Pastor April's Sermon - June 12th - Need To Succeed

CHILDREN’S MOMENT:  

The movie is about a little girl named Riley and the emotions that live in her head.

Let’s meet them.

 

FIRST SERIES OF CLIPS.

Intro to Emotions

 

 

Memories and Personalities

 

 

 

Riley’s life is relatively happy until her family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco and Riley seems to have a hard time adjusting.

 

What emotions do you think you might be feeling if you had to move to a brand new place far away from all of your friends?

 

So, one of the things that we can sometimes have a problem with is being able to show our feelings.  So, I want you during this service to help me by choosing a couple of the emotions.  It might be disgust or fear or joy.

 

And put the sticker on the page of whatever emotion you have chosen and then draw us a picture of something that makes you feel that emotion.

 

We’ll show those at the end.

 

SERMON TIME:

 

So, let’s return to our story of the Emotions inside Riley’s head.

 

Most of the time, Joy is in control and tries really hard to keep Riley Happy –

 

Let’s see what happens on the first day of school for Riley.

 

SECOND SERIES OF CLIPS

First Day of School 

 

(I think the first one let’s stop around 1:38 – where Joy says, it’ll turn into a good day, a good week, a good year, and a good life)

 

(Then the next one would be about the 3:00 to the 5:00 mark until they get sucked into the tube)

 

 

More than anything, Joy really wants Riley to have a good first day of school.

So, she tried to keep sadness in the circle – she tried to keep Riley happy by keeping the sadness away.

 

Does it work?

 

We can’t become happy by pretending that we aren’t sad about something.

 

So in the movie – Joy and Sadness go through a long journey to finally find a way back to headquarters – just in time to help Riley realize how she is feeling so she can go home to her parents and tell them how she’s really feeling.

Which is sad –

 

LAST CLIP

Owning the Feelings 

 

– starting about 38 seconds in where she starts to cry and is honest about missing Minnesota

 

In the end, Joy learns that she has to be honest about how Riley is really feeling.  It won’t always be happy.  In fact, sometimes the sadness and the happiness go together.

 

What begins with deception as a means to accomplish her goal ends with the invitation to be honest.

 

Our series this summer is based in part on the Enneagram – a set of 9 different typologies and personality types that encompass the whole of our needs as humans.

 

This week we focus on type 3 – the Achiever.

Which – this will come as a shock to those of you who know me – is the type that I am.

 

For 3’s it is really important to achieve our goals.  And whether our goals are worthy or self-serving – we are often willing to deceive, cover up, and smooth over the truth in order to experience success.

 

Threes have a hard time facing defeat and an even harder time learning to be honest with themselves about the truth of how they are feeling.  We are really good at putting on a brave face and convincing others that we’ve got it all together.   And we are known for Taking control of a situation so that it works out the way we want it to.

 

When I saw this movie the first time, I really identified with JOY – since I behave like her an awful lot.  Good intentions – but willing to cover over the reality of the situation so that things will happen the way I want to.

 

And our biblical hero today struggled with the same thing.

Genesis 25: 21-34

So, our biblical character today is Jacob.  Now, Jacob is a twin.  When he was born, his brother Esau was born first and the bible tells us that when Esau came out, Jacob was grasping onto his heel.

 

Esau was a hunter, he was big and hairy and spent his time out in the wilderness hunting for game.

Jacob preferred to stay closer to camp and spend time with his mother.

 

The name Jacob means – deceiver.  And it turns out that early on Jacob lives up to this name.

 

There is one day where Esau comes back and Jacob has been cooking a stew and Esau is hungry so he comes up to his brother and says – hey, can I have some of your stew?  Seems like a reasonable question.

And Jacob says – Uh, sure, but first you need to give me your birthright.

 

A birthright for a bowl of lentil stew.

 

Give me your inheritance and your rights as the first born.

 

And I’ll give you a bowl of lentil stew.

 

It’s a terrible deal, but Jacob the deceiver knows something about his brother.  That he is impulsive and prone to make poor choices particularly when he is starving.

 

And so Esau agrees to give him his birthright and enjoys the stew.

 

Some time later, the deception continues – Jacob’s mother is involved and knowing that their father  Isaac is aging and senile and is ready to share the blessing of the firstborn with Esau,

Jacob covers himself in animal hair and disguises his voice and prepares some supper while Esau is still out hunting, and he comes before his father Isaac and pretends to be Esau and receives the blessing.

 

When Esau returns to the camp and goes before his father and asks for the blessing – it is too late.

 

Esau and Isaac are both furious and Jacob the deceiver decides that he must get out of town.

 

So he flees the area and stops for the night to rest.  He is alone and he is afraid – and this is where our story picks up.

 

Jacob wants more than anything to have been the firstborn.  He wants all the things that come with it – and when he doesn’t have what he really wants – he takes control of the situation.  He sees an opportunity to get what he wants and he goes for it.

 

He’s an achiever.  And he will put on whatever face or costume or hairy fur – in order to get what he is wanting.

 

But I imagine that night that the pain and the stress of  all that had happened was more than Jacob could bear and once again – one of our heroes finds themselves in a place of vulnerability – a place of opening where God can work.

 

SCRIPTURE.

 

(Tracy shares some thoughts)

 

In this moment of vulnerability – where Jacob the deceiver has achieved his goals but is feeling the cost and the isolation that comes with it – God meets him right where he is – helping him to see that even in this place of deception, God can see him.  God sees him and knows him and even so – is able to walk with him.

 

And I wonder in some ways if this is the first time that Jacob is really able to begin being honest about how HE is feeling.

 

And to realize that the road back to wholeness and healing and home again – will be a journey he must take by being honest with himself.

 

Jacob and Joy and Tracy and myself – we have all had to learn the hard way – that if we can be honest with ourselves – particularly in our moments of failure and vulnerability and weakness –

If we can take off the masks and be honest about where we are – how we are feeling.

 

And allow God’s voice to say to us – I’ll be with you ANYWAY –

 

I love you and none of those things ever mattered anyway.

 

It was never about how much you achieved.  That was just your ego talking.

 

My greatest hope and goal for you is that you would know that you are loved just as you are.

 

And maybe as you start to have the courage to be honest about this reality and rest in me -

 

Envy and Growth - Pastor April's Sermon - 5/29

This Weeks Sermon Began with reading the story Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems (click the link to hear the story)  

Last week, we began our new series called the Hero’s Journey.  We’ll be reading stories from the Bible and from some children’s books and movies – and looking at the ways the characters experience profound transformation – often by being taken out of their comfort zone and using the opportunity to learn something new about themselves and about God.

 

Each of these characters struggles with a different part of what it means to be human.  We’re basing this a bit off the ancient typology the Enneagram.  In the Enneagram there are 9 different types and personalities – representing the totality of the true human longings and struggles.  And the Enneagram recognizes that as a part of our ability to meander and journey through this world – many of us find a default place – a pattern in which we find that things work best and we tend to then react and behave from that familiar place.  It doesn’t mean that we aren’t motivated by other longings and needs – but there tends to be a particular need that more often than not – will shape our decisions and our reactions – particularly in moments of stress.

 

Todays characters were likely 4’s on the Enneagram – the Individualist – a person whose primary need is to feel special and set apart from others.  They tend to struggle with constantly comparing themselves with others – often being jealous and feeling that they don’t measure up against what others have to offer.

 

Timi’s going to start off the story of Joseph and offer some reflections.

 

Genesis 37:3-11

 

So, all of us have stories that run in our heads that are often not true.  Part of Joseph’s story was that his place in the family – that his self-understanding, that his worth and role in the family was tied to being special – being special in his father’s eyes and being set apart from his brothers.  In his story, his specialness compared to others is what made him meaningful.

 

And not surprisingly – the brothers had a story running in their heads as well.

As they interacted with their younger and not very self-aware teenage brother – spouting about his dreams and wearing his special coat…

But in their story – Joseph’s special / belovedness meant that they were somehow less than.  Not as beloved or worthy.  And they hated him for it.

 

In both stories – belovedness is contingent.  I’m only beloved if…  I’m better than these brothers.  Or I’m only beloved if the favorite is gone.  There’s a scale with winners or losers.  Either or.   And it is always based on how I compare with someone else.

 

Comparing ourselves to others will always make it harder for us to find connection with that person.  Jealousy always results in disconnection.

 

Now you may know the rest of the story.  When Joseph next heads out to his brothers – they plot to kill this dreamer – but in a moment of grace – they have this thought cross their minds – “maybe we shouldn’t kill our own brother” – so after leaving him in a pit to starve – they end up selling him to a caravan of traders as a slave.

 

That caravan ends up selling him to the Egyptians and eventually Joseph ends up in the house of the Pharaoh.  He is given much responsibility and favor and starts becoming trusted in many ways.  But just when you think his future is looking brighter, the wife of his master attempts to seduce him and when he says no – she sets him up and accuses him of trying to attack her.

 

Joseph ends up in the prisons and he stays there for many years.

 

Again he works his way up – until comes a time where he is able to interpret the dreams of a couple of members of the kings court who are also on the outs.

His interpretations turn out to be true and a few years later when the Pharaoh himself is having dreams – Joseph is called upon to interpret those dreams.

What he tells the pharaoh is that there will come 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine.

 

The pharaoh sees that God is with Joseph and so he puts him in charge of all that is necessary to prepare for this next season and reality.

 

When the years of famine come – Joseph is in charge of distributing all the grain that they stored up during the years of plenty.

 

And his brothers come to Egypt – in search of food.

 

Can you even imagine how he must have been feeling?

To see them – the same brothers who sold him into slavery – but now he is in the power position.

 

And so he isn’t initially so gracious.  The old story returns.  I’m special because I’m different than my brothers.  I’m beloved because I’m better, I have more power…

 

He asks them about their father and about his younger brother Benjamin and then he even puts one of them in prison until they will return with the younger brother.

It takes some time before their father Jacob is willing to let Benjamin go – he doesn’t want to lose another son – but eventually they allow him to go.

 

And there is a very interesting thing that happens here – the brothers – once gripped by envy of Joseph – have a very different relationship with Benjamin.

 

Benjamin is also the special brother – the clear favorite of their father – but this time when they return they are protective of him.  They are even willing to sacrifice themselves so that he would be able to return to their father.  Somehow the experiences of life have changed them and their story looks different.

 

Until finally, Joseph decides to reveal who he really is –

 

Genesis 45:4-18

 

What a difference…

 

A moment of humility

Of mercy

Of grace

 

All the pettiness, all the ego from their earlier interactions is simply absent.

 

And healing –

An incredible moment of vulnerability and honesty – where I think they all finally saw themselves and each other as they truly were.

 

And the window to being able to see this seems to be the brokenness.

 

There’s no comparing themselves to one another.  There is only connecting.

Connecting as brothers who have been through it.

And who can now see how very wrong their stories were – and can see the love that they truly do share.

 

For Leonardo – the moment came when he looked at Sam and realized that Sam was just as broken and scared and alone as he was.  And that what he really needed wasn’t a person to push him down – but a friend in connection.

 

And for Joseph – I think seeing his brothers – just as broken and scared as he was on that day that he was sold into slavery – helped him to realize that more than anything he longed for relationship and love and connection.

 

This is the good news of the Gospel

 

That all of us have fallen short of the glory of God.  And we all stand as sinners in need of a God of grace.

 

And that all of us are also beloved and made in the image of God.

 

Broken AND Beloved.

 

Both.  Always both.

 

And when we can accept this and truly accept this.

 

Then we can get on with it…

 

We can stop comparing ourselves to others and we can be in connection and relationship in ways that bring light and life and joy into the world.

 

So may we find courage from the journeys of our heroes – who learned the power of connection and found the new discovery that God’s belovedness for us is part of who we are – broken and all.

Coming to Peace with Imperfection _ Pastor April's Sermon - 5/22

Peanutscomics  

 

What is Lucy so upset about?

 

Things aren’t going the way she wants them to.

When things aren’t going perfectly - How do you think she feels about herself?

 

What helped her?

 

It’s a rare moment where Lucy realizes that what she really needs is LOVE.

She doesn’t need to be perfect.

 

Assignment –

What does it look like when we aren’t feeling love?

And when we are?

 

STORY OF SAUL – PAUL

 

So, this summer – we are beginning a series that we are calling the HERO’S JOURNEY –

And the series is mostly going to be an opportunity to do some storytelling –storytelling of some of the great hero’s of the bible – and storytelling from books, comics, movies, of some heroes from modern day children’s stories.

And part of what makes a person a hero, particularly for our biblical characters – is that they have some kind of event happen that begins to take them out of their comfort zone – and in so doing – they begin to learn some things about themselves.  And while some of our hero’s will actually take physical journeys as they learn and grow – the real journey is an inward one – where as they learn some challenging things about who they are – and often who God is – they find themselves changed – and so the outward journey looks different.

 

Now, each of our hero’s this summer must face a different but very human part of who they are in order for this growth to happen.  The basis of this comes from a ancient typology called the Enneagram.  In the Enneagram there are 9 different types and personalities – representing the totality of the true human longings and struggles.  And the Enneagram recognizes that as a part of our ability to meander and journey through this world – many of us find a default place – a pattern in which we find that things work best and we tend to then react and behave from that familiar place.  It doesn’t mean that we aren’t motivated by other longings and needs – but there tends to be a particular need that more often than not – will shape our decisions and our reactions – particularly in moments of stress.

Click here for the Enneagram Link

 

 

So over the summer, we will look at heroes who represent each of the 9 typologies – and my hope is that we will see a little bit of ourselves each week – some weeks more than others – and an invitation to go a bit deeper.

 

If you are interested in the Enneagram – you are welcome to take the free test online and see what number you are – we have been exploring these in our Tuesday bible study of which you are invited to join us! (link listed above)

 

So, our first biblical hero is Paul – who at the start of our story today is still named Saul.

 

And one thing you notice about Saul at the start of the story is that he seems very angry.  Saul is a Pharisee, raised in the Jewish tradition.  His father was a Pharisee – and one thing that was incredibly important to the Pharisees was upholding the laws and the traditions.  This was what was right and true – and as you will see in our story today – Saul – or Paul – (Saul was his Hebrew name, Paul was his Roman name) – more than anything wanted others and himself to DO WHAT WAS RIGHT.

And these followers of Jesus – were the epitome of what it meant to degrade and go against the laws that he held so dear.  The claiming of Jesus as the Messiah – that God had become human was beyond blasphemous.  So, with all the zeal and fervor and anger within him – Paul devoted himself to the relentless pursuit of all those who were followers of Jesus – or the WAY.

 

SCRIPTURE

 

If you are a person who struggles and longs to be right.  Not just in your own life – but in the world.  Nothing bothers you more than to see something or someone being done the wrong way.  If this is of paramount importance to you – then you know that nothing is more crushing and humiliating and devastating than the sure realization that you were wrong.  And not jut wrong but very very wrong.

 

As I imagine the pain that Paul must have gone through in his blindness – 3 days of quiet.  Coming to grips at whatever level he could – of just how very wrong he had been.

 

What a journey inward.

 

It’s an incredibly vulnerable moment – where after being literally stopped in his tracks – and told that he was utterly wrong – that what he thought was working toward helping God and restoring his house was actually hurting/harming/persecuting the Lord.

 

He finds himself in the dark, utterly reliant on others for everything.  Utterly reliant on God.

 

One of the things we will find in common as we journey through our series this summer is how often the most important and significant personal change arrives in our lives during moments of vulnerability.  Moments when things are not going the way we want, when we are at our weakest places, and where sometimes, we have literally been knocked off our feet.

 

For it is often in those dark places where we are finally open enough to see the change that needs to happen and to see ourselves and our own patterns and behaviors for what they are – desperate attempts to find meaning and worth – and simply unable to provide what we long for most.

 

In our comic, we see Lucy, who usually exudes such confidence, arrogance, and bossiness – telling others all the things that they are doing wrong and ensuring that things are going the way she wants.  Lucy has the rare moment of recognizing her own longing – and in the word from her brother realizing that above all – what she really longs for – is not perfection – but love.

 

It’s a humbling thing to have to admit that we are wrong – that we are often wrong – that we don’t have it all figured out.  Paul’s fear and perhaps Lucy’s as well – is that if we let down our guard for a minute – if we let anyone off the hook for a bit – if we admit ambiguity and mystery and imperfection – than our own sense of self and worth dissolves.

 

There is no other antidote for this than the humbling and true realization that we are loved regardless.  That our weaknesses are seen by God – and with grace and love that covers us – God is not concerned about those weaknesses – in fact, as Paul will proclaim later in his ministry – God will use these weaknesses to become strengths.

 

But the journey is slow – to recognize that the perfection we long for – will not ultimately fill us with peace.  But only the acceptance and assurance of God’s unconditional love for us

 

What must it have been like to be so sure you were right and then knocked off your feet – told you were utterly wrong.  Told you were persecuting God – and then have this voice say to you – and yet, you, the one who was so wrong – headed in such the wrong direction – I choose YOU – to lead my people to reveal to them my love and to show them the way forward?

 

It is such an extraordinary story of love and forgiveness.  The reminder that the perfection that God seeks in us has nothing to do with our ability to get it right – but everything to do with our willingness to let go and trust God to use what we have – and to ground our hearts in this assurance of unconditional love for us and the world.

 

That’s the thing that changes us.

 

So may you today find yourself surrounded in love.

Though you are not perfect.  And never will be.

 

May you be reminded that this was never the goal – and may it heal the anger in your heart and lead you toward peace and acceptance – for you and for others.

A HOLY WEEK INDEED

christ's entry Join us this week on an inward journey of spiritual growth as we follow Jesus into the valley and back up again, listening to his challenge to remove our masks and to embrace the wonderful reality of our true selves. We have reading suggestions, questions for reflection and Holy Week services to facilitate your journey. See our special edition newsletter here for more details!