Read Luke 7:18-30
John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’”
At that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and he restored sight to many who were blind. Then he told John’s disciples, “Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. (Luke 7:20-22 NLT)
I love to cook. I love the process of taking ingredients and putting them together in a creative way and transforming them into a meal that looks and tastes great. One of the things I love about cooking is that I get instant feedback. It’s easy to tell if my work was good or bad, because it either tastes good or it doesn’t. I can tell if I’ve done a good job by how much is left on the plate at the end of the meal. Having such a simple way to measure success is helpful and motivating. If it doesn’t taste good or right and no one eats it, then I either scrap the idea or go back to the recipe and tweak what needs to be tweaked. If it tastes right and good and people eat it, then it goes on the family menu.
I have often said that my day to day work as a pastor is different than this… much more abstract… harder to see and/or measure results. I’m starting to wonder, however, if maybe I need a fresh perspective. In this text, John sent some of his disciples to verify Jesus identity as the messiah they had been expecting. Jesus’ response to their question was simply, Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard.” What they had seen and heard was things like the blind seeing, the lame walking, the deaf hearing, the dead raised, and the good news being proclaimed to the poor. Watch and listen. I wonder if maybe these words hold the key to my measure of success as a pastor and for us as a church?
Watch. When I look around at the people who make up our church community, what do I see? Do I see people stepping forward in faith, trusting God with what they have and offering it freely? Do I see people going out into the surrounding community determined to make a difference? Do I see parts of our surrounding community beginning to look different? Do I see relationships being formed and strengthened that build up the church, rather than tear it down?
Listen. When I listen to the way the people in our church community talk, what kind of stories are they telling? Are there stories of transformation? Stories of faith and risk? Or are there simply stories of the status quo? When I listen in our surrounding community for what people are saying about our church what do I hear? Do I hear silence and indifference, or do I hear stories of how our people are out there making a difference?
We live in a time where people have become more and more skeptical of the church. Over time, as people have watched and listened, many have come to the unfortunate conclusion that the church is of little relevance in their lives. Even more troubling, as people have watched and listened to the church, many have come to negative conclusions about Jesus based on what they have seen and heard. It’s up to us to change that perception.
When people look at us, as an expression of the body of Christ — the Church — what should people see? What should people hear? If it doesn’t look and sound a whole lot like the Jesus that John’s disciples went and saw that day then maybe we need to go back to the drawing board. We want people to see Jesus in all that we do and say, both as individuals and as a community. What do people see when they watch us? What do people hear when they listen?