This past Sunday we were privileged to have George Snyman of Hands at Work Africa as our guest at Westside King’s Church. Instead of trying to capture his talk in my own words, I would rather direct you to the podcast at wkc.org/community/sermons. For those of you not familiar with how to regularly access our weekend messages, you will find an instructional video there on how to subscribe to our podcasts via itunes. But back to George, or as his friends call him in Africa, brother George. To spend time listening to or being with George is to get much more than a download of words and interesting ideas. His words on Sunday were incisive and beautiful to be sure, but they also carried a power to change the way we actually live.
Monday morning I spent an hour with George at a local Starbucks (he likes his coffee black). He is the rarest of persons, both soft and sensitive in his demeanor, yet carrying a determination that challenges you. And then I remembered a metaphor that I think captures who George is: he is an endoskeleton rather than an exoskeleton -- on the outside he is soft and touchable flesh, while on the inside he is hard bones. What I mean is that George is both graciously loving and rigidly principled. And that is how a Jesus follower who is also a true human being should be; we maintain our Christian shape by what is deep inside of us, and not by any protective veneers. Being with George brought me to a moment of self-reflection where I said to myself: “give up on trying to carry the impression of a tough outer shell; choose instead to define your shape by the hard bones of faith in Jesus.” Thanks, George for sharing your life with us (and with me).
Over the past few years we have been traveling through a two-fold transition in our community. Its two-foldness is seen in the fact that our transition is not merely an in-house event (Westside is going through changes) but is also, and at the same time, a cultural event (Westside is part of a culture going through changes). This two-fold transition (inside and out) is about the need to refocus on what is truly valuable, to drive ourselves into deeper and better questions, to follow the one who defines the way into the truest life. It is about the need to radically combine a truly gracious exterior with a truly principled core. It is about a life that comes into being from the inside out. Listen to these words of Jesus from John 12:24:
Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over.
How do I bring together endoskeletons and dying seeds? Perhaps in this way: that any spirituality that is worthy of Jesus and his way must be a spirituality that understands the power of an inside-out life. Seeds and endoskeletons both have that in common -- growth and strength come from deep within. The spirituality of Jesus can never be cosmetic, never defined by mere appearance. It is instead the life that grows from our deepest center, in the core of our being when we are touched by the life of God. But if that happens, if the life of God germinates on the inside of who we are, if the life of God creates in us the bones with which we can move purposefully into the world, there comes in time the surprise of a productively loving and engaged life. The spirituality of Jesus is one that is able to push past the tyranny of present appearance and, in the manner of a seed, become more than what it was.
For these next three Sundays we will be rehearsing a few of the lessons of authentic Biblical spirituality in our new series The Baby, The Bathwater and the Spiritual Life. We will be taking a look at what we see to be the essence of this life that Jesus calls us toward -- “the baby”. And at the same time, we will be as clear as we know how on what we think is the “bathwater” we need to discard. It should prove to be an interesting series, intended to help us towards the life that we really are looking for. We hope to see you this Sunday at 9:29 or 11:11 am. The coffee is always hot.