Study Guide: The Space Between

Sunday August 26, 2012 | Steve Wiens

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

An ecotone is a boundary between two different ecosystems (such as a Mountain and a plain). In this sermon, Steve uses this to describe how we interact with God and with each other.

Extended Summary:

In science class, Steve used to have a teacher that was a crazy scientist. This teacher would mix a red liquid into a beaker. Then he would add a green liquid. But, it wasn’t until he added the activating agent that the beaker would react with smoke, explosions, or other small injuries to the children (hopefully, just kidding). This is what we should expect when we join together for church and God’s Spirit activates within us something amazing. We should expect that something amazing happens that didn’t happen when we are simply just people gathering.

When we interact with people that we don’t like or get along with, we sometimes adopt a stance of not meeting a person halfway until they show us some grace or come towards us first. We don’t make a move towards them until they make a move towards us. We don’t listen to them until they listen to us. This is something that plagues our society right now. And this plague is because we’re desperately afraid that we’ll lose ourselves, our beliefs, and that we’ll never be given grace. So we stay entrenched in our fear.

The line that we draw, which sets the boundary of our fear that we will go up to before turning back, is also the line where change happens. It’s the edge of the pool before diving in. If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s a scary thing to approach the edge of the pool. It’s a scary thing to open yourself up to others that may not give you grace. It’s a scary thing to find the space between yourself and someone else.

An ecotone is a transition place between two different types of land. For instance, a mountain borders a desert. The mountain zone and the desert zone are not separated by an imaginary line. Rather, there is a zone between the mountain and the desert that is neither mountain or desert. It is a space where both qualities of the zones exist. There is sand, but there might be hills. There are mountain animals and desert animals.

This ecotone resembles and exemplifies where we should meet other people and God. We stand in one zone, yet we see other people from a different zone. We are afraid to go up to that imaginary line that we think separates these two zones. But what we need to find is the space between. We need to find the ecotone where both zones exist and yet neither zone exists. Jesus exemplifies this in John 4.

When Jesus approaches the woman at the well, he breaks all the imaginary boundaries that people put between each other. He was a Jewish Rabbi, who didn’t talk to women. He was a Jew, and she was a Samaritan. Jewish people would walk around Samaria rather than walk through it. Jesus breaks down these imaginary lines and finds the ecotone, the space between where there is tension and potentially chaos, but he brought peace.

Tonos is the Greek word for tension, and we draw the word ecotone from this word. There is a tension between the two zones. And when we enter the space between ourselves and others, we enter a zone of tension. And when we enter into tension, we should offer grace. This grace may simply be listening. Whether it’s a political stance or a conflict with a spouse, our grace towards the other person allows us to exist in the space between. It enables and activates something between two opposing spaces.

Where are you when it comes to others? Do you try to find the space between, or do you like to remain in your own space and prefer them to remain in theirs? Do you find the place of grace with others? Open up and enter the space between you and others. Allow God, the activating agent, to work in that space between. When you do, be prepared for explosive results because that is where Jesus resides and is waiting for people to join Him!

Reflection Questions:

  1. What additional questions and comments did you have about the sermon and supporting texts?
  2. Do you find yourself more in the space between or in your own zone looking out?
  3. If you tend to stay in your own zone, how do you react to others in different zones? Are you a yeller or someone with a quiet, stubborn resolve?
  4. In what areas of your life do you need to meet someone in the space between?
  5. How do you think you could meet that person in the space between? Resolve to carry out that plan this week.