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Faith Ministry Stories

Smile instead

Posted by Pastor John Klawiter on

This summer, our congregation spent each week looking at the calling and response of the different disciples of Jesus.

We covered the basics of each disciple (or follower, like Mary, Elizabeth, and Mary Magdalene) by asking the kids to play a game during the children’s message called “Name that Disciple”.

I had a lot of fun writing the questions each time. My favorite week of the summer was when we focused on Peter, who was bestowed the nickname of “the Rock” by Jesus. Each of the trivia questions had two answers based on which “Rock” you were thinking of. Was it “Peter, the Rock” or Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson?

What was the Rock’s most embarrassing moment? The kids had to choose between “being the tooth fairy” or “trying to walk on water, like Jesus, and falling in.”

If the kids didn’t understand the double-meaning, the adults did and had fun learning more about Peter.

When the disciple, Nathanael, hears about this stranger, Jesus, being the possible “savior” his curmudgeonly response was either “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” or “great, but can he play quarterback?”… a shout-out to the lamentations of Vikings fans waiting for someone to lead them to the promised land of a Super Bowl victory.

We probed the human condition of the people that lived with Jesus and knew him the best. So, when his mother, Mary, attends a wedding party with him he either tells Jesus that they ran out of wine (and hint-hint, why don’t YOU do something about it) or does she tell her son “hey, you’re doing the chicken dance with me!”

Most of the answers were obvious. But the questions were still helping to tell the story and educate us on who the disciples were.

I’d often hear from the grown-ups at coffee that they learned something during the trivia games!

One outcome that this summer showed me was the wide variety of types of people that followed Jesus and how, as I look at our congregation, there are all types of people. The early-adopters and the doubters. The bold and the wallflower.

But none of them were perfect—for all the leadership thrust on Peter, he’s also remembered for his denial and frequently missing the point. Each week, the goal was to take our learning deeper and discover the diverse identities that followed Jesus.

The biggest caution of all is pre-judging what each person is remembered for. This is true for us, even to this day. Often, we make snap judgments. We make up our mind quickly about others and we decide whether we like them or not based on one or two characteristics.

I know I’ve been guilty of that, too. The challenge is to engage with others into deeper learning. None of us are too entrenched in our identity to learn something new about our neighbors or strangers.

Catch yourself the next time you feel like quickly looking away from someone holding a sign on the side of the road. Smile instead—see what happens! Pause before deciding to switch registers at Target or Walmart to someone you think you’d be more comfortable interacting with. Be open to reading books, listening to Podcasts, or reading journalists who have a different perspective and background than you.

On Sunday, August 25, we explore the most judged disciple of all, the one who betrays Jesus. What do we do with him?

Is our snap judgment the full story or is there something we can learn? Even from Judas?  What can we learn from each other? You might be pleasantly surprised at the answer.


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