Delivered to See - thrive UMC Official Blog

Delivered to See

When I was in college, I did one play. I had done plays in high school and always had fun doing them, but they were mostly just a reason to goof around with my friends after school. For whatever reason, I think acting at the college level would be a similar experience… And boy was I wrong! As it turns out, in college there are actual theatre majors who want to act for a living. I hadn’t prepared anything for this audition, but don’t mistake my incompetence for confidence, I had literally never done this before and didn’t know you were supposed to prepare anything.

So I ended up doing what we in “the biz” call a cold read. This means you take a selection provided by the director and casting director and attempt to act while reading it off of a sheet of paper. I believe I was one of only a handful of people who picked this option and, as such, I figured there was no way I was going to get this part. But much to my surprise, I was selected for a call back. And yes, someone had to explain to me what that meant. Again – in case you’re unfamiliar – this is when you audition once and then you come back and audition again. This was the first of many times in during this process that I would have the thought, “Hmm, I might be in over my head.”

That thought was so prominent in my mind, that I think I tried to quietly sabotage my chances. This time, despite knowing better, I still didn’t prepare a piece for the audition. I came back the next night and did another cold read, secretly hoping they would think I wasn’t taking it seriously – which I wasn’t – and pass me over for the part. The next day, the cast list of announced. And no one was more surprised than yours truly to see my name on that list. I had landed a part in Simpson College’s production of Hamlet. Hurray?!

Specifically, I was selected for the part of Horatio. For those of you who don’t remember the plot of Hamlet – or the Lion King, because they’re the same thing – Horatio is basically Prince Hamlet’s buddy. He pals around with him and doesn’t really say much… except for the two giant monologues that opened and closed the play, which include the famous “good night, sweet prince…” line. Upon seeing this in the script, I again thought, “Hmm, I might be in over my head.”

A while later we sat down for the first table read as a full cast. I had the very first line of the show, was which, “What is it you would see?” And that’s pretty much how I said, because again, I had no idea what I was doing.

The director stopped me after ONE line and said, “Chris, I want you think about how your character would say that.” (Mark this as yet another time I thought, “Hmm, I might in over my head.”) Apparently, this is an exercise real actors do with some frequency but as far as I was concerned she might as well have said, “Chris, please stand on your head and walk about on your hands for an hour.” I would have preferred her just tell me how she wanted me to say it, but she didn’t. She just wanted me to think about it…

And I did think about it. In a play full of violence, betrayal, and murder. I mean, just think about when Simba’s dad is killed by that herd of antelope. But that opening line, “What is it you would see?” it’s an invitation. An invitation to view these events and take from them what you would. An invitation create your own opinion, informed by experience, of the story you are about to hear. What is it you would see?

That’s the question I believe Jesus is asking us in our text for this morning. In Matthew 9:18-38, we see Jesus doing a lot of healing. He heals a woman who has been bleeding for years. He casts a demon out of a mute man. He brings a girl back from the dead. He heals two blind men. Real subtle, writer of Matthew.

While I was looking at this text I kept thinking: what happened to these people after Jesus healed them? What’s the rest of their story? What’s the rest of your day like after Jesus brings your daughter back from the dead?

Do we all go get fro-yo?

Did the mute guy go hit a karaoke bar?

Where’s the first place you go after having your sight restored? The grocery store because that guy who shops for you never gets the right kind of hot sauce?

No! Of course not. I’m pretty sure they ran around the city yelling:

 YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!?

Something like this happens and it becomes the story that you tell. I bet those blind guys were still talking about it at the corporate Christmas party the next year.

But that makes sense, right? It should be all they can talk about it. It should be the story they can’t wait to tell, because it literally altered the course of their lives. When the love of a God who is radically for you heals you and opens your eyes, it’s disruptive.

Love is disruptive. In fact, I once heard Rob Bell suggest in an interview that the actual heart of the Christian is just that: disruption.

First of all, it’s disruptive by its very nature. Think about the stories we just heard, those stories of healing. They disrupt the present reality in a radical way. And whether you believe all of this literally happened or that these are stories that show us a pattern, it tells us something about how this God love works. It disrupts present reality in a radical way.

It’s not just this God love, that’s kind of the nature of love itself. If you’ve ever spoken to a friend or relative in the first month or so a new relationship, I think you know what I mean. They can’t – and won’t – shut up about it. He’s so perfect. Everything she does is so cute. And the other day, he made her dinner and no one’s ever done that before. And they both know this is crazy, but this might be the one.

It’s true, love is disruptive. It’s disruptive to my enjoyment of talking to those people… Just kidding. But when something is profound or at least feels profound, it can become all you talk about. It can kinda take over your life, to point where this radical love can alter the trajectory of your entire life. If you’re willing to let it.

I’ve been in medicine for 10 years now if you can believe that, and one of the things I see happen most frequently with new paramedics is they get tunnel vision. At some point – occasionally before we’ve even made contact with the patient – it is decided by the provider that they already know what’s wrong. And so, instead of listening to the actual history and doing an actual physical exam and differential diagnosis, they just look for the things that support their theory. They limit their field of vision and they miss relevant facts. If a patient has chest pain and also just got kicked in the chest by a horse, I’m guessing he’s not having a heart attack. He could be, but most likely it was that horse kicking thing. Sometimes you can have your eyes open and still not see the whole picture. Sometimes we only see what we want to see.

There is a difference between opening your eyes and actually seeing.

And if we are being honest, it’s understandable why we might want to limit the scope of our vision. Just look at some of the things that happen to people in the Bible when they had a true encounter with God love and started actually seeing: They get swallowed by giant fish. Asked to build big boats. Deliver oppressed peoples. Speak to donkeys (I really like bringing that up). They travel far from home, wherever this Jesus takes them. Learn to fish for men and face oppression and are imprisoned because of it and, in some cases, become martyrs for it. Interact and even love those people who are at the very fringes of society.

That sounds pretty disruptive to me.

We here at thrive talk a lot about John 10:10, in fact its the basis for our whole name. The New Living translation says it like this: My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. Rich and satisfying. I think for some of us, myself included, when we see those words we narrow our field of vision and see “safe and happy life.” But that’s not what it says. It’s not what any of the translations say.

“I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.” – NRSV

“I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest.” – CEV

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – NIV

“I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better than they ever dreamed of.” – The Message

Not a single one uses the word safe. Or happy. Instead we see words like rich, abundant, and full. A rich and abundant life isn’t a safe or happy one as much as it is one full of the stuff of life itself, which includes all the complexities of the human experience.

I have always loved how Erwin McManus put it:

God created you so your days would count, not so you could count the days of your life.

What if a rich and full and satisfying life is less about our comfort than our contribution? What if it is about tapping into our true purpose, the purpose for which we were literally designed? The scary thing about that is it could take you literally anywhere.

And here’s my evidence of that: THIS was never a part of my plan. Let’s turn back the clock one year. One year ago I was in a relationship. I was taking college classes and applying to PA Schools. I wasn’t playing music or speaking or writing or doing of the things that take up most of my life now. I was heading in a totally different direction.

Then, as will happen sometimes in life, my relationship ended. Given my history of depression, I expected to have to endure several months of intense, hard to get out of bed in the morning sadness. This was a well-traveled road for me, so I felt I know what to expect.

But here’s the thing: that didn’t happen. Don’t get me wrong, I was sad but it was a sad thing. But I never got truly depressed and I never spent whole days in bed or any of that other stuff. I spent a lot of time – probably too much – examining why that is. I don’t really know for sure, but I could almost hear a voice telling me: say yes.

So I did. I said yes to every music gig. I said yes to every speaking engagement. I said yes to every offer to get a drink or play golf or get me out of my house. And the wisdom of time and experience has taught me that I was also saying yes to having my field of vision expanded. I was saying yes to truly seeing. I was saying yes to God love and the disruption that comes with it.

I had my eyes open for a long time, my friends. But I didn’t really start to see until that relationship ended and in the months that followed. I don’t think I was willing to really see until then. Honestly, I probably think I needed to. I had a nice, neat little plan worked out for my life. Having a true relationship with God would just mess the whole thing up, right?! It might sound weird to say, but I was afraid. I was afraid because I had spent years hearing and learning about this disruptive love of God and I knew what it could do and where it could take people. I was afraid of what I might be asked to do and where I might be asked to go. I was afraid of losing the “control” I had of my life. I wanted love, but on my terms. I wanted success, but on my terms. I wanted my significance, but on my terms.

I thought I was in control, but of course I wasn’t. FEAR was in control. I had an feeling my relationship was ending for a couple months beforehand and I did everything I could just to keep it alive. And not just because I’m a paramedic and that’s what I do. But rather because I was terrified of what would happen if I lost control of my life. There was and I HAD to stick to it.

I let that fear of losing control take over. I became a slave to that fear, at the cost of the significance God had in mind for me and for all of us. So I didn’t prioritize music or speaking or writing, the things that I not only make me happy but that I believe I was actually meant to do… Which all somehow sounded like a great idea at the time.

Fear is most successful when it keeps us on the sidelines.

Over the last year of my life, I’ve let go of a lot of things, not the least of which is feeling like I need to have control of “the plan.” I find myself on a much different path now than before. This path doesn’t have me stuck at home with my face in a biochemistry text book. It has me out in the world, telling stories and singing songs and sharing the good news that you are not alone in your struggles and that you are deeply and profoundly loved. A love that is powerful and that, when experienced authentically can disrupt your entire life to the point where it could place you on an entirely different path.

THAT is the risk we take when we ask God to open our eyes and heal our blindness. It’s the risk we take when we accept Jesus invitation into a life that is abundant, satisfying, and purposeful. It’s the risk we take when we look to engage with community authentically and “make our way” together.

So what is it you would see? Once your vision is disrupted by this radical love, how does the world look? It looks different right? It should. Everyone is different now. Sometimes this faith we are invited into will take you places. You will see things like you never have before. It will be harder to turn away from a perceived struggle; harder to ignore how people are hurting and where the world is bleeding. It’s going to change what you don’t see.

I’m going to bring the band back up and we’re all going to sing together. Before we do, I want us to look at the lyrics of the first verse.

You unravel me

With a melody

You surround me with a song

Of deliverance From my enemies

‘Till all my fears have gone

To be undone by love. To let it transform you. To let it change you.

You have been delivered by from your enemies. Not the enemy with horns or a pitchfork, but the enemies of fear that keeps us isolated in the hell of significance. You are no longer a slave to fear. For you are a child of God.

What is it you would see, Church?

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