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..
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 doing..it’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….?
But, I will admit...it 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 anything...you 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,
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.