Who is this, that sends us out?
Maple Grove UMC
August 8, 2021
Rev. Dr. Brenda Buckwell – Living Streams Flowing Water
I have spent some extended time recently with my children and grandchildren. When I am with them my mind can easily go to stories like Thomas the Train, The Little Engine that Could or perhaps more challenging stories of the ugly duckling, beauty and the beast, The Princess and the Frog.
These more challenging stories, the ugly duckling, beauty and the beast, The Princess and the Frog; are invitations to look beyond the surface. Things are not simply as they appear. A cursory, surface, or presumptive glance could lead the viewer to miss out on the fullness of beauty and love of the stories.
Or if we look toward real life: Simone Biles from the Olympics. When the news broke that she would not be completing and had pulled out, the haters tweeted, … But when the real story came out, we learned a lot about the twisties and mental health. She was courageous! Not an ugly duckling but a true beauty.
It is so easy to have a presumptive perspective when seeing things, people, and events. Do you know, according to psychological works it takes us 6 seconds to make our minds up about strangers? Do we like what they wear? Is their voice soothing? We size them up unconsciously if they are someone we would like to know or not.
When have you, when have I looked upon another and stayed with your first glance of perspective and not delved deeper into the true person?
This morning we hear of some hometown children, now grown into adults who are still perceiving the other from their childhood pettiness. In our Gospel reading from Mark, we hear how Jesus is being judged by historic perceptions. They are not questioning his teachings or miracles. They are questioning who he thinks he is after going off on tour and coming back appearing to be at it were for his britches. There is not even enough respect to say he is his father’s son but chide him saying he is a Mama’s boy; he is Mary’s boy.
The folks in Nazareth are viewing Jesus with historic, earthly, or surface eyes; only identifying him through the eyes of private jealousy or prejudgment.
AND THIS BLINDNESS, when we trap others in our own expectations, about how the other should behave, what the other can and cannot do or be keeps the other from being his or her most authentic, God-gifted truest self.
The Gospel of Mark is all about helping the reading discovery the trust identity of Jesus. The readers encounter questions very quickly 1:27, 2:17, 4:41 and now here in chapter 6
Mark is not so interested as to what the disciples did when Jesus sent them out, but the necessary character needed by and formed in the disciples that are sent out to mission by Jesus.
Jesus invested the disciples with his authority and a list of instructions:
Student from my Introduction to Spiritual Formation Class. His story is shared here with his permission. (See attached)
He was offering God’s presence of grace, compassion and truly seeing her as God sees her.
Disciples are to go to on mission to neighbors near and around the world. Totally dependent upon God’s provisions, which is to be provided by the generosity of others.
Mark has Jesus preparing the disciples for mission after his death and resurrection.
The truth of humanity is that we still are influenced by the words, standards, roles, of the world.
Parents often struggle to experience their grown children is they are truly gifted to be. And the reverse is often true – adult children often struggle to break their childhood imagine of who the parent is.
Assumptions are often made about:
1. An answer to the question “With what lens do you view Jesus?” “Through what lens do you view others?”
Mark is inviting us to trust Jesus’ truest identity, not from our learned Bible stories of our youth, but of our adult formational experiences of how God’s love.
What is a formational experience of God’s love?
The power and presence of God that literally transforms our inner character, mannerisms, motivations, and attributes of our heart more and more into Christlikeness, (gift of the spirit) so that we view life – others, self, God through the lens of Jesus’ transfiguration, life-changing, presence and love born upon the cross.
The definition of Spiritual Formation that I teach in all my classes and use with my clients is from the late Robert Mulholland, Jr. His book Shaped by the Word. Upper Room books. Page 25.
“Christian Spiritual Formation is the process of being more nearly conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.” The student’s story encompasses both clauses of this definition. From his fasting he clearly heard God – “Stop at Bob Evans. Eat now.” And as he gave think for his heart to think – I love the way he said that! He lived the second clause of the definition – “For the sake of others” as he conversed with the waitress.
Our faith, beliefs, theology is to be lived in everyday encounters with others, self, and God.
No longer may we view the Ugly Duckling from a surface presentation but seek to gaze beyond the surface to see the beauty of Christ indwelling presence in the other.
May it be so as we walk humbly, seek justice, and share God’s mercy and love with others.
Maple Grove UMC
August 8, 2021
Yesterday evening, I was driving by myself. I happened to pass a Bob Evans Restaurant. I noticed the time was about 7:30 pm. It was after 6:30 pm, the Fasting expiration time for my Tuesday’s Rule of Life. At that moment, the hunger pains flared, triggering - Go into Bob Evans, go now, do not wait and drive anymore. No other customers were in the restaurant. A friendly waitress, whom you could tell was an experienced seasoned professional, came and took my order. After the practice of Fasting for the Rule of Life, I have learned having my first meal be a lighter meal rather than a heavier one works better for me. So, I ordered breakfast for dinner, eggs sunny side up. When the nice waitress served my meal, she said, “I am so sorry. One of the sunny-side-up yolks broke open a bit. Would you like me to have your meal remade?”
I paused for a moment. My heart was thinking, why would she believe the meal needed to be remade? And the way she said it, I could tell she was genuinely feeling sorry, but for what? An excellent-looking sunny round yolk with merely a tiny insignificant trickle. How small, but somehow big to her? But, why? Then that audible voice, that is not audible, but oh so audible, I heard, “She has been yelled at and mistreated many times by customers for, yes, a small, cracked yolk. Look in her eyes.”
After realizing my pause was starting to appear strange, I turned towards her looking up at her eyes, “No. You kidding, please, it is perfect! I am sorry for my pause. I wasn’t even considering whether I wanted the meal remade. Truth is, my pause or hesitation was because I was thinking about you felt a tiny cracked yolk would require a whole new meal to be remade for me. May I ask you, do people actually make you take the meal back for a new meal if the yolk is not just perfect every time?”. She said, “All the time. So many times a day. All-day long. The egg can be remade; the toughest part is watching how upset, so many people get, even getting so cruel, if their egg yolk is not perfectly round. Even when remade, I watch them let it ruin their entire time while here, even when with children.” I want to emphasize; she was not speaking in an ill will manner or tone of her customers, not at all. She was conveying in her tone, through her verbals and non-verbals, that she clearly and sincerely was more concerned about them (the upset customer) and still cared about their well-being long after they had left the restaurant. I looked at her, and I said, “You’re a good person. I am so sorry to hear. And know, I hear you, and I can see you genuinely still care about them. I was a waiter years ago, so I know what it can mean. Please know I see you. More importantly, He sees you….”
That immediately opened and led to a larger, more meaningful, purposeful conversation about the spiritual discipline of hospitality, other spiritual disciplines, treatment of strangers, and our calling as humanity for God, self, and others. She smiled after a lengthy discussion, and then she left me to finish my meal (actually start it). As I was about to leave, I requested my bill. She said, “There is no bill for you, please; your meal is on me. Our conversation is what I so needed to hear and experience. This was a blessing. It is my way of saying thank you.” Then a prayer of thanksgiving is appropriate at that moment. I was surprised, not ever expecting or even thought of her paying for my meal. I then snuck back and placed the estimated cost of the meal on the table plus a good tip, as her total tip for her graciousness and hospitality.
Win-Win for all, with the integration of the Spiritual Disciplines for Spiritual Formation by utilizing the knowledge grounded in and from our personal experience in our Rule of Life and this class. The individual practice moving outwardly “integrating and moving from individual to corporate in practices; Not how I, but how do we notice” and being mindful of assessing and knowing “when is the proper time to disclose the information about a practice” while seeking and “looking beyond the surface for the hidden wholeness of God”, for God is everywhere in the details of our lives (PPT).
No, it was not in a church setting or a structured small group; it was in a Bob Evans. But that is where it happened. And similarly where it has been happening. And that is apparently where it is meant to happen, too. It was not me; it is God. We corporately walked away feeling better, blessed, and more hopeful by the experience. Interestingly, this kind of interaction has been happening quite often lately over the past several months. I do not believe in coincidences.