Zina Jacque: Jesus pairs us with people who will help us shift, change, emerge and grow


The Rev. Zina Jacque, lead pastor of the the Community Church of Barrington, Illinois, delivers her sermon “In an Emergent Moment” Sunday, July 4, 2021 on the Amphitheater stage. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

Jesus was in the middle of his own emergence when he sent the 70 disciples out two by two. “He was moving from safety to danger,” said the Rev. Zina Jacque. “He set his face toward Jerusalem, where he was going to anger the authorities, upset the laws and then would head to the old rugged cross.” Jacque preached at the 9 a.m. Wednesday, July 7 worship service in the Amphitheater. Her sermon title was “Emerging with a Little Help from my Friends.” The Scripture texts were Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 and Luke 10:1.

“I see Jesus standing with a clipboard with these disciples all lined up,” Jacque said. “He is getting them ready to emerge, from being a receiver to a giver, from a follower to a leader, from a student to a teacher. He is sending them out to set the table.”

She continued: “The 70 were elated until they were deflated. Jesus sent them out with no money, no provisions and told them not to make friends. He was sending them out like lambs with pork chops in the midst of wolves. He sent them out with nothing.”

Or did he? 

“He chose those 70; they were no pickup team,” Jacque said. “There was a purpose in their pairings.”

The writer of Ecclesiastes said that two people are better than one. Two people can share work, help each other up if one falls — they can keep each other warm on a cold night, and together they can prevail against a bully.

“Jesus knew that he was making Ecclesiastes’ words manifest in the lives of the disciples. He knew that he was doubling their gifts to go into the world and they would hold each other up,” she said.

The problem with pairings, Jacque said, is that they don’t always work out. “Moses had a lot of trouble with his sister and brother. Joseph’s brothers threw him in a pit. The 12 disciples quarreled about who was the greatest. Paul, the apostle, kicked a lot of people to the curb.”

Sarah and Hagar did not get along. Hannah and Peninnah could not live in the same house.  

“One pairing that did work was Naomi and Ruth,” Jacque said. “It worked because Ruth was committed and determined. She took one for the team by going out to glean so they could eat. Naomi was willing to be honest and vulnerable. She was an advocate for Ruth with Boaz.”

Jacque continued, “Naomi told Ruth to get all ‘Jean Naté‘d’ and go sleep at Boaz’s feet. She set Ruth up for success and when Ruth’s child, Obed, was born, she placed him on Naomi’s knee to show that they would raise the child together.”

At the beginning of her sermon, Jacque had asked the congregation to think of someone they worked or volunteered with and to hold that person in thought. 

“As we emerge from Chautauqua and get ready to return home, we find ourselves paired with that person I asked you to think about. Is this someone you can be open and vulnerable with? Can you say, ‘Your people are my people?’ Can you find a partner to join and speak peace together, secured by the love that came wrapped in flesh?” she asked.

Jacque continued, “The truth is that pairs like Naomi and Ruth are rare. Pairs are more like Paul and Silas or Joseph and his brothers. We have bought into rugged individualism and believe that to show frailty is a mistake. These pairings happen in falsehood.”

When we see the world, we know the gifts that the world needs, Jacque said, and “when we partner like Ecclesiastes, we can do more than when alone.”

Jacque showed a slide based on Unitarian minister Robert Fulghum’s book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

“Think about the person you work with. What would you bless this person with: the need to play fair, say sorry, be aware of wonder, dance?” Jacque said.

If God has paired you with someone, what do you need to pray for this person? 

“Pray until you see a response,” Jacque said. “Don’t tell the person you are praying for them. Invite the Spirit to pray with you and you will see the person’s heart change. You will move together differently.”

She continued, “And what from Fulghum’s list should that person pray for you? Change is never all on one person. Both parts of a pair need to shift, change, emerge and grow.”

Fulghum’s list has stood the test of time, Jacque said. “If we are paired well, we will emerge out of stuckness. But we have to be as serious about ourselves as our partner needs to be about themselves.”

She told the congregation, “We need an adaptable spirit. We can’t do things like we did in 2001 or 1991. We are not paired for ease. Even pairs that did not work out in the Bible left seeds that bore fruit somewhere.”

Jacque warned the congregation that she was not talking about staying in toxic or dangerous relationships. “If you are in one of those, you need to get somewhere safe. But if you feel the tug that there is something more you can do with the person you thought about, then try.”

She asked, “Who is your Ruth with whom you can share body heat? Who is your Naomi, pouring life into you? Hold them in your heart as you emerge in obedience to Luke 10. You were chosen to go out two by two with God’s help because it is not easy.”

The Rev. Mary Lee Talbot presided. Macy Veto, a Learn and Discern intern with the International Order of the King’s Daughters and Sons, read the Scripture. The prelude was “Psalm 23,” by Emma Lou Diemer. Joshua Stafford, Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist and director of sacred music, directed members of the Motet Choir in “How Lovely are the Messengers,” by Felix Mendelssohn. The postlude was “Psalm 75,” by Emma Lou Diemer. The Samuel M. and Mary E. Hazlett Memorial Fund provides support for this week’s services and chaplain.

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The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the recap of the morning worship service. A life-long Chautauquan, she is a Presbyterian minister, author of Chautauqua’s Heart: 100 Years of Beauty and a history of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. She edited The Streets Where We Live and Shalom Chautauqua. She lives in Chautauqua year-round with her Stabyhoun, Sammi.