Tell It Again
Tell your children about it in the years to come, and let your children tell their children. Pass the story down from generation to generation.
Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it?
My kids love to hear my adventure stories, like that time that I had to force an alligator to move out of my way during a trail run, or that time that I canoed across a lake during a thunderstorm with their grandpa. In fact, if I give them the choice to hear a story that I make up or one that they’ve already heard from my past… they usually choose the latter. Tell us that one again, Daddy!
Why do children love hearing the same stories about their parents over and over? Why do each one of us love telling the same stories over and over? Maybe it’s simply entertaining. Or maybe it goes deeper.
Perhaps when I tell these stories to my kids, something about my past affects something in their present. Daddy had a funny experience. That’s part of who we are. We’re a funny family.
Daddy had an exciting and scary moment. So that’s part of who we are. We’re adventurous! And because he didn’t die on that lake/with that alligator/on that bike ride, we’re here today. My kids may not even know it. But that that story, even though they weren’t there… somehow forms them now.
This is the what the mindset and practice among the Jewish people has been for centuries. Don’t ever forget to tell the stories! Don’t ever let them grow old! Let them be told in different ways, by different people, in different environments! But no matter what, don’t stop telling them. It’s what keeps our identity alive. It’s what reminds us of who we were… and in a mysterious way, it's what makes us who we are. The story of our past is the inspiration for our future.
It’s time to enter once again into the Great Story. We dive into a narrative of tension, heartbreak, betrayal, suffering, death, and darkness. It’s a story about Jesus and his disciples. And something about their past affects something about our present.
Tonight we remember the most influential meal in history, when Jesus shared dinner with his disciples in the upper room. Tomorrow we remember the suffering and death of Jesus. Saturday we remember the silence of heartbreak.
But that is not the whole story. What begins shrouded in darkness becomes a story of light. And so Sunday….. well, let’s simply say that forgiveness, newness, and joy are not far off.
This is a big story. And it’s the story that reminds us of who we are…. but over and over again, it also makes us who we are.
So, tell stories in the coming days among friends and family. Tell the story of the rabbi who willingly washed his disciples’ feet because there was no servant around. Tell the story of the one who said “forgive them” in the midst of unspeakable violence. Tell the story of a morning and a cave and a garden and the gardener.
Read the story. See yourself in the story. And then, tell your own story. What a weekend. Remember and celebrate well, friends.
Jesus, form me again through the story death and resurrection.
From the Heart to the Heart
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
I’m in the final sprint of a three year master’s degree at a seminary in California. During this season of my life, there are times when the stress levels and various responsibilities feel a bit like going deep sea diving but instead of an oxygen tank, your backpack is full of rocks. You feel me? We’ve all had those seasons.
A few months ago during a class on conflict and peacemaking (hello, irony), I was at the end of a long week with a major project deadline looming the next day. And to be honest, the syllabus requirements simply felt unreasonable. I’m not usually one to send emails when I’m stressed, but in a moment of weakness, I lost touch with my prefrontal cortex and shot a frustration email to my professor stating how unrealistic this particular assignment was.
About a half hour later Jesus got a hold of my spirit, whispering that I had just missed the mark, and reminding me that life was not going to end. So I sent a follow up email. This one was an honest confession of how stressed I had been, and how my original message wasn’t really about the assignment, but more about my inability to juggle everything in my life. I apologized for trying to transfer a burden onto her that wasn’t hers to bear.
I got an email back only a few minutes later.
Keith, I appreciate you so much, and I understand. Listen. If it comes from the heart (yours), it will go to the heart (mine). Trust your gut and let it flow.
Immediately, my soul was put at rest. What a response to create a sense of well-being between people. Words of affirmation, followed by an acknowledgement of understanding and cooperation. This is what the Jesus community can look like. From hearts.... to hearts.
Our culture is currently dominated by fear and separation. One byproduct is that these attitudes are working their way into the American church as well. People often find themselves talking past one another because what’s being said is coming out of a voice of frustration or fear rather than deeply from a heart of humility. But when we can share with gentle love and honesty, we can really get somewhere. That is, if we are willing to walk the way of Jesus.
Why is gentleness not seen as a higher value within the Christian community? It’s literally one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Why do we raise up strength and confidence more than gentleness and humility? Jesus is leading a revolution today, and it’s going to look a lot like humble, listening love.
Gentleness is learning to speak humbly from the heart, and learning to have soft enough hearts to receive from each other with humility. Let’s reclaim the ability to speak from and to the heart, rather than from combative opinions or fearful silence.
I still had hours of work to do that night to finish my research presentation. But the weight of it was different, because I had received not just a gentle response from my professor, but an assurance that I was being heard and that we were on the same team. What a gift she offered me! That little moment of grace was so emotionally impactful that I shared it with my wife Bethany, and while I worked she decided to turn the experience into a holy reminder that God will always do something good when we slow down enough to speak from our hearts to the hearts of others. So now these words hang in my office.
Who can you listen to better this week? Who can you be more gentle towards? Who can you be more vulnerable with? Keep moving toward heart to heart interaction. Trust God, trust your gut, and let it flow.
Jesus, soften my heart so that it can give and receive.
"What Was Your Takeaway?"
I do not call you servants that I own anymore. A servant does not know what his owner is doing. I call you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from My Father.
-Jesus, John 15:15
Then he looked at those around him and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Just imagine this scenario:
You’re a fifty year old woman and your daughter has traveled into town to spend the morning visiting with you. You go to a cafe and walk through some parks. It’s such a good day. You cherish the time together. The next day, you’re having coffee with one of your good friends and she asks about your time. You tell her what a good day it was. Then she says,
“I’m so glad to hear that! What was your takeaway?”
“Um….what do you mean?"
"I mean, what did you get out of it?"
"Well that’s kind of a strange question. I’m not sure how to answer. She’s my daughter. We just enjoyed our time together."
"Oh. Well what did you talk about most of the time?"
"I can’t even remember. A lot of things. Some small talk. And some of the time we were just together. I’m not sure you really understand how this all works.”
Would you respond similarly to those questions if you were the woman? I would too.
Yet it seems that when we speak of the relationship we have with Jesus, those are the sorts of questions we get used to asking ourselves and each other. Are we missing the point a bit?
We live in a world heavily influenced by the values of efficiency and productivity. We want everything that we do to accomplish something. It’s a part the American mindset.
But here’s the thing: we rarely think about time with friends and family that way. And according to the New Testament understanding, Jesus is both friend and family.
Why is our language about time with Jesus so often laced with subtle assumptions that it must have results to be meaningful? That every time together is supposed to be a big life lesson, rather than just an enjoyment of being together? Certainly, there will be times with friends and family where we accomplish great things together and have profound conversations. But there’s also just….. hanging out.
Jesus is your lord, your friend, and your brother. Hanging out together is enough. Will you have deep and memorable conversations sometime? Absolutely. Will that be the reality EVERY SINGLE TIME you hang out? Absolutely not. But that was never the point.
The first thing that Mark mentions about why Jesus calls the disciples is so that they might "be with him.” That's the point. Purpose and action emerge after that.
Many Christians think that they are not getting anything out of times of prayer or stillness with Jesus if it doesn’t feel productive. They’re missing the point.
We spend time sitting and walking and talking with Jesus because prayer and presence shapes us in ways that we can’t describe. We do it because that’s what you do with the people that you love. You spend time with them. And that’s enough. Nothing has to be accomplished.
Dwelling in stillness with God is not important because you walk away with something. Your time is good because you are choosing to walk with someone. A productivity mindset may actually hinder you from being transformed by God's love. Maybe you’re turning a gift into a task. Lay off the guilt and pressure and see how much delight there is out there.
Each day has plenty of tasks and expectations. Prayer doesn’t need to become one of them. That’s super good news. Enjoy the freedom.
Jesus, help me rest in your presence. That’s all I need.