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“Post-it Note Power”

“Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds!” says our scripture or as Eugene Peterson puts it in the Message,

“Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out …”

illustration from “The Undeniable Power of Sticky Notes” by Amy Blaschkaf

Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25

November 14, 2021

Dr. Todd R. Wright

“Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds!” says our scripture or as Eugene Peterson puts it in the Message,

“Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out …”

I’m not sure exactly what the writer of Hebrews had in mind, but Allie Caren had an idea: Nine years ago the newspaper and online journalism major at Syracuse hung up sticky notes around campus with inspirational quotes. I’m talking 40-60 notes a day! And in unusual places, too – like in the bathroom, or on a bench, or stuck on the ceiling of an elevator!

Why sticky notes? “A Post-it note is such a [humble item],” Caren reflected, “You could write a grocery list on it, your homework assignments, whatever — it’s such a cheap, easy way to spread happiness and a smile. [And yet, it] is something tangible. People can take it home with them, put it on their wall, and see it every day they wake up and smile.”[i]

Leo Wong, a junior advertising major, can testify to the impact. He has stumbled upon numerous sticky notes. “As odd as it may sound,” he remembers, “they come at the right times. Right when I am tired, worn-out or stressed, I see a sticky note nearby!”

Finding the notes with quotes from figures as varied as Ernest Hemingway, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Coco Chanel has become a bit of a game for the students, like a scavenger hunt.

Inspired by Caren, I’ve placed seven post-it notes around the sanctuary. Perhaps after the worship y’all can find them. I’ve also added a few inspirational quote to my Facebook page, if that’s more your thing. You might encourage one other by leaving a few sticky notes yourselves!

But the verb used in Hebrews is a little more nuanced. Sure, to encourage is one way to translate it. But so are to provoke, or irritate, or even to exasperate.

How do you provoke someone to love? How do you irritate someone into good works?

Let me tell you a story, about … I’ll call her Martha. (That’s not her name, but it invokes the right characteristics.) She was a new-comer to the church; a transplant from New Jersey to North Carolina; a retired math professor. She could be loud, and pushy, and relentless. So when she stood up during announcements one Sunday people groaned quietly.

She reminded everyone she’d been attending a few months, long enough to get a sense of what the congregation valued, and so she was surprised that they were not involved in the Seamen’s Service Center which ministered to sailors far from home.

The most irritating thing about Martha, was that she was right. It was exactly the sort of ministry that the congregation ought to be involved in, a way that they could show the love of Christ, and a way they could transform that loving feeling into concrete action.

Now in many churches, the long-timers might have bristled: “Who is this upstart to tell us what we should be doing?” But to their credit, people took a deep breath and allowed that she might be right. They agreed to give it a shot. And soon they were as invested as she was!

She had provoked them to love and good deeds.

Both Martha and the writer of Hebrews see the church for what it is called to be – not a “polite gathering, or a lifestyle enclave, or a liturgical affinity group”. No, as one professor put it, we are called to be “a community of holy honesty, sacred risk, and audacious love.”[ii]

Consider how that already describes Village Chapel. Now, dream how it might. Then stir each other up, push, and challenge your pew mates to give, and serve, and love! Amen

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