Sunday, January 31, 2010

En Vivo #s 1 and 2 - Disciples and Identity

[The main event of our week here at El Pozo is what we call El Pozo “En Vivo” (which means El Pozo “Live!”), our Tuesday night all-community Bible study. It typically comes complete with preaching, music, videos, skits, free food, the whole deal. After each En Vivo, I hope to blog briefly about the night – what we taught, how it went, etc. Enjoy.]

En Vivo #s 1 and 2 – Spring 2010 – Disciples and their Questions…

Okay, so we’ve had two En Vivos and a third is fast-approaching and I have yet to do my usual blog recap. Here is a special double edition.

En Vivo #1 – Disciples - January 19th

The first three fourths of the semester or so, we’ll be doing one long series based on QUESTIONS. Specifically, we’ll be looking at the questions people asked Jesus and how they reveal the questions that we have for Jesus today. Mostly, we’ll be looking at questions asked of Jesus by his disciples, so week one we took a look at who Jesus’ original 12 disciples, or apostles, were. After beginning with Matthew 4:18-22, I pulled out three questions that I thought were particularly relevant for our community to focus on for the first talk of the semester.

Question #1: “What is a disciple?”

When I asked my interns what came to mind when I said the word “disciple”, Mario made me laugh with his answer: “beards and tunics”. I wonder if that wasn’t a very insightful answer, though, and thought it might be important to start with a little context about 1st Century Palestine and the Jewish culture in which Jesus operated. Having recently seen “Dust”, one of Rob Bell’s Nooma videos, I simply passed along the great info that he shares in that film. Check it out sometime.

Next I made the following points: A disciple is a FOLLOWER/IMITATOR. I did not show, but did mention, the scene from “Elf” in which Buddy goes to work dressed just like his dad, following him around and imitating his every move. A Jewish disciple didn’t just want to know what his rabbi knew, he wanted to be exactly like his rabbi in every way and do things exactly as his rabbi did them.

A disciple is a LEARNER. I showed this classic photo of my brother and me – and feel free, by the way, to join the caption contest currently happening among the Oakley side of my family:

My point here is that early in life, my little bro, like every little bro, was constantly watching me and learning from my every move. Learning what to do and what not to do. In a way, younger siblings are great examples of disciples. Following and learning and imitating.

I also thought it worth mentioning that we always talk about the discipleS – plural. Jesus’ disciples were a group, and we never do the faith life alone. Jesus’ strategy for changing the world was to invest in his band of followers, particularly investing deeply in 12 of them, and investing even more intensely in three in particular.

Our second question was “Who were these guys – Jesus’ disciples? What do we know about them and what does it mean for us today?” I guess that is two questions but you get the gist.

Here I did a very quick overview of what we know about each of the 12. Then I talked about several interesting characteristics of Jesus’ guys, including…

They were mostly … well … rednecks. Roughnecks. Fishermen. Working-class folks. Rejects. Not good enough in school to become disciples of any other rabbis. One was a tax collector, hated as a traitor by his own people. Etc. Yet although they were a mostly uneducated and certainly not a favored, privileged group in their society, by joining with Jesus they became heroes, did amazing things, and changed the history of the whole world.

They were very YOUNG. This was the one fact that jumped out at me most during my study leading up to the talk. It was something I knew, but it impacted me anew. These guys were mostly TEENAGERS when Jesus called them to be his disciples!!! Which becomes an even more powerful point when considering that my audience for this talk was mostly a bunch of kids between 18 and 24 years old! To illustrate this, I asked them what images come to mind when they think of St. Peter, St. Matthew, the disciples of Jesus, etc. I showed these examples of some of the typical images:

Then, I pointed out that at the time of their calling, Jesus’ disciples probably looked much more like these guys:

Another important characteristic of Jesus’ disciples is that the ACCEPTED the call. IMMEDIATELY they left their nets and boats and families and followed him. Here I used some fun examples with some of our students – one who loves basketball, one who’s a designer, one who studies economics. Now just exactly how fast do you think they would drop everything if Lebron James, Steve Jobs, and Carlos Slim walked into the room and offered the chance to go with them? I think they would go IMMEDIATELY! This was how the disciples felt, and how they responded, when Jesus invited them to go with him, using the words of a Jewish rabbi – “Come with me”. Only it was even more important, because it was something eternal!

Here I issued a warning that I feel like I say all the time, and that I’ll keep saying until the cows come home  Be careful with the typical college mentality which can be summed up something like this: “Later”. Later I’ll get serious about my faith. When I graduate. When I get married. When I have kids. For now I want to have fun. The day before En Vivo #1 I saw a commercial for a new TV show with Edie Falco – the one where she’s a nurse – and she said “Make me good, God … but not yet.” I think that’s a perfect summary how a lot of college students feel. They are scared to commit to God because they feel like it means having to miss out on their youth and fun and adventure and experiencing life. This is a lie, of course, but a very tempting one. And it’s a slippery slope. Of course Jesus offers unlimited chances and there is no expiration date on the invitation to follow him. But I have seen too many people put off their faith decisions for so long that by never deciding they did indeed decide. I have seen others slip into destructive habits that turned into addictions that built high, strong walls between them and God. I’ve seen so many just drift eeeeever so slowly into materialism and self-centeredness. Anyway, this paragraph is much longer than this section of the talk was. I reminded them of the words of one of my favorite theologians – guy by the name of Bob Dylan – who once said “Everybody serves somebody.” The question, then, becomes who or what am I serving now, and who or what will I serve in the years to come?

The third and final question for the night was: “What is up with the ‘fishers of men’ thing? What the heck does that mean, anyway?”

Here I had two students do that dance where one person acts like he or she is casting a line and reeling the other one in. I said that Jesus took the disciples to a club and taught them that dance. Then I said just kidding, because while Jesus certainly WAS among the party people of his day, we have no evidence that they ever danced that fish dance. Haha.

But seriously, to me the fishers of men thing boils down to one word: PURPOSE. Here I talked about the difference between “vocation” and “occupation”. Occupation is activity – job, profession, pastime. Vocation, from the Latin “vocare” which means “to call”, is about the REASON and the POINT behind the activity. The Christian understanding is simple: As followers of Christ, we all have different occupations, but only one shared vocation.

Here I asked our students to at least be open to being called by God into full-time ministry, but also recognized the fact that most of them will be professionals in something other than ministry in the years to come. I reminded them that we came to work next to UDLAP, not at a Bible college or seminary, on purpose. I reminded them of the purpose of El Pozo – to change the world – and of HOW we intend to do that – by making MORE and BETTER disciples of Jesus in this place.

I ended the talk with three images. The first image was this one of my brother and me:

Notice how we stand side by side. That’s because years ago he quit being my disciple and made the excellent decision to be a disciple of Jesus. I shared a story about how God is working in his life and how God is always faithful to care for His children in surprising and wonderful ways.

Second I showed a photo of Emily (See my blog from Jan. 12th.) along with these words from her caringbridge site when she passed away:
“Emily passed away just before 1AM. She went peacefully and without pain.
Emily lived and loved more in 26 years than a lot of people live in 80. She lived for Christ and now she is resting with him.
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.’ - John 14:1-3”
Three verses later, Jesus called himself the way, the truth, and the life. I talked about how Emily’s life, while shorter than expected, was abundant and full and meaningful. I talked about her joy and her purpose and her hope. Emily truly was – is – one of the finest examples of a disciple of Jesus I’ve ever known.

Finally, I showed this image:

A guy covered with dust. In the aforementioned Nooma video, Bell talks about a saying that developed among the 1st Century Jews – a blessing – “May you be covered with the dust of your rabbi.” I concluded with these words (well, their Spanish translation), followed by a prayer:

Disciples of Jesus… Christ lives and he invites you and me into a relationship that is just that close, that intimate. Just as he did 2000 years ago, Christ calls to us and says “Come follow me.” He is looking not just for some kind of vague “believers” whose lives really aren’t impacted or changed, but instead he seeks FOLLOWERS, DISCIPLES.

Disciples of Jesus… Their questions are our questions. True for you whether you’re a follower or not. All invited to join us as we walk with Jesus from Xmas to Easter and listen to the questions that people asked him…

Disciples of Jesus… God has chosen YOU. Called YOU. You are good enough. Christ looks you in the eyes, challenges you, and calls you. So the important question now is: How will you respond?


En Vivo #2 - Identity - January 26th

The second talk of the semester was given by someone who is our newest staff member but has been a part of this community for quite a while now – Miss Kami Burns. We are so glad to have Kami here. She has brought a ton of energy and great ideas and love for students, and she’s dived right into life and relationships on our staff. And we threw her right into the deep end with our week 1 Pozomida talk and week 2 En Vivo talk. She did great. Here’s my summary of her En Vivo talk, on the topic of Identity:

Started with a clip from “Slumdog Millionaire” in which the game show host is making fun of Jamal for being a “chaiwalla” – a poor kid from the slums. Then Kami threw out some of the typical stereotypes that surround us. You’re a Mexican? Oh so that means you’re a Roman Catholic, right? You are often at the Casa Verde? Oh so you are a Christian, right? You’re an American? Oh so you just came to Mexico to have fun and party, right? The point, of course, is “Not necessarily…”

Then Kami talked about her own identity a little bit. Who is Kami Burns? What defines her? Maybe she should be defined by her hometown – Whitesburg, GA – a town of 500 (or roughly the same number of people who live in one of the four dorm buildings on UDLAP’s campus). Here are some photos from Whitesburg:
The water tower:

One of the four restaurants:

The store:

The baseball card shop:

And my favorite: The bank. Kami joked that to rob the Whitesburg bank there is no need to break in. Just hitch it to your truck and take it with you!

So maybe Kami should be defined as a redneck because she’s from Whitesburg. Or maybe not. Maybe she should be defined as really really smart because she’s a graduate of Georgia Tech? Or maybe not. She works at El Pozo, so of course she’s a Christian. But what does a Christian look like? Here she showed several images alongside that question. Kami is an American, but what does that mean? Here she showed an image of Disney’s Pocahontas, pointing out how little they have in common… Kami’s last name is Burns, so maybe that is what should define her. Here she showed this picture:

Kami went on to tell more fun stories about her family origins and mom’s maiden name (Musick), making the point that there are many ways to try to define ourselves – hometown, family, school, job, wealth, success, girlfriend/boyfriend or lack thereof … but in the end none of those really succeed at defining a person.

Here Kami read the night’s main Scriptures – Matthew 13:54-57 and John 1:45-46. Jesus was rejected in his hometown. Later, when one of his disciples, Philip, went to another guy named Nathanael to tell him about Jesus, Nathanael said “Isn’t he from Nazareth? How could anything good – much less the Messiah – come from that Podunk place???” Nazareth, by the way, was even smaller than Whitesburg.

Kami reminded the students of Jesus’ bio at the time: From a nothing town. Born to an unwed mother. Brother of four guys and ??? gals. Carpenter. Friend of “sinners”. Breaker of sacred traditions. Accused of telling lies about God. Accused of not having any power. Dead.

But did any of those things ultimately define him? Of course not!

Kami talked about how she used to define herself based on who she was dating and how her friends noticed a change in her when he broke up with her. Because she saw herself as ugly, undesirable, no fun. She shared with the students how on January 6th (Three Kings Day), when I asked each of the staff what they were going to hand over to Baby Jesus this year, Kami said she was giving him her identity. She said “This year, only God gets to tell me who I am.” She said I’m not how much money I make, or how many times my cell phone rings each day, or what others say about me (good or bad)…

She told the students that likewise they are not defined by who their friends are (also mentioning how lame it is to change who you are and how you act depending on who you are with at a particular time); nor by their grade point average (Several people cheered here.); nor school or major or boyfriend or girlfriend or number of championships won or number of Twitter followers or what people say about them!

Jamal Malik didn’t allow himself to be defined just as a chaiwalla, and Jesus Christ was not defined by what others said about him, and especially not by his death on the cross! Here we see the power in the story of Philip and Nathanel. When Nathanael doubted what Philip was saying about Jesus, Philip wisely answered “Come and see.” And Nathanael did, and he was convinced, and he was added to that group of the original 12. And that was Kami’s message to the students, too: COME AND SEE. See for yourself. Check Jesus out for real, maybe for the first time in your life. Then decide.

Jesus’ identity was based only in the fact that he was the SON OF GOD. And guess what? Our identity should be based only in this one thing as well – we are children of God! Our real, true identity is not based in our perspective, or our emotions, or what we do. It’s not based in our sins, or past, or our weaknesses.

God says this to YOU and to me:
* You’re beautiful. – He is captivated by your beauty! – Psalm 45:11
* It’s not about success. – “God never called me to be successful. He called me to be faithful.” – Mother Teresa
* You are LOVED by God. – 1 John 3:1

At every major El Pozo event, we hand out nametags. So this talk ended in a very cool way: Each person, as they walked out the back door, received a new nametag that said…




In case you are wondering what El Pozo is doing to help in Haiti, here it is. A couple of weeks ago, the Carlos Slim Foundation said that they would match any donations given via text message toward Haiti relief. (Carlos Slim owns the major Mexican cellular company, TelCel.) So by texting 100, 200, 300, or 500 pesos, one actually donates twice that. My teammate Heath had the idea that El Pozo could also match donations given by our students, which would also then be doubled by the foundation, turning every peso our students donated into four pesos. We only announced this for about a week, because we're about to start fundraising activities for our annual house-building trip to Juarez, but during these last couple of weeks our students did give about about 1,500 pesos, which means that around $500 USD will be headed to those in need in Haiti thanks to El Pozo. Every little bit counts! And we love any opportunity to teach our students about giving and generosity.


Stay tuned for En Vivo #3 in which Mario the intern talks about the “rich young ruler” and the questions he had for Jesus, followed by two weeks with yours truly talking about PRAYER…

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for calling attention to that Nooma passage:
    I'm preaching on Luke 5:1-11 this sunday... Providential huh