Bubble Bursting

While we don't have teachings every week yet at Haven, Leah does occasionally get her preach on.  The following is the manuscript of a teaching she gave on Sunday, 2/22/15.

I read an interesting article on Wired a while back called, “I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me.”  I found it kind of morbidly fascinating.  Just as an interesting non-scientific experiment the writer, Mat Honan, decided to try hitting the like button for everything that came up in his facebook feed.  He wanted to see what would become of the feed.  It was a chance to poke at the robots and algorithms behind the facebook magic, and see how they’d respond.  
Well, they did respond.  Honan found himself “liking” things he would never normally like, and instantaneously watching many more of those kinds of things appear.  You like a cuddly cat video, then the Facebook robots deduced you should see four more.  You like the environment?  We’re going to shove it down your throat.  Within an hour of periodically dropping in and liking everything on his feed, Honan noticed that his Facebook feed had shifted dramatically.  Gone were the personal updates from real life friends and family telling stories about their kids or showing their wedding pics.  Instead his feed was nearly entirely full with messages from content mills.  Huffington Post and Upworthy took up almost all of the feed, interspersed with a few ads and articles from similar sites.  

This experiment took place last August, in the midst of conflict over Gaza.  So as Honan went to bed that first night, he found himself liking something about Gaza with a pro-Israel message.  By the next morning, he found his feed had shifted very, very far to the right.  He writes, “I’m offered the chance to like the 2nd Amendment and some sort of anti-immigrant page. I like them both. I like Ted Cruz. I like Rick Perry. The Conservative Tribune comes up again, and again, and again in my News Feed.”
But it doesn’t stop there.  Honan tells us how the experience continued to evolve, “As day one rolled into day two, I began dreading going to Facebook. It had become a temple of provocation. Just as my News Feed had drifted further and further right, so too did it drift further and further left. Rachel Maddow, Raw Story, Mother Jones, Daily Kos and all sort of other leftie stuff was interspersed with items that are so far to the right I’m nearly afraid to like them for fear of ending up on some sort of watch list.
This is a problem much bigger than Facebook. It reminded me of what can go wrong in society, and why we now often talk at each other instead of to each other. We set up our political and social filter bubbles and they reinforce themselves—the things we read and watch have become hyper-niche and cater to our specific interests. We go down rabbit holes of special interests until we’re lost in the queen’s garden, cursing everyone above ground.”


There’s a term for the process that creates and protects these social bubbles Honan points to.  It’s called siloing, creating what’s known in social science spheres as an information silo.  The term comes from agriculture initially, silos are used to separate and contain different kinds of grain or other crops.  According to wikipedia, an information silo can be defined as “an insular management system incapable of reciprocal operation with other, related information systems.”  Layman’s translation: information silos create groups that can’t talk to each other or work together because they’re too insular in their thinking.  This idea was initially developed in the business world as a way of describing interdepartmental issues, but now that we have social media, siloing has become a global phenomenon.  We no longer just have two departments that can’t talk to each other, we have whole communities reinforced online that create filters that color the glasses we see the rest of life with.  And color them, they certainly do.  Facebook themselves proved this with the experiment they did to determine whether people were affected emotionally by having more upbeat or downbeat stuff in their feeds.  Short answer: they were.
Now I’m not going to lay all the blame on Facebook here.  That’s not what I’m trying to do.  While dramatic examples like I’ve pointed to should raise our awareness with how we interact in the social media sphere, the problem that we’re pointing to is bigger than Facebook, Twitter, or Google plus.  The reason those engineers get paid a lot of money to write algorithms that will only show us what they think we want to see is because they know that by and large, we actually do like it that way.  If we’re honest, most of us like to live in a world where we don’t have to work too hard.  Where we don’t see provocative statements with which we strongly disagree strewn across our phones or desktops all day.  If we’re truly honest, we like our comfortable bubbles.  We’re safe there.  It’s easy.  And in terms of facebook, you know, it’s our feed anyway, so what’s the harm?
Perhaps the problem is that it’s not just online that we can get silo-ed.  A study was recently done in the US about how most Christians feel about going to a church that is predominantly composed of one racial group as 86% of churches in the US are.  Apparently, most Christians feel just fine.  When offered the statement “My church needs to become more ethnically diverse,” 53% disagreed.  Of those, 33% strongly disagreed.  So am I saying the majority of Christians are racist?  Not necessarily.  But it is true that the cross-cultural work that’s required to break down social and information silos and integrate people from diverse cultures, life situations, and points of view takes a lot of energy.  Energy that maybe on Sundays, when we just want to be with God, get our spiritual tanks filled, and go on with our week we don’t want to have to spend.  So what’s the harm?
Well, this Sunday is the first Sunday in Leap of Faith, our Lenten faith experiment, in which we’re turning as a community to Jesus and asking him to lead us on a 40 plus day journey of faith.  We’re asking him to stretch us in the ways we need to be stretched.  We’re asking him to grow us in faith.  If we’re using centered-set imagery, we’re trying to turn our arrows to Jesus and take some proactive forward steps toward the center to encounter and interact with the living Jesus, hoping that at the end of this six weeks we feel more connected, more in touch with the center we’re moving toward, and more aware of what he’s doing in this world.  So it seems, in this season particularly, as we consider the question of “siloing” and “social bubbles” and we seek to discern how we should feel about them, it makes sense to turn to the stories of Jesus for help.
So let’s do that.  We’re going to be looking today at the beginning of Luke 7.  This takes place in Luke’s gospel right after Jesus has done a chunk of teaching, commonly known as “The Sermon on the Plain”.  So let’s look at what comes next.  A warning upfront: this that we’re going to look at is a bit of a longer passage. We’ve got two healing stories back to back.  I think each of them has some interesting things to consider on their own, and just to digest them a bit we’ll look at them one at a time at first.  But I also think they were written to be read one after another because considering them side by side brings out even more, which is why we’re looking at both tonight.  But let’s start with the first story.

1 After Jesus had finished teaching all this to the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 A centurion there had a slave who was highly regarded, but who was sick and at the point of death. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4 When they came to Jesus, they urged him earnestly, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 because he loves our nation, and even built our synagogue.” 6 So Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7 That is why I did not presume to come to you. Instead, say the word, and my servant must be healed. 8 For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him. He turned and said to the crowd that followed him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith!” 10 So when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave well. 

OK.  We’ll stop there for now.  Jesus comes into Capernaum after preaching his big sermon, and is met by some representatives of a centurion.  So who is this centurion?  Centurions were officers in the Roman army, the occupying force that had political control over Israel. They were assigned to oversee companies of around 80 men.  Because the Romans were the occupiers, generally they would not have been well regarded by the Jews of the day, seen more as resented enemies than respected leaders.  
But the centurion in this story is a bit different.  He apparently is friendly with the local Jewish elders, at least friendly enough that they are willing to come to Jesus on his behalf.  Perhaps he’s just a smart politician, garnering favor with the locals by paying for their synagogue.  Maybe these guys coming to Jesus are just in his pocket.  But there are other parts of this story that would have been surprising to a Jew of Jesus’ day, as well.  

First is the very reason he is sending folks to Jesus.  He’s not sick.  His family member isn’t sick.  His slave is sick.  For a Roman centurion to have such care for a slave would have been quite unique.  Marcel Mauss is an expert on the slavery practices of ancient Rome.  He has pointed out that there was a phrase for how slaves were regarded then: “servus non habet personam ('a slave has no persona’)” was the phrase of the day.  “He has no personality. He does not own his body; he has no ancestors, no name,…no goods of his own.”  So a slave was not considered a person in Ancient Rome.  But this officer is sending Jewish elders to persuade a Jewish rabbi to save his.  Curious.

The strangeness of the centurion’s affection for his dying slave has led some interpreters to speculate that maybe this slave was a lover, not just a domestic servant. It is true that it would not have been unheard, no even particularly unusual, for slaves to be used as sexual property by the Romans, but in this case we don’t actually know.  There is nothing in the text to indicate that that was the case.  It’s only speculation.  What we do know from the story is that we have a Roman officer who’s surprisingly concerned about the health of his servant, and in desperation, he sends for Jesus.

Why Jesus?  This centurion is a man with significant power at his disposal.  He’s politically savvy.  He knows how to play the system and get what he wants done.  It is clear he has authority and isn’t afraid to use it.  But where does his authority take him in this situation?  His power to play the Roman system is pretty useless.  Evidently there is no doctor in Rome who can save his slave from dying.  But the centurion has heard stories of a Jewish rabbi who apparently can heal the sick.  Word is lepers - even lepers(!) - have been cleansed.  And the centurion thinks, “if he can do that for those lepers, maybe he can heal my slave”.

It’s interesting that the centurion doesn’t come to Jesus himself.  Maybe he knows that to associate too closely with a Gentile could get Jesus in trouble with their Jewish purity laws.  To enter the centurion’s home would likely deem Jesus ceremonially unclean.  But it is also clear that the man is humbling himself before Jesus.  He has Roman soldiers reporting to him, he's a guy with legit status, and the Jewish elders make the point of proving that he is “worthy” to Jesus of receiving this healing. They’re trying to prove he’s not like those other Romans; he’s one of the good guys. But the centurion himself says, “No, no, no.  I’m not worthy. You, Jesus, you’re the one with power and authority in this situation.  And I know how power and authority works.  I know you don’t even need to come to me.  Just say the word and whatever powers need to submit to you to heal my slave will submit.  It will be done.”

And Jesus is super-impressed.  It is not very often that Jesus commends anyone; when he does we should take note. So what is Jesus impressed with?  His faith?  Yes, that’s clearly a part of it.  But I think just as significant is the way that faith is being expressed.  This man is not a Jew, coming to Jesus and interpreting him through a Jewish framework.  He is a Roman; he is a soldier.  So he understands Jesus from his own social context.  He understands him not as a rabbi or even a messiah but as the one that wields authority.  And he responds to him that way because that is what he knows.  And personally, I think one of the things Jesus is marveling at here is not just a man having faith in him, but it is a Roman man, not even a part of his ethnic or religious people group, a person of a much higher social class than Jesus, looking at him, looking at this carpenter who now teaches Jewish torah, and using his own language to say, “I get what’s happening here.  I get you Jesus.  I get that you have a power no one else has and I need that power.  Will you heal my slave?”  And Jesus can’t help but be amazed.  This commander of soldiers has identified him as a commander of supernatural forces. And he’s right. He is right.

OK, holding all that in mind, let’s go to the next story.  Going forward in Luke 7:

11 Soon afterward Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother (who was a widow), and a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and those who carried it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 So the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they began to glorify God, saying, “A great prophet has appeared among us!” and “God has come to help his people!” 17 This report about Jesus circulated throughout Judea and all the surrounding country. 

So in this second story, the scene has changed.  We’ve left a larger city, Capernaum, and we’re now in a tiny small town, Nain.  And as Jesus and his followers come to this small town they see a funeral procession taking place.  Jews in this day were supposed to bury their dead quickly, so its likely that he died earlier that day.  He would have been confirmed dead and partially embalmed.  And then the community would generally process through the town with a group of men carrying the deceased on a mat toward the outskirts of town where he’ll be buried.  This is the situation Jesus finds when he arrives in Nain.

This woman he sees is the opposite in social status from the centurion.  First, she’s a woman, which in this culture, means she barely a human being.  But worse, she is a widow, which has made her extremely vulnerable without a husband to provide for her financially.  But now she has gone from vulnerable to destitute.  On top of the immense tragic grief she must be feeling to lose her son, her only child, after already losing her husband, she is also now completely impoverished.  There is now no one left to take responsibility for her livelihood.  If it’s possible, her status is arguably worse than the slave we saw in the last story, who at least was fed and clothed and housed.  This woman also has no legal personhood, no social status to provide for herself, and will be completely dependent on the charity of others to keep her alive.  Things are pretty bleak.

But Jesus sees her.  He sees her and again we have that compassion word*.  His bowels churn for her.  Likely she is too deep in her grief to even notice him and his followers, but he sees her.  And just like the centurion a few verses before, Jesus knows that he alone is the only one who has the power to help this woman.  So he’s gonna one up himself for her benefit.  In Capernaum who healed a slave who was about to die.  In Nain, he is raising the dead.

In the last story, the Centurion seems to take pains to keep Jesus from sullying himself ceremonially, but in this story we see that he really isn’t very concerned with performing all the purity laws perfectly.  He reaches out and touches the mat the corpse is on, an act that itself makes Jesus ceremonially unclean.  Then Jesus speaks to the man, speaks words with authority, and watches a dead man inhale and exhale.  The man opens his eyes.  He sits up and begins to talk, and then Jesus does this tender thing.  He scoops the young man up in his arms and he turns and gives him to his mother.  I can only imagine the wonder in her eyes as she reaches out her arms and takes hold of her moments ago dead, but now living son.  I can only imagine the twinkle in Jesus’ eyes as he restores her son to her.  

Then and there she and everyone around her have their own, “aha!” moment.  They get who this Jesus is.  But they don’t reach for foreign military language to explain him.  They see and understand who he is in their own Jewish framework.  “A prophet is among us!” they exclaim.  And they’re right. They are right.

A few years back or so I made a friend in Iowa City; I’ll call her Kathy.  Kathy and I met not long after I moved there.  I was pregnant with Junia at the time, and Elliott was three.  I used to take him to this place called, “Tot Time”, which was basically drop-in free play time in a local recreation center gym for the under 5 crew.  Not knowing many people at that point because I was new in town, I often went there alone with Elliott.  And over time I noticed another woman who had a daughter Elliott’s age, as well as a baby, and who also seemed to be there frequently on her own with her kids.  So one day I struck up a conversation.  We talked about having a preschooler and a baby, as she was in that situation and I was soon to be.  We talked about the ways our kids were playing together.  We talked about just normal stuff that two moms can relate to.  It wasn’t deep.  But the next time I was at Tot Time and Kathy was there, she made her way across the room to me, and we picked up where we left off.

And this became a more and more frequent thing, that we’d run into each other at Tot Time and we’d talk. Kathy didn’t have a lot of friends who were in her stage of life now that she was married with kids.  Her and her husband had married young and most of their friends were still single or married without kids, so she was lonely for other mom friends, as was I.  So Kathy and I started to hang out.  I introduced her to some other mom friends of mine that went to my church, and she soon had a group of moms to hang out with.  We’d do play dates in the park, or at each other’s homes.  And eventually, Kathy began to ask me about my faith.  What was it I believed?  What was my church like?  Kathy herself was a lapsed Catholic, who’d never really had any religious practices of her own as an adult, but she believed there was something out there.  One Sunday, I saw her sneak in the back of our Sunday service.  I was leading worship, so I didn’t get a chance to greet her or ask her what she thought before she slipped out again.  But Kathy liked it.  Tentatively at first, and then more confidently, she kept coming.  She brought her kids.  And Kathy, in that community found Jesus, quite unexpectedly for her.

Now I’m not telling you this story as an example of how I was such an amazing evangelist or really excellent Christian, who reached out to someone and then shared Jesus with them.  Because truthfully, God used this relationship to work in me as much as He did to do a work in Kathy.  And the way that God was working in me was to break down some of my own invisible boundary markers, or social bubbles, if you will.   While Kathy and I certainly had in common that we had two young kids, as we got to know each other, it also became clear that there were also ways we were coming from different backgrounds and places in life.  

I’d always lived a solidly middle class life, and most of the people in my life were the same way.  We were pretty well-educated.  I’d gone to a good school for undergrad, was working on my Masters part-time, and most of my friends were also in some sort of advanced degree program.  Kathy had not gone to a four year college, though she’d gotten an associates in culinary arts after high school, and then started working as a restaurant cook.  Her husband had a Bachelors but was having trouble finding work in his field of study, and so he was a bagger at the local grocery store.  She had stopped working once she had her first kid.  They lived in the trailer park on the outskirts of town.  And as much as it shamed me to admit it, those differences in our background made me feel a bit uncomfortable at first.  My friendship with Kathy took work for me, not because she was hard to befriend, she was totally easy and lovely, but because I had to confront my own fears and biases and untrue assumptions about what it meant to be working class and living at the poverty line. I felt nervous the first time Kathy invited me to a play date in her home and I drove into the trailer park.  But being with her in her home, being welcomed so openly, so generously, into her intimate space was honoring, and sweet, and I couldn’t help but feel like an idiot for ever expecting it to be any different.

Before my friendship with Kathy, I think I had some unspoken fear I wouldn't have even been able to articulate.  But I believe my concern about befriending someone that wasn’t middle class was that we’d have some sort of unbalanced relationship because of financial disparities.  Maybe I was concerned that I’d feel compelled to support the person financially, and they’d feel compelled to take from me.  But Kathy wasn’t looking to me for money.  She was looking for friendship.  She was looking for someone to come hang out in her home, and invite her into their home.  Kathy was one of the most giving people in my little community.  When we bought a house, Kathy was the one who volunteered to come help me paint it.  When it was time for Elliott’s birthday, Kathy volunteered to make the cake, and she made a truly stunning work of art.  And she became a regular part of our faith community. Good came for me and for Kathy, for her kids, and for many others because God used that little connection we made to bridge two people from pretty different worlds and bring them together with His presence.

My friend and mentor Adey, the senior pastor in Iowa City, had her own interesting friendship experience recently, when a woman I’ll call Jen started attending our church. Jen was the new Dean of a prestigious school in the University in town.  She was a powerful person in our community, as that school was one of the pillars around which Iowa City’s culture revolved.  And when she chose to start attending our church, and then asked my friend Adey to meet with her, Adey accepted with a bit of wariness.  She was concerned that this woman had something she wanted Adey to change; she thought my friend was doing something wrong.  Because of Jen’s position, Adey felt like she needed to fight the temptation to be a bit deferring, even though they were of a similar age and stage of life.  But when they met, it wasn’t because Jen wanted to tell Adey how to run her church.  Jen was looking for a friend.  She was in a place that was lonely, at the top of a large, prominent organization, and she didn’t have anyone that she could just be Jen with instead of always “the Dean”.  Ultimately, Jen was looking for the same thing as Kathy - to know someone else and to be known.  To have friendships, relationships that foster meaning, joy, grace.

You see, the problem with bubbles is that they can reinforce the differences and mask the commonalities.  Yes, there are real differences between me and Kathy, between Adey and Jen.  But there are also real similarities that are missed if we stay in our respective bubbles.  Furthermore, we miss the opportunity to be a part of some amazing acts of blessing and grace that come when those bubbles are broken and new bridges of friendship are built.

In our passage tonight, bubbles are being broken all over the place.  If you were living in the particular bubble of 1st Century Jewish Palestine, I think your mind would likely be spinning taking in the bubble bursting Jesus is taking on.  We have a Roman officer, a cultural “oppressor”, acting with affection toward one of the lowest of the low in his own culture, a slave, and reaching across class and ethnic boundaries for help.  And Jesus responds, meets him exactly as he asks to be met.
In the second story, Jesus is the initiator.  He sees the woman who likely considers herself beyond hope of help.  And he comes to her.  He makes himself unclean.  He bursts the bubble of ancient purity regulations to communicate compassion and care.  He raises from the dead a person of relative status, a Jewish man, in order to bless a Jewish version of the lowest of the low - a destitute widow.

And here’s one more Bible-nerdy observation.  Both of these healings harken back to experiences that have happened before in the story of God’s people.  The centurion would remind Jesus’ Jewish followers of Naaman the foreign commander who came to the prophet Elijah to be healed of his leprosy.  Raising the widow’s son would remind Jesus’ Jewish followers of the widow’s only son that Elijah raised from the dead, scooped up in his arms, and gave back to his mother.  And if we’re not sure how to interpret these stories or why they’re significant, we only need to look three chapters in Luke earlier.  Remember what Jesus said to those in Nazareth, his hometown, who could not fully appreciate who he was or what he was there to do.  It was those two stories Jesus reached for to demonstrate how prophets were never accepted in their hometowns. He said, “In truth I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s days…  Yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to a woman who was a widow at Zarephath in Sidon.  And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, yet none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

Jesus was saying it then in his hometown, and here he is doing it now.  He is proving that he is more than the carpenter’s son in Nazareth. He’s more than a rabbi for Israel.  A prophet yes, but even more.  A commander of the supernatural, yes.  And as we’ll find out in the next story, even more.  But even here we get a sense that what he is doing is beyond Nazareth, beyond Jerusalem, beyond even the boundaries of Israel and the Jewish people.  He is about meeting people of every social class and culture where they’re at and bringing thing them what they truly long for -  a kind of life that only he can bring. Our little bubbles keep us from seeing him fully.  We need the centurion and the Jewish widow side by side to get a fuller picture of who Jesus is.  We still need that variety of perspectives today.  Our Facebook feeds probably won’t give it to us.  But our community and its engagement with the world around us, it can.

Friends, this Lent I think Jesus is inviting us to participate in this same kind of bubble bursting work.  Because this thing he is about - bringing life, bringing meaning, bringing friendship, joy, and grace - it’s for the working class, the middle class, the University deans and everybody else.  Its for the religious and the non-religious.  The Christian, the Buddhist, the Muslim, the Jew.  It’s for the secular humanist, the agnostic, the mindfulness practitioner, the environmentalist, the tech geek, the artist, the elementary school teacher.  It’s for the black lesbian, the asian transgender man, the straight, white male.  

And we, Haven, we are invited to be the ambassadors.  We are the Jewish elders going back and forth between the centurion and Jesus.  We are the folks carrying the body in need of new life to Jesus.  We are the witnesses watching in wonder as he heals that which is diseased and brings that which was known to be dead back to life.  We are the ones led to worship as we see it.  But even crazier, even nuttier: ours are the hands that lay on the diseased.  Ours are the voices that speak words of life.  Not because we have the authority in ourselves to command supernatural forces, but because the one who inhabits us does.

So how do we start?  What’s the first bubble-breaking step?  Well I think the first step has to be acknowledging the bubbles.  We have to see them before we can help break them.  So whether it means taking a step back from Facebook, or taking a step back to examine our day-to-day social habits we need some perspective on what our little bubbles are.  Sometimes we do this simply by noticing the other; the person on the train or crossing the street that you notice and then realize, “I know nothing about what that person’s life is like.  Why is that?”  If it’s not clear to you where your invisible bubbles are, try asking Jesus to reveal it.  Ask him to show you where your boundaries of comfort lie, and then if it’s not obvious to you, ask him to show you what holds you back from crossing them?  What fears do you have, like I had with my friend Kathy, or Adey had with her friend Jen?  What false perceptions or stereotypes might you be influenced by?  How can you lay those down or work to overcome them?

Number two is ask Jesus to move in the lives of people beyond your faith community bubble.  This is what our Leap of Faith practice of praying for our six is about.  It’s not just about praying for people because that’s a good thing for us to do to get more spiritual notches on our belt.  Jesus is expanding his new world order, his good life, his blessing, his kingdom, all around us whether we see it, and whether we participate in it, or not.  The question is, do we want in?  Do we want in or do we want to just be bystanders who are vaguely aware that Jesus is on the move?  

My experience of this following-Jesus thing is that it’s always helpful for our own connection to Jesus for us to be in on his work of breaking barriers and bringing blessing.  So when we pray for others who haven’t experienced Jesus in the same way, that is a way we are actively participating.  We are putting some skin in the game.  We are telling Jesus daily that we want to be a part of it.  And it’s not just a one way thing.  When we pray, we’re also inviting God to speak to us.   Which leads me to the third and final tip for today.

Listen for Jesus’ invitations to step out and break some bubbles, and look for active ways to respond.  So how does he speak to us?  What does it mean to “listen”?  It means pay attention to the internal nudges.  The gut instincts you feel.  The seemingly random thought that pops in your head when you think or pray about one of your six. Some folks get pictures in their head.  Some folks hear words in their mind. It could just be an unexpected conversation over lunch with a coworker that turns from work related matters to deeper meaning of life questions.  All of these are ways that God speaks if we have our spiritual ears open to hear. Yes, it could be just you, it could be a reaction to something you ate.  It could also be God.  And how will we ever know if we’re not willing to risk something?  To test the waters and buy that person lunch, or invite them to hang out with us on Easter, or offer to pray for them.

It also helps to know what you’re on the lookout for when it comes to bridge-building opportunities.  Jesus didn’t perform a healing for every centurion in Israel, nor for every widow.  He was responding to those in need; those who were aware of their need for something more.  While I would argue that all of us need the kind of life that Jesus brings, we don’t always know it.  Not every Dean is looking for friendship, but Jen was.  Pray for the same kind of openness for your six this Lent, and ask Jesus to show you where that openness exists.  It might not look like  someone saying to you, “Can you tell me about Jesus?” It probably won’t.  But a hunger for richer relationships, a felt need for meaning, an awareness that we can’t get all the purpose we’re looking for on our own is an important place to begin the process of breaking bubbles and building bridges.

You guys, I don’t want to be one of the 53% of churches that are happily homogenous.  I don’t want to be that because I don’t think that is the way of Jesus.  I don’t think that is the way of his kingdom.  The picture we’re given in Scripture of the end of this whole story we’re a part of is a picture of redeemed creation, where worshipers come before the throne of God from every language group, every tribe, and every bubble is broken.  Why wait for the end to experience that?  If we’re going to sincerely pray, “let your kingdom come” then we better be willing to partner with the Holy Spirit in ushering it in.  And the kingdom is diverse.  The kingdom is surprising.  The kingdom is infections and if it’s gonna come, it’s gonna break some bubbles.  But it’s going to release life, and love, and joy and the power of God dwelling with his people when it does.  That’s what I want more of this Lent.  That’s a Leap of Faith worth taking.  Let that Kingdom Come. Amen.

As Leah covered in a previous teaching, the Greek word translated here as "compassion" is literally referring to a visceral experience felt in the body, specifically, the bowels.