The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.


Dustin’ Off Your Sandals at ME?

Will we persist in religious compulsions or are we willing to roll around in the dust of our humanity?

by Bruce Reyes-Chow

Gospel Reading: Luke 10:1-11; 16-20

For Sunday, July 4, 2010: Year C – Ordinary 14

We church people are funny when it comes to conflict. And by “funny,” I mean we can sometimes be mean-spirited, toxic and fake. While I do trust that most of people of faith who engage spirited discourse are honestly yearning to find out what God is saying, there are many who are more concerned preserving some version of “right doctrine” rather than remaining open to the movement of the Spirit of God.

Calcified Faith

It’s our well-intentioned yearning to be confident about what we believe we when go into the world; yet those very yearnings can paradoxically calcify faith and keep us from recognizing the serendipitous proddings of the God who called us into the world in the first place. When this happens we begin to believe that we own THE truth and anyone who does not agree are idiots worthy of whatever wrath or pity of God that will rain down upon them.

One of the things that absolutely drives me NUTS is how we then use Scripture as a way to justify our own arrogance about what we believe. Sometimes we take the softer tone and say that we are speaking, “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and at other times we drop all pretences and scream, “get behind me Satan” (Mark 8:33). In the Gospel for Ordinary 14C we are given permission to “dust off” our sandals in any town that disagree with us. Now there are many understandings about what this means: some say it was a sign that you should leave with no hard feeling about the disagreement, while others believe this is a visible and vigorous demonstration that “we” tried, but “you” are now on your own. In either case, we too often see ourselves as the ones doing the dusting off. We have the truth, you didn’t agree, so we’re outta here.

Duster or Dustee?

While we speak words of humility, our actions often betray us. We like to cast ourselves in the role of the defenders of the truth, confident to the point of arrogance, but without even realizing it, we become those towns that we would presume to dust off – so sure about ourselves that we are unable to see that God wants more from us.

While there may indeed be times for us to do the dusting, if we are to remain open to the winding journey of faith that we are called to then we’re going to get dusted – dusted with sin; dusted with sorrow; dusted with ignorance; dusted with doubt. There’s no way we can shake it all off. But when we dwell in those dusty places then we can see that we are not perfect nor do we own THE complete and only truth of God. When we are able to hold this tension between being the speakers and hearers of the Truth of God, then we have cause to rejoice in this calling to be messengers of Christ in the world.

The Hardest Question

How often are we open to the possibility that we might be one of the unrepentant cities that is talked about in the in between passages (Luke 10:12-15)? In fact as we read this, is it our intent to be transformed from our places of brokenness and despair into wholeness and hope? The Hardest Question is: Will we persist in ridiculous – dust free – religious compulsions or are we willing to roll around in the dust of our shared humanity?

Bruce Reyes-Chow is the founding pastor of Mission Bay Community Church, a young, urban and quirky Church located in the Excelsior District of San Francisco. A Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, MBCC is made up of mostly 20 and 30 somethings and is one of the highest reviewed religious organizations on In June 2008 Bruce was elected to service as Moderator of the 2.3 million member Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination. This is the highest elected office in the denomination and he will serve until July 2010’s PCUSA General Assembly in Minneapolis, MN.


  1. Russell says:

    I think Bruce reads this text beautifully. He reads not from the point of view of triumph, but from brokeness. That is always a the good way to read the text–because it is the truth and more importantly if we sit in the dust, as he puts it, that is where we will always find Jesus, he is always in the place of brokeness.

  2. Russell says:

    I think another hard question is this: What do we do if we live in an unrepentant city? How does a city repent? How do we know if our city has repented? To what extent are corporate bodies moral agents and how do we accept communal responsibility for their actions?

  3. Cindy says:

    Ahhhh…Christian arrogance. I’m right, I know it, and I have a Scripture to prove it, so THERE!! I like this reading of the text, it speaks boldly to us.

    To take it further, what I take from the text speaks mostly from versus 3 and 4 “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.”

    They are sent out unarmed, so to speak, they carry nothing but what is in their hearts. They are to be “doers” in their world, meek in approach. We are reminded by this that all we need really is to be the example. We DON’T need to thrust what many see as the “sword” at others (The Bible), we need simply to act and live in the ways Jesus showed us to be effective disciples. We don’t need to shoot arrows of Scripture into the hearts of the wolves, for our example and being bare (i.e. vulnerable) are what God has revealed are all that is necessary.

    And it is pretty hard to be arrogant when you stand before someone penniless, awaiting offers of a meal, and without even sandals on your feet :-)

How do you read?