Gotta tend the earth if you want a rose

Penance as guilt is just what our monkey minds want.  The part of our brain stem that focuses on survival and preservation of the status quo often gets its way by imposing anxiety and fear, and guilt just piles on to its agenda.  But repentance — the ultimate aim of “doing penance” — is about taking action. The word literally means to “turn around,” to “head in a new (right) direction.”  Guilt, though, feeds on our insecurities and need to blame and, left unchecked, leads us to despair.  It is the root of thinking that we’re not good enough, that we can’t do anything to solve a larger problem that causes the guilt, and so leads to inaction — the exact opposite of repentance.

(This is a teaser for our Kairos Community gathering Sunday at 4 pm.  We're talking about moving beyond guilt and inaction to recognizing injustice and doing something.  Learn more at http://www.liveservegrow.info/?p=1435  You can join us online or in person. We'd love to see you.)


Putting down the net

Luke 5:1-11

I know that just dropping our nets to follow Jesus seems awfully hard. We have families, jobs, responsibilities. But our fear of the all-or-nothing may be unfounded. In fact, it may be a mechanism to reduce our own responsibility..."I can't do it all, so why do anything."

I note two things about Jesus' approach to Peter and company. First, their calling here is evolutionary, not revolutionary. They are to use their aptitude and experience fishing to "catch" people. And while they "drop their nets" their needs are met and they are not too far from family -- at one point in their travels Jesus heals Peter's mother-in-law, so they are nearby or their families travel with them.

Second, they are not called to give up but to expand their lives into something much bigger. Yes, Peter stops "fishing," but he is called into a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a witness to history, and given the gift of seeing what God is up to first-hand. The Peter who sat in the boat couldn't have imagined public speaking; and by Acts he's preaching to and converting thousands.

This, I think, is what Jesus offers us: He wants to use our talents and gifts (God-given as they are) for a bigger purpose, and he wants to release the potential in us. That is scary because we are accustomed to the safety of the ways we have already defined to use our gifts and potential. But we can trust that God can accomplish more in us, if we stop holding on to what is safe and known and just follow.


Imitating Christ's humility

Tommorrow night at Kairos Community our focus will be “Imitating Christ’s humility,” drawing on Paul’s beautiful description of Jesus’ emptying himself for us, taking the form of a slave, in Philippians 2. We’ll look at how our response to Jesus’ kenosis (emptying) plays out on the global stage (as in aid to Haiti and Africa) and how we might express similar solidarity with the poor and marginalized. I've posted the outline on our website. Let me know what you think.

Are you a hunter or a farmer?

Marketing guru Seth Godin has a great post about the difference between hunters and farmers. Each has a specific way of looking at the world.
"Farmers spend time sweating the details, worrying about the weather, making smart choices about seeds and breeding and working hard to avoid a bad crop. Hunters, on the other hand, have long periods of distracted noticing interrupted by brief moments of frenzied panic," Seth says.
Seth's post works out some implications for marketers and educators. I think his analysis speaks to us in the faith community, as well.

In its institutional form, the church would lean toward the farming side. And not just metaphorically, even though Jesus used a lot of agricultural images talking to people who grew olives and figs, tended sheep, and netted fish.

The institution's role is to plant the seed of the Gospel and be concerned with ensuring a continued crop of new believers.  It has to worry about the cultural weather and make smart choices about the strategies and tactics it will use to do so. That is a holy and valuable work for the kingdom, and I support it.

As Seth notes, it's not crazy to think that not everyone approaches their faith as a farmer.  Institutions tend to forge hammers and then start looking at everyone and everything as a nail.  Seth uses an example from education -- "medicating kids who might be better at hunting so that they can sit quietly in a school designed to teach farming doesn't make a lot of sense" -- but governments, non-profits and churches do the same.

There are many people who approach faith and their relationship with the Holy as hunters (a better term than seekers, I think, because most people I know in this category are driven in this regard).  We scan our environment looking for the places and people and events in which the Spirit is active, not just for truths and ideas about God.  When we find those spaces we can drop everything to "pounce" -- to explore what the Spirit is up to and join in.  We may not be as good at tilling the fields of religious life, listening to sermons waiting for God to speak (which Brian McLaren points out is a spiritual discipline), serving on committees, perpetuating institutions.

The question is: Does the church look at "hunters" as a problem or an opportunity?

It occurs to me that this is what we are trying to do at Kairos Community.  We're trying hard to be open to those who are watching and waiting and noticing and want to embrace the movements of the Spirit even if they don't buy the whole package.  We serve side by side, people who "believe" and those who balk, and share our journeys and honor those that are not explicitly Christian as well as those that are. We're hunters and farmers. And we want to sharpen the hunter skills, to foster our awareness of how God is working in and around us every day, and learn to appreciate those moments of distracted noticing and movements of the Spirit amid daily life.

Many institutions are farmers. Think on these examples from Seth's post:
  • Farmers don't dislike technology. They dislike failure. Technology that works is a boon.
  • Farmers prefer productive meetings, hunters want to simply try stuff and see what happens.
  • Hunters want a high-stakes mission, farmers want to avoid epic failure.
  • A farmer often relies on other farmers in her peer group to be sure a purchase is riskless.
  • The last hundred years of our economy favored smart farmers. It seems as though the next hundred are going to belong to the persistent hunters able to stick with it for the long haul.
Which approach sounds like you? Is your faith journey a season in the fields or a quest? Does it combine both attributes? Does your faith community appreciate the strengths that you bring?


Amazing unbelief

Mark 6:1-6
‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him.

How powerful is our need to be right, to be superior!

Jesus has returned to his hometown preceded by rumors of his miraculous healings, authoritative teaching, his message of hope for the hopeless and sight for the blind. Hearing for themselves, his friends and neighbors dismiss him -- "Oh, it's just that Jesus, the one we know."

Hearing this story today I'm drawn to the power of my expectations to blind me to what is right in front of me. The Nazarenes saw only the regular guy from an ordinary family instead of the teacher who excited crowds and struck fear in the hearts of kings and priests. I, too, am often left looking for God in the extraordinary rather than sensing the Spirit at work in ordinary people in everyday life.

The miracle of Christ's incarnation points us to where God is at work -- with us, in history, among people, at the margins of society as well as the center. This is a dangerous place to look, because it takes away all of our excuses. "I don't know enough." "I'm not holy enough." "I can't (pray, teach, serve, love, etc...) very well." None of them cut it if God truly works here and now with people like us.

It's no wonder I sometimes expect God to be extraordinary -- it takes all the pressure and responsibility off of ordinary me! It's amazing to me that I have the power and lack of discernment to look right through all the love, mercy and power of God cloaked in flesh. Perhaps as amazing as his townspeople's unbelief was to Jesus himself.

God, though, is more patient with me than I am with myself. I don't need to have perfect vision or never look for God's mystery. Just that when I am standing looking up at the sky for God's revelation, I need to remind myself that God might as easily be walking down the street, or across the office, or even kneeling at my feet.