September 17, 2017
Chunk of Change 1: Hooked On Change
Friends, it is great to see you here today – whether live here now, or tuning in online – welcome. We’re making a shift today, into the fall, into settling back in after an adventurous summer, into a new series that we’re beginning together.
And it moves right out of where we have been this summer. This summer at Salt House we have been talking about Love Story – how Jesus came to teach us to Love Story. And we’ve heard stories from within our Salt House community as well as our global community, stories about how to engage with our Muslim brothers and sisters, and stories from the Bible – all of it naming and challenging us to see how we’re connected to each other’s stories, invited to love our own stories, and invited into the ongoing story of God here and now. You know, no big deal.
And last week, as we wrapped our time, we named how Jesus used story – 1/3 of what Jesus said was in stories, a parables. And parables – though we make them into simple, moralistic stories, they are actually quite tricky, layered. And last week we named how Jesus used these tricky stories intentionally, as a hook. A hook that gave people the grace and freedom to choose how they’d respond. Nah, that’s weird. Or, hey, that’s interesting, I want to hear more. It was actually a brilliant technique, where Jesus could say a lot through very little, and everyone could listen. And we named how hooks keep coming at us in stories now – stories of all kinds.
And today this thread of thinking, this celebrating of how God hooks us, carries us into a broader conversation of hooks that will hook us and pull us through the fall. So I invite you to keep those S hooks handy (did you get one when you came in?), to fidget with it, to be in touch with how there are hooks for us to listen for. Y’all ready?
To frame our fall journey, let’s begin with a word: change. Tell me. How do you feel about this word? Do you like change? There are folks who LOVE it. Love moving, changing jobs trying new things, they drive a different way to work EVERY DAY. …There are wonderful, welcome changes – like a raise! Or a new car! Going on vacation! But a lot of the time, most of us, don’t like change. But let me ask you something: is there any part of your life right now where you are experiencing, facing change? Show of hands? We all are! Why, because what do they tell us? Change is the only constant in life.
I don’t know about you – even though I know this to be true – not only because it is a well-known quote, but also because it is my life! It is your life, the lives of folks I see. And yet, are you, like me, still surprised and discombobulated when change happens? Like Daylight Saving Time – a slap in the face twice a year! (We know it’s coming…but still). Do you, like me, even grumble through change?
What if there is another way to show up in and understand change? Spoiler alert: I’m going to suggest that there is.
Did you know that Jesus’ first word to us was “change!”? In Mark’s gospel, it’s usually translated as “repent” – but the word itself is the Greek word metanoia, which quite literally means to = “change your mind.” Jesus’ first word was “change!” – and mind, heart, soul change at that!
What we have translated “repent” (and the unhelpful images of a dude on a street corner with a sign and oozing with judgment) this word is not a moralistic or even churchy word at all; as Richard Rohr calls it, metanoia, Jesus’ first word is a clear strategy for enlightenment for the world.
You see, there is another way. The Jesus-story invites us to see change not only as something that happens externally around us – like changes in our jobs, relationships, health, country, home, Daylight Saving Time – but to see part of the point of it all, as the constant change in us. Jesus is talking to us, when he says: change. Mind, heart, soul change, at that. Not just a one-time “come to Jesus” kind of change (making it into something that clicks in and then you’re good, you can cruise on through), but a strategy for enlightenment for the world. On-going. And the Jesus-story invites us to see that those constant, external changes we experience – we can see them as yet another place where hooks come at us, external change inviting the internal work of mind, heart, soul change, as a process that can lead us into growth and breakthrough for the entirety of our lives.
Just one more word about change: we’ve named here at Salt House that change is a significant piece of who we are, as in each of us gathered here, we’ve realized that this is a community of folks living through transition – many of us in our young adult years, others in the chaos of having kids, others with health issues, moving, empty nest stuff. Living in liminal spaces. So this idea of Jesus saying to us: change! seeps into a deep place of our DNA (whether you’ve been here a while or you’re new today), this is a vital piece for us, to talk about change, and to own change as something we want to live into with intention, be proactive about, that we want to see change as a field open with opportunity, and not just a steep uphill battle filled with pain, sweat and tears.
Now coming back to that hook – one of the greatest spiritual practices across all the world religions is the practice of paying attention. Seeing, hearing, being mindful and present. Which is funny to say that because Christianity too often gets boiled down to following rules and moralistic behavior, about believing the right things and checking certain boxes. When actually it is about how we see the world – and then acting with radical love from that place of presence.
For us as a community of people who are curious about Jesus and about living this life of love that he shows us, one of the things we will come back to again and again is the practice of paying attention. That’s how we shape our experience together. On Sundays, it’s never the intention that I just spout out a bunch of stuff to which you say, “Oh, that’s interesting!” And walk home. But that we actually have a shared experience of the mystery and holy presence of God here, knowing that we also experience God everywhere else, too. And that when we’re together it is a time to practice seeing and loving the way Jesus did. That’s always our focus for how we structure worship and the sermon, and how we make y’all talk to each other – it’s how we respond to Jesus’ word to “change!”
All of this to say: this fall we’re acknowledging the tension of how we are always living through change. And holding it alongside Jesus’ invitation – his first word to us, friends – to change: mind, heart, and soul change, at that. We’re calling it: Chunk of Change – because we know there is a whole lot of it in our lives. The language we’ll hold through this begins with hooks. Paying attention to the hooks.
The rest of the time today, I want to continue laying the foundation for what we’re doing this fall, and give us the tool we’ll use through the next three months, and beyond as a way of paying attention to our lives – but all starts here, with hooks, and change.
Let’s turn now to this word, repent, change – the first words out of Jesus’ mouth in Mark’s Gospel. Just one verse for us, Mark 1:15. As Jesus shows up on the scene, this is the first thing he says: “The time has come,” Jesus said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15
To get into it, let’s unpack these phrases Jesus uses before “repent and believe”, the first is: “The time has come.” Um, what time is that, Jesus? Did you set an alarm? Is it my turn for something? What time is it?
Whenever we’re confused by something in the bible, we stop and remember that it is part of a larger story. In this case, consider the way the Bible is set up. One way to look at the Bible is to see it as Act 1 and Act 2 of the same drama. The Old Testament is Act 1. In the Old Testament, for centuries, it plays through what Israel longs for, hopes for. God’s people were waiting for God to come to them in a final and complete way and rescue them from the cycles of destruction and violence and suffering. Such hope, such longing, such anticipation in Act 1 of the story.
If the story of God had stopped at the end of the Old Testament, Act 1 (end scene) – this is very unsatisfying and unfinished. Because that day had not yet come. Here at the beginning of Act 2 the New Testament, Jesus is saying here that the time has come – what they’ve waited for.
In the very next phrase Jesus tells us what time it is: “The kingdom of God has come near!” All that waiting and longing – it’s finally happening! The time has come, the Kingdom of God has come near!
Last week we discussed what the Kingdom of God is. The Kingdom of God is = God’s dream for the world. As in, the way God wants the world to be. We can see descriptions of what the Kingdom of God is like by looking back, to the way God created this world to be (when God said, at the end of each day: it is goooood). We see what the Kingdom of God is like in Jesus. In everything Jesus said and did – demonstrating mercy, forgiveness, justice, generosity, healing, standing up to oppressive powers, sacrificial love.
There are descriptions throughout the Bible of a future time when God’s Kingdom will be fully realized again. The language that is used to describe where this world is headed is that the Kingdom of God will come here, on earth as in heaven. (Notice as we said last week, we’re not talking about a heaven that we’re evacuated to somewhere else. It’s here).
But that future is not so far off. Jesus is saying ta-da! It is here, the Kingdom of God. And he says: The Kingdom of God has come near. Other translations say: the Kingdom of God is at hand. Which means, AT HAND. Within arm’s reach. You can reach out and touch it. The Kingdom of God is right here. Available and accessible. As close as our hand. Which is a big deal, because this means: all those descriptions of the Kingdom of God – we can catch glimpses of it, even be a part of it, now. Which is kind of a big deal.
Listen up: because here is where things get really interesting. We will keep having these moments when Jesus is saying to us (in real time, here and now): hey look, the time has come, you can reach out and touch the Kingdom of God. Let me unpack that.
The Greek word here for time that Jesus uses is = Kairos. Can you say Kairos? We’ve named this before, and we come back to it again. It’s not tic-toc time (what time is it?), but time like an event – I had a great time at the party. The times when we feel hooks, opportunities from God, it is a Kairos moment. In these kairos moments, our world and God's world intersect. The Kingdom of God is at hand. It is a defining moment. When that happens, we can let ourselves be hooked, God has our attention, and if we stop and listen and tend to what is going on, we have the opportunity to step further into God’s Kingdom. Through these kairos moments. That hook in your hand, another word for that hook is Kairos. The time has come.
Kairos moments stop us in our tracks. It could be a huge thing (screeching, everything is changing kind of halt), it could be small thing (a pause as we notice something) – big like buying a house! Getting a job! Or relatively small like someone stole your bike, or you had a really impactful conversation with someone, or the headlines of our country affecting us deeply. They can be positive things, like your wedding day, or a great hike. They can be more negative moments, someone dear to you gets a cancer diagnosis, you lose your job, your best friend moves away. So so often for me, Kairos moments happen because of something I hear from another person – in conversation, in a podcast. Again: anytime we live through change: there are kairos moments causing us to slow down as the regular rhythms of our lives are altered. Big or small, Kairos moments are when the Kingdom of God is at hand, we can touch it, we can grab hold of the chance to step into what God is doing.
Do you have any Kairos happening in your life right now? Something, a situation where God has your attention. Not that God did something to you, but you have stopped in your tracks in some way? I am convinced that we experience Kairos every day. As we move the next few minutes, I encourage you to just start to tap into that, asking, Ok, God, where is there Kairos, where are there hooks/nudges that I can pay attention to? Start paying attention to that.
As you hold that question, here’s just one current example for me: I am working through a Kairos around my 7yo daughter playing outdoor soccer for first time. I played a lot of sports growing up, but soccer was my great joy. I’m getting all the feels as she’s playing! And she even played her first game last Saturday at 60 Acres in Redmond – which is where I grew up playing soccer. But I’m paying attention to it, because it’s stirring up a lot in me – great memories and gratitude for my own time in soccer, feelings of being old, but then trying to not project all of my stuff and expectations on my daughter but actually just let her have fun. Which I didn’t realize I needed to do until I found myself watching practice thinking: well, they should really start with more ball skills and then move into passing… You know, mentally micromanaging what the coach is doing. Which isn’t helpful for anyone. Then my parents were at Saturday’s game and my mom kept saying, “Remember, save that voice, you have to preach tomorrow!” And I was like, “Was I yelling?” No idea. So there’s some stuff there for me – this is a hook, a Kairos moment this soccer season, to see how God is inviting me into change.
Are you thinking of something? A Kairos?
As you think about it, maybe like me, you wonder, what do we do when we notice a kairos moment? Let’s get practical. In response, Jesus suggests a certain pattern in our text, he says: “Repent and believe the good news!” In response to Kairos, we do two things: we repent, then we believe. That’s it!
What does that mean? What does it look like? We’ve already begun to unpack “repent.” But these two words, repent and believe, and the process behind them, actually boil down to two questions, two questions that we keep naming in this community as the two questions of living the life of Jesus. The two questions that are most formative for us. Two questions to hold as we live through those significant moments and into change.
Here they are: God, what are you saying to me? And then: What am I going to do about it? How will I respond?
These questions do not draw us into a linear, predictable process of listening, but, I want to suggest three ways to get us into each of them – it’s how we put ourselves in listening and information gathering mode. When we’re hooked, when life has happened in a significant way and God has our attention, we ask: God, what are you saying to me? (Repent) We do three things: we observe – these are the WHAT questions. The facts. We also reflect – these are the WHY questions. Seeking connections to other times in our lives and world. Why now? Why this? And we also discuss it with others, (because as I said, God speaks through people) we seek wisdom and insight from those who can speak into our lives. Asking this question, this is how we step into this kairos moment, this event that has brought us in touch with the Kingdom of God. Repent is to change, mind, heart and soul change, at that. And we get there through getting to know the landscape of what’s happening, listening for God – it helps to observe, reflect, discuss. It’s all about being curious. Makes sense, yes?
I want to name how many of us probably, when something happens, we jump right to this second question – ok, I’m noticing how I want to micro-manage my daughter’s soccer practice – fine, I’ll just be the coach next year. We jump to action, so quickly without doing the interior work of mind/heart change. Which completely misses the point. Hmm, I bristle during my daughter’s soccer practice – what’s happening here, why – is it my perfectionism and wanting to control things…What anxiety is underneath that for me that I feel like I need to control this… We need to listen for what God is saying first – THEN, only then can we actually move into the behavioral, action-oriented response. Otherwise, we’ll miss the mind change, the becoming more like Christ that we’re aiming for.
Only after we answer what God is saying, then we ask: God, what am I going to do about it? How will I be different in response to what you’re saying? We repent, and then (as Jesus said in our text) we believe. Belief is not just an intellectual exercise – it is = action, response. It is living the question: What am I going to about it? (Believe)
Three practical ways to move us through action, and a response is to first, make a plan. And once we’ve made a plan, to make ourselves (account) accountable to someone. We tell someone else about it so that they can be a source of encouragement and accountability (and also because, again, God speaks through people). And finally, then, once we’ve lived through this entire process, then, only then, after all of this, my friends, we act.
So – I know this is ripping thorugh a lot, but we’ll have more time this fall. Paying attention to our lives by looking for Kairos, as we make our way through some great content and experiences together. Noticing what is getting our attention, and asking God to change us through those opportunities. And I know many of our folks have heard me talk about this a lot – but again, my role here is not to keep coming up with new interesting things for you to think about, but to actually help us develop tools, and practice listening for God and living a life of love – being like salt in the world. And so we’re back at Kairos. And we’ll come back to it again, practicing it together. And what better time than now, as we watch leaves fall from the trees, as the air shifts to the cool of fall (rain!). We can practically hear God’s invitation into change in everything around us.
By way of beginning our practice and closing our time, I invite you to close your eyes, and become aware of your breath, feel the weight of your body against your seat, the floor. Roll your shoulders back again.
We are actively a part of the unfolding of Act 2 of God’s story. We’re in it. The Kingdom of God is meeting us in the beautiful and brave things we see in our world and in ourselves. Knowing that this is the context you live in, that you are an active participant in the story and Kingdom of God, as you think back on your week or the last month – is there anything that has caused you to stop in your tracks? I’ve thought of many of us in this community and the kinds of things we’re facing in our lives – applying for jobs, starting new jobs, fed up with jobs, school starting for ourselves or our kids, divorces and break-ups, anniversaries and birthdays, new dating possibilities, getting married, moving, surviving a house fire, longing to be married, starting new projects, family members who are sick. Where is God inviting you to pay attention? And it may not be a single moment, but a situation you notice in your family, a friendship, at work. What might God be saying to you? Today.
I invite you to pick and name (silently) one Kairos you’re living in. A big one, or a small one. And as you hold that, I want to introduce you to a practice we’ll engage with weekly through the fall.
Each week you’ll be invited to name a Kairos moment or situation in your life, and you’ll write it down, a word or short phrase that captures that Kairos you’re experiencing. Every week, this is what we’ll do. We’ll write our kairos on these small wooden hearts and circles – we’ll take time to do it during communion and after worship at the tables we have set up. And so every Sunday you’ll get an S hook when you walk in, a reminder to be listening for Kairos, that you’ll hang on to and then carry up with you to the table, you’ll write something about your Kairos, and then take your S hook to hang it up. And honestly: you may be processing the same Kairos for three months, or it may be something new each week. Today, I’m writing down my Kairos around soccer – how I think God is nudging me to sign up to play in an adult soccer league with one of my childhood soccer friends – I haven’t played on a team in 20 years – pray for me and my ankles.
We know that change is the only constant. We’ll all keep living through change – but will we BE CHANGED? This fall, we’ll try. So whatever chunk of change you are facing now – let’s grow and cross over that threshold, together.
The band is coming back up, and they’ll lead us in a song. You’re welcome to sing with them, or if you prefer just be in this time and space listening for Kairos moments, paying attention, together. Let’s pray.