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You might recognize the name Elizabeth Gilbert as the author of the bestselling novel Eat, Pray, Love.  Along with her fiction writing, Gilbert also writes and speaks about creativity – how it works and how it sometimes doesn’t work.  She tells stories about her own experiences with writer’s block and the fear of failure that can stop creativity dead in its tracks.

Jesus Calls a Huddle

William Chu
UUMC


Its the beginning of a new year here at MSU.  The University Community is one of significant transition.  For underclassmen this is the first time living away from home or even living off campus.  Figuring out how to live without family nearby, or navigating new roommates can be challenging.  

 

For upperclassmen college life is drawing to a close.  Juniors and Seniors have acclimated and thrived in the MSU community and are setting their sites on their professional lives. Many are manage the debt racked up by the cost of higher education.  Many are looking for jobs or awaiting admission to graduate programs in competitive markets.

 

As it happens, learning is hard. The transition from student to professional is a process involving vulnerable moments that are mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually taxing. You have to engage these vulnerable moments if you want to successfully achieve the transition from student to professional.

 

You've heard the horor stories of students who have avoided, put off or otherwise disengaged these vulnerable moments with eating, gaming, alcohol, or sex.  

 

The gospel for today involves a transition, including a vulnerable moment.

 

Scripture

Matt. 16:21   From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.  22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”  23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

 

Up to this moment in Matthew, Jesus has called the disciples, performed miracles, and shown them a new way of living, but now things are changing.  Jesus ministry takes on a more cosmic scale that will mean the salvation of all of creation.  This will come with price tag of vulnerability that Peter will disengage, saying.

 

“Forbid it, Lord! This must never happen” (Peter’s seven words)

 

Peter’s reaction moves him from rock on which the church will be built to stumbling block to Christ.  What is at issue here is what I call a vulnerable moment.  

 

Peter fixates on the vulnerable moments in Jesus announcement of the transition., “We are going to Jerusalem, to suffer, and be killed”  he misses the “on the third day be raised” part.  

 

In his book, Bearing Fruit: Ministry with Real Results, Lovett Weems reminds us that ministries of the church should persistently focus on what he likes to call “so that”.

 

We do worship so that we can inspire People to follow Jesus.

We are making changes in our service so that more people can hear the good news.

 

Paying attention to the so that is especially important during a transition.  It helps those in transition keep their eye on the prize.

 

Using this Weemsian “SO THAT” logic let's diagram Jesus’ announcement of the transition to Jerusalem:

 

Weemsian diagram

We are going to Jerusalem (transition).  I will suffer, and be killed (vulnerable moments) (so that) on the third day be raised.

 

If Jesus face is fixed on Jerusalem, Peter’s is fixated on vulnerable moments: Suffering and Killing, this fixation prevents him from enjoying the so that of, a new life in the Resurrection of Christ. Peter disengages the vulnerable moment and misses the transition.

 

Peter is not alone, humans have a tendency to avoid vulnerable moments.  We will avoid looking a credit card statements.  We will pretend things are just fine at work without really paying attention to performance results.  

 

Weemsian diagram

Student moves to MSU (transition): moves away from home, takes on debt (vulnerable moments) (so that) the student can become a professional.  

 

If the student carefully engages the vulnerable moment by 1) intentionally building new support networks, 2) carefully budgeting / earning and spending they will get the so that of transitioning from student to professional.  

 

Parents go through a transition of their own.

Child goes to college: empty room in the home and heart (vulnerability), so that our family can grow stronger.

 

If Parents intentionally engage the vulnerable moment by 1) giving the student space and 2) reconnect with their spouse with new found time and attention.  Then the so that of the family can grow stronger might be achieved.  

 

Churches go through transitions too.

This year the Wesley Building will officially become the property of University United Methodist Church.

 

Weemsian diagram:

UUMC is purchasing the Wesley Building, taking on debt, be responsible for the building management,  so that we can better connect with the campus community and the neighborhood.  

 

Students, Parents and Churches are like Peter and even thought they desire the So That, there the tendency to avoid moments of vulnerablity is strong. We all need a little refocusing and encuragement when we are facing these vulnerable moments.

 

The disciples needed encouragement so Jesus Calls a Huddle!

 

Matt. 16:24   Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.  26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

 

Jesus acts in the tradition of great coaches whose teams face moments of vulnerability so dramatic they might cause the team to freeze.  Its in these times that a pep talk can refocus the team.  Keep your eye on the prize of the resurrection!.

 

It’s from this scripture that we get the idim, It’s my cross to bear from this scripture.

 

Its my cross to bear - an unpleasant situation that you must accept because you can’t change it.

 

This is somewhat helpful, yet people often accept their crosses by tucking them away in proverbial deep pockets where they are ignored.  They bear disengage crosses or vulnerable moments in these pockets, they don’t carry the cross or engage the vulnerable moment like Jesus.

 

Jesus invites us to carry our cross and follow him. And if we follow him we see that Jesus carried his cross to a place where then he sets it down and he hung on it and then he dies on it.  The cross is a vulnerable moment for Jesus and it changed him and three days later he lived again.  

 

So Jesus calls huddle with the disciples at what is probably their most vulnerable moment and invites them to carry their cross (that very vulnerable moment) and follow him.  Don’t try to protect your life from this vulnerable moment, because if you try you will die.

 

If we have learned anything from the model of University it’s that learning hard and involve loads of vulnerable moments, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically, and when undergo these moments of vulnerability so that we can be shaped into professionals.

 

Faith is similar and growth in faith requires vulnerable moments that we undergo so that, we can grow closer to God.  We all have to engage these moments of vulnerability in a safe place.

 

The Church at its best is a place of transition.  We are a community of trust where people engage their vulnerable moments in safe ways, that help them grow closer to God. The Church becomes the living Huddle that Jesus Calls when we become the place that encourages people to engage their vulnerable moments in safe and life transforming ways.   The thing is we never know where we will be called to be this place to be the huddle that Jesus calls.  

 

As Susan and I were picking hymns this week she decided on Gather us In as a closing Hymn.  I have always imagined this at a closer, but most of my teammate have blocked this idea.  Perhaps they fixated on the title.  

 

Weemsian diagram

Use Gather Us In as a closing hymn: Its about Gathering not sending (vulnerable moment), so that we imagine how Jesus Gathers Us to be a place not to a place.

Not in the dark of buildings confining,
not in some heaven, light years away—
here in this place the new light is shining,
now is the kingdom, and now is the day.

Jesus calls a huddle and its a people who are a place where anyone can engage their vulnerable moments in a way that changes their lives.