November 7, 2021
Our 4th sermon in our worship series PROJECT is about the RED Communicators. We’ve covered the Yellow Idea people, The Green Process people, and the Blue Data people.
My friend Kevin is a red communicator. He’s an associate pastor of youth and one of the best out there. Kevin works well with his senior pastor, but there was a disconnect that Kevin couldn’t figure out. He finally convinced his senior pastor to go on the youth mission trip.
After the youth mission trip, Kevin sent an email to his senior pastor. Kevin wrote about how great the week was. How positive and life-changing the trip was. He spent a few paragraphs praising the specific times the senior pastor made a connection with a young man or woman, and how great a team they make.
It was a lovely, heartfelt email. To which the senior pastor wrote back, “I agree. What are we doing next year?”
Kevin was devastated. I’ve never seen Kevin mad, save for when he was describing how he felt about this exchange. He was wondering if he should find another pastor to serve under.
Then a blue communicator gave this advice to Kevin. “Kevin, he said he agrees and wants to do it again. What more do you want?”
Here is the difference between red and blue communication styles.
Red communicators are people focused. They have great people skills. They are insightful and perceptive. They often go on instinct and institution. They just know things but they don’t know how they know. You might be a red if you can read the emotional temperature of the room just by being in it.
Red communicators get frustrated when there is a lack of interaction and limited ability to socialize. The pandemic has been especially hard on us. We reds need people. We crave interaction, and Zoom just isn’t going to do it for us. We need eye contact, and we need to read body language. There’s so much left out in digital avenues. I’m grateful we have them, but there are just some things that you have to be in real time for.
Reds are frustrated when there’s a lack of respect for feelings or when there’s low recognition or praise for others. Sometimes people can be overly direct.
My sister-in-law Sarah spent some time in Arizona studying art history. She told me a story of a friend who was a traveling nurse who would make visits to the Navajo reservation. In trying to connect to the tribal elders, Sarah’s friend was using a word she thought was “grandmother” but she was saying “tomato.” In Navajo culture, it’s considered socially impolite to correct anyone.
It wasn’t until one member of the tribe took her into a supply closet and corrected her, with great apologies for the correction, that she had been calling the elders “tomato” for years. Her friend was mortified and asked why no one said anything nor was there any reaction or sign that something was wrong. “Oh, that would have been impolite. We knew what you were trying to say.”
That’s how Reds do it. Very attentive to emotion and feelings. This is in direct contrast to the Blue style. Blues are too direct, too impersonal. Data can tell us a lot, but it’s not the whole story.
The numbers Jeff presented show that we’re a strong, growing church. Our future is bright and I’m thankful that he provided the magic number of a weekly donation of $26.80. These numbers are helpful. These numbers don’t tell us how we feel. How it feels walking in here on Sunday morning and seeing our neighbors. The stranger who have become friends and the friends who have become our church family.
That’s what we’re building here. A family. A community. When we encounter our sacred stories, we know that others have been here before. In reading the biblical stories, we can share our stories. There’s a comfort. Like the Prophet says in Isaiah 40, “Comfort, comfort my people, speak tenderly to Jerusalem.” God is here for us. God in Jesus is with us. Jesus saw the people in Matthew’s Gospel, and has compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless.
I’m sure we all can relate. We’re harassed by a deluge of bad news and negativity. We can feel helpless, with nowhere to turn. We come here to hear a word of hope that can drive away our despair. We are reminded of our goodness. There is so much goodness out there.
Someone pointed out that the public library is a place where you can just hang out without being pressured or expected to buy anything. I think church should be yet another place. Come as you are. No expectations. You should find a warm, friendly place with people who are ready to listen if you’re ready to speak. For Jesus had compassion, and so should we. Especially with those who don’t know where to turn. For if we’re honest, that’s us many times too. A life of faith isn’t knowing all the answers at all times, it’s about faith. And faith is not about sight but about trust. Trusting that God holds us, trying to be like Christ, and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. God doesn’t speak to me in words, but nudges. Little synchronicities and coincidences. Someone called them God winks. God-incidences. Feelings that we can’t reason with or quantify but are rich and real.
Times where we feel embraced and one with all there is. When we’re in communion with everything. Who we are together matters. Church matters. With all the negativity coming at us, it’s good to be here together in this place that is the embodiment of a counter-narrative. People are good. They do care. They are trying to help others. Sometimes we lose sight of that and we are like sheep without a shepherd. We need Jesus to take us by the hand and lead us on the right paths.
And the right paths are not programmed, found on a spreadsheet, or in some abstract concept. They’re found when we encounter and share our true selves. We may fear this part, but we reds go right there. There’s no agenda. No check list. No quest for doctrinal purity. It’s simply one human encountering another. We do all sorts of things to cover up being truly known, being seen as we actually are. Sometimes, we overcompensate so much, then we’re left in the aloneness of never really being truly known.
The only true love we ever find in our lives is found when we risk being known as we are. And the good news is that God loves us just as we are. Nothing needed. The Creator of everything, of you and me, loves us just as we are and risked it all for us. Some of us didn’t want to be seen. We didn’t want our traditions messed with, which were the complaints of the Greens. We didn’t want it pointed out who we were marginalizing because they messed with our categories, which were the complaints of the Blues. We didn’t want our ideas messed with of who we thought God is, which were the complaints of the Yellows.
God comes to us and says, “You don’t need anything but two or three gathered for me to be there.” That’s it. People encountering people. Sharing life together. Talking about the big unanswerables of life. Of knowing and being known and choosing to respond in love every single time.
When I think of this new associate pastor position, I think of all the people it will help. How it will help our youth discover themselves and causes to believe in. How it will help us discover the joy of helping others in tangible ways. How it fulfills part of your 2013 vision/mission statement of “Building a Total Family Ministry.”
I think of how it will further our great past of all the people who gathered here. I think of former church member Tom Evans, who died last year, and who we remember every year with a church service award. That’s a name and a life that need to be celebrated. His quiet, joyful nature. I think Tom was a Red Communicator. Always helping his community. Even at the end of his life, when he wasn’t at home and spent time in the Avenue and Medina Meadows, he never once complained and always seemed genuinely shocked and amused that people would think to visit him. I think of all the people he mentored and who were inspired by his example. I would think we want his life lifted up, his example continued.
I have no idea why Tom Evans isn’t nationally known. When I think of Tom, I feel my chest expand. I feel like I can walk a little taller and prouder at the mention of his name. On the day of my installation, when I officially became your pastor, Tom had a bad fall outside. He felt so positive and joyful after church that he decided to take the stairs out of our tower doors instead of his usual ramp.
He fell. He fell and was bleeding pretty bad. A Good Samaritan on the street stopped and used the shirt off his own back to help stop the bleeding. An ambulance was called, and Tom went to the hospital. As I sat with him in the ER, he apologized for ruining my day.
It wasn’t my day, it was our day. It wasn’t ruined either. The help and service Tom quietly put into the world had come back to him. A complete stranger stopped and helped. Gave the shirt off his own back. I learned about the moral fabric of Medina that day, and I aspire to be that person. Medina sets a high bar. Things have changed, but the basic kindness of strangers hasn’t. Things have changed, but love and service and welcome haven’t. I tried to tell Tom that, but I’m not sure I could because words fail. I’m trying to tell you now, but it feels incomplete. Words can’t describe the potent mix of emotion within me.
Maybe you can emotionally understand. You can catch my drift. And that stranger stopped by the church the next day to see if Tom was okay. We got his address, and Tom mailed him a thank you note attached to his freshly laundered and stain-free shirt.
For many times, we’re like sheep without a shepherd. We need someone to turn to who has been down the road a bit more. Someone who can speak to our lives and know what we’re going through and can help us respond in compassionate and appropriate ways. For the church is all about human thriving. Loving advice given to help navigate through the complexities of life.
I think of Tom often. I think of those who were given the award named in his honor. And my heart beats a little louder in my chest. This is love without reason. No data can show this. No stewardship letter or worship series can communicate it, but we keep trying every Sunday.
It is a love like this that I will run towards and never tire. I will tell these stories until my voice becomes raspy. I used to think that my job is to preach, teach, marry, and bury but I actually only do two things. I gather and remind.
I gather us together and remind us of the love that indwells each of us and is present between us. We gather to remind ourselves of the sacred stories found in the Bible that unlock the sacred stories found in our lives.
It’s all holy. It’s all remarkable. We pour our lives into each other, and good things happen. People are fed, clothed, and given shelter. Houses are built in Costa Rica. Meals are cooked and eaten in our fellowship hall, in the homes of the sick and the mourning, and at CUPS Café. The generations mix. Many successful churches are growing but only with one or two age demographics. We are living in an increasingly age-segregated world. Our seasoned generations have retirement communities where they don’t see children.
Here we are trying to be a place where the generations mix and learn from each other. My children know so many of your names, and you know theirs. You see their gifts, and not because they’re the pastor’s kids. You do this for each and every child who comes in our doors. You seek to be honorary grandparents and aunts and uncles to the next generation. As the Proverb says, to train up the child in the way they should go.
We welcome, love, and serve people. For we are the church. No one will do it for us. We want to make sure our children are nurtured and trained up in the way they should go. We want to continue to make an impact on our community and help. And celebrate the saints who have guided us and guide us now. Thanks be to God! Amen