As we shared at our last Gathering, we’re prioritizing spending the first three weeks of January hearing our other pastors preach on Sundays. During this time of Bryan being out of his normal rhythm of preaching, we asked him to offer some thoughts on our core values and what he’s learned as The Summit turns four years old this January.
Last week Megan and I were scrolling through Netflix trying to pick out a movie (a process that typically takes longer than watching the movie itself) when we came across the 90s classic Good Will Hunting. Megan mentioned to me that she had never seen it, and after I calmed down from my “What?! You’ve never seen it?!” reaction, we decided to watch it. I hadn’t viewed it in over a decade, and I was struck by a scene in the film I had forgotten. It takes place when Sean (Robin Williams) tells Will (Matt Damon) that there’s something lacking in all the knowledge he’s acquired through his voracious reading:
“So if I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life's work, political aspirations, him and the pope...But I'll bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You've never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling...”
Sean is essentially making the point that knowledge becomes something greater than mere information when we taste and see its truth for ourselves. To paraphrase the words of Jonathan Edwards, there is a difference between a rational judgement that honey is sweet, and actually tasting its sweetness in our own mouths.
As I consider that this week is the four year anniversary of Megan and I arriving in our new home of Denver, I believe the greatest gift God has given us has been the opportunity to taste and see the goodness of the gospel for ourselves. Prior to moving to the city, I had acquired a ton of knowledge about the gospel through being afforded the opportunity to read stacks of books and learn so much as I worked through an advanced degree in theology and a church planting residency. It was a beautiful time in my life, but also lacking - I had a rational judgement that the gospel is true, but rarely saw its goodness for myself.
But in the past four years at The Summit, it’s like God has given me the opportunity to “look up at that beautiful ceiling” - I’ve seen the gospel actually be good news to so many of my friends, family and neighbors in this city. I’ve sat with people over meals and explained to them the depths of our own wickedness and how our worst problems often stem from our own hearts. And rather than them throwing their sandwich at me and storming out, they've responded with gratitude that they have some control over beginning to write a new story with their lives. I’ve witnessed the light ignite in people’s eyes when they hear that if Jesus really could overcome death itself, and if he really is working in their life, then they don’t have to continue the same pattern of self-destructive behavior that’s run rampant in their family for generations. I’ve seen my own life - in the midst of the worst circumstances - sustained by the good news that if God really has loved me that he would die for me at my worst, then even my most foolish mistakes will not separate me from his protection, provision, and blessing.
As I reflect on all I’ve learned about the gospel over the past four years, I haven’t acquired much new information, but rather been afforded the opportunity to actually believe all that knowledge I claimed to believe years ago. And now, being gifted the opportunity here in Denver to “look up at that beautiful ceiling,” not only has information begun to mature into wisdom, but my conviction has only grown that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ truly is the best and most practical news for this city that we love so deeply.