We are in a series called Plastic Jesus and we are talking about knowing God. The fact is a lot of us have a view of God that has been impacted by our preference, personal experiences and religious paraphernalia. And we carry around that pack. And our question to you has been Are you trusting in the pack or are you experiencing the real thing? And last week we talked about the difference between religion, ritual and routine and relationship with God. Because when you truly experience God, something happens in your heart and in your life.
About 11 years ago when Lisa and I moved into our neighborhood I was really excited. It was on the very edge of growth and it was right around the corner of the piece of property we were eyeing to build Sun Valley’s very first church facility. Best of all it was a brand new neighborhood...which meant new people, new opportunities to reach out. It was the same month I became the interim pastor here and I was pumped about the opportunity. 572 new homes in the quarter square mile of our neighborhood and I began to pray that God would bring 100 of those families to Sun Valley and that he would help me connect with lots of neighbors quickly.
Now here’s something you need to know. Maybe it’s just me but when people find out you are a pastor, they just treat you differently. Like you are fragile. You know, they swear in front of you and go "oh, I’m sorry." (Like are you okay? I know you’ve never heard those words before...) so I wouldn’t tell people what I did until I got to know them better.
That fall a family moved in and almost immediately we hit it off. We spent a lot of time together working on projects and talk about kids. And at night we’d sit on the drive way with the fire pit and talk about life. And he had a lot of strong opinions that he would express when we were together. And it was all good because he didn’t know what I did.
He finally figured out what I did one day when I decided to put together a block party for the neighbors to get to know each other. And we’re setting up for the party. I remember us carrying a table and he’s in the front and I am in the back and he finally said "Hey I just realized I have never asked you where you work." And I figured it had been long enough so I said "I’m a pastor". At that point he stopped (I thought he was going to drop the table) and turned around. (See at this point in most of my conversations, there is this rewinding of history of every comment that they have made up to this point in the conversation to see if they need to confess) Instead his only comment was "I should have known...every time I offered you a beer on my drive way you’d just say "no thanks". I thought you might have been in AA or something."
Over the next few months we continued to spend time together on the driveway and one night, he looks at my wife and says "Lisa, what will you give me to show up at your church?" Lisa said "What do you want?" "A beer helmet" and some Krispy Kremes. You know what a beer helmet is don’t you? Construction hat with two drink holders on the sides. Well it was near Christmas and so we thought we’d take him up on it. So Lisa and I went out and bought him a helmet and a dozen donuts. And we knocked on his door. When he saw us he just laughed. "You didn’t have to do that." And we handed him the helmet (that we put "no alcoholic beverages" on the front) and the donuts and an invitation to a Christmas drama we were doing that weekend. To my surprise he said "I’ll be there".