, service/help/ministry. The RSV translation says “by much serving” and the NRSV “by too many tasks.” These words are translations of the Greek word diakonia, which is usually translated as “service” or “ministry”. The word deacon is related to it.

Martha was caught up in ministry work. Instead of spending time with Jesus.

So, it isn’t that learning, talking, and thinking is better than manual labor work.  Because servers of the table are greater than those who are being served. It’s that Martha was busy with ministry, when the thing that matters is not doing more ministry, being a better Christian by evangelizing, serving in church, being a blessing, but simply being seen by Jesus. Being captivated by Jesus, instead of being distracted.

And there are many of us, especially those who’ve been around the church longer, been Christian for a while, who need to hear this. Cause honestly, it’s easier for the church and pastors to teach to do something. Let’s serve here. Join this program. Go and do this. But all of those things should and will come naturally when we preachers point to the only thing that matters, being with Jesus. But it’s easier to get busy and see results, get things done and feel really productive. We’re all Martha’s! We’re a generation of multitasking and efficiency. Our culture values this. We’re all very highly capable, productive people. The world tells us that we can do it all. Be able to work at all times with access to email on  our phones. “I’m reachable!” we say. I’ve heard friends talk about competitive environment at work, how they like to be the one who responds to an email at 11 PM, showing they are still working, or 6 AM, right when they wake up, even before their commute. We are a distracted and anxious generation.

But the thing is, we’re starting to see the harms of it all. A TIME magazine article titled, “Why Multitasking is Bad for You” says, “The neuroscience is clear: We are wired to be mono-taskers. One study found that just 2.5% of people are able to multitask effectively. And when the rest of us attempt to do two complex activities simultaneously, it is simply an illusion.” What? I gotta take that out of my resume. We were built this way. We were made to be “only one thing” as Jesus said. Not efficient. But to be with God.

Here’s another fascinating case for why we should embrace just being, instead of being efficient and busy. With mindfulness and contemplative meditation practices on the trend, we’re starting to see scientific evidence for their benefits. I got this from the NPR Ted Radio Hour podcast from last week’s episode called Attention Please, talking about our distractions and addiction to our cellphones. I learned that when we are not multitasking, not distracted, just sitting, we are doing a thing that neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists call, Autobiographical planning. It’s the thing that happens in the midst of day-dreaming, being bored, not doing anything, letting our minds wander.  When you are doing this, apparently you’re igniting a network in your brain called the default mode, where your body goes on auto pilot, the mind gets actually more activated, tapping into the subconciousness, may I dare to say the divine within? It’s when you make connections between your life events or experiences, reflect and take note of things and create a narrative, and even solve problems or figure out a deeper understanding about ourselves.

But we don’t even give ourselves a chance to do this, because, we are busy. With notifications on our phones that’s commanding me to look at this! check this email! like this post! read this comment of a friend whom you haven’t talked to in years on a post you don’t care about but we’re connecting you — yay!  The average person checks their email 74 times a day, and switches task on our computer 566 times a day, according to the studies of Dr. Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics. What I found most fascinating and sad is that, she said that the more stressed we are, we tend to shift our attention more rapidly. And this one is hilarious — that the shorter amount of sleep one has gotten, the more times they check Facebook! We are stressed, tired, and more distracted than ever.

Like the experts say, I think the reason why we’re so distracted is because we are stressed. Because the present is maybe too much to handle, because the pain of the past or the fear of the future is too daunting. This is an area I have a personal experience, a struggle I’ve faced in my life. I found out this about me through a personality type system called the Enneagram. It’s kind of like the Myers-Briggs but instead of letters, it has 9 numbers. Each number is a type that represents a set worldview that you operate from. I’ve really enjoyed journeying with the Enneagram as a way to understand myself more in the past few years because it’s allowed me to really examine myself.

I’m an Enneagram number 7. They call it the epicurist or enthusiast. They’re generally super positive, optimistic, and fun! What I like about the Enneagram is that not only does it key in on your type as to how you tend to be, but it actually gets to why you do what you do. And usually it’s something pretty negative — a skewed view of the world, you might say — often times much to do with your earliest experiences of trauma. It’s wired with how we react to the world. Almost like a defense mechanism. When you experienced that something wasn’t right with the world, when you experienced pain, or neglect, or whatever, all of us developed a way to understand the world: like I must work hard to show that I matter, or I must be quiet and blend in to keep peace, or I must always help to be noticed. For 7, it’s I must avoid pain because the world is a painful place. I experienced a very early childhood trauma and it shaped me to always see the silver lining in things, instead of facing the pain. 7’s are usually caught up in the future. The present isn’t good enough, there’s gotta be always a little bit more. Addictions also work like this. Always looking forward to the next high. It’s also how you never experience true satisfaction.

For me, to embrace the present wasn’t just a simple thing of doing mindfulness exercises, although they were some of the practices that I had to take on, but a big thing about truly being present was to face my past. To really hold it honestly, with courage, with openness. I’ve asked God, on the real though, Where were you then? And be like, mad at God because that’s being real with your past! I mean, if you have doubts about the presence of God in that moment crucial moment where everything changed for you, that shaped who you are today — what hope is there in seeing today, this very moment as sacred or holy, full and present with the spirit of God? There isn’t. God wasn’t there then. God isn’t here now. So what does it matter at all? Just live for the next release. So for me, it took real grieving and being real with God about my pain, for me to face my pain. Which actually liberated me from perpetual escapism to the future, allowing me to be present.

Why is it so difficult for so many of us to be present?  Because most of us are caught up in past and future. What keeps you in the past? Is it regret? Or replaying a mistake over and over in your head? Something that didn’t work out for you. Or wish things could’ve been different? What future hopes or dreams keep you preoccupied to the present? What envy or next promotion keeps you from being fully you now and not just working for the next step?

I got to learn about the Emmanuel Prayer since I’ve arrived to Reservoir. I think it’s a beautiful practice of inviting God to your past. Or seeing that Jesus was there all along. And they do sometimes take practice to do, because it takes a moment for us to not be distracted, to really bring us to a place where God is real and present. We’ve been providing these little “business cards” during this series of the Jesus model for every day interactions, with different spiritual practices to try, one side for you and God, and the other side for you and people. Because these spiritual disciplines take guidance and practice, and whatever we’re offering you to be, be kind, be present, etc, you must first know that God is that to you. Tap into that first, and the rest will come easy. We have a new one for you this week to try, and I want to lead us through it now and practice together. For you and God. A practice called the Daily Examen.

The Daily Examen is an ancient spiritual practice that helps us become aware of God’s presence in our day. It’s a way to slow down and carve out a sacred time and space to say, God, I invite you to my day, or inviting yourself to see God in your day. There’s 5 steps, and let me lead us through the spiritual practice now, so that you have a sense of what it’s like, and hopefully you can give it a try on your own this week sometime. I’ll take many moments of silences in between for you reflect through, and end us with Amen. To begin, you may choose to close your eyes. Get into a comfortable position. You could lay both feet on the ground, or choose to open your hand on your lap. Take a moment to just breath and let us begin with a few moments of silence.

The Daily Examen

  1. Become Aware of God’s Presence

Invite God to the moment. Welcome God’s grace and love.

  1. Review Your Day with Gratitude

Look over the day thus far with God’s eyes. What have you seen or experienced? Hold them with gratitude.

  1. Reflect on the Feelings You had in Your Day

Carefully notice the areas that bring up certain feelings. What did you feel?

  1. Face Your Shortcomings

Pray over the day’s mistakes or shortcomings.

  1. Look Toward Tomorrow

Pray with hope for tomorrow. Invite God to what’s to come.


You know why you can be present? Because God is present to your past — your regret, your pain, your wrongdoing, or wrong that’s been done to you, everything in all its ugly. They are not far from God but God moves towards it, and sees it, and knows it, just as surely as you felt whatever you felt, God feels it too. And God is present to your future. Your hopes, your fears, your unknown and expectations. Your doubts of your dreams and your grandeur of your future self in all its glory, God sees it and knows it and is with you now as you face them. Do you believe that?

There’s also a practice for you to try with you and people, but again, it’s not a to do, but it’s do less.


For you and people:

Embrace silence in conversations. Don’t respond immediately.

Practice humility in your conversations. Try to relax and just listen.  

Let go of your agenda. Don’t think about what you’re going to say.

Let us not get busy but be, with God. For you to be simply seen by God.

Go forth and do less. Be present. Just be.

Be Kind More Than Nice

I was not always a very good grandson. But then again, not every one of my grandparents were always very good grandparents either.

Here’s how my family tells the story.

One set of my grandparents lived close by to us, and they were like second parents to us. We saw them every week, sometimes several times a week. We slept over their house, raided their refrigerator, spent pretty much every holiday together, and had nothing but kind words for one another.

But there were another set of grandparents that lived further away and that we didn’t see as often. And so the connection of course wasn’t as warm and friendly. And one time, when no one was listening, that grandmother said to me, “Oh shut up, Steven”. And I was so angry. That didn’t seem like a very grandmotherly thing to say. So I held a grudge against this grandma for years. Didn’t want to see her, didn’t want to talk to her.

The problem was, I was the one that looked bad holding this grudge, because this grandma was really nice. She had all the manners. Cooked us big Sunday dinners when we’d visit her. Asked us questions about our lives. Started small talk. Gave us presents. See this was my Southern grandma, from Western South Carolina. So ‘nice’ was all that she knew.

But her niceness didn’t make me feel seen or wanted, didn’t make space for me, certainly didn’t make me want to give up my grudge. Because this kind of niceness seemed perfunctory, obligatory, even a kind of test, like she was waiting to see if I’d be as nice back to her.

Which, clearly, I wasn’t.

This was nice, but it wasn’t kind.

We’re in the second week of a five-week series called The Jesus Model for Everyday Interactions. It’s inspired by a book our church’s old friend Carl Medearis wrote about this topic. And in the second section of the book, Carl says, “So you want to change the world? Try being kind.” He quotes this legendary military man who said that if you want to change the world, you should start by making your bed. Do the little stuff right, and the big stuff will follow.

OK? Then Carl says, well, if you want to be like Jesus, start out by being nice.

And maybe that’s great advice, but I want to quibble a bit today with this interchanging of nice and kind, as if they are the same thing. I don’t think they are. Not at all.

And so today, I do want to encourage kindness. I want to see how a God who is deeply kind to us might also give us the joy of deeply kind lives as well. Kindness is God’s mode of being with us, because God is simply deeply kind. Kindness is also part of the call of Jesus to people who want to follow Jesus. And kindness is simply, but utterly, transformative.

But it is not the same thing as being nice. Not at all.  

When I was in high school, I had an English teacher named Ken Jones. I’ve talked about him before. He made a big impression on me in the way he handled tragedy while I was a student in high school. Both his children died during that era, and his resilience was nothing short of remarkable. We formed an unusually close teacher-student relationship, so I wrote an essay about him when I was applying to college, and the year I left home, we were pen pals for a while.

But what struck me first as his classroom student was that Mr. Jones was not especially nice, but he could be really, really kind. Sometimes, when we walked into class and sat down, Mr. Jones would just sit at his desk and stare us down for a few minutes. He didn’t always seem like he wanted to be there. He could be irritable and kind of depressive. Sometimes he pointed out rude or bad things kids had done somewhere else in the school, and he’d say, Oh, that was person wasn’t trying to bad, but bad people just do bad things, without even thinking about it. This was not nice.

And yet, this man could be quite kind.

We had journals in this class that we needed to write in — a certain number of pages a week, I think — writing about anything we wanted. And we’d turn these journals in every week or two, and he’d check them and give us credit. And at least with my journal, I realized he really read what I wrote. He thought about it. He wrote back to me, engaging my thoughts, taking my 15-year old self seriously, which wasn’t an experience I had had from other teachers. Or really from adults at all.

And that noticing of my thoughts, that valuing of my words communicated to me that I mattered, that I was interesting, that I was worth the attention of someone that seemed more important than me.

And that was kind.

Jesus had this quality about him too. Listen to this short interaction he has on a crowded road when he and his students were travelling together.

Mark 10:46-52 (NRSV)

46They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.


There’s so much really interesting scholarship around this passage. The meaning of Bartimaeus’s name, the son of Timaeus. The significance of blindness and sight in Mark’s memoirs of Jesus and in some of the other good news accounts as well. The title, Son of David, that this man gives Jesus, and the significance of that being said while Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, the city of David, where he would both be hailed as a king and executed, in the same week.

This is a really interesting encounter.

But I want to go back to its basics for a moment, the stuff we could march right by in search of deeper meaning.

First off, this is a crowded urban moment. Jesus has arrived in an unfamiliar city and is surrounded by strangers. But his reputation has preceded him and he’s greeted like a VIP. So there are a million reasons for Jesus to keep to himself.

There’s the fatigue of travel, the disorientation of being in a busy, unfamiliar place, the shyness and stress a person from a small town can feel in an urban crowd, and the fact that Jesus is busy and important and on his way somewhere else.

But the somewhere that Jesus is today is the city where the son of Timaeus lives, a man whose disability and his bad breaks in life have left him on the side of the street, begging. And what’s happening in this moment is what we usually do with people relegated to lower status or people whose voice is inconvenient or whose behavior is disruptive… this man’s voice is silenced. His person, his body, his needs are marginalized.

But Jesus centers him. He says: I want to see him. Jesus stops, he stands still, he calls him over, and he asks him, What do you want me to do for you?

It’s not necessarily the smoothest moment. “What do you want me to do?” is an arrestingly direct question. It might not be particularly nice, and so in this, Jesus is more like Mr. Jones than my grandmother. He may or may not be nice, but he is deeply kind – present physically and emotionally to the person in front of him, including the person who interrupts him, deeply interested in the voice and wants and needs of the person in front of him, and eager to help.

And then, in one of these Jesus moments, it happens, the guy can see. But when it happens, Jesus says to him, it wasn’t me, it was you. Your faith, your trust, did it.

I think that Jesus shows us exactly what God is like. Fully present to us, and deeply generous and kind. It’s not the picture of God that our culture or our tradition may have given us, but it’s Jesus and Jesus’ first followers insistence that Jesus shows us the best, the truest picture of God we will ever see.

The God who has time for interruptions. The God who centers the marginalized and hears voices that once were silenced. The God who has time with us, and looks at us and speaks to us kindly.

After all, even when God is seeking change in our lives, which isn’t nice, I suppose, to encourage someone to change, but it can be kind to want more for someone, or to want better for them. But the way God gets us there is kindness. God woos, rather than threatens, encourages, rather than ranting with raised voice. As the letter to Romans in the New Testament tells us, God’s kindness leads to repentance.

Jesus shows us what a kind God looks like.

Jesus also shows us what we can be like – people that mirror God’s kindness to ourselves and others.

So kindness isn’t just a favor to the world – although it is that. It’s not even just a reflection of the love of Jesus to the world – although it is that as well. It’s also us coming into our nature as children of God, made in God’s image. Becoming the kind people we were made to be and that world longs for.

It’s possible, of course, to be both nice and kind. Many of you will know my friend Cate Nelson. She lives in the neighborhood, more or less. She is co-directing our Soccer Nights program for the neighborhood in the last week of June. And she used to be on staff at Reservoir, doing that and all kinds of other things for her work, before she left Reservoir employment to pursue other career interests.

Anyway, when I think of someone who is both nice and kind, one of the first people I think of is Cate. She’s thoughtful, and attentive to the people she’s with, and friendly and good. And she’s especially all these things with children. So if you’ve ever seen Cate with kids, you’ve seen her looking them in the eye and enthusiastically asking them questions. You’ve seen her playing with them and having fun. Perhaps you’ve seen her dancing with them at our church retreat or up near the front at the end of service, in one of our Sundays like today, when our kids are worshipping with us here.

Where so many adults more or less ignore kids, Cate sees them. She doesn’t just say hi and wait for them to move on, but she centers her attention on them, responsive to their person and their voice. If you haven’t seen this before, or if you’d like to learn how to do this, you really need to sign up and join us as a volunteer at Soccer Nights this year. Go to and be sure to choose our North Cambridge site, as our church provides some logistical support for a whole bunch of Soccer Nights programs now.

So it’s possible to be both nice and kind, of course. Jesus was nice and kind with kids, and it’s a mark of a follower of Jesus to learn to be both nice and kind with kids. Cate’s one of the people that shows us how.

But if you have to choose just one, nice or kind, pick kind every time. Because niceness is sometimes just politeness. Niceness could be all the appropriate manners of my grandma, with no time or generosity or attention or love under it. But kindness — to see someone, to be interrupted and to give your generous attention and presence and goodness to someone else, well, that kindness is transformative.

My friend Sarah Furste is a pastor at our sister church, The River, in Manhattan, and she was talking recently about the difference between kindness and niceness. And she said this. She said:

“Even though we often exchange the two, there’s a big difference between nice and kind. Niceness is rooted and lack and fear, and emerges from our deepest insecurities. Kindness is rooted in the abundance of love. Niceness ignores the truth of who we are. Kindness emerges from the compassionate essence of who we are.”

Niceness without kindness – social graces, being polite – can actually be a way of avoiding genuine connection with another person. It keeps interactions smooth and unremarkable, which is fine, but not if that’s all they are. That kind of niceness avoids conflict, avoids need, avoids really seeing or hearing or bringing our real selves to the table. That kind of niceness keeps people at bay, because we’re afraid we don’t have enough time or energy. That kind of niceness keeps ourselves closed off, because we’re insecure or disinterested.

But when we’re kind, we’re giving our attention generously, whatever we see or hear. We’re present to the other person with our whole heart and mind, and with all that we are, even if it’s just for 42 seconds. Even small amounts of real, present kindness can be transformative.

I went through the McDonalds drive through the other week, when I was in a rush for lunch. Not the kind of system I want to invest my money into, if you remember that talk from a few weeks, back, and I haven’t gone back to the MacDonalds since then, but there I was.

And I made my order with the disembodied voice through that intercom as you do, and pulled up to the first window to pay, where a young woman smiled at me and told me what I owed. And as I gave her my money, I looked her in the eyes and asked, How are you doing today? A small moment of kindness, right, to be present to a stranger during a commercial interaction.

And then she looked back at me, as she took care of the bill, and she told me, I’m doing really well today, because I’m looking forward to going home this afternoon, and spending time with my mother. She told me that in her country, it was Mother’s Day that day. And so I asked her where that was – her country – and she told me El Salvador. So I told her I hoped she had a great afternoon and wished her mom a happy Mother’s Day.

And then it was time to pull up and get my greasy lunch, and that was the end of it. 42 seconds, tops. Maybe less. But whatever small kindness I may have offered her, I felt like I was the one lifted up by that interaction. I drove away and maybe because it was unexpected, I thought, man, that felt great. Like two real people just connecting for a moment. Her presence, her just being a real person who wanted to connect with me for a moment, was a kindness to me.

Basic human kindness like this, to any person in our purview, this is no small thing, but is at the center of the teaching of Jesus, including what we’ve come to call the Golden Rule.

One more scripture and then we’ll wrap up.

Jesus teaches:


Luke 6:31-36 (NRSV)

31Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Treat the customer in the McDonalds drive-through the way you want to be treated. Talk with the retail staff behind the counter the way you would love to have them talk with you.

Treat children the way you wish adults had treated you when you were a kid, or the way you want kids to grow up and treat others.

Talk with your grandchild, or your grandma, the way you want them to talk with you.

Interact with your students or your employees the way you want them to interact with you. Be to your teachers or your boss the way you want them to be with you. But then Jesus continues: Oh, by the way, it’s easy to do this with your friends and family. (Which, for me at least, it’s not. But whatever, Jesus says it’s relatively easy, but this is also the way of Jesus for the people you can’t stand.)

32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

To be like Jesus is to be kind to the people who have nothing to give you but trouble. To give your kind attention to people that don’t deserve it.

When it comes to boldly loving our enemies, niceness just doesn’t cut it. Jesus wasn’t always nice to his enemies either. Sometimes he told the truth to them, and truth telling isn’t necessarily nice.

But Jesus never dismissed them. He engaged their questions, he looked at them and saw them. He did what he could to disarm them with kindness. This disposition toward kindness and mercy is what God is like, Jesus says, and it’s the disposition and life that Jesus is shaping in us too.

Let’s wrap up with four closing invitations before I pray for God’s help with this.

The first is an encouragement to connect with a kind God. Each week in this series, we’re encouraging you to connect with God’s love for you in some way, and also to be present with that love in your everyday interactions.

The cards each Sunday in this series on the table in the dome are two-sided for that reason as well. So pick one up on your way out if you like.

Anyway, the first encouragement:

Try This:

  • When you pray, imagine Jesus gladly attentive to you and your desires – eyes and ears fixed on you.

Likely, if you pray at all, you sit down and start talking to God. Maybe you use your own words first. Maybe you use the words of a prayer you learned. Maybe you sit in a particular place at a particular time of day, as I do. Or maybe you pull out a journal to write things down, or kneel, or take a walk. Or maybe your prayers are mainly spontaneous things you find yourself saying to God while you’re driving your car, or trying to fall asleep, or nursing a baby. All that’s good. God’s available to talk with or think about anytime, anywhere.

But how often to we envision and remember God as attentive and alive and good and interested in us as God really is? If you’re like me, not often enough. So when you’re going to pray, or when you find yourself praying, try stopping for just a minute, and imagining that Jesus is with you and that Jesus is attentive, looking, listening to all you have to say, even the things you’re aren’t sure how to say, with great interest.  

I say the word imagining because picturing Jesus with us is important and powerful, but not because it’s imaginary. Actually, this kind of imaging, which has more often been called contemplation or meditation in the spiritual tradition, is really a way of dialing into a greater reality – seeing God as God is revealed in Jesus, making sure we encounter God as God really is.

  • For a day, or a week, give each person you encounter the 42-second favor of your full attention and kind interest in them.

We’re trying to start the daily things, the small things in this series, because they’re the building blocks to greater things but also because they’re important on their own terms. So really, for as many days this week as you can handle, try simply giving each person you encounter a minute, or even a little less than a minute, of your full, uninterrupted interest and attention and kindness. This is as simple as looking someone in the eye, noticing what you see, maybe asking a small question and engaging the answer. See what this does in the people you encounter, see what this does in you! I’d love to hear your stories. Tell me sometime, or shoot me an email.

  • Adults, see every kid a full-fledged person who’d enjoy your kindness. Kids, the same for the adults in your life.

Love for children seems to be one of the unique hallmarks of Jesus’ kindness, a mark that you’re on the right path. If you don’t have kids in your life at all, consider treating with kindness the ones you bump into or that interrupt your rhythm in public places. Of consider volunteering for Soccer Nights at the end of June, as I mentioned, or contacting our families’ pastor Kim Messenger and asking about serving in our Sunday kids’ programs this summer or fall. – she’d love to hear from you.

And kids, I think this goes for you too. The adults in your life are likely annoying to you sometimes. Or mysterious, or busy, or grumpy. But let me tell you that adults are people too – with our own strengths and weaknesses, our own good parts and bad parts and problems. So we owe you kindness, we do, but see if you can be kind to the adults in your life as well.

I mentioned that love for kids is one of the unique hallmarks of the way of Jesus with people. But the other, I shared earlier, is love for enemies.

  • Jesus doesn’t call for niceness to enemies, but does insist on love.

Again, it would be easy to go big with this and get intimidated. What do we do with people and situations that frighten us or put us in danger? OR the people we really hate, etc?

But in the spirit of this series, again, I encourage you to start small. The people in public life that you don’t know but really can’t stand, maybe even really hate, you don’t have to like them or be nice to them, but consider praying for them when you think about how much you can’t stand them, that God will bring more love and truth into their lives.

The Power of a Generous Question

For the last couple of weeks I’ve had the pleasure of having a new little commuter with me on my days that I travel over here to the office.  There’s a Reservoir family who recently moved from here to my town of Milton, south of the city – but just shy of the end of the school year, so they decided instead of disrupting their pre-schooler’s routine for just a few weeks of the school year – they’d keep her in her preschool which is over here in Davis Square.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a preschooler in the car, and I’ve never been so entertained. This girl is smart as a whip – and makes me laugh so much. And it’s been a long time since I’ve laughed out loud in the car on my commute! Part of the beauty, likely, is that it’s not my own kid, so everything seems endearing! I’d forgotten that part of this smaller human being land is really taking intense interest on certain things they are into – whether it’s a book, or a toy, a show, or a song! Despite the fact that kids often get a bad rap of having short attention spans, they really are able to hone in on what grabs their attention.

This little girl is absolutely head over heels for this movie/show called Minions.  Has anyone heard of it/them? These tiny little aliens? Creatures? I’m not sure what they are, but they became the stars out of a series of movies called Despicable Me, and evidently now have their own TV show.  Anyway, part of what makes these minions special is that they do little song numbers that are perplexing as much as they are addictive. And I have now listened to the minions soundtrack on repeat, many, many times. It’s hard to explain exactly what this experience is like, so I’m going to play you a little piece of one of these delightful songs:

[Audio clip: Papa Mama Loca Pipa – Minions]

You. are. Welcome.

((You might recognize the music from the comedic opera, Pirates of Penzance – by Gilbert & Sullivan.))

All of the minion songs are like this – it’s incredibly mind-twisting because I want to make it be real words, but they aren’t. It’s “minionese” –  but this little girl has memorized every, single word of this foreign language she has incorporated spotlessly.

Now – that song (and most of the other minion songs) is roughly 1 minute in its entirety.  Our commute over to Davis Square from Milton is 1 hour and 12min.

So I – feel like I’m learning another language, but it doesn’t have any apparent meaning – it’s real curious.

At one point in one of our drives, I started to think that something might actually be happening in my brain – like I might be going a tiny bit crazy.

So I suggested to this little girl that maybe we listen to the soundtrack of the original “parent” movie – the source that the minions were birthed out of…. With actual. Words.

So the theme song of all the despicable me movies is this:  

[Audio clip: Despicable Me Theme Song,  from 2:17 for about 30 seconds]

So much better, right?  I don’t know! But it does at least have words I can understand.

This little girl was stone quiet during the entirety of this song. The refrain “I’m having a bad, bad day” – is repeated 10 times throughout this song.

Not surprisingly – my little friend focused in on this particular line, and it was interesting to me how she started to process what she had heard. She started to ask some really inquisitive, generous questions:

  • “I wonder why that man thinks he’s having a bad, bad day?”
  • “Was he looking for something?”
  • “Was he wanting something he doesn’t have?”

I’m not kidding.  Word for word – I wrote these down, (once we parked in her pre-k parking lot, of course)!!

  • “There are kids singing with him – so I wonder if he talks to them?”

Are you kidding me with these questions. This kid is a tiny genius!

These generous questions she poses are ones that come from her attention and interest in life around her – even if it’s fictional – her interest inclines her to know more about what is happening to this man who is having a very, bad, bad day.

These generous questions seem to slice right to the heart of what it might look like to be interested in someone in your everyday interactions. These generous questions and ones like them seem to offer more than just an answer – they open up the state of the heart of the person in front of you.. . Perhaps we can take my little friends lead – and be invited to revisit and ask ourselves and others these generous question – as ones we haven’t considered in a while.

  • “What are you looking for”?
  • “Where are you left wanting for more of?”
  • “What about the connection/people around you? ”

This idea of a generous question – is one that relies on a posture of mutuality. And what I mean by that is that you – as the question poser – expect to discover as much about your own state of your heart, as much as the other – a receiving as much as giving kind of question.

Jesus’ forte are these generous questions.   They were embedded in the way he interacted and related to others around him…and we’ll get to take a closer look today!

Today we start a new spring series, that we’ve gathered some inspiration around – from a long-time friend of our church, Carl Medearis.  He recently wrote a book called “42 Seconds – The Jesus Model for Everyday Interactions”.

Now Carl’s premise is that if you take every single conversation that Jesus had in the Gospels, read them out loud, timed them, the average length of these conversations as recorded in the Gospels is 42 seconds long.  Taking in to account that some of those conversations were longer or shorter,and that some of what we read aren’t full conversations or what’s recorded in real time – Nevertheless….

MUCH of what we know of Jesus and how he related to people is found in these conversations.

The beauty of what this series invites us into – is not only the basics/maybe obvious points of faith (Kindness, be present, be brave – that STeve and Lydia will be up to share more about in the weeks to come) -but it invites us to think hard about “why”.  … Why does it matter that we take on these postures? WHy do we care? **And I think it doesn’t hang on an answer- but a question: “Who is Jesus to you”?

That’s a generous question! How does that generous question help us meaningfully go out in the world and live these ways out with people around us?

Attention Span:

A couple of years ago, a division of Microsoft published a 52-page report in 2015 that said the average human attention span had dropped from 12 (in 2000), to eight seconds in just over a decade. The report also offered this disturbing comparison: The average attention span of a goldfish, at nine seconds, was one second longer than the typical human.

Attention span was defined as “the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted.”  

*This study got lots of attention – some believe because it hit at a truth we all know and observe…. That *The true scarce commodity” of the near future, will be “human attention.” (NYT article).  That without a doubt the digital age is shifting us neurologically and not in a good direction….


These beliefs have impacted and shifted the way we put “content” out into the world..

IN many ways attempts have been taken to simplify and compress content (whether books, podcasts, blogs, sermons) – down to fit the attention span of a goldfish.


Yet others say this is not the complete picture – that shrinking our content might not be the best move… because our attention spans are not getting shorter – they are evolving – they are becoming more intensive, more efficient and able to extract more information more quickly.

So our evolving attention spans are actually nowhere near satisfied with eight-seconds worth of ideas or content.  ANd it’s not a matter of “length of time” – but whether the content is rich and substantial and worth consuming.

This take is interesting to me – because i can see in lots of scenarios where we are perfectly able to pay attention to what we want to—We can totally binge a Netflix series in a weekend if we want to…. Right?  Or in my husbands case, remember thousands of origins of wines, and their vintages and the type of soil that the grapes are grown out of – and the names of the growers and their family stories ,,etc..… when we are interested… (for instance)….

So perhaps it’s not our  attention span that’s in question – but more our interest span.

So if we can flip – and talk about our daily interactions with people on terms of INTEREST spans – I think it tells us something pretty interesting……What happens when we are in a grocery store line or waiting for the train… or at a traffic light….??  Or in the dentist waiting room? At a cafe? In an elevator? Do we reach out to the person near us?  Or do we tend to reach for our phones? Is this attention span or interest span?

Maybe a little bit of both – but it does lean a little more toward interest for me – and  begs for me the question – of are “we are really of interest to each other anymore?”  

And if it’s more an internal/heart matter of interest than attention …How do we ignite our interest span for one another again?  

I think part of what we might discover in that question if we give ourselves time to roam around in it a little bit – is that our interest for one another – might actually hang on our interest (where our heart is), for Jesus.  ***

So we are going to look to Jesus this morning and get inside one of his conversations and see if he can’t help us with this tool of asking a generous question – to help us grow our interest spans for one another …..

Let’s take a look!

Scripture #1:
Mark 8:27-30 (NLT)
27 Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea (says-a-ree-a) Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?
28 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”
29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”
30 But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

So there’s a tendency I think to read this scripture – at least for me – and only look at the answers that the people and Peter give.. And I think the tendency then that can follow – is to want to categorize those answers…. Into buckets of “right” or “wrong”.


Jesus doesn’t seem to focus too much on the answers given..  And infact I think he invites us to shift ever so slightly these scriptures in the light –  and read them through the questions that are posed.

“Who do people say I am”?  “Who do you say I am?”

WHat do these questions offer us?


Offers us the opportunity to imagine – at the very least right now to engage with a LIVING GOD in these scriptures – who might be showing us each a lot of different things!   FOr me – I can entertain the idea that the people’s answer really isn’t that wrong – or bad… that infact within their story and exposure and their journey at this point – Jesus did fulfill the types and symbols embodied in these characters of john the baptist and elijah….

It exposes that they could be actually interested – that there’s conversation happening among the people and crowds…… that they could be curious, (possibly trying to form and label and categorize Jesus) – but they also could be pondering – and leaning in to think about who this Jesus could be at a heart level…..what this Jesus they hear of, could mean to them…


And it offers me the opportunity to see that even an answer of Peter’s, which me might consider closer to the mark, “He is the Messiah!” – even if it’s the right theology in the moment  – it might still require more of a journey – more of an experience with Jesus – than a “right answer” can truly convey in a moment in time.


AND it allows us to see the heart of Jesus …. To see that he wasn’t quick to categorize,  “right or wrong” – but quick to engage, quick to try to build an interest span and model the value of space and conversation –  for the disciples.


“Don’t go and tell anyone about me”.

(yes – he likely wanted more time to do what he came here on Earth to do)…

But he warns really strongly!  Why?

I think it has something to do with this “content idea”….

Jesus might say:
“You will kill my content.”

“If – I, Jesus have content – then it is about a journey, it is about connection, it is about this deep participation at a soul level – a conversation with teh people around me. This is what I am about – this is who I am.”


“If you go and declare right now, while people are curious –  that “I am the MEssiah” – and I’ve have had no chance to get to know these people – and they’ve had no ENCOUNTER with me – then what is introduced to them in the word “Messiah” – is as empty as an answer that only seeks to be “right”.


“Who I am – does not fit in to an 8 second sound-byte. “

“I am rich – and I am worth consuming – and that builds through relationship and through living with me – and living out a life that values and roams around in questions.”


And so Jesus helps me here…..reorder the way I generally VALUE answers….   And invites me to consider that the questions themselves are the vehicle to waking our hearts out of dormancy for one another….. And that CONVERSatiON…. This very basic human method of relating – is the supernatural TOOL that Jesus gives us to build the Kin-dom of God here on earth – now…


“Who do you say I am?”


This question, is one that not only opens up who Jesus is to us – but also opens up our own human-ness….. That we were made and designed to ponder, to long for things, to be curious and to be in connection –     AND with that as a backdrop It gets back to my little pre-schooler’s questions…  What are we looking for?  What are we seeking? How am I seeing you, feeling you, interacting with you – Jesus? When we can move in those questions – we can find ourselves alive again to each other.


If it’s true that as a follower of Jesus – we tend to imitate the kind of God who is real to us…. Then we should be generous to ourselves and ponder this question that He poses, TO EXPLORE HIS CONTENT….“Who am I to you”? – It’s a crucial one as we move about in our world.  It undergirds – why we aim to be kind – why we aim to be present and why we aim to be courageous.



We had a conversation around this very question at our table –  several months ago – as a family: “Who is jesus to you”? And let’s just say  we got a medley of responses: “Ranging on the spectrum from Jesus being Lord and Savior …….“I’m not even sure Jesus is real”….


No where on that spectrum of responses were the labels I would have sought to teach my kids – – if I had taken that route of providing answers … there was no “God is my teacher, my friend, my companion, my guide, mother God, ….the MESSIAH!


But what did follow was a heck of a lot more conversation that I don’t think would have happened – had I just dropped who I thought God was…. Our conversation was short on answers – But LONG ON generous questions….and the encouragement was to not tighten content  – but to encourage thinking and ASKING….


In Matthew it says:

Ask and it shall be given to you”…..

I always read thru a particular lens – that whatever we need – we ask Jesus for it – and he gives it to us…this still holds true for me… but….

Today – I consider an additional layer – that the “ask and it shall be given to you”… is really about us – asking the questions..  That Jesus LOVES when we ask questions…. … ask yourself – ask others – ask God…. put into words what you are hoping for, living for, longing for, wrestling with, ask why it is you are having a bad, bad day – day after day….   What will be given to you is – I think – an invitation to keep walking that question out – in EXPERIENCE – AND in CONNECTION with a living God who is just as curious about your questions…  


The famous poet – Rainer Maria Rilke says, “Be patient toward the state of your heart (where all of these questions lie) and try to love the questions themselves….. like books that are written in a very foreign tongue….((or songs that have NO REAL WORDS)!!!    The point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”


So I could have tried to reframe the responses of my children, and I would have given  them the impression that answers are more important … I could feel bad myself that I haven’t taught Jesus correctly…. OR I could take seriously who Jesus is to me right now – to move out of that place….and see the beautiful journey in their  answers – to value exactly where they are (and not kill the content of Jesus for them).   Here I can see that just posing generous question is the gateway to the truest expression of the multi-dimensional love of God – that doesn’t hinge on a set of static beliefs… it goes beyond certainty, agreement, common ground – AND YET – it sparks INTEREST in me – of them ….. and it makes space and invites “honesty and integrity and dignity”. (Krista Tippett on Becoming Wise).


WHich if I take a step back – I can see that Jesus too, might just be a fan of these things!



This ancient tool of Jesus’ to keep us talking to each other in generous ways…Is a survival skill of today.   In our everyday actions to re-infuse our humanity with a sense of attention and interest.  Jesus asks questions to cut into a whole new level of understanding, not just used as a data gathering or informational data source – this is an incredible tool.


We are eager to have our attention matched at every turn – – but in very little ways grow our attention for each other… Conversation is a way to correct this  -to build interest and love for one another into the bones of our society.

Jesus shows us – this again and again….These generous questions are HOLY questions…He encourages us  -Ask generous questions….


Now – I get that it would likely feel a little odd to go up to someone at your bus stop – and pose the question, “You know – I’ve been standing behind you for a good 3 seconds now – and I was just wondering , “WHO AM I TO YOU?”

… and yet I think we ask generous questions everyday – we just don’t frame them as such …  A question Like: “How are you”?  – is actually a very generous question!


The real intent of that question is a genuine curiosity – “how are you?” – In many Muslim cultures this simple question is an entirely generous one – it means “how is the state of your heart?  How is your heart at this very breath, this moment?” It is a question that can build relationship – it communicates that you don’t want to label or presume what that person might be feeling.


I got a text a couple months ago from someone who I was just getting to know and the text came in – in the morning and all it said was, “How are you today?”

I waited – stared at my phone – waiting for the follow up text, of some detail of her life – or a question that I might be able to help her with… and that never came…

“How AM I doing?” (I have no idea!)

It seriously gave me pause – and the gift in that was it actually did allow me to check in with myself – and with God – where was he?  How was the state of my heart at that very moment?…and to pause because someone else prompted that pause – was even more meaningful.


Generous questions are the breath of humanity – it’s what keeps us receiving from the world around us – and giving in interest and attention to the world … this mutuality is where the Holy Spirit loves to hang out.  This is how we keep relating and engaged and thinking and leaning in toward each other…. And where we discover Jesus aknew again and again.


Jesus used questions to yes, know better the people in front of him  – BUT to also help them get in touch with and know themselves.


As we do this – and regard questions as a tool to better know ourselves and aid others to do the same- it will build our interest spans – and it will start to build a world around us infused with MULTI-DIMENSIONAL LOVE…


I want to end today – with this scripture  -where we read Paul’s prayer in Ephesians – and a pray for all of us today….

Ephesians 3: 14 – 18 (NIV)

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.


It seems strange to to think that tiny, ordinary interactions could build something as majestic as a world of multi-dimensional love – and  yet as a society – we are revisiting and asking questions that we thought we had settled and answered long ago – and turns out we hadn’t.. . . but it’s in the asking that we are building forward…


“Who is Jesus to you?”  Keep this question live – in your hearts….ask it again and again – …  Build forward with it… BECAUSE a heart in touch with this question is it’s own powerful content – to the world around it!


The Message version says:  “ LIVE  this LOVE – live it’s length – PLUMB the depths – RISE to the heights!!!  GO! – LIVE this love into being…… one that you can’t fall in and out of – and one that is found in the life of every person in heaven and on earth….found in every, normal day of your life.


To try this week, if you are up for it!:


  1. This week ask people a generous question like, “How are you?”
  2. Give your full  ____ second attention span to someone and be open to radical love.
  3. Use this tool of conversation to be an architect of multidimensional love.
  4. Journey with Jesus’ question, “Who am I to you?”
    1. Grab the centering prayer card and candle in the Dome Gallery.
    2. *also likely to have Carl Medearis book in our library next week.