Sunday, September 27, 2015

Courage of Vulnerability - Mark 9,

References and quotes of Brené Brown come from her interview with Krista Tippett as publicized by OnBeing.

Today’s sermon is about having courage to be vulnerable.
An appropriate topic on what is marked as evangelism Sunday.
Does evangelism require vulnerability?  

On this evangelism Sunday, our goal was not to invite a bunch of people to church--
I’m not really sure that’s what evangelism is really about..

But on this Evangelism Sunday I want to spend a little time helping us to prepare better for inviting a bunch of people to church beginning in October.

What does it take to invite people to church?
Courage and a willingness to be vulnerable?

The conversation to invite is really simple:
hey my church is really important to me, you are important to me, would you come to church with me one sunday in October?

this may be really easy for some of you,
But for others it may be as terrifying as it was for me to ask Nikki to the prom in High School.
Nikki the star goalie on the girls soccer team.
I would see her every day at soccer practice and wanted to talk to her so badly!
I didn’t even know if she knew who I was really...I would think about calling her.
dial the number---hang up
dial the number--hang up
dial the number--it’s ringing--hang up.

Who knows what I’m talking about--
that may be what it’s like to invite some folks to church for some of you,
no matter how well you know the person because..

well, churches are kind of weird…
and the people who go to our church, may not be the people you would choose to hang out with all the time, but for some strange reason you’re all here together…
and the pastor---who knows what he’s going to do or say when my guest comes, and he’s kind of a goofball…
and what if the person hears me sing,
and I know they won’t be singing because I’m sure they don’t know any of our music here..
Oh boy…
Let’s just forget it
Keep it 100 in october….more like keep it 50, that is fine. we can do that.

But, then again, I do love my church,
and we really care well for one another.
we’re pretty open to new people and new ideas, so that’s cool.
And, besides, this is God stuff we’re’s pretty important.
So maybe I should invite…

So it goes:

If it’s worth it to you,
it’s probably worth it to someone else.
But, what if they go to another church?
Well, that doesn’t mean they can’t come worship with you for one sunday, does it?

Plus guess, what percentage of people in Jackson County identify as having no church affiliation...what would you guess?
according to a 2010 census, 62% That is almost 38000 people
This is up from 24000 people in 2000.
38000 people with no religious affiliation--
can we get 25 of 38000 of them to come to help us reach our goal in october….?
We’ll see.

But, I will is risky.
Because we have to become vulnerable,
and we expose ourselves to potentially being shamed.
Vulnerability and Shame--not your typical fire em up to go out and invite type of sermon.

But, really, if you put yourself out there, and not just to invite people to church, but put yourself out there for become vulnerable, and you risk being shamed.  
Is it worth it?

After this lengthy preamble, let’s have a short conversation about Shame and Vulnerability, based on the work of Social Worker Dr. Brene Brown,
SLIDE: Brown

whose Ted Talk on the topic has been viewed over 6 million times.  
Dr. Brown is finding through her research that our struggles, our moments of vulnerability, our times of shame make us who we are…
Said another way by Kelly Clarkson…
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Who wants to sing it!?

How do we react to these words.

What comes to mind when you think Shame?

-- SLIDE: Shame

When it comes to talking about "shame," it seems like people have one of two responses: “I don't know what you're talking about, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't have anything to do with me,
or I know exactly what you're talking about and I don't want to discuss it with you.”

Dr. Brown says shame drives two primary streams in our head:
I’m not good enough; or
Who do you think you are to shame me?
She says Shames survival is based on us not talking about it, so it’s done everything it can do to make it unspeakable.

We see what happens when others are made to feel shame.  
Shame on you!
You ought to be ashamed of yourself!
Maybe we’re quick to sling the mud.

But, Shame isn’t anything any of us pursue.  
And, if we have enough courage to put ourselves out there, people may readily shame us no matter how hard we try or what good we do.

So why risk it?  Why risk being shamed? WHy risk being vulnerable?  

What about Vulnerability?
How do you think about vulnerability?  
Or when was a time you felt vulnerable?
Some answers people give are things like:
sitting with my wife who has Stage III breast cancer and trying to make plans for our children,
my first date after my divorce,
saying I love you first,
asking for a raise,
sending my child to school... knowing how excited he is about [tryouts] and how much he wants to make [the team] and encouraging him and supporting him and knowing that's not going to happen.

Dr Brown’s research was driven by a concept she picked up in a Prayer book which talked about loving God with my whole heart.  
She asked, what makes someone able to love wholeheartedly--love god with our whole hearts, love others with our wholeheart.
She was looking at people who really seem to love with their whole heart, even when they’re getting hurt, they are loving with their whole heart. Kind of like Jesus

And she assumed these were people who had “never chipped a nail, no stretch marks, no struggles.  
But she found they were people like everyone else--there weren’t fewer divorces or bankruptcies or history of trauma or addiction among the whole hearted lovers.  

But she saw characteristics.
People who had trouble loving whole heartedly were people who exhibited:
Perfectionism, judgment, exhaustion as a status symbol, productivity as self-worth, always wondering: what do people think? performing, proving, on a quest for certainty.

Are any of us guided by those things? I know I am.

And Dr. Brown says that those who strive for those characteristics tend to be less hopeful.

And on the wholehearted side--those who were truly loving--major characteristics they displayed--they gave themselves permission to rest, to play, and to be creative.

and then she noticed something more…
Those who were able to love wholeheartedly, were people who had learned to and become willing to put themselves in situations of vulnerability.
who had courage to take risks.  

To the point that Dr. Brown says “our capacity for wholeheartedness can never be greater than our willingness to be broken-hearted!”
She looked at “11,000 pieces of data, and couldn’t find a single example of courage, moral courage, spiritual courage, leadership courage, relational courage, not a single example of courage that was not born completely of vulnerability.”

These were a more hopeful people
Dr Brown reiterated what has been said before, ‘struggle is a function of hope.”

Who do you know who is daring?
When have you been daring?  

I think there's something incredibly brave and daring about just showing up in places, because it’s easy to just hide, and protect.
There is something daring about putting your ideas out there -- raising your hand at a PTO meeting, submitting an opinion article for the Commerce News, displaying your art in a local restaurant, inviting someone to church.
“Whatever your daring is, however you're trying to show up, there's something incredibly contagious and powerful about it. It makes the people around us a little bit braver and it helps us get clearer on the ideals and values that guide our lives.”
We don’t have to do an extensive search in the Christian faith story to see how the power of vulnerability is put on display.

Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, is one who loved wholeheartedly.

And it seems like at the core of Jesus’ path was vulnerability,
a willingness to be subjected to significant shaming.

But, disciples were unable to see how this was beneficial to anyone or why this was even necessary….which is very similar to how many if not most Christians see Jesus today.
We tend to focus more on his victory and ability to conquer death than on the path of vulnerability that lead him to those lofty places.

IN Jesus’s time and even in ours, there nothing more potentially shameful than the vulnerable path Jesus was to take.
In the gospel of Mark he predicts this shameful path of vulnerability Three times.
And after each prediction, disciples just don’t seem to get it.
The first prediction:
‘The Son of Man will undergo great suffering, and be rejected, and they will kill him, and after three days, will rise again.’
A path of vulnerability...
Response of disciples:
Peter rebukes Jesus!  “That will not happen!”

The Second prediction:
‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.’
A path of vulnerability…
Response: disciples argue about who will be the greatest!

The third prediction:
‘The Son of Man will be handed over, they will mock him, and flog him, and kill him, and after three days, he will rise again.’
A path of  vulnerability…
Response: disciples request to be at his right and and his left hand,
and Jesus says, do you know what you are asking? Will you undergo the same baptism I am to undergo?  

It’s so hard to get this message about the necessary, inevitable path of Christian discipleship, which is vulnerability and potential subjection to shame and the pain that comes with that.
This is the good news of the gospel!  This is what evangelism is all about!
This is Foolishness to some, isn’t it.  And scandalous for others!
It was back then, and it still is today.

But we have to remember, on the other side of the vulnerability, shame, and pain, is life. Christ was resurrected.
His life had meaning as a result of his willingness to take the path of vulnerability.  
"Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experience."

Dr. Brown observes something we may all relate to as I come to a close:
she says: “The most beautiful things I look back on in my life are coming out from underneath things I didn't know I could get out from underneath. You know, those moments when I look back in my life and think, God, those moments that made me were moments of struggle.”

The moments that make us are moments of struggle.
When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, shame and struggle may come as a result, but those moments of struggle can teach us to love and forgive.
And we can live into hope.

Let us pray
  • Merciful God, in your son Jesus you show the power in the path of vulnerability.  Our world is one where there is much need and suffering, and you show the way for your followers: to be vulnerable for the sake of the most vulnerable.  Give us the courage to move past our own fears in order to live into hope, and to share your love, for the sake of your kingdom.  
  • Amen.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Calling of Delight - Greg Boyle, Mark 6:34,, 9:42-50

[Quotes from Fr. Greg Boyle come from an interview with Krista Tippett as publicized on OnBeing]

In 1986, the Catholic Order the Society of Jesus, aka the Jesuits placed Father Greg Boyle in the Dolores Mission.  In other words, Fr. Boyle was being sent to the poorest parish in the city, which had the highest concentration of gang activity in the world at that time.

We are in a season of learning from teachers who live into the spirit of Jesus’ messages in any number of ways.
SLIDE: Today’s teacher - Fr. Greg Boyle.
His book, Tattoos on the Heart, tells some of his reflections and experiences working with youth who come from situations hard to imagine.
like a kid whose father left the home on his sixth birthday. They were all waiting for his dad to come home to light the candles and he never showed up.
There's drug and violence and incarceration in these kids' families.
Kids who've ceased to care.

In the light of Father Boyle’s work with young people, I was reflecting on this challenging passage from Mark.
Jesus doesn’t hold back when talking about what happens if anyone causes a little one to stumble.  
The phrase “cause to stumble” comes from the greek Scandalizo - like our word scandelous.  
I’m bringing the heat when I bring out the Biblical greek!  
Biblical greek can take on a variety of meanings given the context.  And one meaning of “cause to stumble” is, to quite literally put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall.  

Life is full of obstacles--so many things that can cause us to trip and fall.  

What does it mean to put obstacles in the way to those Jesus called the little ones, the least of these, those most vulnerable in society…

Who are these little ones?
Certainly the plight of refugees fleeing desperate situations has been brought to our attention in recent weeks--never has the world experienced such a displacement of people fleeing war, and unihabitable lands due in part to explotation and climate change.
It’s a terrible situation, some respond by putting up barrier, we need to erect huge walls over all kinds of borders, keep them out.  

Jesus offers a different message. The scripture says, Jesus saw the great crowd, and he wasn’t overwhelmed.
He didn’t throw up his hands and say what can I do?  He didn’t run!  He didn’t propose building a big wall - scandelous -

Scripture says, he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  
SLIDE: Compassion - from one of my favorite greek words - splanchnizomai -- my password for everything so go ahead and write it down!
Literally, to be moved as to one’s bowels (Touch your belly)- there was thought to be the seat of love and pity.
Compassion - the passion of the Christ - to suffer with.  
That’s what we all felt when we saw the image of that little 3 year old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, washed up to shore.  
We felt it deep inside---
Compassion for the parents, for all who resort to such measures

And what do we do with that feeling?  

I think Father Boyle has some helpful words for us from his work with gang youth--lost youth,
sheep without a shepherd

He talks about three things:
compassion, the importance of relationship, and hope

First, compassion:
Father Boyle was inspired to ministry by the words of St. Ignatius, who says very simply,
"See Jesus standing in the lowly place."
See Jesus standing in the lowly place..and stand there with him.
It's about walking with Jesus and being a companion.
Father Boyle learns how to be compassionate by standing with kids like Jose:
Jose tells his story like this:
"You know, I guess you could say that my mom and me, we didn't get along so good.
I guess I was six when she looked at me and she said, 'Why don't you just kill yourself? You're such a burden to me.'"
Usually when Jose says this his audience reacts like you did, and he says, Yeah and it sounds a lot worser in spanish!

“I guess I was nine when my mom drove me down to the deepest part of Baja California, and she walked me up to an orphanage and said, 'I found this kid.'”
He was there about 90 days before his grandmother could find out where his mother had dumped him.
“[My grandmother] came and rescued me.”
Growing up
“My mom beat me. I had to wear three T-shirts to school every day.”
When Jose tells his story he kind of loses the battle with his own tears a little bit.
“I wore three T-shirts well into my adult years because I was ashamed of my wounds. I didn't want anybody to see them.
But now my wounds are my friends. I welcome my wounds.
I run my fingers over my wounds.”
You see, now Jose is working to help other youth who’ve gone through hard times and he sees it this way, "How can I help the wounded if I don't welcome my own wounds?"
Most people see Jose, may initially put him in a box, and write him off as a detriment to society, basically put a stumbling block between themselves and him, “because we're so inclined to judge this kid who went to prison, is tattooed, and is a gang member, and homeless, and a heroine addict.”
But when we hear his story, we realize he was never seeking anything when he ended up in those places. He was always fleeing his own story.
Father Boyle says it’s moving past judgement to a place of openness,  to listening to stories, and welcoming.

And more, The measure of our compassion lies not in our service of those on the margins but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with those we feel called to serve.
SLIDE: Kinship.
We can speculate about strangers all day long,
but Jesus calls us to relationships of kinship, and in those relationships, that's where we discover God.
Father Boyle says it’s not so much about helping others--but a common calling to delight in one another-- delight that comes from relationships with those most different.
This is what he calls mutuality in relationship.
Not, this distance between helper and the one being helped, but that there is something mutually beneficial in any relationship, no matter how foriegn it may seem.

Father Greg Boyle calls the youth he works with homies, which means friends.
They call him Father G:

When speaking of kinship he tells about an encounter with Louie when he’d just turned 18.
He describes Louie’s as “kind of a difficult kid.
He's exasperating. he's whiny.”
He works in one of our shops, “although work may be too strong a verb,” Says father boyle.

It’s not unusual for the homies to ask Father Boyle on the street or in his office for a blessing.
They never say, "Father, may I have your blessing?"
They always say, "Hey, G, give me a bless, yeah?"
So Louie, is talking to Fr. Boyle, complaining about something. Finally, he says, "Hey, G, give me a bless, yeah?"
“Sure,” He says.  So Louie comes around, he knows the drill... He bows his head, and Father Boyle puts his hands on his shoulder. His birthday had been two days before, so it gave him an opportunity to say something to Louie:
“You know, Louie, I'm proud to know you. My life is richer because you came into it. When you were born, the world became a better place. And I'm proud to call you my son, even though," — and he says, I don't know why I decided to add this part — "at times you can really be a huge pain in the ass."
And Louie looks up at Fr. Boyle, smiles and says, "The feeling's mutual."
Suddenly — kinship--that's where the place of delight is.
By blessing Louie, maybe he returned Louie to himself, but, Father Boyle says there is no doubt that Louise returned him to his true self.
In ministry of mutuality, we’re not the great healer and that desperate person over there is in need of our exquisite healing.

In kinship, we're not this delivery system dropping off food at the food bank.

In Relationship, we are called to bridge the distance that exists between us--to remove the stumbling block that would separate us.

This church has many who serve others and understand well the blessing that is received in that service because of relationship.  
The session and others are exploring ways this church can be a blessing and receive blessings in the community,
one concept is mission-in-a-mile, which is to look at what is within a mile radius of the church campus -- The schools, the food bank, low income housing, the boys and girls club.
-- see how to get plugged in through ministries of caring and relationships.
It is awesome to see how this church is responding to the challenge of raising money for the Boys and girls club--but equally, more important? is volunteering there and forming relationships with some of the boys and girls there.  
SLIDE: Father Boyle says, “The delight in mutuality came by way of knowing that the day won't ever come when I am as holy as the people I'm called to serve,
that the day won't ever come when I have more courage or am more noble or am closer to God than this 16-year-old gang member I’m sitting with on his porch.”
“Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.” Jesus says.
Lastly, we come to hope.
Father Greg Boyle  
says his ministry of compassion and kinship is to infuse young people with hope, even when it seems that hope is foreign.

As you can imagine: There's so much grief and so much heartbreak in the kids he works with...just as there can be found in so many places.

Kids who can't imagine a future for themselves.
Kids who aren't seeking anything when they join a gang.
They're always fleeing something, always, without exception.
Sheep without a shepherd.  Little ones stumbling left and right.  
Father Boyle calls it a lethal absence of hope.
it's hard to imagine where they would draw hope from, and the hopelessness is lethal.
One of the ways the Dolores mission offers hope--jobs.
We know so well much of our self worth comes from our jobs.  
Employing the young people no one else will employ.
The mission first formed a job employment referral center, trying to find felony-friendly employers, but not many were willing to hire these youth.
They couldn't wait. The demand was so huge, and gang members kept saying, “If only we had jobs.”
SLIDE: So they started Homeboy Bakery in 1992.
And a month later, Homeboy Tortillas.
Eventually it became the highfalutin Homeboy Industries: Homeboy Bakery, Homeboy Silk Screen,  Homegirl CafĂ© Homeboy Maintenance, Homeboy/Homegirl Merchandise,.
It’s not just to have a paycheck, it’s about community that trumps gangs.
Gang members work along other members of opposing gangs, and they start to get along.
The motto,  on their T-shirts, is "Nothing Stops a Bullet Like a Job."
When Jesus saw the crowd he had compassion.
A ministry of compassion, of tearing down stumbling blocks requires sacrifice and is hard work.
Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.
Father Boyle says nothing has brought him
“more life, more joy than standing with Jesus, along with standing in the lowly place;
standing with the easily despised and the readily left out;
with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop;
with the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away.
Standing there with them brings fullness in life.
In some ways, hearing about Father Boyle and the resilience of the youth he’s working with is inspiring;
and in some ways it can make you feel bad, or it makes me feel bad I don’t have the courage to do more!

But the good news is that Jesus doesn’t give up on us
We are and we can continue to be salt.
And let us look forward to experiencing the fullness in life when we stand with others in the lowly places through ministries of hope and compassion that we are doing now, and that we can only dream of doing in the not too far off future.
In the name of the father son and holy spirit. Amen.