The Red Letters of Jesus: Simon, The Prostitute, and Jesus

This Summer we are in a conversation called “Red Letters.”  In many Bibles, publishers put the words of Jesus in red for emphasis.  It is a way of recognizing that Jesus is the lens through which we see the world and the lens through which we understand the scriptures. 

Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne started a group a few years ago called “Red Letter Christians.”  They describe their group on their website like this:

The goal of Red Letter Christians is simple: To take Jesus seriously by endeavoring to live out His radical, counter-cultural teachings as set forth in Scripture, and especially embracing the lifestyle prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount.
 
By calling ourselves Red Letter Christians, we refer to the fact that in many Bibles the words of Jesus are printed in red. What we are asserting, therefore, is that we have committed ourselves first and foremost to doing what Jesus said. Jesus calls us away from the consumerist values that dominate contemporary America.

This Sunday we are going to look at some red letters telling the controversial story about Jesus, Simon the religious leader, and a prostitute. It was a very scandalous story in Jesus' day.

God in The Movies: Lady Bird

This Sunday, we are going to be exploring the film "Lady Bird".  If you haven't seen the movie, I would encourage you to Redbox it or stream it before Sunday.  

(Two disclaimers: Even if you have never seen the movie, come to church anyway – you will still get a lot out of the message.  Second – while Sunday’s service will be rated “G,” this movie is rated “R." Please don’t watch this movie with your young kids!  :) )

Christine "Lady Bird" MacPherson is a high school senior from the "wrong side of the tracks." She longs for adventure, sophistication, and opportunity, but finds none of that in her Sacramento Catholic high school.

The movie follows the title character's senior year in high school, including her first romance, her participation in the school play, and most importantly, her applying for college.  It is a coming of age comedy. 

We will be exploring themes like acceptance, vulnerability, and the role of ritual in our faith and our relationships.

God in the Movies: Three Billboards

I like movies. Because of my job, sometimes I will watch a movie and think “that will preach!”  So, once a year or so, I like to do a short series of messages I call “God in The Movies.”  The idea is this: I take a recent movie and unpack some of the spiritual themes that are in the film.  Sometimes there are themes of redemption or forgiveness or faith or doubt or what it means to be a spiritual community. 

For the next two weeks I am going to be looking at two films that came out last year that I think are really interesting: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Lady Bird. 

This Sunday, we will be looking at Three Billboards.  If you haven’t seen the movie, I would encourage you to Redbox it or stream it before Sunday.  (Two disclaimers: Even if you have never seen the movie, come to church anyway – you will still get a lot out of the message.  Second – while Sunday’s service will be rated “G,” this movie is rated “R." Please don’t watch this movie with your young kids!  There is a lot of strong language in this film, so if you are sensitive to that, it might not be a good movie for you. :) )

On Sunday, I will be having a conversation with Taylor Bickel about the movie.  Taylor has a film degree from Northwest Nazarene University and has some really great insights about the movie.  

We will be exploring themes like the anger in our country these days, what it means to forgive someone, and the journey of letting go of hurt and bitterness. 

Church Without Walls: Finding God in Unexpected Places

The past few weeks we’ve been in a series we’re calling Church Without Walls. We’ve explored pushing the fence out further, looked at moving away from an ‘us/them’ mindset to realize that we’re all us, and last week Dana pushed us to go to the other side- to get outside our comfort zones. I have absolutely loved this series! I feel like it’s the true heartbeat of our identity as a community of Jesus, and I am excited to get tag on to the end of it and close down this group of messages.

This week, we’ll wrap up the Church Without Walls series by exploring what it might really mean to find Jesus. We’ll look at the book of Acts to explore how ‘outsiders’ made their way into the church, and how this shaped the DNA of the church. (If you want the inside scoop, read Acts 10 & 11 before Sunday).

We’ll also look at what a little neurobiology might have to teach us about our difficulties seeing what God is up to when we’re in uncomfortable or unfamiliar settings. We will take a brief tour of world religions with some surprising encounters with Jesus along the way.

All of this wandering in search of an answer to the question, “what does it mean to find Jesus?” I’m excited to have this opportunity to share with you all, and expectant for God to show up in big and surprising ways in our conversations together.

Church Without Walls: Neighbors

Growing up, my parents moved a lot and I remember living in several houses in Lodi, California; Sacramento, California, and Winnipeg, Canada.  When we lived in Canada, there was a house on McGill Ave that I remember most vividly.  There was a kid named Greg across the street whose parents had a pool table.  We had a lot of fun with that pool table until one summer day we scratched the felt on it.  His parents didn’t think too highly of that and our dreams of being pool sharks ended.  

Since I graduated from college in 1988, I’ve lived in seven cities and seventeen different houses or apartments.  I’ve had good neighbors and some really bad neighbors.  Some made lots of noise, smoked various substances, or their houses and yards were messy.  

Living next door to the house full of partying college students was probably the worst neighbors I had. 
 
I am still Facebook friends or stay in contact with many of my former neighbors. They are great people who I care about deeply and miss. 
 
“Neighbor” is a powerful word. There is no word quite like it. There is beauty and kindness in that simple word.  When you hear the word neighbor, who do you think of?
 
Jesus had a lot to say about neighbors and how to relate to them.  As we continue our conversation, “A Church Without Walls,” we are going to reflect on our neighborhoods and what Jesus has to say about them.

Church Without Walls

Soren Kierkegaard, the famous Danish Christian philosopher, grew up in the countryside surrounded by farms that raised geese (among other animals).  Each spring he would watch as a new gaggle of goslings was hatched and began to be fattened for the table.  Over the course of their short lives these geese would gorge themselves at constantly refilled troughs of grain until they were so fat they could hardly walk.  Kierkegaard imagined that they believed their lives to be perfect, as every need they had was in abundance. 

When autumn came, the truth became apparent.  The wild geese that had spent the warm summer months in Denmark would gather in preparation for their southerly migration.  

As they assembled to fly south they would circle in the skies above the farms, calling out to any stragglers to join in their flight.  At this point the farmed geese would lift their heads from the feeding troughs and look into the skies, heeding the call of their wild cousins.  For the first time in their lives they would become animated, running as best they could around their enclosures and attempting to fly.  Of course, their gluttonous diet and life of luxury meant that they were far too fat to get airborne – but that did not stop them from trying.  And then, as quickly as the commotion had started, the wild geese would fly off and the fattened farm geese would watch them briefly before returning to their grain to continue eating their way to their deaths. 
 
This Sunday, I am going to take a few weeks to think together with you about what it means to be the church together.  Are we farmed geese or wild geese?  Are we meant to feed or  do we feed in order to fly?  What does it mean to “leave the walls of the building” in order to serve the world?  We will be looking at the New Testament to give us insight to these questions.  It should be a fun journey!

Five Words to Change Your Life: Yes

There is an online article called “The Most Dangerous Word in the World.” It’s about the power that the word no can have over our minds. It’s written by a researcher, Andrew Newberg, who is a specialist in spirituality and neurology. This is part of what he and his coauthor write:

"If I were to put you into an MRI scanner…and flash the word ‘NO’ for less than one second, you’d see a sudden release of dozens of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters. These chemicals immediately interrupt the normal functioning of your brain, impairing logic, reason, language processing, and communication.

In fact, just seeing a list of negative words for a few seconds will make a highly anxious or depressed person feel worse, and the more you ruminate on them, the more you can actually damage key structures that regulate your memory, feelings, and emotions. You’ll disrupt your sleep, your appetite, and your ability to experience long-term happiness and satisfaction."*

All this from exposure to negativity and, in particular, the word no.  Of course sometimes we have to say no to make space in our lives for more important things.  However, we cannot live on a diet of no. It kills the spirit. We were made for yes.

Sunday we are going talk about what it means to say “yes” – to God and to the people around us.

Five Words to Change Your Life: Sorry

A couple weeks ago, the 2018 Major League Baseball season kicked off.  If you follow MLB, my guess is that you have high hopes and expectations for your team this year. But the reality is that in spite of all the blood, sweat, and tears in the next few months, 29 of the 30 teams playing in April will not win the World Series in October.
 
One of the aspects of baseball that makes it unique (and beautiful) is its focus on failure management. Failure is an inevitable part of baseball – not just for teams, but for individuals. In what other place in life can you fail 7 out of 10 times and still be considered a smashing success?  In baseball, if you can manage your failure that much as a batter, you will be a raging success.
 
Twenty three times in the past 140 years, an MLB has a pitcher thrown what is called a “perfect game”—a game with no hits or walks. That may seem fairly common, but that breaks down to about 1 in every 20,000 games. Therefore, to be successful as a pitcher also means to learn to manage the inevitableness of failure.
 
When it comes to our lives, nobody likes failure, but there is another side to failure that we experience in life we will be talking about this weekend.  It is more powerful than that feeling of failure or temporary setback, nd when you experience this in your life, it can set you back weeks, months, or even years.

Researchers have found the single most often expressed emotion in daily conversation is love: A child to a parent, a friend to a friend - expressions of caring and affection are more common than anything else that we say.

But the second most commonly expressed emotion on a daily basis is regret: “I wish I had shown up on time. I wish I’d spoken up. I wish I hadn’t eaten that. I wish I’d been saving my money. I wish I’d asked her out. I wish I hadn’t asked her out.”
 
We are continuing our conversation on Sunday called “Five Words that Will Change Your Life.” This Sunday, James Stewart and I will be having a conversation around the word “sorry.”  How do you deal with regret in life?  How do we reconcile with people that we have hurt?  Are there areas of our lives that we need to say “sorry” for that we aren’t even aware of?