Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nudge: Go Fish


sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 10/24/2010

[audio link]

Invitation to turn to John 21.

This is a story about awakening one another to the presence of the resurrected Jesus. This is a story about evangelism - bringing good news - in a way that gets past our defenses and lands in our hearts. This is a story about the power of a nudge.

This is a story about Jesus, a week or two or three after he’s been crucified and come to life again. It’s a story about people who can hear his voice but don’t recognize that it’s him. It’s a story about the church. It’s a story about the kingdom of God. It’s a story about normal life and all of its joys and frustrations. It’s a story about what happens to normal life when the living God shows up and somebody comes awake to his presence, and helps wake everyone else up too. This is a story about the power of a nudge.

This story starts out as a story about fishing, and ends up as a story about breakfast. It starts out in the night, and ends up in the morning. It starts out cold and dark and alone, and ends up with friends gathered around a fire, light dancing in their eyes, the smell of a feast filling their noses. This is a story about Nudging.

21 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: 2Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

5He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

6He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

7Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”

11Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Throughout the scriptures, the Good news of the Kingdom of God lands with a nudge, and gets people nudging each other in wonder. This story is chock full of nudges, isn't it? We'll conclude our nudge series with this story. By way of review, so far we’ve talked about how...

Nudging affects both the nudger and the nudge-ee.

Nudging is an act of friendship, of love.

Nudging is up close and personal.

Nudges usually produce smiles and embraces, not narrowed eyes and clenched fists.

Nudging is invited, welcomed.

Or sometimes it's not, but it's always designed to open the door for true relationship, and comes from a place of service, not judgment.

Nudging happens at the right time, in the right place, and it can happen anywhere, at any time.

Nudging isn't rushed or forced, yet nudgers never hesitate or sweat bullets either, because nudges happen naturally, instinctively.

We’ve talked about how at the heart of nudging is paying attention everywhere for signs of the resurrected Jesus, because no-where is off limits to his presence anymore. God isn’t stuck in a box marked "God." He’s shaken off the chains of death and now he’s roaming the earth, his Spirit blowing like the wind, showing up in the most unexpected places, at work in the most unexpected people. Even empty tombs aren’t empty; every bush is burning with his presence.

And we’ve talked about how we need a different kind of tool kit for nudge evangelism. Tools that help us listen and help us love, like duct tape, and stethoscopes and binoculars and noise-canceling headphones, and molasses and Christmas stockings that inspire us to wonder. So that we can notice what the Father is doing in one another’s lives and join in.

Today, as we look at John 21, my hope is that all these different ideas about nudging would come together in a way that encourages us to realize a very simple truth. Together, we can do this. We can awaken one another to the presence of the God who is already here. We were made to do this for one another and with one another. Nudging is the most naturally supernatural thing in the world. The only thing it requires of us is that we go fishing.

Let’s notice some things about this passage...

The resurrected Jesus isn't always easy to recognize at first. Not even by people who've known him for years...

He’s standing on the shore. They don’t recognize him. He talks to them. They don’t recognize his voice. They catch the fish in a pretty extraordinary kind of way. Most of them still don’t recognize. They’re sitting around a fire with him, and even though they are up close and personal, it’s still like he’s in disguise of sorts.

This is still our experience much of the time. We see the resurrected Jesus through a glass darkly. A lot of our nudging will be rooted in faith recognition, not the kind of sensory recognition we’ve spent our whole lives developing. So don’t expect sure-fire certainty. And don’t be discouraged when that’s not what you’re getting. [Mad gab illustration..He Heel Stub Row Ken Hard Ted (Psalm 147:3), As Cannot Well Beak Event Who Ewe (Mt. 7:7), Whirl Abe Errors To Gather Wit Got (1 Cor 3:9).]

Notice how Jesus shows up while we're doing what we do. What we love. Our work. With our friends.

Peter is a fisherman. He’s fishing. Maybe because he needs to eat, to earn a living. Maybe because he enjoys it, it relaxes him. The resurrected Jesus shows up while he’s fishing with his friends. Not in a synagogue, or the temple, or even in Jerusalem, the city of God.

So if you want to be a good news bringer, do the things you do and look for the resurrected Jesus there first. At work. At school. In your hobbies and recreation. Hang out with your friends. Join them in doing what they do. The resurrected Jesus just might show up, especially since you’re there to notice him. [want to be a church where Sunday is celebration, encouragement and equipping, but not the main event...]

Notice that Jesus shows up in a scarred and hungry body.

In most of his post-resurrection appearances, Jesus is either showing his wounds or eating. Which suggests to us a couple of things.

One, if we want to recognize him, it's worth looking where we find wounds, and looking where we find hunger. Literally and figuratively. Literally: Where there is sickness and injury and pain, Jesus is likely to be present, ready to bring resurrection life. And where there is poverty and lack and hunger, Jesus is likely to be present, ready to bring the Father's provision. Figuratively: Where people have been scarred by the brokenness of this world - abandonment, judgment, misinformation about God, etc. - Jesus is likely to be present, ready to bring healing. And when people are filled with longing for connection and hopes of a new tomorrow and dreams of beauty and joy and passion for justice, Jesus is likely to be present, ready to bring a kingdom feast.

And secondly, because the church is his body, if we want to be recognized as a home to the resurrected Jesus, we've got to be open and humble about our scars and our hunger. We are wounded people. We are hungry for more. We don't have all the answers. We have firsthand knowledge of the weight of sin, the struggle of being forsaken and abandoned, the questions about how this is all going to work out. If we're not vulnerable, no one will be able to recognize the resurrected Jesus in us, because the resurrected Jesus only shows up in a scarred and hungry body. (love the disciples' answer: "no")

Notice that Jesus invites people to a meal.

All the nudges lead to a meal where Jesus comes most fully into view, where we become most awake to the presence of God. They don't dare ask if it's him; there is something so holy going on that they just know. It's as if the fire burning is the burning bush that Moses stumbled upon, and when he asked God's name, God said something along the lines of "I am who I am." The disciples don't want to make the same mistake at this fire. They know who Jesus is because they recognize him at the meal.

All of our nudges are essentially invitations to a meal, aren't they? Come, be part of our family, eat with us. You belong because we all belong to God. You belong in the same way we all belong, because Jesus made room for us in the family through his death. There is a meal we eat together that reminds us of who he is and who we are and how we are to recognize him. Come join us in the meal, and in recognizing the body of Christ. Christ in her, and him, and her, and him. Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Who doesn't want to be invited to the meal? Not everyone will say yes to every invitation, but everyone wants to be invited. It's always a welcome nudge. [many people think church is a private club of some sort, because spirituality is such a personal, intimate thing in our culture. Coming without an invitation feels like walking into someone's bedroom when you're a guest in someone's home.]

Notice that it takes somebody familiar with the love of Jesus to say, "It is the Lord!"

It's the disciple Jesus loved that recognizes him first. Most think it is John referring to himself, the only disciple who stayed with Jesus at the cross, to whom Jesus entrusted his mother as he died. He sees the favor of God present in the catch of fish, does the math in his head, connects the dots, and realizes, It is the Lord! And he gives voice to his recognition, and that turns into a nudge that helps Peter recognize.

What was it about John that made him able to see what the others didn't? We don't know for sure. But maybe there is a hint in the phrase, the disciple Jesus loved. He was familiar with the love of Jesus and recognized what was happening as an expression of that love. Peter certainly was familiar with Jesus' love as well, and the other disciples, but perhaps they'd come to doubt that that love applied to them anymore. After all, they'd abandoned him. Peter, especially, had denied him 3 times. It takes a while sometimes to believe again that the good news of God's kingdom still applies to you. He needed John's help. We'll talk about that more in a few minutes...

Notice also this about this passage: Fishing happens best with others, in community.

Fishing stories are often stories about people swimming in a murky sea of confusion and despair being caught up in the net of God's love. So is this story, if we have eyes to see it.

Peter goes out to fish alone at first. And sometimes people did, with a line and hook as we still do today. But the real fishing was done with nets. Peter's friends say, hey, wait, we'll go with you, which meant Peter wouldn't be alone, and now they could fish with a net.

Isn't that how we approach evangelism, sometimes? Like we're out there alone, having to reel somebody in? But no, fishing happens best with others, in community. It's hard to awaken people to the presence of God by ourselves; nudging happens best with others, in community. [churches that awaken a community to the presence of God aren't filled with gifted evangelists; they are filled with people who join together to cast nets of love...conversation with MC]

Notice as well that fishing is a lot like the farmer sowing seed in the parable we've been talking about in our seeds and soil series: Nudgers know that mixed results come along for the boat ride. You can fish all night and catch nothing. And then Jesus shows up and your nets are full. What matters is that you are out there fishing when Jesus shows up on the shore, bringing the light of morning and the catch of the century.

Notice how much of what makes a good fisher also makes a good nudger. It requires patience. Quiet. Listening. Knowing the lake. Looking. Timing. Cooperation with the environment. Trusting Jesus and doing what you hear him telling you to do.

[story of praying for woman in the ER...]

This passage also shows what an important role a nudge can play in a person's life and relationship with the resurrected Jesus.

Peter's trajectory:

At the last supper, "I will lay down my life for you."

Denies him 3 times.

Rooster crows, followed by deep regret and shame.

At the empty tomb, Peter believes.

He meets Jesus in the locked room later that day.

But in this passage, he's still fishing for fish, isn't he?

Then, this loaded sign of favor comes. (Peter and Jesus have a history when it comes to fishing.) It's a nudge. Brings Peter back to being Peter. (Look at him jump into the water!) Opens the door to Peter doing business with Jesus. (The "do you love me?", "feed my sheep" passage comes next.)

The next time we see Peter, he's making a catch of 3000. He's fishing for new members of God's family. He's the man he was created to be.

We know people like that. We are or have been people like that. People who believe in God, but for one reason or another think the joyous, engaged, purposeful relationship with him is for someone else, not for us. And so we're going about our lives. But it's less than we are made for. Less than who we really are. Until enough nudges awaken us to the presence of God who has shown up with the dawn of a new day. And we recognize the signs of his favor, and our heart starts beating faster, and we take the plunge. And then we go back and bring him as many fish as our nets can hold. Because there is a fire burning and a meal to be had with friends. And Jesus is right at the center of it all, about to say something that will change our lives, and the world, forever.

Note: we ran out of time to get to the practical tips this Sunday…

Practical tips:

1. Take some swings in a nudging cage. Like a coffee shop, or a shopping mall, or grocery store, or a park where people walk their dogs, or a bar, or any place you enjoy being where people are. Give yourself an hour or 2 there, with the singular purpose of trying to notice any nudges that come your way. A nudge to buy something for somebody. Or strike up a conversation. Or pray for somebody. Don't do anything out of obligation or duty. Only do something if you notice something that might be a sign of the resurrected Jesus. Best case scenario? You get to do some nudging. Worst case scenario? You have a nice cup of coffee and a change of pace that might do your soul good.

2. Group Nudge. Get together with some other nudgers and show God's favor to someone in a practical way. Rake some lawns. Bring in some garbage cans. Clean out some gutters. Help with the Fall Free For All. If asked why, just say you wanted to show them in a practical way that God loves them.

3. Invite someone to breakfast with the wounded and hungry Jesus. Remember, nudging is done best when done with others, in community. So it's always a welcome nudge to invite someone to church with you, or to some kind of serving opportunity with you.

3b. Learn new things to write on napkins, for when someone asks, what kind of church to do you go to? [show centered set diagram and 4 quadrants diagram...advance slides as directed]

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Seeds & Soil: Love, Abundant life, & Mixed Results

seeds and soil

sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 10/17/2010

[audio link not yet available]

[interactive reading: volunteers for boos (seed or word), yays (Jesus, he, or him), breath holders (between yays), and yes-ers (periods)...]

Mark 4v1-20:

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that,

“ ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,

and ever hearing but never understanding;

otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”

Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

We're going to talk today about mixed results. About how most of the seeds the farmer sows don't produce any real growth, while a few of the seeds have overwhelming results. We're talking, of course, when we peel back the layers, about the mixed results of Jesus' message of the good news of the kingdom of God, even when the kingdom message is delivered by Jesus. About how lots of what God says lands on deaf ears, or gets lost in the noise, or gets shut out by competing voices, while some of what God says to some of us some of the time really hits home. Lands so deep in us, in fact, that it changes who we are from the inside out, changing what we think and feel and say and do so much that our words and actions carry with them the same life-changing power of God's words and actions. And we're talking about why this dynamic of mixed results is in fact part of the good news, not bad news at all.

Remember, Jesus' parables are designed to uproot certain stale assumptions we bring to what God and his kingdom is like, so that his fresh and true perspective can get under our skin and take root, subverting our defenses. This parable is doing that in spades.

The predominant kingdom at the time of Jesus was the Roman Empire. It came by conquest, by force, it came organized, systematized, suddenly and uniformly. Rome set their sights on a part of the known world, marched in with an army, took it over, and set up shop. They had a system of controlling every aspect of the land they took over. They established a government, an economic order, a social order, roads, plumbing, etc. And it all happened in a top down fashion. Mixed results were not tolerated. Rebellions? Crushed. Mismanagement? Managers replaced. Quotas were brutally enforced. Results, results, results.

Rome grew it's empire, in other words, the way we might build a building or a car or a subdivision. Piece by piece, check box, by check box, benchmark by benchmark. Mixed results are not to be tolerated, because the building might fall down, or the car might not run, or the subdivision might not break even.

We can imagine, then, what kind of pre-existing grid informed people's expectations when they heard Jesus announce the kingdom of God was coming. Surely God had set his sights on the world, would march in with an army, take it over, set up shop. Complete with a system - more benevolent of course - for controlling every aspect of the world he took over. A top down reassertion of righteous rule.

This grid of benchmarks and controls is the way of our broken world, isn't it? Even when we think about our own lives and how we're progressing.

What will your life look like when it's completed? What are your goals? How are you doing with respect to accomplishing them? What are you doing to fix your failures?

Are you at your ideal weight? Can you benchpress 200? Have you run a marathon? Ever bowled 300? What's your Xbox Live gamer score? How many followers do you have on twitter or friends on Facebook?

Did you graduate from High School? Get your bachelors degree? Your masters? Your PhD?

Are you employed? Have you gotten promoted? Achieved a certain title?

Have you made this much money? Bought a house? Have a retirement account?

[even our relationships get subjected to these benchmarks and controls: the questions we get from relatives: when are you getting married? shouldn't you be a better husband? when are you having kids? shouldn't you be a better parent?]

Growth in life for us becomes checking off our boxes. In each area of life, we have a particular benchmark that we think we'd be satisfied with. That if we succeeded, we could move on to the next thing, or maybe rest easy, kick back if we've met enough them. Then it's just about maintaining good control over what we've achieved and attained.

How many of us, when we think about our spiritual lives, use the same kinds of grids?

Have you repented of your sins and made a personal commitment to Christ?

Put a shout out to Jesus on your facebook page?

Overcome your anger problem?

Stopped looking at porn?

Do you know how to pray?

Read the bible?

Do you tithe?

Mastered your 3 minute and 10 minute testimony?

Led someone to Christ?

Have you led a small group?

Served the poor?

Gone on an international missions trip?

Cast out a demon?

Healed someone?

Raised someone from the dead?

Started a church?

Growth in our spiritual lives can become for us reaching our benchmarks and then maintaining control.

Here's the problem with that approach to growth. We're carbon-based life forms, not buildings or cars or subdivisions. That might be how you build a building or a car or a subdivision, but it's not how God builds human beings. It's organic. Cooperative. There's no sheer force approach to making it happen. Largely invisible moment by moment. Happens in fits and starts. Doesn't require maintenance, but nurture. Requires faith, patience, perseverance, a willingness to tolerate imperfect results along the way.

[teachers, coaches, parents (would you just stop teaching, coaching, parenting because you weren't getting results?) much of doing it well requires making room for mixed results...?]

Empires make no room for mixed results, because Empires exist to concentrate wealth and power at the top.

God makes room for mixed results because God is Love. And Love exists to distribute and multiply it's life as far and wide as Love will be received and reciprocated. Love will go so far, in fact, as to empty itself of wealth and power so that the objects of its love might have life, and have it to the full.

On a biological level, the questions that matter aren't benchmarks and controls, but the life-giving capacities of our bodies' systems. On a spiritual level, the questions also aren't a matter of benchmarks and controls, but the life-giving capacities of our relationships with God, and one another, and the whole of creation.

So when the kingdom of God comes, it's not measured first by a set of external realities. Rome defeated. Messiah on throne in Jerusalem. Economic and social justice implemented. It's measured by the growth of life-giving capacities of our relationships with God, and one another, and the whole of creation.

And that kind of growth comes as a farmer sows seeds on the ground.

Jesus isn't looking for the quickest way to check off the boxes. Because Jesus could bring a sword instead of seeds (as we spoke about a few weeks ago) and check off the boxes in short order. But then the life-giving capacities of our relationships with God, and one another, and the whole of creation would, at best, remain untouched.

What God is doing instead is speaking creative words of love into the old creation so that new creation comes to life. Those words come in the form of a person (Jesus, the word of God), and his announcement, and demonstration, and embodiment of the good news of God's kingdom. And when they are trusted and obeyed (when they are received into the soil), they have the capacity to breathe new life into the old creation. A new creation that has a growing capacity for life-giving relationships between people and God, and people with one another, and people with the whole of creation.

[seed: God forgives you...ah, I can draw near without shame, ah, I can forgive the person who disrespected me, ah, I can stop punishing myself and get on with my purpose in life..., etc.]

This parable Jesus tells says that the seeds are going to get mixed results. This is just the way Love brings life: it's a growth process, a cooperative relationship between the seeds and the soil, and not much of the soil is fully cooperative, especially at first. In fact, most of the seeds won't bear much fruit. But some of the seeds will. And the ones that will, will be wildly, overwhelmingly fruitful.

So be patient, persevere, don't get discouraged and give up. The Sower is patient, he doesn't get discouraged. He just keeps scattering the seed, because he knows how seed works, and his agenda is life.

[Sales experience...not in it to feel good about myself, in it to make a living. had to trust what my trainer said about the ratios: 100 phone calls, 50 cold calls, 15 appointments, you'll make $40,000...the Kingdom ratios are even more stacked in the favor of life, 3 of 4 fail, but the seeds that take root multiply 30, 60, 100 times]

What is true of how the Kingdom of God comes among communities of people is also true of how the Kingdom of God comes in our lives personally. The seeds get mixed results, depending on the cooperativeness of the soil where and when it lands. Most of the seeds won't bear much fruit. But some of the seeds will. And the ones that will, will be wildly, overwhelmingly fruitful.

So be patient, persevere, don't get discouraged and give up. The sower is patient, he doesn't get discouraged. He just keeps scattering the seed, because he knows how seed works, and his agenda is life. If God is willing to make room for mixed results in our lives, shouldn't we be willing to do the same?

Now why doesn't the sower just put the seed in the good soil only? Two reasons, I think.

One, every seed, every word the sower sows is filled with love, is an expression of love, because the farmer is God and God is love. And God loves the people whose soil is like a hard-packed path, and God loves the people whose soil is shallow, and God loves the people with thorns in their soil, just as much as God loves those whose soil will be most receptive to his love. So God will continue to pour out his love on all of them, all the time.

And secondly, because no matter where the seeds are scattered, the seeds, over time, can't help but change the soil in a way that makes it more receptive for the next seed that lands. Bird poop fertilizes the soil. The dead plants, whether they died from scorching sun or choking weeds, fertilize the soil. And the crop that does grow up in the good soil will produce seeds of its own, seeds that are caught on the wind and take root in the previously uncooperative ground. It's true in communities of people, and it's true in our lives personally.

Don't stop scattering seeds. Anywhere. Anytime.

And don't get discouraged by a perceived lack of spiritual growth in your life. Continue to open yourself up to the words the Lord might speak to you. Some of them won't bear fruit. But they might cause the ground to become more fertile. And some of them will land on good soil. And grow up into a crop. A crop full of more seeds to be blown by the wind into the other parts of your life.

Practical Tips:

1. Thank a Farmer. Write a thank-you note to your parents, or a friend, or a mentor who made room for mixed results in your life. It just might encourage both of you.

2. Waste Some Seeds. Express love in a practical way towards someone in whom you don't expect it to take root. Because love is concerned with its long term impact on the soil, not with self gratification.

3. Go Growth Hunting. Find a place in your life where your relationship with God has become more life-giving, or where your relationship with others has become more life-giving, or where your relationship with creation has become more life-giving, and nurture it. See if it eventually doesn't just spill some life-giving seeds over into other areas of your life.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Nudge: Duct Tape, Stethoscopes, & Binoculars


sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 10/10/2010

[audio link]

Invitation to turn to John 5.

Religious scholars talk about observant Muslims (5 pillars: bearing witness, prayer, Zakat, Ramadhan, pilgrimage to Mecca) observant Jews (abiding by the Torah, keeping kosher, the feasts and festivals, etc.), but not observant Christians. What would it mean to be an observant Christian?

The rabbis say that to be an observant Jew is to be observant not just in the sense we've spoken of, but in two other senses as well. First, "To observe is to say something, to make a comment or remark, as on a text. An observant Jew does not just "study," does not merely read the text or go through the motions of ritual. An observant Jew makes a comment, makes a mark, makes it hers." Secondly, "To observe is to take notice; to perceive, to watch attentively. See the world. Listen to your heart. Notice the joy and pain of another human being. Attend to Creation. Notice the task at hand, and show your respect for it, and for yourself (created, of course, in the image of G-d), by really Being There."

It is this last sense that points the way to the aspect of observance that is central to Christianity.

Leonard Sweet: Christianity is a religion that is less wrapped up in rituals and observances than it is in rapt attention to what God is doing in the world so that we can beat a path to where Jesus is living his resurrected presence.

Why do we serve the poor? It's what God is doing in the world, it's where Jesus is living his resurrected presence, so we run to join in. Why do we tithe? Because God is doing something in the world through the local church, and so we beat a path to join in with him as Jesus lives his resurrected presence through it. Because God is doing something in our hearts with his generosity to us, and we join in with him as our generosity reflects the resurrected presence of Jesus in the world. Why do we forgive those who wrong us? Because it's what God is doing in the world, and our forgiveness of others is how we join in, step into the middle of Jesus' resurrection life. Why do we gather to worship? Because what God is doing in the world is setting his beloved Son on the throne of a new creation, and Jesus is living his resurrected presence through his gathered body, the church, and worship is how we place ourselves in the center of it all. Why do you do youth ministry, or children's ministry, or pray for the sick, or help people fix things that have been broken, or work at a shelter for battered women, or provide places for mom's of troubled pregnancies to have their babies? Because you can see God at work in those places and activities, because you want to be near when Jesus shows up with his resurrected presence, because this is how you step into the action.

Show me someone who isn't doing any of these things that it means to be a practicing Jesus follower, and I'll show you someone who has lost sight of God at work in those ways and places. It's not getting their act together that will re-engage them. It's someone nudging them awake to the presence of God that they've lost sight of, either because they've given their attention to lesser but shinier things, or because they've fallen asleep at the wheel of their life.

That's why we're talking about Nudge evangelism. About awakening each other to the God who is already there, everywhere around us, at work all the time if we only had eyes to see him, ears to hear him, a nose to catch his scent, a tongue with a well-developed taste for his sweetness, skin sensitive to his touch and texture and temperature. About bringing the good news of Jesus in a way that lands like Jesus brought good news to us, with a series of nudges. And at the heart of nudge evangelism is paying attention, is keeping all of our senses alert to signs of the presence & activity of God around us.

JOHN 5 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3[4]Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

7“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

8Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

11But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”

12So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

13The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

14Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

16So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

19Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed."

Let's pay close attention to this text, see what we might learn about Nudge evangelism.

What's the scene? A great number of disabled people. poor, hurting. Hoping that when the water moved they could be first in and get healed. The pagans believed the pool had healing properties first, so it's probably a local superstition fueling the hope.

This is a metaphor for our world, isn't it? Hurting people, their best hope a superstition that rewards the fastest, the best connected, the closest to the water, but that probably doesn't actually work...Money? Power? Popularity?

Although it's in the city of God, it's a pagan place at heart, with a pagan hope. That doesn't stop Jesus from keeping his eyes open for the Kingdom of God, does it?

Man himself doesn't know who Jesus is. Sir, he calls him. Not Rabbi, certainly not Lord. He's spent 38 years preoccupied with the stirring of the water, and he's totally missed the buzz about Jesus, or if he's heard it, it hasn't registered. Not even when Jesus is talking directly to him. Not even when Jesus heals him. He's asleep, isn't he? Have any of us been that man?

Jewish leaders are only paying attention to one thing - the law they are so protective of, the law that keeps them in business. So when the guy shows up walking with his mat, all they see is a violation of law. They seem to not even hear the fact that he was healed. They hear only that somebody told him to break the law.

When they find out what has just happened, they completely miss the activity of God again. They are preoccupied with his perceived violations of the object of their attention. Jesus healed - that's work. He called God his Father - that's blasphemy. God is healing and walking among them on the day set aside for giving attention to the things of God, and they miss him entirely. In fact they oppose him. They're asleep, aren't they?

Now look at the verbs connected to Jesus. Saw, learned, asked, said. (the implied verb is listened.)

Jesus is looking for something before he acts, isn't he? He noticed a man lying there who has been overlooked for 38 years. He inquired after him, found out his story, that he'd been lying there a long time. Asked him a question that only someone who was really looking would ask. "Do you want to get well?" It's a custom-fit nudge. In other words, are you lying here all your life because you've given up, because it's the life you've gotten used to, have you become satisfied with your lot in life? It's a question that awakens something in the man. His desire to be well. To be strong, to re-engage with purpose, and activity, to re-enter life itself in the wide world, in the city of God. A desire that is born of the image of God in him. Jesus awakens him, just a bit, to that. With a simple nudge made possible by Jesus paying closer attention perhaps than anyone has ever paid to this man.

Jesus listens to his answer, and in his answer, hears underneath the complaint, underneath the defensiveness, hears the man's yes to his question. Yes, he wants to get well. Jesus' Kingdom=radar is blinking now. Something has registered on it and it's moving. We don't know if it's a glimmer of faith in the man's eye, desperation in the tone of the man's voice, a shiver up Jesus' back, an accompanying surge of faith in Jesus' heart, a word from the Holy Spirit running through the neurons of Jesus' brain.

We only know that now Jesus says something. Saw. Learned. Asked. Then says. Nudgers are like that. More looking and listening and asking and hearing than saying. But when love is ripe the time for the nudge does come. Get up. Pick up your mat and walk.

Get up! is the word for rise. Like rise out of bed. Like rise from the dead rise. Jesus is looking at more than just this man. He's got the eyes of his heart peeled for the Father. (I only do what I see the Father doing, he explains later.) What's the Father doing? He knows the work the Father is doing is new creation work in a dying world. He knows new creation will begin with resurrection. Something registers for him here and now that the Father is opening a window from the heavens, where the Father is storing the earth's future, and resurrection life is leaking out. So he joins in by simply naming what he sees the Father doing. Get up!

Will the man receive the nudge? Yes. And when he does, he's cured. Picks up his mat. Walks.

C'mon! This is what nudging is all about. The kingdom, the rule and reign of God that brings freedom and restoration and wholeness and re-entry into Shalom and purpose and life itself.

Of course, the man still doesn't know who Jesus is. That doesn't happen until a little later, when Jesus finds him again and speaks to him again. But once he does, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he turns around and goes back to bear witness. To become a nudger himself.

Because the man's not the only one nudged in this story, is he? When the critique about working on the Sabbath comes to Jesus from the religious leaders, Jesus calls to their attention the fact that the root of the Sabbath is joining with the Father in the 7th day rest of the Father from the work of the first creation. A new creation is happening, Jesus is saying, and the Father is at work right now. Do you want to be truly faithful to what God is up to? (He knows that's the thing at work deepest in their hearts - he's been listening!) To be faithful is to work alongside of the God who is right now working, because a new creation has begun. It's not day 7, it's just about to be day 1 - the light of the new world is dawning.

Of course, his nudge isn't received. They try to kill him all them more. Be encouraged. Even Jesus' nudges were rejected from time. But that doesn't discourage him. He nudges again.

The son can only do what the Father is doing, Jesus says. We hear this as Jesus referring to himself, and surely he is. But the son of God to the religious leaders is Israel (God to Pharaoh - Israel is my son, my first born son). Because they are the religious leaders of Israel, the son is also them, as representatives of Israel. Israel can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, Israel also does. (Do you hear the invitation, the nudge? Join me, join the Father, stop resisting him - it's in vain.) For the Father loves Israel (do you hear that, he loves you!) and shows him all he does (do you hear that, you too can see him at work, you don't have to keep your eyes closed by fixating on the object of your current attention. Wake up!). Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.

Marvel, wonder will be the result of Jesus paying attention to the Father and cooperating with him. With the kingdom coming, there is also coming a shift from critique to marvel, wonder. Jesus is waking them up. The healing obviously wasn't enough of a nudge to awaken them to God's presence. But more is coming, and it will awaken them. Because Jesus knows if Israel begins to pay attention to the Father at work among them again, and they cooperate, it will awaken the whole world to the Kingdom coming: the gentiles, the Romans, everyone will be able to pick up their mats and walk! [wonder is the definitive sign of someone who is awake, isn't it...? servant evangelism, encounters with God...]

Consider non-nudging evangelism in light of this story...

My experience learning evangelism as a teenager... Role-playing with 4 spiritual laws... 1. God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life. 2. Man is sinful and separated from God. Therefore he cannot know and experience God's love and plan for his life. 3. Jesus is God's only provision for man's sin. Through him you can know and experience God's love and plan for your life. 4. We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God's love and plan for our lives. Bridge diagram. Circles around thrones.

Practicing. Memorizing. Praying for chances to use live ammunition. Looking for opportunities to work the conversation to the laws. Looking for opportunities to close. Rest of relationship a function of response.

Old-School Evangelism Tool-kit: Calculator (need a sharp mind). Concordance (needed superior biblical knowledge). Stop Watch (needed a 3 minute and 10 minute testimony). Microphone (needed good verbal skills). blue prints (needed evangelism formulas and diagrams, like the 4 spiritual laws, bridge diagram, Roman road.) Otoscope (needed to identify problems, sin, infection). Oil (needed "evangelism anointing"). Megaphone (needed boldness).

Success measured in first time commitments. Sure, sometimes seeds were planted, but everyone knew that was just a consolation.

That kind of evangelism comes from love - (sometimes you needed to work up, if you weren't feeling it)...but ends up so far away from love you can't remember where you started, and it's scent isn't on you anymore.

Compare to nudging evangelism...

Paying attention to what the Father is doing always flows from your love of God (you pay attention to what you love, don't you?), leads you to love others (because that's what the Father is always doing), and is experienced by others as love (because that's what it can't help being when your actions are an attempt to join God in what he is doing - it is by definition a self-giving act, and therefore has its roots in the God who is love).

Success in nudging is measured in love noticed and love joined and love growing. It has no agenda other than love. Because it is to love that we are awakening people and being awakened ourselves when we practice the art of nudge evangelism. Seeds are planted, and that's no consolation - that's what our Father is doing, that's how the kingdom comes - yes, some will fall on stony ground, some will grow up and get scorched, some will be eaten by birds or choked out by weeds, but some will take root, and rise up, and produce a crop 30,60, 100 times what was planted. And the world will be overrun with love.

Practical Tips:

Put together a nudging tool kit...

Duct tape. Practice talking less. [neighbor...]

"You never resemble Jesus more than when you have your mouth shut."

- St. Ignatius of Antioch.

Stethoscope. Practice listening closely. Listen for the heart underneath the words. Say what more often. Tell me more about that. Listen not for flaws but for faith.

If you have ten minutes to share the gospel with someone, spend the first nine asking questions and listening. when we speak more than we listen, it is like flying a kite in the dark. Our words go out but we have no idea if they ever get off the ground.

- David Henderson

Binoculars. Remember that what God is doing is bringing near the things that seem far off. Look closely when you catch hints of that. Look for dreams buried far in the past, and hopes hidden far in the future. God may be present in both, and ready to realize them.

Noise canceling headphones. Being silent before people is important. But even more-so is spending time with God in silence, listening for him to speak to you, learning to recognize his voice. And to do that, sometimes you need to eliminate the noise.

Silence is God's first language.

-St. John of the Cross

Molasses. We've got to slow down if we're going to pay attention.

Praise without end for the go ahead zeal

of whoever it was invented the wheel;

But never a word for the poor soul's sake

that thought ahead, and invented the brake.

- Howard Nemerov

Stocking. Nudge evangelism is born out of a sense of wonder. God's up to something, all around us, all the time. My Father is always at his work to this very day. What gifts will he put in the stocking of my life today, in the stockings of my friends, my co-workers, my neighbors, my enemies. How can I wake up with wonder?

The sense of wonder

That is the sixth sense

And it is the natural religious sense.

-D.H. Lawrence.

Not to mention, from the other toolkit, Oil; but not for the "evangelism anointing (we're all anointed to be good news bringers), but for blessing others...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Seeds & Soil: Disruption

seeds and soil

sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 10/03/2010

[audio link not available]

[show hoe..]

Dearly beloved... The very thing that feels to you like the absence of the Kingdom of God, the very thing that feels to you like you’re going backwards when it comes to spiritual growth, the very thing that is most troubling in your life right now, that just might be the very thing that God wants to use to prepare your soil to receive the seed of his word that brings an explosion of life into your life, and through you into the world.

Maybe it - whatever it is - is painful, hurtful, terrifying, empty, hard, a struggle, confusion, unsettling. It may also be, by the grace of God, the disruption that opens your heart to receive something from God that transforms the whole landscape.

I don’t say that lightly. The most significant seed that led to the most powerful and transformative spiritual growth I’ve seen in my life found its entrance into the soil of my heart when my life and sense of myself had been so disrupted that I was as close as I’ve ever come to giving up on life. If we have time at the end today, I’ll tell you the story. In the meantime...

[Ragamuffin Gospel story, pg 127-130...]

I'm neither wise enough nor experienced enough to comment on the pros and cons of tough love, but I will say that without disruption, it's very difficult for the seeds of God's kingdom to take root in us. So when disruption comes - whether it comes harshly or graciously - if it makes room for a seed to be planted, then thank God for the disruption.

Invitation to turn to Mark 4, which is where we will land, but not quite where we will start. We’re going to back up a little bit - well, ok, a lot bit - so that we can get a running start.

The truth of the universe is that God’s love is always bringing new things into existence, new things which are always a disruption to the no things. So wherever you find the creative, life-giving activity of the dynamic-generative-joyous-overflowing God, you also find disruption. [Lights off]

[shhh...] Perhaps you remember...

Unformed, unmoving, barren emptiness, darkness over the surface of yet deeper darkness.

And the Spirit (breath, wind) of God, hovering. Hovering over the welter and the waste. Hovering, waiting, just above, not quite yet landed, but oh so close, biding time, potential energy on the cusp of bursting into kinetic generosity.

Then, the immaterial Spirit imperceptibly but definitely interacts with the not-yet-but-almost material; the Wind is harnessed to fill a sail that won’t exist until the Wind blows; and the Breath is gathered into a Word that disrupts the deafening silence and formless chaos. Which is, after all, what words do, isn’t it? New vibrations disrupting the old vibrations and, in this case, the non-vibrations.

And this particular word? “Light.” Insistent, but gentle. An invitation really. Let there be. Light is allowed now. Matter and energy, particle and wave, the one thing that is everything and everywhere all at once and forever.

And there was light. [Lights on]

It’s as if God’s word is a seed implanted in the void, and the void receives it and gives birth to light. Like God is waking up the universe. Nudging it. Rousing it from a beginning-less slumber. Then more and more words, multiplying now. Let there be, let there be, let there be. Sky. Water. Land. Grass. Each word a seed bringing disruption to that which was before the word so suddenly arrived. And each seed taking root, and growing into something good, and blessed, and holy. Until finally, the soil itself is disrupted, invaded by the breath (word) of God, bringing humanity into being.

The whole of our universe and this earth and ourselves, the fruit of creative, disruptive words. This is how life for carbon-based life-forms starts.

Now fast forward to the shores of the Sea of Galilee, circa the beginning of the first century of the common era. For the people gathered in that natural amphitheater, hanging on Jesus’ every word, things aren’t right in the world. They are longing for things to change. They are under Roman oppression, their freedom restricted, suffering crushing poverty and taxation, ruled by corrupt officials and sometimes equally corrupt religious leaders. And they are beginning to hope that Jesus just might be the one to set everything right.

Mark 4v1-20:

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that,

“ ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,

and ever hearing but never understanding;

otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”

Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

We know what it's like to feel that things aren’t right, right? Somebody is placing demands on you that are a real burden. Maybe it’s even a burden you’re glad to bear, but man oh man, it’s a real burden. Or your job situation is just really pressured - time, stress, the work itself is difficult and you’re not getting the help you know you should to get it done. Or key relationships are in trouble - maybe with your spouse, or your parents, your kids. It’s a constant drain. Or you’ve got a health issue, an addiction, something that just doesn’t seem to be going away.

What do we want? We want things to change. Usually for this person or that person to get their act together, or cut it out, or for their needs to not be an issue anymore. Or for this situation or that situation to resolve, to shift, to end, to give way. Or for our health problem to be healed, fixed, or our addiction to be lifted, for us to wake up and find out that it’s gone and not oppressing us anymore.

Sure, sometimes the Kingdom of God reveals itself to us in just the way we desire. Sometimes you’re out in the woods doing some business with God about your cocaine addiction and something like a jolt of electricity runs through our body and we are set free. A taste of the rule and reign of God, resurrection life, the future coming kingdom leaking into the here and now. Sometimes your small group prays for you and when you get your MRI results back, the tumor is gone. A sign of the Kingdom, a glimpse of the King’s power and favor. Sometimes your sister who has been off the radar for years calls up and says, why don’t you let mom come stay with me for a few months - you could use the break, and I could use the time to reconnect with her. Hallelujah! Sometimes you come home from the unemployment office and there’s a message from your old employer telling you they want to bring you back, and with a raise. There is a God!

But even though this is how the Kingdom sometimes reveals itself - and more regularly than we might imagine - it is not the primary way the Kingdom of God brings transformation to the face of the earth.

Consider what this parable is saying. Notice some of the key elements. A farmer sowing seeds. A soil into which the seeds are planted. Seeds that are God’s word. Soil that once it receives God’s word, multiplies.

If you are a Hebrew person familiar with the scriptures when Jesus tells this story, your mind goes to another story, the story we started with. The farmer brings to mind the story about the first farmer, who is God himself, who creates a land that brings forth vegetation that brings forth more vegetation. The soil brings to mind a story about a man named “soil”. That is, Adam, whose name is taken from adama, the Hebrew word for soil. Human from humus. The multiplication of the crop brings to mind the first command given to the first humans: “Be fruitful. Multiply.”

And then there is this talk of the resistance to the farmer’s work, and we remember what has gotten us to this place in the first place. The first creation has come under the influence of the kingdom of darkness because we - the image bearers in the creation - welcomed the word of one who was not God, and consequently the creation itself has come under curse, corruption of beauty, disruption of Shalom.

And as these connections weave together, it dawns on us.

When Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God coming, he’s talking about creation happening again. Creation itself being restored, renewed, redeemed, starting with the image-bearers.

And just as the old creation was a process - night, day, night, day, God making the earth a temple in which he can dwell - the new creation is the same kind of process. God doesn’t replace the old. He invades the old and incorporates it into the new. Because, of course, the old was blessed, good, and the curse has not undone that blessing - it has only choked the life out of it. So he doesn’t do away with the old creation - he restores, renews, transforms it. Like a farmer sowing seeds.

Spiritual growth is a process involving the undoing of the choke hold of the kingdom of darkness as it gives way to embrace and sweet-breath kiss of the kingdom of God. Which is why it starts with disruption. Like a farmer sowing seeds.

It starts with God himself invading humanity in the incarnation. Words that land with disruption: “Greetings, you who are highly favored...!” Mary, of course, was troubled. God’s word is disruptive. But she receives the word, welcomes it in. “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me according to your word.”

There is a cooperation between the soil and the seed that leads to the growth of the kingdom. There is mystery in it, sure, but the one thing we know is that the seed must be received by the soil.

A seed planted inside a woman, and the new creation is born. The word made flesh, Jesus, the firstborn of a new creation. Like a farmer sowing seeds.

Of course, we aren't actually just dirt. We're carbon based life-forms. And as a result, disruption doesn't always feel good on the front end. (It didn't for Mary, no doubt...)

Ever said to yourself:

yes, I want to get healthy.

yes, I want to get in shape.

yes, I want to learn.

yes, I want to become great at this or that.

You've just signed up for pain, haven’t you...?

This is how growth happens for carbon based life forms.

Disruption when the muscle breaks down allows for new strength to be formed.

Disruption when a baby forms in the body, exits the womb, enters the family...

It’s the same with spiritual growth. Disruption when the seed enters the soil. Disruption when the seed takes root. Disruption when the shoot pokes out. You can't have growth without disruption. So the question for us is: Will we welcome disruption for the sake of new creation?

Sometimes the seed comes in the form of a revelation about who we are or who God is or what the world is like. How do I let myself be disrupted by making room for that truth in my understanding of myself, of the world, of God for that truth?

Everything was just fine until...and now what I am going to do about that?

Sometimes the seed comes in the form of a person or situation that inconveniences you. How do I let myself be disrupted by making room for this person or situation in my life?

Is God revealing himself and his kingdom to me through so & so - then how do I open myself up to them? [esp. spouse, children]

Always the seeds come in the form of an invitation. Will I let my status quo be disrupted in order to make room for the seed?

By the way, we recognize invitations by the newly felt need to decide one way or the other. Which is always disruptive, isn’t it? God’s invitations are seeds, looking for a home. Not just in you, but in the old creation through you. The fate of the universe is riding on humanity's response. Which is how it's been from the beginning, after all. The good news is that Jesus already responded on our behalf, now all of our responses are a participation in an already certain outcome.

In this parable, the word for the crop coming up out of the ground is the same as the word for rising from the dead, for resurrection. Remember when Jesus said that he was like a kernel of wheat that had to fall into the ground and die before multiplication could come? Well, he has. And now his new creation life is ready to burst forth in resurrection in the soil of all our lives as we hear his words and trust them.

[Personal experience with disruption, God's grace meeting me in midst of struggle with headache...]

Practical Tips:

1. RSVP with a Yes.

Say yes to an inconvenient invitation from God. Especially one that might disrupt your life.

Maybe it’s to serve in a ministry. Or take a risk. Or change a habit. Or practice a spiritual discipline. Or give. Or bless someone. Or forgive someone.

The seed God wants to plant won’t take root and grow until you welcome it, make room for it, let it disrupt your life.

2. Invite God to a Tilling Party.

Invite God to till your soil if you’ve gotten suspiciously comfortable. There’s no growth without disruption, after all. And without growth, there is no new creation, for you or for the rest of the world.

3. Let Your Bed Stay Lumpy.

With a friend, examine a disrupted part of your life for a seed, and receive it.

Where do you have pain, frustration, confusion, hurt, overwhelmed feelings, struggles, fears? Especially where it’s most pronounced right now. There may well be a seed of God’s word trying to work its way into your soil through that pain or struggle. And God’s word is very likely the opposite of the word that is the loudest in that part of your life. Just like in the darkness the word was light. Just like for Mary trembling in fear and unworthiness before the angel, the word was “you are highly favored.” Just like for me in the “I can do this, I can beat this thing or die trying,” the word was “When you reach your end, give it to me - I’ve already let it kill me so you can live.”

Anyway, once you’ve identified the disrupted part of your life where you think a seed might be present, share the disruption with a brother or sister in Christ so that they can speak to you the word God wants to speak to you. Then, in prayer, say yes to the thing God is saying to you.