“Jesus wanted the man to keep quiet, but not as much as Jesus wanted him to be made clean.”
Recently a video, “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus,” went viral on Facebook and other social media sites. In response to it, and the broader rejection of institutions and authorities now common, conservative op-ed columnist David Brooks wrote a short essay. Both are below and are worth considering.
So is the most recent essay from Pastor Clark that appeared in the print newsletter: “Good Soil Stories.”
Counterpoint: “How to Fight the Man” by David Brooks
If I could offer advice to a young rebel, it would be to rummage the past for a body of thought that helps you understand and address the shortcomings you see. Give yourself a label. If your college hasn’t provided you with a good knowledge of countercultural viewpoints — ranging from Thoreau to Maritain — then your college has failed you and you should try to remedy that ignorance.
Effective rebellion isn’t just expressing your personal feelings. It means replacing one set of authorities and institutions with a better set of authorities and institutions. Authorities and institutions don’t repress the passions of the heart, the way some young people now suppose. They give them focus and a means to turn passion into change.
My Good Soil group grew the other week. My friend and I invited a third friend to join us, because he was talking about wanting to be more intentional in his faith and friendships. We prayed about it one week, “God, is this who you’re inviting us to invite?” and a few days later, that very friend invited us both over on the very same night we had already planned to meet for Good Soil group. “Um, God, is that you?”
As of our January 9 kick-off, 35 people were reading Luke: eight confirmation students reading along in class, and 27 people in 11 Good Soil groups. Now it’s at least 38. Has your Good Soil group grown too? Are you reading along on your own?
Of course, the point of our Good Soil project is to focus on God, which means, paying attention to things we cannot measure. Sure, we will celebrate the stuff we can count. But there’s so much more God is doing—stuff that can’t be show in spreadsheets but only told in stories. Stories, like the ones we’re reading in Luke. Part of the joy and wonder of our Good Soil project is sharing those stories and inviting them.
Here are a few other Good Soil stories.
Tim is glad for the opportunity to read Luke and Acts. He said he’s always thought about reading the Bible and never did. But now, he’s reading along even though he doesn’t have a group yet.
Mary Jo noticed something going on in Luke, since the man, Zachariah, was silenced while the women, Mary and Elizabeth, spoke. “Luke must’ve been a woman,” she said.
The waitress at Village Inn called Anne, Barb, and Trista’s Good Soil group, “Chatty Cathy’s” because they spent so much time getting to know each other and telling their faith journeys.
Telling a story invites other stories. Before worship, tell a story from the past week, when your Good Soil group met. During coffee hour, ask, “How’s your Good Soil group going?” or “Any surprises in Luke this week?” Tell a story, invite a story.
Our stories don’t have to be flashy, cute, or even particularly “spiritual.” God works in small and unassuming ways, and we may only realize it and what it means when we start sharing and inviting stories. When share and invite, the story changes. It becomes our story, not just my story. As we hear our story grow, we’ll discover connections, themes, surprises—experiences common and uncommon that point the way to God: what God is saying to us, what God is doing among us and in the world.
That’s where this Good Soil project is going. Immersing us in a common story—Luke and Act’s story, yes, but also All Saints’ story. Unifying and catalyzing us around God’s story with us—who God is for us, what God’s purpose is for us, how we’re going to live it out together.
So I’m excited! I can’t wait to hear your Good Soil stories.
Thanks be to God.
Pastor Clark Olson-Smith