Some thoughts from the sermon, Part I: Mantaining the Vision

In about a week, I’ll be sharing the message at Fellowship Church.  If you live in Massachusetts, I hope you’ll stop in.  If you don’t, I hope you’ll consider viewing the service online.  (

Rather than posting the whole text of what I’m planning to say in one big entry, I’ve decided to carve it up this time around.  If you read it, I hope you’ll leave a comment or two.  Perhaps there’s a different way of looking at these issues, or some more thoughts you have on the topic.

Jesus’ followers do something that lots of us do. They get so wrapped up in their success that they forget what got them succesful in the first place.

Jesus amassed his followers by healing the sick. Jesus amassed his followers by loving everybody. But what starts to happen at this point is that his disciples seem to forget that. They seem to think they’ve grown past that. Jesus is approached by kids and the disciples try to divert them away. Then a blind man comes to Jesus for healing, and the disciples try to stop him. Then, this:

A good sort of summary of where they were at and how things are going is here:

Mark 10, 35-45

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

 36″What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
 37They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
 38″You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
 39″We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
 41When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

I’d submit that the problem was one of expectations. The disciples expected, in the early days that eventually they’d build enough of a following to not have to do the same boring things anymore. They wanted glamour. They wanted fame. They wanted to be Jesus’ entourage.

They expected that they could use healings, and even loving, as a way to establish power and prestige. They expected that they’d put there time in, and now they could move on to the important things. We see them here, as they begin to jockey for position and try to figure out whose the number one guy, who Jesus’ bff is. They are worse than a couple of preteens, they’re like an episode of survivor, forming their secret little alliances.

Most of the disciples, they’d been with Jesus for years by this point. They were involved in relationship with him. But they’d been in the world for even longer. And they had their expectations based on the way things in the world are:

They “new” that you put the grunt work in, and eventually you got to sit back while others did the grunt work. They “new” that if you positioned yourself carefully, you got the choice spot.

But Jesus had always told them the opposite of those things: he’d told them that the first shall be last, that we should long to be the servant, not the served. He told them that if you establish yourself by doing the hard work of loving and healing, once you’re established, you should keep loving, and keep healing. You don’t need to look very hard for it. Almost every time he speaks, Jesus recognizes that he is confounding our expectations. He tells us “The world says this, but the truth is that” Or “The saying goes this way, but the reality is that way.” Or “The tendency is to do one thing, but I want you to do the other.”

He speaks to the disciples expectations and he defies them.

And they were like you. And me. They had a choice.

What would be their own Lord? What would they worship? Would it be Jesus? Or would it be their expectations based on the way things had always been?

Because the throne inside our hearts is a narrow throne. And Jesus, he is a big king. There is not room for both our expectations about the world and Jesus. It’s one or the other.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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