The Gift of Brokeness
February 09, 2020 | Bryan Simmons
Passage: Mark 14:12-25
It is true we are in the middle of a capital campaign "For Such a Time as This," and we are raising money for things like improvements to the sanctuary: a screen and speakers and cameras and all that good stuff. Exploring some of that money to see if we can put an elevator in the building, halving our mortgage and doubling our endowment. And what an amazing and lasting legacy that will be something that will bring us strength into the future as Bethesda.
If you look at your bulletin, the hymn title I've chosen is "The Gift of Brokenness," which probably kind of a stupid title to use for a Capital Campaign sermon. We don't want to celebrate our vulnerability and weakness here; we want to talk about strength into the future. But here we are.
I don't know how common it has been for you to hear about humanity, talked about in terms of being broken or brokenness. I didn't really hear it much myself until going to seminary a little over 10 years ago. And I heard the term used frequently there, and I really resisted that term. I thought it was just a stupid thing to say. And now I'm using it as a sermon title to preach to you. But I think it's true. I think there is a brokenness to each and every one of us. Our state of being is broken, and we don't like to think about it that way.
I grew up in Minnesota. And for those you that don't know that culture, that way of being Minnesotan, I don't think it's too terribly different from Iowa. But if you want to there's a special actually you can look up on it's on YouTube now and just freely played called "How to Talk Minnesotan." It'll only take twenty, twenty five minutes. You can figure out our culture pretty quick. But one of the highlights of how to talk Minnesotan is that you have to deny things three times before you can accept it. "I made this fresh plate cookies for you." "Oh, no, thank you, I just had dinner." "Oh, they're really good." "You know, I really should be watching my waistline a little bit." "Yeah, but they're really, really fresh." "Oh, I know. But I just, I think you can enjoy it with your own family." "You sure you don't want a cookie?" "Well, maybe just one."
And this happens for offers of help as well. "Oh, yeah. Your tire's out, you mind if I help you with that?" "No, I got myself into this mess, I can get out of it." "It really wouldn't be that difficult." "I wouldn't want to trouble you." And on and on it goes. I don't think that is necessarily unique to Minnesota. I'm sure plenty in Iowa here have felt that same three no's and then a yes, maybe not. Maybe you guys accept right away.
But I think it's true among most of us. We resist the need for help; we resist that idea that we would need help. And when someone offers us help, we do tend to turn it down the first time, the second time, the third time, because we don't want to admit to that person that we do need help, that maybe we do struggle, that we are vulnerable in that moment and need the assistance. We want to provide this persona that we have it all together. And so we tell this person we're just fine, who clearly, according to their own perception (after all, they offered help in the first place) knows the truth.
We are not fine. We are not OK. It becomes a problem for us. We fight and resist so hard against it. But the reality is that this life we live is harder than we pretend it to be in front of others. I'll say that again. This life we live is harder than we pretend it to be in front of others. We want to be in control. We want to have that position of strength. We want to be the one offering help to the other poor sap who's in need. All the while, we ourselves are just fine.
I think that is hurting us more than it is helping us. Because we don't know how broken we are when we try to fix it and mend it ourselves. We tried to cover this up pretty well, in fact, let's do a little experiment. Anyone out there just raise your hand and ask me a question you don't think I would know. Anyone out there, way in the back? Noah?
"What's two plus two?"
Oh, man. Noah. I have no idea. That sounds like some deep philosophy there. What is two plus two?
"The answer is four."
Oh, Noah, The answer is four.
We have these little pocket things now that make us perceived geniuses when it comes to anything on the Internet. Pastor Ryan asked me last night, "Can you recite PI to the hundredth digit?" I couldn't, but Google could. And it tells you every single digit out loud. I had to turn the volume down after a while.
But we are fingertips away from information, and it helps us keep going in our direction of assuming that we have it all together, that we can handle this, that we can take care of it. Because now we've got all this information at our fingertips, so if we don't know something, we can quickly look it up and pretend that we know it and inflate ourselves even more with the notion that we have it together. And what's even worse is all kinds of information is out there that competes with others. So we just find the information that hits our confirmation bias so that we can say that that is the real news. And the fake news is everything that we disagree with because after all, it's on the Internet.
So we maintain this persona that we understand it all, that we have it all together, that we've got it figured out when in reality all of this is sitting on a house of cards that could come crumbling down at any moment. As strong as we try to prop it up and make sure that everyone understands that we are just fine that reel is always playing in the back of our head: what it will look like when that house of cards crumbles.
Perhaps you look like you're doing okay with the house and two cars, but you are buried deep in debt. Maybe some of you are still paying off student loans, sending your own kids to college. Maybe some of you are upside down on your mortgage, and you can't sell it in order to transition into assisted living. On the outside, it looks just fine. It looks like you're doing okay, but you know the truth.
By the way, we're having a little series called Financial Peace University you may want to sign up for, starting March 1st. That'll be a good thing that take advantage of.
Maybe it looks like we have a lot of friends, but deep down, we know that we loathe ourselves so much that how could anyone be our friend? Our brokenness harms us and those around us because we work so hard to project that image that we will try to crush anything that goes against it. And so we will look at ourselves in anything we stand for and we will try to hold that up as the pinnacle. And those stupid people over here, we will knock down as hard as we can because otherwise, we could be wrong.
We are a broken people, and it is affecting us more than we know. This that I'm holding in my hand is just three pages of what's called the World Happiness Report. It's a thing. It's a real thing. And these experts go, and they interview people around the world to gauge how happy we are as a general population and how happy we are in each individual country. And out of the hundred and fifty six countries surveyed. Where do you think we stand in the United States, wealthiest nation? Where do you think we stand? Number one? No. Top ten? No. You looked this up ahead of time.
We are 19th. This year, 19th. That may not sound so bad, but, folks, Germany is ahead of us. And if you don't find the amusement in that, I have a case study for you and, in Jackson, when I was a pastor there, we had an exchange student that would attend our youth group from Germany. And we were carrying on and having a good time and after a good hardy series of laughter, this German exchange student, Martha, kind of gave a sigh and said, "we don't have fun in Germany." And they rank ahead of us on the happiness index.
Instead of happiness, there's a lot of anger out there, a lot of anger that I would say is deflected. I think it's anger at ourselves, deflected towards others. Because we refuse to give in to the fact that we do not have it altogether, that we are in need of more than we can provide ourselves.
Jesus gathered the disciples for that last supper, and they began to eat. Jesus said, "Truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me." So if you think brokenness is a new American fad, it is not. It has been around with us for a long, long time. And then Jesus takes bread, and after blessing it, he broke it, gave it to them and said, "Take and eat. This is my body." But in the gospel of Mark, the Greek is such--and the writer of Mark gets a lot of heck for this--it's such that Mark tends to leave out the simple things, and it's just assumed and we, in the English, like to cover for it. But it says, "While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread and after blessing it, he broke, gave it to them and said, "'Take, this is my body.'" Jesus broke for you and for me.
It's the greatest reversal that we've ever had in the history of our time here as humanity on this earth, because as we constantly fight amongst our brokenness, against our brokenness, to show that we have it all together and that we are okay. Jesus, who is completely OK, that had it all together, that was the son of God is the son of God, entered into our brokenness and broke for you and for me through the cross. Jesus is our kintsugi. Jesus is what mends our brokenness together so that we aren't this false ideal of ourselves, but we can truly welcome ourselves into this brokenness, welcome ourselves into this vulnerability, knowing that Jesus will pick up our pieces, mend us together, and make us more beautiful than we could ever make ourselves. Because it is that depth of love that holds us together.
And as soon as we can give into that, As soon as we can give in to this notion that we are not right, that we don't have it all together, that we need Jesus for us. It can start making sense. You can start proclaiming the depth of this humility to others around us who can see the same depth of love Jesus has shown us in their own lives. We can live as broken people mended by Christ if we don't do that alone either.
Bethesda exists and, with this capital campaign, we hope to strengthen it for the future as people together working for the sake of this good news. This good news is not Jesus makes us perfect, this good news is: Jesus makes us alive. And we get to celebrate what Jesus has done as we get together at this meal. And Jesus's body, broken for you and Jesus, his blood shed for you renews you in this world, all of us together. You are broken. Much of your life, you have been a failure. That's good news, huh?
The same is true for me, too, because we are all guilty of trying this persona. But the good news is that Jesus, who did not need to break, broke for you and for me. So that we can accept our brokenness and live with Christ strength in our lives to share in our brokenness with others. May it so be true for you so that the kingdom can truly be built in this world. Not a kingdom of strength, but a kingdom of humility that ushers in the most powerful love.