Max Hawkins is a computer programmer who works at Google, one of America’s most powerful technology companies that runs one of America’s most powerful search engines by the same name. And as Alix Spielgel an NPR reporter and host of the radio show Invisibila explains, one day Max decided to burst his own bubble.
It wasn’t that Max didn’t love his life. He did. Max loved his life working for Google at their San Francisco headquarters. Every day Max would awake and have some artisanal, that is very fancy, coffee. Then he would bike to work. He would work on fulfilling and creative projects. Then he would break for Google Lunch. The Google cafeteria had four different types of Kale, a vegetable that is supposed to be very good for you. After work he would meet up with his friends at a bar and talk about whatever ideas google engineers talk about. It was a pretty good life in Max’s mind. A pretty good social bubble as far as bubbles go.
But one night, Max was lying in bed, feeling discontent. He thought about the loops we go through. He thought about how the structure and habits in our lives completely determine what happens in our lives. Your work, your friends circles, put you on a path, and that limits your exposure to people outside your path. The people inside your bubble get closer to you and the people outside your bubble get further away. And Max felt his life had just become too scripted. Then he remembered that the major social networking platform Facebook had a function called Graph Search, which identified all the public events in your area. So Max built himself a computer program, or app, that randomly selected from all the public events in San Francisco and he let his smart phone tell him which events to go to.
Max ended up going to a Russian Young Professionals group, he was not Russian. He went to a Community Center Pancake Breakfast, which by the way our youth are having some wonderful Pancake Breakfast fundraisers, and I hope you will attend them. Matt went to open house showings, salsa dances, acroyoga, which is like balancing people on your feet, it is fun you should try it. Then came Christmas. Max decided not to go home. Instead, Max had Facebook decide for him a Christmas Dinner to go to, it chose a party in Fresno, California, a four hour drive. There wasn’t a lot of information on the event. There were about ten people attending.
When max got there and rang the doorbell he was deeply freaked out. He was terrified. He was about ready to run. And then the door opened. It was Karena, the woman hosting the party. She said hello, and welcomed max. Then she asked Max who he knew at the party? Max explained that a computer generated algorithm had told him to come to her party. Karena was completely not fazed. Instantly Karena accepted Max and it was like they were friends. Max ended up staying for five to six hours. Their friends came over. And in the evening they sang Christmas Carols. There is actually a video of this bubble being burst. If you watch it you can’t really tell that the lanky 24 year old man is actually a random computer engineer from San Francisco. He seems like he is part of their family.
In today’s passage we see that Jesus likes to burst people’s Bubbles. Though in Jesus’ case the results are not as friendly as in Max’s case. Jesus brings profound wisdom and understanding to his hometown. But his hometown doesn’t want to let Jesus out of the Bubble of family expectations they have put him in. They won’t let their bubble burst, and as a result Jesus is rejected in the place he was raised. He was not able to do many mighty works because of the lack of hospitality of those who were closets to him.
And while Jesus is amazed by their lack of faith he is not discouraged by their lack of faith. Immediately, after this he sends out his disciples to burst the bubbles of the towns around them. And we see profoundly different results than in Jesus’ hometown. People repent, demons are cast out, people are healed. Our passage today shows us good news.
The Good News. When we step outside our Bubbles the Kingdom of God will expand.
How do we step outside our Bubbles?
- By taking the risk to say yes because God said yes to us.
- By believing in the Kingdom of God
First, we step outside our Bubbles by taking the risk to say yes because God said yes to us. Mark notes that the disciples were with Jesus when he was rejected in his hometown.
The disciples are not being sent out with an expectation that they will be accepted. They are being sent out with the expectation that they will be rejected, because Jesus had just been rejected in his hometown, and they are witnesses to this rejection. But there authority to heal, teach, and cast out demons, is not based on a record of past success. It is based on the authority of Jesus Christ. And Jesus’ authority isn’t based upon whether people like what he is saying. His authority is based on the fact that he is the Son of God, that he is God incarnate, King of the Universe. He is the fulfillment of every promise God has made. And we go out not because he has promised that it will always go well. We go out to burst bubbles because we are grateful because of what he has done for us.
Paul tells us this in 2 Corinthians 1:20 this, “ For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” Paul himself, was a persecutor of the church. He wanted to destroy the church. And yet Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus road and turned him around. And while Paul’s case is extreme, he tells us that all of us owe everything to God. So the attitudes of our hearts should be to say yes to opportunities to serve and to witness to Christ.
Yet, if we look at the context of Paul’s statement we find that he is actually saying no to visiting the church at Corinth again. Apparently, they wanted Paul to visit them, but Paul decided not to, because though he ministered to them in love, they rejected Paul’s ministry and teaching. So it seems that Paul is taking Jesus’ advice to shake the dust off from his feet and move on. So we see that saying yes to God doesn’t mean we have to say yes to everyone in every situation. For example, it doesn’t mean we have to go back to an abusive relationship if the other person hasn’t shown true signs of repentance. Saying yes to God doesn’t mean we are push overs or have poor boundaries. Paul makes clear to the church at Corinth that their behavior is hurtful and that though he is willing to serve the Lord, doing so in a toxic environment is not part of his calling.
The point that Jesus and Paul are making is that life teaches us lessons but sometimes we can over generalize and take the wrong lessons from life. Maybe we have been hurt in a relationship, maybe we have been hurt in a job, maybe we have been hurt in a church. We learn from that experience and it makes us wiser. But it can also make us bitter. We can turn that experience into a negative tape in our head that plays over and over again, paralyzing us with anxiety and fear. We can say we have been rejected in the past so we are condemned to being rejected in the future. But if Jesus said that to himself he would have never sent his disciples out into surrounding towns and people would not have been set free. We are to learn from our past but not to be determined by our past. We must burst the bubble of our past experience. Just because we haven’t seen healing in our lives in the past doesn’t mean healing isn’t possible in the future. Healing isn’t based on our past experience. It is based on the authority of Jesus. And it is based on our willingness to say to God that we are willing to serve, we are willing to risk, we are willing to pray, we are willing to love, we are willing to trust, we are willing to step outside our bubbles. We just have to be wise about it. As Jesus said we must be wise as serpents and gentle as doves (Matthew 10:16). The disciples were willing to step outside their bubbles not because of their past experience. But because they trusted Jesus.
Once we become willing to step outside our bubbles Jesus gives us some instructions on how to do so. He tells us
Finally, we will step outside of our Bubbles when we come to believe in the Kingdom of God. The Gospel of Mark opens with Jesus saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15). While the Bible does say that those who die in the Lord will go to be with Him after they die, Jesus main message during his time on Earth was not that we would go to heaven but that heaven would come to us. That God would reign on Earth as He does in heaven. While God is in control of everything the Bible seems to teach that there are certain parts of God’s Will, which he calls His Kingdom, that he gives to us to accomplish through our prayers and actions. While the Kingdom of God is within us (Luke 17:21) it is not meant to stay within us. The Kingdom of God is like a Bubble. It starts in our hearts but it expands when we take risks in faith. And when God’s Bubble, or reign expands to encompass people who don’t know God, they encounter His presence. When people encounter God’s presence, his Bubble, which Christians call the Holy Spirit, an amazing thing happens, people change. Darkness is cast out, people are healed, and people rejoice. Paul puts it this way in Romans 14:17, “ The Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Anyone can have a meal together. Anyone can sing songs. Anyone can put a party together. But when we do so in the name of Christ, with the intention of expanding God’s Bubble, the Bible tells us we will see righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
I was reminded of this passage last Christmas season when the choir and the worship committee decided to go Christmas Caroling in the community. It wasn’t a huge event, it didn’t involve a lot of planning, but I was so blessed by it. It happened right after our preschool’s Christmas program. And the preschool happened to have some candy canes left over from their event that they gave those candy canes to us. And our children were really excited to go knocking on doors in the community, and give strangers candy canes as we sang. I hadn’t planned to hand out candy canes. But it was truly a blessing. It was sort of like reverse Halloween. Once a year we allow strangers to give candy to our children, which is sort of a strange tradition if you think about it. But when we went Christmas caroling our kids ended up giving candy to adults. The world’s tradition got turned on its head, the little children lead us into the Kingdom of God. And there was just something magical about that moment. As doors opened to us it was like righteousness, peace, and joy spread amongst our neighbors. One woman, was so excited to see us, that she told us to follow her, as she ran across the street, to her ninety year old neighbor. His lights were off. So we were not sure he was home. But she opened the door for us, and we sang to Him about the glory of God. There was such joy, as the Spirit of God, the Spirit which hovered over the face of the deep, bursted our bubbles, and unleashed a celebration on the streets of our neighborhood. We are surprised when God’s Bubble burst our bubbles. Yet, Jesus says this should be our everyday experience.
In Luke’s Gospel, we are told that after Jesus sent out the twelve, he expanded the mission beyond the twelve, and sent out seventy two more, just to prove that the twelve were not a special case. Luke tells us what happened when the seventy two returned.
“ The seventy two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name! And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” ( Luke 10:17-20)
We are surprised when we see healing. We are surprised when righteousness, peace, and joy invade our lives because we live inside our bubbles. We live inside our bubbles because we afraid of what might happen if we step outside our comfort zones. But we don’t have to be afraid because we know the end of the story. Our names are written in the book of life. In Christ all of God’s promises are a yes and thus we say Amen to God for his glory. Perhaps you feel like you are surrounded by a bubble of darkness today. The world around you goes on as usual but you feel dead inside for life has lost its taste and the world smells like death to you. But today I am glad to burst your Bubble. For this is not my church, it is not your church, it is Christ’s church. And whether we are rejected or acceptance we are children of God, and Christ always leads us in a parade of triumph (2 Corinthians 2:14). We are the aroma of Christ, and it is time to wake up and smell the lilies of the field, for your Father provides for them though they neither toil nor spin, and He loves you far more than a flower. Jesus has come. He is here now to burst our bubbles. He says, “ the time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is here. Repent and believe in the Gospel.”
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen .