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Senior Pastor Panel: Curiosity

January 2, 2022

Audio Recording

A Year To Hope
A Year To Hope
Senior Pastor Panel: Curiosity

Sermon Transcript:


00:06 And so how are you guys and how are we feeling about, the year ahead? I mean, are you, are you hopeful? Are you discouraged? Are you just like man, whatever, you know, it'll be what it'll be. how are you guys, how are we feeling about that? About 20, 22,

00:24 I'm feeling hopeful. it was a long road to get here to hopeful. I felt pretty bad most of the year to be honest. and I actually think it peaked and, and I don't know if it was a, a spiritual battle or just a combination of trying to figure out what the rest of my life was going to be like, but it was right around the transition to shared leadership where I probably was at the darkest moments, that I've experienced in a long time feeling really depressed, really hopeless about everything. There were just so many conversations to have felt like we were in a world. And, even in my own mind, just feeling over, you're kind of shouting across the tables at each other without any real resolution, but not even just no real resolution, real, lack of desire for any kind of resolution or comradery.

01:11 and I'm extremely hopeful now. And the biggest, why is those of you who were in the room? You all of us over the last year and a half, two years have had every single excuse to get angry or to move on or to whatever. And, and some have certainly done that, but I know especially many of you who are in the room right now at this service have engaged and leaned in and ask questions and disagreed at so many junctions across the way, but still have continued to begin to ask those questions, which I believe that means that we're cultivating the way of Jesus inside of our walls, that now we're not cultivating a culture that says, look, everything is anything. And you just got to keep hanging out and whatever's whatever. No, we're, we're having some conviction. We're trying our best to discover exactly what the way of Jesus looks like right now in this cultural moment, we're continuing to talk and ask questions and, and that's extremely valuable. And if we can do that coming out of what we've been through and we can have what we have, then I think we can do anything.

02:12 Yep. And I been, I, I totally agree like the faces in the room each week. And we know so many are watching online as well. And that together, just brings so much hope. It really does the conversations. We have, the emails we share, week after week, remind us that together. We're going somewhere that God is leading us. Steve, you, you said the word turbulence and I hadn't thought of this prior to right now, but, I love this idea that God shows up in turbulence. there's that story where Jesus goes to the pool of Bethesda and the gospels and people are there waiting for the waters to be stirred because that's when they believe the miracles would happen. And Jesus walks into that space where people are waiting for turbulence because they need a miracle. And I just, as you said, that word, I just thought, my goodness, here we are in the middle of a turbulent moment, culturally, how beautiful Jesus walks in the room, how beautiful, if that's actually the catalyst that brings us to a place where we see Jesus more clearly, and we experience his presence in a more tangible way.

03:19 If that's what turbulence brings us, bring it on 2020 to throw it at us. You know, if Jesus is in the mix, I have a lot of hope.

03:28 I'm not going to go so far as to say, bring it on, man. It rose rough last year. That was like, okay, well bring, bring it. Yeah,

03:38 I'm ready. Bring it on with the question.

03:41 But I agree. I mean, we, I feel like there's so much hope, going into this new year, not because circumstances are going to change, you know, if you watch the news, you're like, okay, it looks like more of the same. I actually asked some of our, our core, people who came to a west side advance about two, two months ago. I think it was, how, what they were feeling, about the coming year. and the three options were hopeful, discouraged or neutral. And it was, as you can probably guess they were, there were people in all three categories. So people in our church are, some are feeling hopeful. Some are, are, are incredibly discouraged. I was, one person actually said, let me get my notes here. One said they feel weary, fragile trying to be graceful, but lots of unknowns still feel stuck in 2020.

04:32 and then there were some of that was just, I just feel like there's more of the same ahead kind of neutral feeling to it. and so as I think about, we felt like that word hope was the theme for 2022. because, I think we've lost hope because of everything we've gone through because of the world that we live in. I think a lot of people, even in the church have lost hope and that's partly because we've put hope in our circumstances and like God changing our situation right. Instead of, of hope in him. and so we're going to kind of lean into that over the coming weeks and months of this year, and really look at why, you know, why is hope it's such an important part of our Christian faith and what does that look like? and, and, you know, and I think, you know, sometimes we, we have to have faith in order to have hope.

05:23 So we've talked a lot about that on our speaking team where meaning that we have to, that we have to believe certain things about God to help us believe for certain things with God. Does that make sense? And so, as I think about faith and hope are really tied together as we, as we just reflect over and over about what has God done, you know, and I think that is such an important piece in this. it makes, it reminds me of, a lady that went to our women's Bible study who, really wanted to get baptized. And, but all of her friends circles were, unsafe. And she came to Christ, ends up at a bar at our Bible studies on Tuesday morning. And, and she decided I want to get water baptizes or next step of faith. And so she invites all of her friends.

06:09 Would you believe it? Not one of them showed up to support her in her baptism, but guess who did show up her entire women's group that she sits at the, you know, in the women's Bible study, they all showed up. They were all sitting with their cheering her on. And I was just thinking that's the church, the church shows up right. When maybe, the world is tapped out a little bit. And, and I, that gives me hope right there. That gives, that gives me hope to thinking about, okay, God can do this, through all of us, another thing about hoping this is kind of lead it to what we were really, you know, the next, kind of what we want to talk about in this next section is the importance of the, one of the ways to be hopeful is to stay curious.

06:49 And so this word curious is accurate is actually, something that we've been leaning into. I think about what Jesus said. if you have ears to hear, let's let them hear, like, there's a sense of like leaning in. And I think curiosity causes us to lean in and wonder what God, what are you doing? and how to think and feel about this life and about God, I love what Brian wrote. The phenomenon of wonder is uniquely human. There are two things that evoke wonder in us, the beautiful and the mysterious. And I think maturing in our faith is moving from a sense of rigidity to complexity and curiosity lives really well in complexity, but not in rigidity. And so, I want to talk about that, about what is it, what does it mean to stay curious about what God is doing? Why is that valuable in our, in our growth in him? how do we stay curious when things are confusing or discouraging? what do we see curiosity in the Bible, prayer, the holy spirit and life. So let's talk a little bit about curiosity, thoughts.

07:59 When I think about what I know about God versus what I don't know about God, that's what I think of when you talk about curiosity. If, if, if we believe this about God, I think if you've been a Christian for any length of time, you probably would say, yeah, God is infinite, right? So no into his goodness, no into his wisdom, no into his knowledge, no knowing. So if that's true, how much do you know about him and who he is versus how much you don't know about him? Not even close everything I know about all my experiences in his presence, everything, all of my study of God's word, all of that is just a tiny sliver of the incredible infinite nature of who God is. So if that's the case, I should probably not spend all my time and all of my faith, just going back over and over again, the things I do know and debating the things I do know in defending the things I do know, I would do much better to lean into those mysteries that I have not yet discovered about him.

09:01 and this is something that comes up when we read the story of, of job. if you've read the story of job, it's actually, scholars tell us it's the first book of the Bible that was written. So it's the oldest, literature in the Bible. And it's the story about this guy who just has, he has like 20, 20, and 2021, but times a hundred. Like everything goes bad for him, right? Joe has a horrible, horrible girl. And, through the story, he sits with his friends and they begin to debate about who God is. And Joe goes on for chapter after chapter, after chapter about all he knows about God. And then God responds to him in job chapter 38. And he says these words, and you would think he would be like, wow, Joe, thank you for sharing so much.

09:45 You know, so much about me. This is amazing. You've done well, son, instead, God says, who is this? That obscures? My plans was words without knowledge. And then he goes on and God for three chapters just rails against Joe, because he doesn't know everything. And even says this, where were you? When I laid the Earth's foundation, tell me if you understand it on and on, God goes. And the point is, bro, you haven't seen it all I know because of your experiences. You think you've, you know, me, you've got a lot more to learn. And so I feel challenged by that. And I feel like I would come to all of us and maybe to all of us as, as Western Christians and say, you think, you know, it all, there's more mystery to lean into.

10:27 Yeah. But I love what he says in what, how Joe responds. and this is something that really resonated with me many, several years ago, as I was thinking about this. Like, like when I realized, when I had a job moment, I'm like, oh, I thought I knew this is what he says. Who is it that hides counsel without knowledge, therefore I've uttered what I did not understand things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. And I just love that has his kind of this humility that goes with curiosity, the sense of like, I don't know everything. And I think, I think we have to be careful in the church in particular because we, we have a set of doctrines that we really just hold onto so strongly. And, and I think those are important, but we sometimes we, those, those causes to be rigid, those causes to just like, well, this is all there is. And there's so much more in scripture that, that, I mean, haven't you read a verse in the Bible that you've read a dozen times and something new jumps off the page, right? There's something like, I never saw this before. This is like, that's what the holy spirit does. And I think he wants to do, but we have to remain open. Curious about that. Ben, any thoughts on curiosity? Yeah.

11:36 It's amazing to me that I have been personally, I don't know if any of you identify with this, but one of the least curious people for large swaths of my life and a lot of that is due to how I've approached faith, which is funny, considering that we have something like, like the holy spirit that Jesus says that he leaves where, you know, I don't know if we all remember, but the holy spirit shows up to a group of people that are just kind of waiting around, hoping for some kind of thing to happen after Jesus's has died and risen again. And then ultimately go gone back up to heaven. and there's this group of several hundred people. And then it's whittled down to about 120 people. And then the holy spirit shows up in the scripture, says that it came on in tongues of fire and they were speaking in all these different languages and nobody could really understand what they were speaking language of the spirit.

12:23 And then somehow in many of our traditions, we took a lot of that and we said, ah, see this. Now we know exactly how the holy spirit works. And I read that now and I go, I don't think I know anything about how the holy spirit worked. What do you, this is unpredictable. This is wild. This is, this is crazy. This actually now makes me believe that just about anything can happen if we're falling after God. And the holy spirit is showing up in places. And I think about it like this. When I went to college, I grew up in a town about 800 people, a little mill town. I went to college and Klamath falls, which is the larger version of the same town that I grew up in. but even then I remember, I went to Thai food for the first time when I was in college.

13:08 And I was like, what is this, this thing? And where does Thai food come from? You know? And, and I had Thai and sushi in the same week and it was pretty wild and crazy. And, and I have it on the edge. I know. Right. but the thing was, even though it wasn't some, you know, crazy cultural experience, I do remember all of a sudden meeting people from all over the place that had come to, to school. And I began to hear stories about where they came from and what their family traditions were like and what the, what the environment was like when they grew up. And I start to think about that when it comes to faith. And I wonder when was the last time I was curious about what the holy spirit was doing when I had questions to ask when there was wonder to engage in, and then what was so beautiful about that college experience.

13:49 It was like this whole new, it was a whole new world. And, and I, I sang a lot in college. I didn't sing at all. And, but I remember that was some of the beauty of it in the excitement about it was, there was so many questions to ask and throw so many things to wonder. And I wonder if we as west side, me and myself, individually, us as leadership, if we get back to this moment where we go, man, we, we think we have it all down. The methodology is there, the liturgy is there and we've got this thing dialed in. Instead we begin to ask questions in wonder again, if this church thing doesn't even just get more hopeful, but it gets more beautiful along the way.

14:25 I love that. Ben, that's such a great picture. And I love the, the idea of just leaning. You know, some of the church fathers were very much more attuned to the mysterious aspects of the holy Spirit's working. And they really leaned into that. Like we don't know everything. So holy spirit guide us, lead us, direct us. And I just, I feel like that's somebody asked, somebody asked, send a text. What do you think the new normal will be for west as 20, 22 unfold? And I think, I think it's a lot of this. I think it's, it's, it's asking a lot more questions and having probably fewer answers and really asking the Lord to guide us and lead us in this discovery of who he is and what his word says to us and, and, and how that can then lead into hope. I was thinking about a metaphor when I thought about this idea of rigidity, how I, in my faith, I've gotten pretty rigid and this is just the way it is and always be this way.

15:17 That's that? And I thought about the, I took, we were, we got to go to Florida. I don't really remember last year or something and with my nieces and nephews and, and I have a five five-year-old, was he five Susie four or five-year-old great nephew Boone is his name. And we took him to a Topia. Have you guys ever been to a Topia? It's in Disneyland and it's the cars, you know, that are on a track. And, it's great for a four year old to feel like they're driving. Right. It's like, Hmm. And then they go up there and it's really more like four year old and they're driving. That's the way it is. And, and then, and then a few months back, they were in bend. And so I took, we took him to some out in fund center and we went on the go-karts completely different experience for this four year.

16:01 Five-year-old right. Like, like, oh, and I, I didn't let him drive the whole time because there's not any rails and it's, there are boundaries, but there was a sense of like, more freedom. And I think sometimes in Christianity, we, we treat, we treat our faith, like a Topia. Like it's just this rigid thing. And if we just veer just a little bit, guys go, bam, bam, that's God to us, you know? Correct. Correct. And I think God is much more interested in wide open spaces and allowing us the freedom. you know, it's, you know, that, Topia is great for a two year old, but not a 40 year old. You know what I'm saying? And, and life on the rigid tracks leaves us, completely unprepared for the open road. It keeps it, we're not ready for the questions. We're not ready for the dialogue with this post-Christian world.

16:58 We're not ready for the questions that they're going to ask us about what the Bible means and how does it apply to certain situations. And we're just like, get back to the rigid, rigid, rigid. I wanted to be like, I had the answers didn't decade ago I had all the answers, right. And we all agreed and we don't anymore. And I think there's a sense of this open, like, okay, God, show us, how do we live in a post-Christian world with this sense of curiosity, because rigid religiosity leaves us trying to drive on the Topia tracks without touching the rails, believing that that's a good and religious life, but there's no life there. and perhaps believing that, you know, God is in this control room, just waiting for us to just bounce off the rock off the tracks and that's not God either. And so I think the curiosity keeps us fresh to the work of the holy spirit in our lives. other thoughts you guys,

17:53 And it keeps us young, you know, I think of, talking about Steve again,

18:00 Both sides. Wow. I think of, pastor Jim Stephens on our team here, and many of you know, pastor Jim, he and Jean have been here serving for decades. not a young man to Jim if you're watching, sorry, but you're not a young man. But when I think of curiosity, there is no one like pastor Jim, as far as someone who has stayed young in the way that he approaches his questioning, not questioning of his faith, but questioning about what has got up to what is he doing? This curiosity just exudes from him to where, you know, he mentors all of us at different levels and there's always a sense of, he doesn't come with answers. He comes with more questions and better questions that draw you in. It's an invitation into exploring where God is at, where is he taking? What is the holy spirit up to it? And so it inspires me, who is much, much younger than pastor Jim and much younger than pastor Steve. but to stay, to stay curious in my faith, why it's so that when I'm talking to people who want nothing to do with faith, I'm not coming in with the answers I'm coming at them like Jesus did with an invitation. I don't know all the answers, but come with me and let's go find out what God is up to. Let's go find out what this mystery

19:14 And just that journey. And together with the people around us, in our lives and helping them, you know, people are probably scared right now. Like, oh wait, did you say no boundaries? We've got to have boundaries. And I get, yeah, absolutely. There are boundaries in life. And, but for me, Jesus is the centerpiece. He is. If we're going to have a rail, let's have Jesus as the rail. And he asked more questions and then gave answers by the way. and so I think, and he told more stories that people, that people that really wanted to know what he was saying, what did they have to do? Ask questions. They had to lean in that. That's why the disciples got the answers to some of the, some of their questions because they leaned in and they said, oh Jesus, you said this story. Like, it's easier for someone to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven. Like, you just like left that one, like drop the mic and walked away. Like, what is that about? You know, and the, and, and they leaned in. And I think that's the approach that we're talking about. Not that there's no of boundaries, but this sense of like, huh, I wonder what Jesus is thinking.

20:17 And I think a big part of the new normal needs to be understanding that that is a strong way of leading I've led as a leader with all the answers before. And I've led as a leader that is curious and patient. And I got to tell you the one that takes far more strength is the one that's curious and is patient and graceful. You see it countless times with Jesus in the scripture where somebody is like, look, call down angels to come and rescue you or turn stones into bread right now and, and quench your hunger. And, by the way, when you're on the cross, just you could, why don't you fix this, like call down this incredible action and moments that show definitively that you are the son of God and Jesus refuses. Every single one of these moments. He refuses the ultimatums.

21:05 He refuses to be put in this one pressurized moment in boxing, the steady carries on with what is the will of God. And that is what takes real strength. It takes nothing to take as many Hills as you can, and plant as many flags and shout at as many people as you can that are trying to navigate this. It takes an immense amount of real leadership, not just on our part, but on our part is as a whole, as a church to, to resist the urge, to do that at every single moment. And to try to plant a flag in every conversation. And it takes everything to listen to the stories of people and understand that their reactions and their way of thinking is a result often of some kind of experience or success or trauma. And it takes so much patience and leadership to, to lead into think in that way. Then I want that to be the new normal for us going for. When we interact with our city, we interact with our neighbors. we interact with ourselves together in this church. I want that to be the new normal.

22:03 It's really good. Ben. It makes me think about like, what does, so what does curiosity look like? We'll finish with this. What does curiosity look like in a community of people? Like I'm thinking of our community groups, you know, and we're gathering, you know, groups of 10 or so gathering together in homes and, you know, throughout the week, what does curiosity look like there? I mean, any thoughts on that, but you kind of touched on it a little bit, Ben, you know, just this openness, but just like, what are the, how does this live inside of relationships?

22:30 It, curiosity looks like, someone who's become a really close friend of mine. Who's also my neighbor who goes to west side. I don't know if they're in here right now. but he, he came to me right in the middle of kind of the, the largest fervor of the pandemic, where people are wondering what, and, you know, are we going to open and mass and all these things? And he was, was, not heated but warm. He was, you know, and he came in, he asked all these questions that he was kind of direct and he had this tone that we didn't normally take with each other. And then he stopped and he allowed me to respond and allowed me to say things like, I'm not completely sure about what tomorrow is going to look like, and I'm not sure about all these things.

23:09 And then we ended up installing my driver. We had a conversation over 30 minutes to an hour where we each asked each other, all the questions that we could. And I'm not sure that either of us, you know, pull each other over a political dividing line or a pandemic dividing line, and we're still tight. We still spend time in each other's houses. We just built a gates or our dogs could play with each other during the day. You know, this is the relationship that we have allows for that kind of curiosity and conversation. and it just has eliminated a lot of the fear of, well, what if I come up and I say the wrong thing, because there's a tradition, and a

23:45 Habit of really caring deeply for each other. So those conversations can have,

23:49 Yeah. I love that. Been out of love. Love is the center of that relationship, obviously. And it sounds like you guys chose to not be defensive, or to, be argumentative. you guys both had passionate ideas and thoughts obviously, and it's not, I think sometimes we think living in community in a diverse community means I just got to keep my mouth shut. Right. But I think there's, there's a sense of like asking questions. Like someone comes into the group and goes, they, they just, they just say, I'm, I'm not sure about name, the issue, right. Name, whatever, that, whatever issue on a name. Like, I'm not sure about that. And instead of the group like, oh, well the Bible has the answer. It's more like, tell me why you think that like, help me understand where you're coming from. That sense of curiosity, not just in what the scripture says and what, what God is doing, but also in people's journeys and lives. Evan, any thoughts on that in,

24:39 Yeah. I just love the idea that we built gates, not fences. I think that's a really beautiful thing that really right on the nose. I mean, yeah, it's a good picture. I think when I'm, when I'm alone with questions, I Google the answers when I have questions and we're sitting around a table, whether it's in a meeting or, you know, during the week or around a dinner table, it becomes a conversation. And I love, I, I would love it as a church if we could come out from isolation where we just kind of, whether it's actually Google or as we treat the Bible, like a Google box where it just give me my answer, come on, give me my, okay, I got it. It's good. Let me move on. And instead we bring it into conversation and that's not to say we ditch the Bible for conversation.

25:21 We bring the scripture into conversation and say, I was just reading this. Can we talk about this? Can we spend an hour and just talk about this? Because I think the life of scripture, it was designed in community, right? You look through all the scriptural descriptions of the, it was community. These weren't just individuals in rooms, somewhere coming up with this stuff. This was given to communities and, and it needs to be brought back into communities. And so 20, 22, if it could look like a bunch of tables and a bunch of people having conversations and living life in such a way that scripture comes alive, because we're not just treating it like an answer box I'm in.

25:59 Good. Yeah. Jesus, wasn't a monk up on a mountain top by himself, writing down these incredible ideas. It was all built at birth out of community. I love that Evan. Well, we're inviting you all on this journey with us. Obviously this is a moment for us as a church to lean into curiosity and wonder, to, to be okay with asking questions, to be okay with pondering, at a more deep level, what scripture actually says and what it means. and, one of the ways that we're doing that, throughout the year is we're going to do a quarterly Westside advance. And this is the kind of conversations we have and they truly are conversations. It's not just the three of us or, other staff members sharing, Hey, this is what you should think. It's, it's really collaborative where it's an opportunity for all of us to kind of discuss together in small groups in this room, even, and to give feedback to us, the leaders on different topics and issues.

26:53 And so our first one's going to be in February, February 28th. And we're going to, we're going to dive into this conversation. How do we live with a spiritual curiosity? what does that mean? What does that look like? And so I want to invite you back for that February 28th. that should be a Wednesday night. we go from like seven to eight 30 ish. And so I hope you can join us for that. We also want to invite you to journey with others. And so if you're not involved in a community group or you're interested in being a leader of a community group, we have a leadership training that's going to be launched January 24th. if you're curious about hosting or leading a group, here at west side, that's the first kind of the first step to join in is that leadership training.

27:34 And that happens to any 24. You can get all that information out in the atrium at our info center, or also on our website. Let me pray and we'll finish up. Jesus. Thank you, Lord, for, what the message translation says in Romans chapter five, the wide open spaces of your grace. There is so much space for us that you give us permission to wonder, to contemplate, to think more deeply about, how your word applies to our lives, today to contextualize scripture, to this moment. and Lord, really, as I think about, why this is so important as I think about the next generation, I think about how, how the, the largest, the largest religious group in America is the nuns. Those that have given up on faith of any kind and Lord, I pray that you would help us in this season to know how to navigate these troubling waters of faith and spirituality in our nation in a way that is honoring to your word and to your spirit and to the spirit of curiosity that you give to us.

28:46 The, the, the ability, the gift to ask questions, to wonder about, things in our life and in our world and in your word. And so give us that grace, I pray in 2022 and help that lead to hope a sense of God. I mean, I don't have all the answers, but I know you've got this, I know that you're doing something. And I trust that I'm going to trust that you're doing something that maybe I don't fully understand. I'm going to lean into that and figure out God what you're up to. And so help us Jesus, as we navigate, these days we pray in Jesus name. Amen.