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Worship Services of First Baptist Church of Lawrence, KS
69 minutes | May 27, 2021
Story One The people of God worried about the future before them. Their leader, Moses, had left on a hiking expedition some time ago, and they had caught glimpses of him as he climbed to the top of the mountain. But now the mountain was filled with smoke and fire and trembled with the power of God, and they wondered if Moses would ever return. In fact, some had given up hope. Many had begun to grumble. They melted their gold down to create a symbol of earthly virility and strength, because they thought they would all be better off if they returned to the old ways. Back to the bondage of requirements and coercion and certainty. Back to the security of slavery to the ways of the world. Little did the people of God know what awaited them! For before long, Moses would descend the mountain, holding the Torah. The law. The sign of the covenant of God with God’s people. Torah would not be simply a how-to guide, a to-do list, a prescription of “supposed to’s.” But it would be a description of a life that God wanted for them, a celebration of community and relationship and calling and covenant and justice and purpose, a gift of the knowledge of what life would look like when God’s people lived in right relationship: about how they would treat each other, about how they would honor God holy and above all, about how their bodies mattered to God, about the things that flow out of a Spirit-led life. As the mountain rumbled and God spoke, little did God’s people know what was in store from the Spirit of God! Story Two The people of God worried about the future before them. Their leader, the Risen Jesus, had left to return to God’s glory some time ago, and they had caught glimpses of him as he ascended into the heavens. But now they were unsure what to do next, how to behave, how to live the life that he had shown them. They hid together in an upper room, peeking outside to see the throngs gathered for the Pentecost festival. From all corners of the globe, pilgrims gathered, while the followers of Jesus huddled together. In fact, some had given up hope. They were most worried about the structure of the institution…Jesus had chosen 12, so they needed a 12th apostle to replace Judas. They chose Matthias by lot, in an attempt to return to the old ways. 12 Tribes. 12 Apostles. Structure complete. They thought they would all be better off if they simply returned to the old ways. Back to the bondage of requirements and coercion and certainty. Back to the security of slavery to the ways of the world. Little did the people of God know what awaited them! For before long, The Spirit of God would descend on each of them, empowering them to Gospel ministry. Women and men. Powerful and powerless. Outgoing and reserved. It didn’t matter. At once, they were ALL empowered to tell of the Good News of Jesus to all who gathered for the festival. It was the sign of the covenant of God with God’s people. The covenant that the throngs in the streets had come to witness to. The sign that they yearned to experience. Every one of them in the streets would hear that good news, in their own language. In their own tongue. Not a how-to guide, a to-do list, a prescription of “supposed to’s.” But it would be a description of a life that God wanted for them, a celebration of community and relationship and calling and covenant and justice and purpose, a gift of the knowledge of what life would look like when God’s people lived in right relationship: about how they would treat each other, about how they would honor God holy and above all, about how they mattered to God, about the things that flow out of a Spirit-led life. As the room rumbled and God spoke, little did God’s people know what was in store from the Spirit of God! Story Three The people of God worried about the future before them. Their leader, Paul, had moved on, left the congregations in the Roman providence of Galatia, in order to begin more churches, support other congregations elsewhere. Here in the highlands of Galatia, these Gentiles had heard the words of Paul and responded. They fell in love with the stories of Jesus that he shared. They entered into community of service and care and worship. But now, Paul had been gone for some time, and they wondered if he would ever return. In fact, some had given up hope. Many had begun to grumble. There were “certain individuals” who had come from the home office in Jerusalem and they warned these Galatian Gentiles that there was more to the community of God than they had been led to believe. Some in the congregations had become enamored with the requirements that these certain individuals spoke of. They thought they would all be better off if they returned to their old ways. Back to the bondage of requirements and coercion and certainty. Back to the security of slavery to the ways of the world. Little did the people of God know what awaited them! For before long, a courier would arrive, breathless, with a letter from Paul. Congregations would be gathered. The letter would be read. Faces would turn red as they heard the anger of Paul’s words. But tears of gratitude would also be shed, as they heard Paul’s description of the power of the Spirit. Of the fruit that comes when the community sets their eyes on this holy and Spirit-filled life. Not “fruits” with an “s.” Not a plural list of to-do’s, a how-to-guide, a prescription of “supposed to’s.” But “fruit of the spirit.” In the collective. A cornucopia. A bountiful banquet that is the sign of the covenant of God with God’s people. A description of a life that God wanted for them, a celebration of community and relationship and calling and covenant and justice and purpose, a gift of the knowledge of what life would look like when God’s people lived in right relationship: about how they would treat each other, about how they would honor God holy and above all, about how their bodies mattered to God, about the things that flow out of a Spirit-led life. As the letter rumbled and God spoke through the words of Paul, little did God’s people know what was in store from the Spirit of God! Story Four The people of God worried about the future before them. Their congregation had been through so many leadership changes in the last few years, and so much had changed in their church and their little university community in the hills of northeast Kansas. The world was changing around them, and they wondered what these changes would mean for their church and their faith. In fact, some had given up hope. Many had begun to grumble. They remembered the church of years before, decades earlier. If it had worked then, why wouldn’t it work again? They thought they would all be better off if they returned to the old ways. Back to the bondage of requirements and coercion and certainty. Back to the security of slavery to the ways of the world. Little did the people of God know what awaited them! For before long, a small band of leaders would climb aboard a plane and fly to the tiny island nation of Haiti. There, they would find themselves, and eventually their church, changed by the very power of the Spirit of God. In Haiti, they would meet missionaries of incredible faith and trust in God’s power. They would see Kingdom work as they dug holes for the foundation of a school, and fell in love with a people and a purpose. And on Pentecost Sunday, sweating in the open-air sanctuary at the end of a dusty Haitian road, they would see the power of God. As a clueless and ineffectual preacher stood in front of that Haitian congregation, they watched his translator, a young woman mentored and chosen for her gifts, turn his words into Gospel power. As the Church celebrated its birth at Pentecost, this team of Kansans watched the birth of a preacher, a pastor with a vision and a dream to change the world for God. And through the next decade, the partnership with these missionaries, with this country, with this preacher, has changed this congregation forever. Not with a tired how-to guide, a to-do list, a prescription of “supposed to’s.” But instead, their partnership with these Haitian missionaries, the school they built together, and new understandings of what it means to join God at work in the world would be a catalyst. It would be a description of a life that God wanted for them, a celebration of community and relationship and calling and covenant and justice and purpose, a gift of the knowledge of what life would look like when God’s people lived in right relationship: about how they would treat each other, about how they would honor God holy and above all, about how all bodies—including black and brown bodies—matter to God, about the things that flow out of a Spirit-led life. As the Haitian preacher rumbled with power, and God spoke through her, little did God’s people know what was in store from the Spirit of God! Story Five The people of God worry about the future before them. Their way of being church, of practicing their faith, has been disrupted and forever altered by a global pandemic and desperate attempts to keep people healthy in its wake. Now, with some predicting that one in every three churches in the United States will close, and the other two in three churches visibly shaken, some wonder if “normal” will ever return. In fact, some have given up hope. Many have begun to grumble. They think they would all be better off if they return to the old ways. Back to the bondage of requirements and coercion and certainty. Back to the security of slavery to the ways of the world. But in the midst of the fear, there are those who are excited about the future church that awaits them! They gather together on Zoom meetings, in Sunday school classes, at youth group, and on Sunday evenings. They sit together for hours as a leadership team…praying, dreaming, listening to comments and questions and hopes and dreams of a congregation, asking what it means to be reshaped. Their work is not simply to create another how-to guide, a to-do list, a prescription of “supposed to’s.” But they are busy seeking God’s call on the “future church,” asking what kind of life God wants for them, celebrating community and relationship and calling and covenant and justice and purpose, eyes open to the a gift of the knowledge of what life looks like when God’s people live in right relationship: about how they will treat each other, about how they will honor God holy and above all, about how their bodies—and the bodies of all of God’s children—matter to God, about the things that flow out of a Spirit-led life. They are busy “ReShaping Church,”…or really paying attention to the ways that God is ReShaping it! As the world around them changes and rumbles and God speaks through it all, may we celebrate on this Pentecost Sunday that we cannot even imagine a fraction of the power that is in store from the Spirit of God! May it be so! And may we have eyes to see!
68 minutes | May 17, 2021
Law or Faith Galatians 3:1–9, 23–29 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! 2 The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? 4 Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing. 5 Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” 7 so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” 9 For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. Imagine a new Christian, someone who was just starting to get excited about following Jesus, who didn’t know a lot about God, but was on fire and excited about Jesus. But then, other people started talking to them saying, Jesus is great, but make sure you don’t do this list of sins and no-nos, or yes, Jesus is great, but make sure you are following these six steps to stay on the right path. Jesus is great, but make sure you’re following my church’s version of Jesus and not that church’s Jesus. And instead of continuing to be excited about Jesus and the love of God and consumed by the Holy Spirit, they start becoming consumed with following the right rules, their focus turns to making sure they don’t fall into a list of extra-bad sins, instead of remembering God’s extravagant love and grace, judging others becomes a way of life. This person was so excited about Jesus, but while they were trying to follow Jesus, other people got in the way and started leading them towards their version of Jesus and truth instead of the Jesus who is Truth. It’s pretty easy to imagine something like this happening. Something similar was happening to the churches in Galatia. Paul came and preached the good news about Jesus and they were excited and ready to follow Jesus, but then Paul left to go someplace else, and other teachers came in saying, “Yes, Jesus is great, but what also is important, is following the law–men, you need to be circumcised and everyone should follow the Jewish dietary rules.” The people in Galatia were Gentiles, they had never followed the law before, but these teachers spoke with such authority and seemed to know what they were talking about, so the people in Galatia started focusing on following the law and lost their focus on Jesus. When Paul found out about this, he was quick to put them back in their place. My version of his rant goes something like this—You fools! Who pulled the wool over your eyes? Did someone put you under a spell? I told you clearly and at length about the crucified and risen Christ, you experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in your lives, but you are acting like you have forgotten all of this. It was the Holy Spirit who began a new work in you, why are you turning to the law now, thinking that the law would continue the work of grace and love that the Holy Spirit established. It just doesn’t make sense! You should have stuck with the Spirit. The Message version reads, “Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives.” And throughout this week, I have been wondering, what would it look like for us to refocus our lives on Jesus? The past fourteen months have been filled with unexpected, hard challenges that most of us never imagined. Our focus had to shift to learning a new way of life and a whole new pandemic vocabulary—social distancing, quarantine, isolation pods, mask wearing. Now, as more people are being vaccinated and the research of how COVID spreads become clearer, our focus is able to shift again, away from pandemic life, and onto something new. Perhaps this could be an opportunity for us to refocus our life on Jesus, and today’s Galatians passage gives us some ideas on how to refocus our lives by remembering three key ideas. First, Paul wants us to remember that the Holy Spirit is active in our lives. From what Paul says, it seems as though the Holy Spirit was active and flourishing in the churches of Galatia, miracles were happening and people were turning to Jesus. But when false teachers started coming in and emphasizing the importance of the law, focus shifted to following the law in order to gain favor with God, instead of remembering it was God’s grace that brought them to God in the first place. Today, we might not have the law to contend with, but there are plenty of other things to take our focus off of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. While sometimes well meaning, we are good at making extra qualifications to be a good Christian. Just check social media, and you will get a wide array of opinions on what it looks like to be a real Christian. You can’t be a Christian unless you are a part of this political party and passionate about this issue. In order to be a good Christian, you should follow this Bible reading plan, only read this version of the Bible, and listen to this podcast every week. All Christians should read their Bible every morning before putting your feet on the ground—that is how you need to start your day. The lists can go on… But when we make lists of rules and qualifications about how to be a Christian, we are leaving the work of the Holy Spirit out of our lives. Because what might be a life-giving Bible reading plan for you, could be overwhelming and guilt-ridden for someone else. What could be an informative, insightful writer for one person, could be harmful and triggering for another. God made each of us uniquely and so each of us relates and connects with God differently, and that is okay. In fact, that is good because it gives us a bigger, fuller picture of God as we learn from one another, trusting that the Holy Spirit is at work in each of us. So instead of trying to find the right list of rules and practices to be a good Christian, we need to intentionally invite the Holy Spirit into our lives. And this will look differently for each of us, but perhaps it could begin with a prayer, inviting the Holy Spirit into our lives once again. One prayer for this that I have come across comes from a book called Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, and it goes like this, “Stir us to rise each morning expecting to encounter you and be caught up in your work.” “Stir us to rise each morning expecting to encounter you and be caught up in your work.” The second thing Paul invites us to remember is that we are children of God. He reminds us of Abraham, who believed in God, listened to God’s call on his life, and was blessed. Paul tells the Galatians that it was not the law that started the people of God, the Israelites, it was the faith of Abraham. The law came later. First, Abraham believed and put his faith in God and God said from Abraham, all nations were to be blessed, Jew and Gentile alike. Paul reminds us that we are all children of God if we just believe. Believing in God does not mean we are going to live perfect lives. Abraham definitely didn’t—at times he doubted and questioned God and tried to make his own plans when he didn’t think God was acting fast enough—but God continued to work through Abraham. Believing in God puts us on the road to experience God’s love and grace. Being a child of God is one of the most precious titles we are given, and I think we often underestimate its importance. I know it’s meaning hasn’t fully seeped into my being yet. How would my life change if claiming that I am a child of God took precedence in my life? If I remembered that my value stemmed from being God’s beloved child and not my job, bank account, grades, or friends? How would my anxieties and fears lessen if I was able to fully embrace and realize that I am a part of God’s family and that only happens because of God’s grace and love in Christ Jesus? It would be life changing, and Paul wants us to remember and latch on to that identity. And lastly, Paul tells us we need to remember our baptism, that we have been made new and are clothed with Christ. Going to a Presbyterian school and interning at an Episcopalian church, I was surprised by how often they talked about and remembered their baptism. We might have “Baptist” in our name, but I think we could learn something from other denominations in remembering the meaning of our baptism as a visible sign of God’s grace and becoming a part of God’s family. When you walk into my seminary’s chapel, there is a large clear glass bowl filled with water, encouraging us to remember our baptism as we enter. Frequently, worship leaders would go to it, scoop up the water, and pour it back in so we could hear the sounds of our baptism. One of the gifts of believer’s baptism is that we can actually remember our baptism. Dying to ourselves as we enter the water and emerging as a new creation, one with Christ. And perhaps even feeling new, changed, and cloaked in the Spirit as we walked out of the water. When I taught this spring’s baptism class, we talked about how baptism was a visible symbol of a person’s decision to believe in and follow Jesus, but that it was also a symbol from God that God would always love us, that God would always be with us, and that God calls us God’s beloved child. Through our baptism, Paul suggests that we are given new clothes to wear–the clothes of Christ. Robert Grosseteste says that “a bodily garment is fitted for the one who wears it, whereas a spiritual garment shapes its wearer.” In baptism, we are united with Christ, clothed with Christ, so we can become more and more like him. And Paul says this should bring unity among the people of God. Paul quotes what many scholars believe to be part of a baptismal liturgy used at that time-—“that there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” And this liturgy was a play off of a common prayer that Jewish men would say in the mornings, where they would thank God that they were not a Gentile, a slave, or a woman. The early church is proposing something radical—those hierarchies are no longer at play; a man is not better than a woman, a master is not better than a slave, Jews are not the only ones with access to God; for we are all one in Christ Jesus. It is tempting to say that in Jesus Christ differences are erased, but I don’t think that is the case because God created this big, beautiful world full of diversity so we can see and experience our big, beautiful God as we were all uniquely created in God’s image. No, in Christ and through our baptism, we now have something bigger than our differences to unite us—the transformative love and grace of God. What a picture Paul has given us in Galatians 3 of what a life re-focused on Jesus looks like! It is a life in the Spirit, where we remember that God is actively working in our lives, that life with God is not as much about what we do as it is about what the Holy Spirit does in and through us. It is a life where we know and claim that we are children of God, that our value lies in God calling us a beloved child and not what the world says. And it is a life with Christ, through our baptism, which unites us together and transforms us to become more and more like him. May it be so! Let’s pray… God of Abraham and Sarah, God of Hagar, God of Paul and Mary… thank you for inviting us into a new life with Christ Jesus. Thank you for your reminders today that the Holy Spirit is actively at work among us, and we invite you, Holy Spirit, intentionally into our lives once more, that we may expect to encounter you and be caught up in your work daily. Thank you that you call us your children, that no matter what our earthly families look like, we can rest knowing that we are a part of the family of God, so we are never alone. And thank you for our baptism, that we are clothed and united with Christ, transformed into a new creation where hierarchies fall and all are one through Christ Jesus. May we become a little more like you, Lord Jesus, everyday and be transformed into the people you created us to be. Amen. Benediction: May you go today remembering that you are a child of God, united with Christ, expecting the Holy Spirit to work in and through you this week. Amen.
79 minutes | May 14, 2021
Nothing We Can Do
On Monday, I lost my place in the middle of a sentence. Just right there in the middle of a conversation and…zip! No idea where I was going. It wasn’t the first time. On Tuesday, I was driving to the church, and was halfway there before I realized that I had forgotten my church keys, so I turned around and drove back to get them. On the way to the church the second time, I realized that I had forgotten a mask, so I turned around again. On Wednesday, I was reading a book for a study group and had to re-read the same page three times. I find that it has taken me much longer to read things, and when I do, I retain much less information. On Thursday, I thought it was Friday. I got ready to do some of my Friday things, before someone had to tell me that it was time for the Thursday things instead…since it was Thursday. On Friday (the actual Friday), I realized that for the third week in a row, my to-do list was woefully unaccomplished. My list of phone calls to make, projects to finish, and emails to return seemed as full as when I wrote it down in the first place. At the end of the week, I asked how it was that even now, as we are starting to move back into something that feels like normal, I still can’t get my act together. I am still as captured by inefficiency as I was when the pandemic began, or in the middle of it. Shouldn’t I have figured this stuff out by now? What’s wrong with me? It turns out that it’s actually what’s wrong with all of us. Krista Tippett, in her popular radio show and podcast On Being, has talked about this question recently. She interviewed Christine Runyan, a clinical psychologist about the ways that our brains and our bodies are reacting to global pandemic. In short, our nervous systems are breaking. The human nervous system is designed to kick into reaction mode, often called “Fight/Flight” mode, when presented with a dangerous stimulus. Runyan suggests that this is good and healthy and exactly what keeps us alive as a species. But, the Fight/Flight level of nervous system arousal is not something we are supposed to do for 14 months in a row! But we have. Even if it doesn’t seem like we have been in panic level reactivity that long, our brains think that we have. Runyan suggests that even when we do things to numb ourselves to that emotional chaos—turn to alcohol or drugs or Netflix—our brains are still in high arousal. We are still in active “flight” response. The neurotransmitters and hormones in our brains and bodies are still firing on all cylinders, even as we binge our favorite TV show with a glass of wine. Runyan suggests that our response to this is often to ask the question that I asked myself last week: “What’s wrong with me?” Like I am the only one dealing with this, and am somehow the only one in the world who cannot get my act together? But Runyan says that this response of the brain is normal and predictable to a “species-level trauma” like what we are experiencing. When this happens to our brains, predictable behavior includes memory problems, short fuses, fractured productivity, and sudden drops into despair. Like my week last week. And most of our weeks…every single week. And this “what’s wrong with me” feeling is exacerbated by the fact that we are getting vaccinated and are supposed to be normalizing our behavior. Life is supposed to be getting back to normal, and when we don’t feel normal, it feels like it’s our fault. We beat ourselves up, and blame ourselves, and tell ourselves we’ll do better next week! Or sometimes, to make ourselves feel better, we find someone to blame. Our brain’s natural response of “what’s wrong with me?” turns into “what’s wrong with all of those people?” We find ourselves even more galvanized and isolated and afraid and angry. “All right preacher, so how in the world does that have anything to do with the book of Galatians?” More than you might realize. Last week, we read in the book of Acts how the church leaders in Jerusalem—Paul, Barnabas, Peter, James—were all of one accord regarding the welcoming of Gentile Jews into the Church. Well, Galatians tells a different story. Either Luke paints a bit rosier picture than Paul does in his letter to the church in Galatia, or that “one accord” lasted about 15 minutes. Because it seems that after that unity and accord, the “insiders” from last week—remember the “certain individuals” from Acts 15?—did not go away. These Christians who insisted that everyone live by their own rigid rules of circumcision and dietary law and worship? Last week, we read that they had been messing around with Paul’s congregation in Antioch, which led to last week’s council in Jerusalem, to figure out what to do with these “insider problem-creators.” Apparently their solution didn’t work, at least not in Paul’s eyes, because these folks continued to make the rounds to all of Paul’s churches, and tell the Gentile Christians there that they were doing it all wrong. Of course, Paul is livid that these people are doing this. But perhaps he is even angrier at the leaders of the Church, including Peter and James, who Paul feels like are going back on their decision. In fact, in one instance, Peter visits one of these churches, and refuses to eat with the Gentile Christians who are not observing strict dietary laws. Paul blows up. This is cutting off at the knees both his ministry and his message. Now, he has to write this letter to the Galatians to tell them why he is personally authoritative in these matters, and give them a theological case for inclusion…again. Which is what we read here in chapter two. Paul is making the argument for a big tent inclusion of Gentiles. Ironically, this passage is often used to practice exclusion—specifically exclusion of Jewish people. This passage has been used for some really violent anti-Semitism. Christians have read these words and said, “Look how wrong Jews are…Paul’s practice of his Jewish faith was rigid and exclusive, so all Jews must be the same…all Jews must be bad!” But let me argue that it seems like Paul’s point here is not an inter-religious one, but a psychological one. Paul seems to be saying that any of us, Jews or Christians, are often guilty of prioritizing our own efforts before the work of a gracious God. Jewish prophets lamented the fact that Jews were doing it with their worship practices (Amos quotes God: “I hate…I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them…. And Micah asks, “Would the Lord be please with thousands of rams and 10,000 rivers of oil?”) Paul, now in Galatians, is lamenting the fact that Jewish Christians were doing it with their insistence on human actions, such as circumcision and dietary restrictions. I propose that if Paul were to walk into our churches today, he would lament that we do the same thing, with our assumptions that praying the right prayer in the right way, or showing up enough Sundays to church, is what brings us into loving relationship with God. Paul would be just as livid with us when we make our actions salvific. But in Galatians, Paul says that when we focus on our actions, instead of God’s in Christ, we make Jesus’ life and death and resurrection irrelevant. Because we are saying—implicitly if not explicitly—that our actions are really what make God love us. Our behavior or our decision is what brings us into loving relationship with Jesus. Paul’s point, loud and clear to Peter and James and the church at Galatia, is this: “it’s not up to us. God’s grace is all we need.” Now, I’ll be honest: this is a tough one for me. I have shared before that I am what I call a “recovering perfectionist.” Because, deep down, I need to know that my actions solve all the problems of the world. Anyone else with me? But Paul —according to some a recovering perfectionist in his own right—is saying that our actions, our words, even our prayers, don’t fix the world. That’s God’s job. And Paul is saying here that when we allow proponents of works righteousness—of any creed or brand or tribe—to talk us back into this perfectionism—regardless of what law we use—then we have said that the death and resurrection of Jesus is null and void. The point that Paul is making is not that all Christians get it right and that all Jews get it wrong. It is a psychological point that any people who say that they are committed to a God of grace should act like it. Not keep score, or bow to the “watchdogs” that Paul talks about. Live life like we were created to be recipients of grace. In short, Paul takes eleven verses to say one simple thing, summarized by author Philip Yancey: “Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more… And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.” Let me say that again: “Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more… And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.” Let me say it one more time, because there is nothing more important that I can say today: “Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more… And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.” So, friends, in the midst of a global pandemic, hear me loud and clear. In a world that constantly makes us ask the question “what’s wrong with me?”… In a world that turns our nervous systems into scrambled eggs and regularly makes us doubt our worthiness… In a world that demands that we live up to a standard of perfection that is constantly changing, exacerbating our doubt and shame… In a world that is galvanized and splintered and suspicious of the “other,” whoever the other is… …Paul’s words echo through the generations: (we are) “set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good.” “nothing we can do…” That’s really all there is to be said. After Krista Tippet and Christine Runyan spent a half an hour talking about how the pandemic is making us all feel like we are doing it all wrong, Runyan turned to the topic of grace. Runyan is not a theologian, nor is she a preacher. But it is fascinating that the clinical perspectives that she shares sound a lot like Paul’s message to the Galatians. She doesn’t bring up Jesus, or explicitly theological language, but she says that our brains and our bodies are programmed to be recipients and conveyors of grace. This is how we were created. Which is what Paul wrote, 1900 years before Sigmund Freud was born or modern psychology was a thing. We are created to be God’s children. We are created to receive grace. We are created to give ourselves and one another grace. So, let me end today a little differently, with one of Dr. Runyan’s suggestions for re-centering during these scattered days. She doesn’t describe it as such, but it felt to me like an invitation to prayer. Whether you are at home in your comfy chair, or here in the sanctuary in-person, I invite you to take a moment to pray. Dr. Runyan says that some of this stuff sounds pretty new-agey or “foo foo,” but there is hard science behind it. And, I would add, good theology. So, now I invite you to bring your soul and your body and your mind into a place to receive God’s grace. First, sit in the chair so that you can put your feet flat on the floor. You might close your eyes to shut out distractions, but you don’t have to. Make sure especially that your heels touch the floor. Runyan says that the posture of the pandemic has been to be on our toes, ready to jump. This is the posture of fight or flight. But now, allow your whole feet, including your heels, to press to the floor. To sit in that stability. In Runyan’s words, feel yourself in the seat, “being held.” Imagine your body and soul held by God. Now, place your hand on your heart. While many of us miss the hugs and physical touch, we can stay connected to our selves and our Creator by feeling the warmth and the beating of our hearts. Hold it there for a few moments, as you notice your breath. Feel the lifeblood of your Creator coursing through your body. Finally, exhale. Runyan and other brain scientists suggest that in panic, we inhale, but sometimes forget to exhale. A long, slow, exhale is a way of emptying the body and soul of the panic and the anger and the frustration that many of us feel. Breathe in as needed, but focus on that slow exhale. Quietly now, return to the room. Do this exercise again, as needed. As a prayer to the One who created you. As a reminder that you are held. That you are loved. That you are created to receive grace.
68 minutes | May 2, 2021
Concerning the Salvation of Certain Individuals
Get bulletin Michael and Jesse took a long time to make the decision. They loved First Church. They loved the people. They loved their Sunday school class. Their kids love the youth group. But it was a big decision for them to decide to put their names forward for membership. They knew it would be a controversial issue in the church when they decided to join…because Michael was black and Jesse was white. They knew it would be controversial at First Church, because their relationship had been controversial at every church that they attended, and in both of their families. So they weren’t surprised when the business meeting turned contentious. Most people were polite in their concern, but some were downright nasty. “It isn’t natural.” “The Church has to stand for what’s right.” “The Bible is clear on this issue.” “If we keep watering down our faith, how are we any different than the rest of the world?” In the end, the family was voted in by a rather wide margin. But for Michael and Jesse, they would always know that there were certain individuals who didn’t want them there. This homemade parable could have taken place in the unrest of the Civil Rights era of the 60’s. Or last week, in some of our churches. When questions of changing cultural expectations hit the church, it gets messy. It is complicated to try and discern how the church is to engage in these cultural debates. What does it mean to be faithful to the message of God, and when are we just raising up a cultural standard, assuming it is God’s Will? When are we watering down the faith, and when are we participating in a faith that is dynamic and ever-changing? These were the questions that faced the early Church. Today’s Scripture passage tells the story of two of the early church leaders, Paul and Barnabas, and their work wrestling with these questions. They also had faced more than one contentious church meeting, and now found themselves in the middle of a fight between those who felt like the Holy Spirit was dynamic and creating a new way of living the faith…and those who felt like the “newness” was an abandonment of cherished values of the past. While the emotional processes are similar to Michael and Jesse, the issue in Acts is obviously a very different one. In this case, the issue at stake is circumcision. All the way back, since Genesis 12, when God covenants with Abram, circumcision was a symbol of that covenant. It was the way that God’s people set themselves apart from the Egyptians and the Philistines and the Assyrians and Babylonians and Persians and Greeks and now the Romans. This symbol, alongside of a very specific way of living and eating and worshipping, was central to their faith. It was the way that Abraham and Moses and David and Ezra and Jesus and the disciples had lived their lives. These were symbols of their faith, and they were the signs that one had chosen to follow Yahweh. Like a wedding ring is a symbol of that relationship, or the flag a symbol of citizenship in a country. For generations these were expectations—indeed requirements—to follow the One True God. If someone is to join this community, circumcision is expected. But now, those long-held traditions are being questioned. After the stoning of Stephen, the Church began to scatter, and reach out to Gentiles…those who had not held to these traditions of Abraham. But these Gentiles were falling in love with Jesus. And early church leaders, like Paul and Barnabus, began to see the Holy Spirit at work in these Gentile believers. These uncircumcised, non-tradition-following Gentiles seemed like they were demonstrating the presence of God. And exhibiting gifts of the Holy Spirit of God. How should the Church respond? Let me suggest that we are about ready to find ourselves in a similar situation here in 2021. Not only are we wrestling with significant cultural changes and shifts, but the pandemic has caused us to have to ask a new set of significant questions about what it means to be Church. Consider these assumptions that have been held dear for a long time: Church is about being together, in the same physical space.Programming in the building is the only way to be Church.More activities means deeper spirituality.Church members have to live in the same community as the building. And many more! We will be forced to ask ourselves, like those Early Church members, what is truly the work of the Spirit, and what is simply “what we are used to”? What is the way that Church needs to be in order to be Church, or when is it something more tied to our culture and personal history and the dreaded “we’ve always done it this way”? Now, after the pandemic, we haven’t always done it “this way.” And we find ourselves as shaken as some in the Early Church. So, where do we go from here? What does this story have to teach us about the days ahead? Let me suggest that Acts 15 isn’t as simple as we have made it out to be sometimes. This passage is sometimes used to talk about inclusion of the outsider. The message goes something like this: “Just like those who insisted on circumcision for new converts, some in the Church insist on converting new church members not to the Gospel of Christ, but to their own narrow cultural expectations and personal way of living.” It’s a good message. And I would suggest that much of the book of Acts is exactly about that message. About inclusion and welcoming those who are different than us. Two weeks ago, we talked about the outsider Stephen, and how the Twelve made his voice central to their leadership. Last week, we talked about the outsider Ethiopian Eunuch, and the ways that he was included despite Scriptural reasons for him not to be. After that, Paul and Barnabas go on this missionary journey to include and welcome the outsider Gentiles. And in what is perhaps the most striking example of this message, Acts 11 tells the story of Peter and Cornelius, where the primary leader of the church comes to understand that putting up walls of exclusion based on old Scriptural interpretation was simply not what the Spirit was up to. Acts echoes this message of inclusion again and again. But not Chapter 15. At least not the way that I read it. In my reading, this is not a story of inclusion of the Gentiles. I think by Acts 15, that is a closed case. This is not a story about how to convert the outsider. The question of Acts 15 is how to convert the insider. Look again at how the passage begins. Luke tells us that there are “certain individuals” who make their way to the Antioch church and begin telling the Gentiles that they are doing it wrong. They are “watering down the faith.” They need to read their Bibles. But by the time that Paul and Barnabas report this to the leaders in Jerusalem, the question is not whether or not these “certain individuals” are correct in their requirements for new converts. Paul and Barnabas don’t think so. Peter doesn’t think so…ever since Cornelius this is a closed case for him. Not even James, the brother of Jesus and rising leader in the Church, agrees with these people. The question by the time we get to Acts 15 is not “What we are going to do about these Gentiles?” The question is “What are we going to do about these ‘certain individuals?’” Because these early Church leaders know that the insider can be more of the problem than the outsider. Insiders who are more worried about making clones of themselves than opening their eyes to new expressions of faith. Insiders who cannot see the Spirit at work because the Spirit-filled Christians right in front of them don’t fit their narrow personal experience of the faith. Insiders who are more worried about “watering down the faith” than about handing out invitations to the pool party. These early Church leaders know that the failure of these “certain individuals” to open the door to others simply means that they are shutting themselves out from the work of the Spirit. Paul and Barnabas don’t show up looking for permission to convert the outsider, they are looking for advice to convert the insiders who don’t think that they need to be converted. So, again, what about us? What happens when our insider status becomes a hindrance to the Gospel? What do we do next? What was the game plan for the Church, and what is our game plan moving forward for converting the “certain individuals” in our midst? Three parts from the passage make sense for us today: First, double down on grace. Look at Peter’s words, starting in verse 6. Remember that all of these folks: Paul, Peter, James, have all been insiders, but have all come to realize that that insider-ness can be part of the problem. Those who can lead 10-part Bible studies on who we are supposed to leave out, stand in the way of the Church. They had all done it, but have now learned how to get over it, and have become converted themselves to the Gospel to the marginalized. Peter reminds the Church to be a place of grace. These “certain individuals” are just trying to figure it out. Biblical scholar Craig Koester suggests that what people fear most is not change, but loss. These “certain individuals” are losing what has been dear to them, and so some grace is required. Peter reminds us to be gracious to those who think that their insider status matters more than the love of Christ. By verse 11, he makes it clear: “on the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” (not by whether or not we can name the books of the Bible in order, or our perfect Sunday school attendance since we were born). Outsiders and insiders alike will receive the same grace. The second word is this: shut up. In verse 12, it says “the whole assembly kept silence.” What this seems to mean is that they sat in the room together, quietly, intentionally. No one said a word. All learned to listen to the whispers of the Spirit. How often do we talk ourselves to death? Debate and discussion and conversation are important parts of the life of the Church. But sometimes, we need to sit. And listen. And be silent, before one another and the Holy Spirit. Conversion is a matter of the heart, and trying to talk one another into our position is a cognitive work. Sometimes, we need to shut up. And in the silence, we all find ourselves converted. Finally, a third word for us today from the Church leader James: Read your Bible! Again, this is a double-edged sword, since there is plenty of Biblical evidence for exclusion…these “certain individuals” were experts on it. But here in Acts 15, James uses the prophet Amos to teach that the overarching story of Scripture is that of inclusion. In the passage, the insiders are grieving the loss of the Temple, the traditional, physical space that mattered so much to them. But in the face of grief, the prophet foretells a time when even the Gentiles would seek the Lord of Israel. When God would call all peoples together. So how do you convert the insider? The Bible. Help them to see that their sacred text is not a license to exclude, a reservation book at a fancy restaurant that lets them in while others stay outside. The Story of Scripture has overall been a story of inclusion, of invitation, of welcome. To all of us…insider or outsider. James goes on to say that these outsiders should follow some of the rules of the insiders, a compromise to keep the “certain individuals” from getting too riled up. “They’ll come around,” James seems to say. “Just humor them for a while and they’ll figure it out eventually.” And it works. The Church business meeting concluded with consensus. The text says that “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” There was unity in the end, where there was once division. And just a few chapters later, in Chapter 20, Acts tells us that Paul, ministering to a new community of outsiders, gathers around a very different symbol, the table of Christ. Here, Acts tells us that the Jesus-followers gathered on the first day of the week to share in the unity of the breaking of the bread. Insiders and new converts…together. A new symbol of unity and inclusion, where all are welcome. Church of 2021, we face a changing world, with confusing cultural expectations and divisions. But we face that world armed with grace, with quiet prayer, with Scripture to guide us, and a table to unite us.
59 minutes | Apr 27, 2021
Wilderness Road Trip
I love road trips. I always have. When I was a kid, it was trips to see Grandparents down the country roads in Illinois. When we got married, Kimberly and I would drive across the country to B&B’s in small towns or out in the country. When we had kids of our own, we would strap them in the car seats and head to Kentucky or Arkansas, or one big Clark Griswold trip out to South Dakota and Montana and Nevada. Of course the mother of all road trips was our sabbatical a couple of summers ago, when we put several thousand miles on the minivan in one summer! And over the years in ministry, I remember fondly youth trips to Green Lake or Colorado or down to Georgia to camp. Veteran youth leaders will tell you that ABY and GaGa ball and the like are great, but there is nothing like the bonding experience of a road trip. I would suggest that Luke must have been a big fan of road trips, too. Remember how he reported in Chapter 9 that Jesus “set his face toward Jerusalem.” The teaching and healing ministry of the Gospel takes place on the road, as he and the disciples travelled from Galilee to Jerusalem. And now, in the short few chapters since Jesus’ Resurrection, we have all of these road trip stories. Easter evening, Jesus meets travelers on the Road to Emmaus…it is in the journey that Christ appears to them. Stephen doesn’t take a road trip, but his famous sermon—the one that makes everyone mad enough to kill him—is all about how God never really wanted the Temple and was fine in the tabernacle, wandering from place to place on a holy road trip. And—spoiler-alert!—in the next chapter we are going to read about a guy named Saul who is once again on the road, this time the road to Damascus, where some things might happen. For Luke, there is power in the road trip, in the energy and relationship built on the journey. The ministry of Jesus and the Church of Jesus takes place in the dynamism and motion of the journey. And so there should be no surprise when we read today about Phillip, a master of the road trip. After Stephen’s death, he started on the road north to Samaria where he preached to Simon Magus and the Samaritans. And now he is on the road south out of Jerusalem, on yet another road trip. As I read it, it may not feel like a long trip, but remember that the Bible and especially the book of Acts collapses time, so that while this story only lasts a few verses, Justo Gonzalez suggests that it might have taken hours or even days. The Two Way folks loved playing around with the road trip in this story a little bit, talking about the Ethiopian must have stopped at the gas station in South Jerusalem on the way out of town. It must have been a Phillips 66 (get it?) and he probably picked up a Slim Jim and a pocket copy of the book of Isaiah to read on the way home to Ethiopia. There really is something for us to discern about our journey of faith, our walk of faith, from what we see in this story. What can this story teach us about our faith? There are three different characters, if you will, that make up this story. Let’s look at what each one teaches us. The first character to look at more closely is the Ethiopian Eunuch, who I think has something to teach us about the experience of the outsider. Now, we have to be careful assuming too much about this man. Luke doesn’t give us much backstory, or too many details. But it seems to me that part of why he is included in this narrative is his outsider status: • Whether it was the fact that he was an Ethiopian, kind of a catch-all category for all non-Egyptian Africans or simply those with dark skin, which would have made him a racial minority in Palestine. • Or perhaps it was the fact that he was a eunuch, a sexual minority, potentially naturally-castrated and thus considered safe enough to put into position of authority around the Queen, or potentially forcible castrated in order to make him “safe.” • Or perhaps even his role as a government official, which made him a kind of unpopular cultural minority, like the hated tax collectors who had authority over the people. • Or some scholars think that he is what some call a “god-fearer,” someone who believed in Yahweh, but didn’t take part in religious practice, perhaps for some of these other reasons; today we might call him “spiritual but not religious” potentially even inviting scorn. • Or perhaps even all four of these categories were relevant, meaning that he was quadruply an outsider! To me, it feels like he saw himself as an outsider because as he read this passage from Isaiah, and engaged in Philip in conversation about it, he asks a fascinating question: “What is to prevent me from being baptized?” From being included. He somehow knew that there were reasons, and likely he had heard them his whole life. Philip must have known them, too. He could have given this man a valid Bible study, based on the book of Deuteronomy, that told him exactly why he couldn’t be included. Why he couldn’t be baptized as a eunuch and non-Israelite and an outsider. What is to prevent me? The Bible says so! Which is a question that a lot of Christians ask, even today? The figure of the Ethiopian eunuch is one that many identify with, especially those who see themselves as outsiders. Racial minorities connect with the fact that he is from Ethiopia. LGBTQI persons connect with the eunuch’s sexual minority status. Or anyone who feels outside of the accepted norm of the church: as single parents or divorced persons or those choosing or not able to have children or choosing or not able to get married. So many have read this story and heard the reasons why they must be excluded, including “the Bible says so.” But look at Philip’s response here. Take a look at Character Number Two in the story. Again, Philip could have come at the Ethiopian with some hard-core Bible study. But instead of an aggressive stance, Philip seems to follow the rule of “listen first; talk second.” He gets this feeling, this prompting to walk along that road, and then another feeling/prompting to walk up next to the man’s chariot, and so he does, and hears him reading out loud the book of Isaiah. He doesn’t walk right in with an agenda of conversion, or a script to read out loud. Phillip simply shows up and listens first. And then, he talks. But even then, he begins with a question: “Do you understand what you are reading?” And the dialogue begins! For Philip, the good news does not come as a pre-packaged speech to deliver to this man, in order to convert him and put him in the win column. It is the beginning of a conversation. To help him understand his truth, and eventually for Philip to share his understanding of the truth. Notice that Philip doesn’t listen first and listen second, simply idling until the Ethiopian figures it out for himself. Philip has something to say. But he doesn’t unload a Roman Road or Four Spiritual Laws or anything learned in a Tuesday night training session. He listens to the man and his questions. And when the time is right, he speaks. Remember that like Stephen, Philip is one of the Seven, one of the Hellenistic, outsider Jewish Christ-followers, who was put in charge of the food pantry and followed the food pantry right out the door. As an outsider himself, he was able to understand and speak truth to the outsider Ethiopian. Because it became a dialogue, he was able to understand and be understood. A helpful word for those of us 2,000 years later that feel like we want to share the good news of Jesus, but aren’t sure how to do it. Listen first and speak second. The Evangelism committee talked about this just this last week, asking how we can encourage those conversations. You know, we live in a world that is hurting and angry and afraid and not sure what to do next. A lot of folks are feeling left out. If we approach these conversations with a willingness to listen and learn, then maybe, the Spirit of God can use us. We can speak our truth, and listen as other speak theirs. Philip teaches us that for the good news to take root, it takes dialogue, patience, and a willingness to listen. So, we have talked about two of the three main characters of the story, but there is a third. Besides the Ethiopian and Philip, the third voice we hear is the voice of the Spirit of God. You know, I don’t think it is an accident that all these big moments take place on road trips in Luke and Acts. Because I think that Luke is making a theological point about how God works. In short, these stories remind us that God is on the road. Journey to Jerusalem. The Road to Emmaus. The Wilderness Road. The Damascus Road. This is more than a literary device. The God of the tabernacle in Stephen’s sermon is still a God on the move. God is dynamic and active and on the road. This theology of dynamism is crucial for us to remember today. Especially out of a pandemic, when we have yearned so deeply to return to a physical space. Let us remember that the Church has always been scattered and sent! The theology of God throughout Scripture is that God is on the move. The life of faith is a never-ending road trip. This physical space is always meant to be a rest stop to the real work of the Gospel, in the workplaces, and classrooms, and ballfields and coffeehouses of God’s world. And let us now add the social networks and virtual spaces and Zoom Rooms. Like Philip, we are called to be responsive and dialogical open to how God is at work out there. Like Philip, we are called to be on the move!
72 minutes | Apr 21, 2021
Back to Abnormal
Do you all know the phrase “if it bleeds, it leads?” It is a way to poke fun at sensational news broadcasts, which seem to believe that if a news story is about a death, or a fire, or a tragedy, or even a dangerous situation, then it should lead the news cycle! Even if other things are happening that have much more impact on the way that people live their lives, “if it bleeds, it leads.” For the last 2,000 years, I think that the Church has gotten a little caught up in this. If there is one thing you know about Stephen, it is probably the fact that he was killed. Stoned by those who disagreed with him. And the Church has focused on that fact more than much else that he did! He is often heralded as the first Christian martyr. It is hard to find a picture of him that doesn’t somehow involve stones…there are ancient icons that have these rocks hovering by his body…and even Sunday school curriculum shows some pretty graphic, bloody pictures of Stephen. I mean, he is patron saint of stonemasons, for crying out loud! Come on, Church, can we do better by Stephen? I think we should. While his sacrifice at the end of the story is definitely important, it is not the only important thing that happens. And I think it distracts us from what might be even more important. First, let’s set the stage. Before we hear anything about Stephen, we learn that there is an injustice happening in the early church. Acts 2 describes that the community sold its possessions and shared everything communally. Everyone shared and everyone received. But by the time we get to Acts 6, we see that this arrangement wasn’t working out for everyone. Scholar Justo Gonzalez shocked me when he suggests that the events of this chapter likely took place six years after the Pentecost. The Early Church has been preaching and growing for a significant time, trying to figure out how to live this communal life of Christ. At this point, they would have all still considered themselves Jewish, but were Christ-followers within that broader faith. Now, a handful of years later, there are inequities. “All were together and had all things in common” is falling short of the ideal. Specifically, there are inequities between two types of widows. As you have heard me say before, widows were often the most vulnerable in the society, as they had no husband to provide resources, nor ability to work for themselves. The Bible, from the Torah to Hebrews, talks about making sure that we take care of the widows and orphans. They are 1 and 1a on the list of vulnerable people that we should care for. But the Early Church had set up invisible lines between two kinds of widows. There were the widows who were born in Palestine, in what we might call the Holy Land, who spoke Aramaic and were considered culturally Hebrew. Acts calls them the Hebrew widows. Then, there were those who were from outside of Palestine, often called the Diaspora, who were religiously Jewish but culturally more like the Greco-Roman culture that surrounded them. Acts calls them Hellenist widows, referring to the culture where they came from more than language that they spoke. The bottom line is that there were insiders and outsiders. Closer to the central hub of Jerusalem, the Hebrew (Palestinian) widows were being cared for with enough food and shelter and attention. But farther away, the Hellenistic widows were being neglected. As much as the Early Church wanted to take care of everyone, and talking about taking care of everyone, and even stormed through the Temple like Jesus did and told the religious leaders to take care of everyone, there were still inequities and injustices. It happens. It always happens. It still happens. I want to thank the good folks at the Lawrence Journal World for making my sermon illustration easy this week. For those of you who get the paper, you might have seen the same thing that I did. On Tuesday, two big pieces of news landed on the front page. The first is the surprise announcement that Brandon Woods will be closing their nursing facility by the end of the year, if not earlier. If you do not live in town, you may not know that Brandon Woods is one of the bigger elder care facilities in the community, and is set up with graduated care, allowing its residents to live as independently as possible, until the need for greater care is required. But now, the out-of-state owners have announced that they will be closing the facility that cares for those greatest needs, and focusing on the independent and assisted living segments instead. The nursing care is just too expensive.The second is the announcement that Kennedy Elementary School will be closed next month. Full disclosure, my wife Kimberly teaches at Kennedy, and so I have been able to see first-hand what a special place that school has become especially in the last few years. It is a smaller neighborhood school, and also one that cares for some of the greatest at-risk families in our community. Many of our indigenous families in town attend there, as it is closely connected to Haskell University. Kennedy has made major gains in academic scoring in the last few years, but now, to save money, the school is closing. Community of Lawrence, where did we go wrong? Like the Early Church, we have somehow managed to say at once that the needs of our most vulnerable, our most at-risk residents, our most marginalized, literally our widows and orphans, is “too expensive.” And I am not going to just point fingers at the school district, or at the owners of Brandon Woods. Just like I said a few weeks ago, this is about “all y’all.” This is on all of us: Anyone who has perpetuated the myth that east Lawrence schools are bad and filled with bad kids, and insisted that we draw boundary lines that shrink and starve those neighborhoods, so our kids don’t have to be around “those people.”Anyone who has perpetuated the myths that nursing homes are gross or dangerous.Anyone who has complained about our schools or our teachers for not working enough miracles in the lives of our children.Anyone who has complained about our nurses and medical staff for not working enough miracles in the lives of our least healthy elderly adults.Anyone who spends more time worried about a transgender athlete law in Kansas, impacting an estimated 5 or 6 young people statewide, instead of paying attention to the 500,000 students in Kansas who need politicians to pay attention to them.Anyone who pushes back on Medicare Expansion or Health Care Reform or the ACA, while across the state, hospitals and nursing homes close their doors forever. Thank you, Journal World, because if it bleeds it leads, and I am not overstating this—that Tuesday’s paper screams loud and clear that there is blood on all of our hands. And it is the widows and orphans who will suffer the most. With a similar level of anger and frustration, the Early Church bubbled over. There were insiders and there were outsiders. And the outsiders were getting left out. But that is not the end of the story. Look what happens in response. Again, it is Justo Gonzalez who helped me to see what was at stake here. The Hellenistic, outsider, enculturated Christians cried out for justice, and justice was given. The Twelve Apostles put their heads together and chose to empower seven individuals to bring justice to the community. They prayed about who to choose, found individuals who were sensitive to the workings of the Holy Spirit, laid hands on them (for the first time in the Early Church), and empowered them. And this was more than just creating a committee to look into the issue. This was more than just appointing a token member from the impacted community to some board. They gave these Seven the blessing, the power, and the authority to make sure that justice was done. The word here that the NRSV translates as “waiting on tables” is “diakonia,” which has both a connotation of servanthood and also of financial power. Some translations say “keeping accounts.” They gave them all the church credit cards! In short, Gonzalez writes, they brought these marginalized outsiders into the middle of the power structure and gave them what they needed to make things right. The Church of Jesus is radical in the fact that those who are most vulnerable, most in need, set the standard for the rest of the community. When someone has been marginalized, the Church of Jesus puts them in the center. Which is exactly what they did with Stephen. Sorry, it’s taken half the sermon to get to him, but you had to know why Stephen is important. Stephen is one of the Seven. Now, let me tell you something about the food pantry. When you work the food pantry, look out. When you stand side-by-side with some of the most desperate and needy in our community, watch out. When you see the vulnerable and afraid and hurting week after week after week, be careful. Because there is a good chance you are going to get set on fire by the Spirit of God. The Twelve told the Seven, “Go take care of the food pantry,” and before they knew it the Seven had disappeared and started preaching the Gospel of a Risen Christ. And that is exactly what happened to Stephen. He saw the power of a God who cared for the most vulnerable in the community, and it set him on fire for the Gospel. He was brought in from the margins to the center, and couldn’t help but go back out to bring more in. From the very beginning, the Church of Jesus followed the food pantry team out the doors, and it changed the way they saw God and the world. I would suggest that Stephen’s death and martyrdom is really a footnote in the story. What makes the story powerful is what got him killed in the first place. You see, when you go back out and bring the marginalized back in, the establishment doesn’t like it much. People don’t like it when you upset the status quo, when you break down the barriers and boundaries that they have set up. But Stephen, who lived his life by the rule of inclusion and embrace, even asking for forgiveness to the people as they were killing him, demonstrates what we are to be about in the Church of Jesus. You know, there are two phrases that I have heard over and over again in the last year that I have come to hate. It sets my teeth on edge when I hear that churches are considering “opening back up.” Because that implies that we have been closed. That implies that we turned the sign around and said we’d be back after the pandemic is over. That implies that this crew out here that you can’t see hasn’t been working their tails off to figure out how to get picture and sound and non-buffering video into your living rooms. That implies that we haven’t been doing Gospel ministry every single step of the way. In fact, follow me. If you want to see what an opened up church looks like, check out our food pantry. Church, you have been open! You have been hard at work. Week in and week out, you have been hard at work, caring for the needs of our community. And just this last week, while I watched some of those volunteers doing their work, one of the case managers for Bert Nash showed up. He works with families dealing with homelessness and housing insecurity, as well as mental health issues. And he said something that has stuck with me: “I don’t know where we’d be without the churches. So many more wouldn’t have made it if it weren’t for your generosity.” That’s you all. That’s following the food pantry out into the world. And that is because we never closed up. Another phrase sets my teeth on edge: “back to normal.” Let me make it clear that the last thing I want is to go back to normal. Back to 2019. Back to the pre-pandemic world. Because let’s be honest…was 2019 that great? Were there no outsiders in 2019? No people underfed in 2019? No people underhoused in 2019? No people marginalized and left out and ignored in 2019? No people suffering from mental health imbalances in 2019? Let me say this as clearly as I can, “if we go back to normal, we have failed.” Because God has better than normal in store. God has justice in store. God has restoration in store. God has healing and security and hope and health in store. God has a community who doesn’t make their children walk across 5 lane highways to get to school. God has a community who doesn’t tell their elderly that they are just out of luck. Church, let’s never go back to normal again…God has something better than normal in store. Church, let’s never go back to normal again. Just like the Early Church, let’s follow the food pantry out the doors. Let’s go out like Stephen and find the vulnerable and hurting and put them front and center. Let’s get back to being an abnormal family of love and inclusion and care. Let’s get to work being the Church of Jesus.
60 minutes | Apr 13, 2021
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66 minutes | Apr 4, 2021
Have you ever watched a mystery movie with a bunch of people? You know, a movie that gives you clues over time, but doesn’t reveal the solution until the very end? And the characters all experience bits and pieces, but don’t see what is really happening? That’s a little bit what it feels like reading the book of Luke. As Chapter 24 opens, there is confusion and chaos and unexplained phenomena and death and grief and tears. Remember that Luke has been telling us for 23 chapters how no one really understands what is going on. Why should chapter 24 be any different? Once again, no one really understands what is going on. And now, for 12 verses here, there is no appearance of a Resurrected Jesus, and no real clarity about what is happening. Again, this is a brilliant move for Luke, who probably wrote this Gospel several years, if not decades, after the events of that Sunday morning. Because his first hearers likely had a similar experience: not eyewitnesses to the Resurrection itself, not even eyewitnesses to Jesus and his ministry, these people were living in their own moment of confusion and chaos and death. They were trying to chart a way forward without knowing exactly what was going on. And let me suggest that while Luke wasn’t just writing to the Baptists of Kansas in 2021, his Gospel is especially appropriate for us today. Just like those first readers, we don’t understand what is going on either. We weren’t eyewitnesses to Jesus or his Resurrection. We still struggle with what his teachings and life means for us. And if that weren’t enough, we are living in a time that for many of us is the most confusing, most chaotic, most grief- and death-filled time of our lives. We are just as clueless as the women who showed up that morning, expecting one thing and getting something completely different. And just like the women, we come with hearts of grief and pain and tears of sadness, watching the death toll from COVID-19 still rise in our country and around the world. And just like the women, there are moments when we just wish we could go back to the way it used to be. Like them, we try and chart a way forward, without knowing exactly what is going on. So, the women show up and receive the word of these two men, the text is unclear but likely suggests that they are angels. Again, still confused and afraid, they return to the apostles to tell what they have seen…and the apostles tell them they are nuts. “It was to them as an idle tale.” Biblical scholar Kathryn Schifferdecker says that in today’s parlance they told the women, “Fake News.” And her assessment is so apropos! They did not trust that the women were reliable news sources. Both Romans and religious scholars of the day suggest that the witness of a woman was not to be trusted. So in their chaos and confusion and grief, their first reaction was to reject their words. They must not be correct. Peter will go check it out for himself. And do we not still do the same thing? In the midst of our chaos and confusion and grief, how often are we are skeptical and cynical and untrusting? “Fake News!” We heard this phrase of shared distrust before the pandemic, but it seems like the less we understand about what is happening around us, the less trusting we become. We insulate and isolate and fortify ourselves in our silos and engage in this shared distrust. I am convinced that is why we have seen this crazy rise in conspiracy theories. Election conspiracies and vaccine conspiracies and Q Anon, and it is all a crystallization of distrust. I am struck by the fact that there is now a booming market for conspiracy theories…an institution built on the distrust of institutions. l There is an institutionalized market for conspiracy and distrust. Evidence and testimony and the personal experiences of others are all dismissed, with a wave of our hands like “idle tales.” But, again, Luke tells this story of the truth peeking through the confusion. Just like it would for his first readers. Just like it does for us. And it comes as a moment of remembering. Pay attention to what the men in front of the tomb say. First, they ask the women why they are looking for the living among the dead. And then they tell them, “don’t you remember when he was in Galilee that he told you how this would happen?” “Remember.” The Gospel of Luke seems to hinge on this idea of shared memory, and the simplicity of this word: remember. The genealogy at the beginning of the Gospel is meant to help people remember the story and family from whence Jesus came. Anna and Simeon look at each other and remember the story of the Messiah foretold.At the Transfiguration, Peter and James and John have a chance to see these amazing figures from the past—Elijah and Moses—and remember their legacy.Jesus tells the lawyer who asks how he might inherit eternal life, “remember the law and the prophets.”And in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, he does the same thing about his brothers, “They are fine if they remember the law and the prophets…it’s all in there.”They come together for the Passover, a festival of remembering God’s rescue.And at that Passover meal, Jesus looks his disciples in the eye, gives them bread and wine, and tells them, “Do this in remembrance of me.”Now, the angels stand and say to the women, “Remember,” and Luke tells us “the women remembered Jesus’ words.” Scholar Michal Beth Dinkler talks about the importance of this word to the text, and to the Resurrection story. The life of faith is lived forward, but the tools needed for it are claimed from the past. When we face chaos and confusion and unpredictable moments, Luke and the Gospels and the Biblical witness as a whole remind us to remember. This act of shared remembering, what Dinkler calls a “redemptive remembering” is how we must live the life of faith forward. Just like the women, we recall the moments in our lives when Christ transformed us, changed us. The call from the doctor that we are in the clear. The reconciliation in that relationship with our family member. The Easter symbol of walking in newness of life. And we get it in bits and pieces, just like the women. In that moment, they still didn’t understand it all. But they—and we—get that we are a part of something big and transformational and redemptive. But Dinkler suggests that that memory must be shared, must be a part of a process not just of recalling, but of re-membering. Of re-gathering. Of restoring community. Of trusting in voices that we might otherwise be doubt. Imagine how the disciples must have started to piece together these memories, clues, transformational moments, until eventually they begin to understand. For Luke’s hearers, and for us today, even if the Risen Christ is not physically in our presence, we still participate in the shared community that gathers in his name. And again, it feels like the experience of watching that mystery movie together. Someone recalls a piece of information, and then someone else another: “remember when…” that thing happened and “remember when…” and someone says, “oh yeah…” And sometimes it gets loud, as emotions rise and people get excited. And together, you start to piece together the mystery and what really happened. Which sounds a lot like the life of faith. You may not know all the answers on your own. You might not be able to give a convincing theological explanation for the Resurrection. You might not have an airtight systemic theology of the atonement of Christ that you can publish. You might not know all the answers about what the Church and our congregation are supposed to do, or look like, or become, in the months and years after the volatility of this pandemic. But you are here today because you have an experience of Christ! You have an Easter story to tell! A story of transformation. A story of redemption. Even if you don’t understand it all, you have an experience and a voice and a story to bring to bear. This season, let us enjoy the shared experience of the hope and truth of Christ’s presence in our lives! This Easter, let us become an Easter community in new and glorious ways! Let’s open our eyes to the Resurrection community that God has created!
77 minutes | Mar 28, 2021
In the End
What a long, strange trip it’s been. Several weeks ago, now, you woke up in First Century Palestine, somehow becoming the apostle of Jesus known as James, Son of Alphaeus. You looked like James. You sounded like James. You even understood the language that the women and men around you spoke. You fell asleep in Kansas, and you woke up as one of Jesus’ disciples. Over these weeks, you have followed Jesus, as he has taught and healed and ruffled feathers through every small town between Galilee and Jerusalem. And finally, you can see the city on the hill, rising in the distance. Jerusalem awaits. Along the way, you have had a few sleepless nights, tossing and turning your way through every science fiction theory, trying to figure out what is happening. You have seen enough sci fi movies to know that there are at least two options for what is going on. The first is the Back to the Future hypothesis. That is the idea that if you go back in time, you have the potential to change history. You save your mother, and you cease to exist. Deep down, you hope this is not the case. You’ve tried to minimize your contact with others, but that day when you accidentally dropped a heavy pot of food on Peter’s foot, you wondered if that would make it into the Gospel of Luke! Meanwhile, you have also considered another possibility, what you have called the Prisoner of Azkaban hypothesis. According to that one, history is just that…history. If you go back in time and do something, that something has already happened. You cannot change what has already happened. Of course, that hypothesis gives you fits, too, because you wonder if part of the reason that you never hear much about James, Son of Alphaeus in the Bible is because it was you all along, and you were trying to stay out of trouble! Needless to say, your brain has been doing loops over these last weeks, but you still see it all as an amazing gift. The chance to see Jesus’ final march toward Jerusalem. To see his amazing power displayed. To listen to his words. You have tried to settle into the role of interested observer, soaking in as much as you can, while saying as little and doing as little as possible. Let the Sons of Thunder thunder, and Simon Peter open his mouth every ten seconds. You stay quiet and take it all in. But things, you might say, have become complicated. You cannot count how many times in your life you have sung that old hymn, “O How I Love Jesus, because he first loved me!” But in hindsight, you were really loving a concept, or an idea, or a story. You would say that you had a relationship with Jesus, but that relationship was a bit…abstract, to say the least. But now, you have come to know this man standing in front of you. And you have found a deep love for him. You understand personally what it means that “a man might lay down his life for his friends,” because you have become friends with Jesus. And have discovered that love in new forms. The way Jesus looks at his disciples, even knowing that they are relatively clueless. The way he looks at anyone that he meets, everyone who stands in front of him. Even the way that he looks at you! You wonder sometimes if he knows what is happening. If he knows that you are actually from Kansas in the year 2021. If he knows where you actually live. If he knows what is going through your mind. But whatever Jesus knows, he isn’t saying. Yet, he looks at you in a way that bores straight into your soul, not in an intrusive or unwelcome way, but in a way that makes you want to give him everything you are and hope to be, wrap it up as a gift, and hand it over to him. You understand the disciples so much better now. You would usually laugh at them from the other side of your study Bible, because whenever Jesus told them he was going to die, they didn’t believe it. Silly disciples! But now you start to understand…they don’t want to believe it. Jesus has become so important to them and to you, that even if the brain understands what is coming, the heart simply overpowers it. You simply cannot imagine Jesus ever leaving your side. Which helps you understand even better the way that he finally enters the city of Jerusalem. You and the apostles, and all of the disciples who have left their homes to follow him on this journey, cannot bear to watch him enter the city like a commoner. You want him to enter like a king, like the Messiah he is, like the prophets of old wrote and preached about. So when he enters from the Mount of Olives, the place where the Messiah was long rumored to enter the city, and he sits on a colt, the symbol of peaceful power long foretold, you all want to make it special. Now, for your whole life, you remember celebrating the joy of Palm Sunday. The kids and the palms and the music and the “hosanna.” But now, as you stand in the muck and the raw sewage of the roadways of the city, you understand viscerally what was really happening. It wasn’t about the palms themselves, but about covering the ground as Jesus entered. You don’t want even the animal Jesus is riding on to become unclean! First, they stripped their cloaks…the one piece of protective outer clothing that they owned, and threw them in the mud. Then, they ran and climbed trees, pulling off the widest branches that they could so that the colt would walk in on a welcome mat instead of mud and muck like a commoner. Yet, even that moment, so often remembered as joyful and exciting from Palm Sundays past, has a heaviness to it. As you see the disciples start to pick Jesus up, and lovingly lift him onto the colt, you are overwhelmed…by the love and care they use…by the honor that they bestow upon him…and by the realization that they next time his body is lifted up by many hands again, it will be to place him up on a cross. You step away from the parade for a moment, as the emotion overwhelms you. You are so used to smiling children waving palms and celebrating that you are surprised when you experience a moment that feels more weighty than light and hopeful. You probably read it somewhere in those study bibles, that the word hosanna means “save” but when you hear dozens, if not hundreds of people around you chanting “save us!” there is a more desperate tone to the event than you imagined. And you are not surprised, then, when Jesus stands atop the city and weeps tears of his own. You have seen him lament his people before, even the city of Jerusalem. But to see him standing, shoulders heaving, ugly tears on his face, you find yourself overwhelmed again with emotion…to know how much he loves these people and he simply cannot say or do enough to get them to see it. You are right there, and you know what is coming, but you still wonder if you barely understand what is going on. The rush of sadness is matched by a feeling of terror that comes in waves over into the next hours and the next days. The Gospels make that last week of Christ take forever, but for you, it comes in a rush. Jesus’ sharp tone. Angry temple leaders. A violent military police force. Part of you tells yourself that you would never betray Jesus…you have said it out loud in Bible studies for years. “Weak disciples!” But to stand at the wrong end of a centurion’s spear, to be the target of angry looks and feel the vulnerability of being associated with Jesus, you start to understand what the disciples were feeling. You even understand the Pharisees fear a little more, when they try and hush the disciples on the day he enters the city…they fear retribution from those spears and violence from those sworn to protect the king. To hear a growing crowd chanting, “we want this Jew to be our king,” feels like political insurrection. And the kind of thing that Romans wouldn’t take too kindly to. Nor would they pay much attention to what Jews they are killing in response to a perceived insurrection. The Pharisees aren’t just jealous of Jesus…they are terrified of what his growing power might mean for them. With this oppressive and powerful force in front of you, you see why his message of inclusion and equality and love and forgiveness is an affront to their way of seeing the world. But, alongside of that sadness, and that terror, comes a third emotion: Gratitude. You are so thankful for this opportunity to learn at the feet of Jesus. You don’t know if you will ever make it back to Kansas, but if you do, you know that you will live a changed life: • You have learned to be less arrogant. Living through these days shows you how easy it was to “armchair quarterback” the Gospels from your place of privilege 2,000 years later. You thought you would do it so much better. But now, you understand how chaotic and anxious the times really were. Following Jesus then and there was good and faithful, but it was also risky and vulnerable and hard work and nothing like what you thought or understood, sitting around plastic tables in church basements your whole life, drinking bad coffee, highlighting your Zondervan NIV’s. You know what is coming, but you have learned not to judge Peter for his impending denial, even Judas for his impending betrayal, for you understand now that to live these things is a terrifying and unpredictable and incredibly difficult experience. And it has given you a new humility. • You have learned what true community is. It’s not just hanging out with people who look like you and agree with you, patting each other on the back for being right all the time. But the community that Jesus lived with was risky and vulnerable and diverse and broken and really depending on one another. If you have learned anything, it is to spend less time worrying about your Netflix queue, and more about the line outside of Ladybird or LINK. Community is radical reliance, and Jesus has shown that to you, and there is a reason why Jesus picked these folks to hang out with. You’ve learned about humility, and about community, and you have come to trust that in the end… In the end. Even has you turn that phrase in your mind, it strikes you that you already know the end of the story. You know what is coming. You know about Sunday. But in the moment, that feels so far away, feels so impossible. After a rush of the week…a rush of anger and reaction and betrayal and abuse and violence, you find yourself standing, looking up into the eyes of the man you have deeply come to love. You ran, too. You assumed you would be better than them. But then the police in the darkness, pointing fingers and spears at you, sent you into the weeds along with every other apostle. And then the chaos of the night, the whispers, “Where is everyone else? Where is Jesus? What will happen next?” Even though you knew the outcome, your love for Jesus and your fear of his captors took your brain out of the equation. And so you ran and hid. But now, there is no hiding from his eyes. Those eyes. The crowd is thick enough that you and the others feel as though you can get close enough to see Jesus on the cross. And at once, you feel the weight of that moment. Not just the weight of your own cowardice to run, when you promised yourself that you would not. But the weight of it all…of your own arrogance and sin and unrecognized privilege and brokenness and participation personally and systemically in the breaking of others. You feel the weight of it all on your shoulders… And that’s when you notice that Jesus has caught your eye. You have wondered over the weeks if he really knew who you are, but now you have no doubt. Of course he knows. He knows your arrogance. Your sin. Your foolishness. Your selfishness. Your brokenness. He knows you, and he loves you anyway. He knows exactly who you are, and he went through it all anyway. To show you, to show the world, to show history, that there is a better way. That there is more to the Purposes of God than the rules of this world. That the oppression of the world and the violence of the cross is not the final story. That even the powers of violence and death and destruction and oppression will not win…in the end.
74 minutes | Jul 21, 2020
Whose Kingdom is it Anyway? Mustard Seeds and Yeast 07-19-2020
“Whose Kingdom is it Anyway? Mustard Seeds and Yeast,” the 7/19/2020 sermon by Pastor Matt Sturtevant. Podcast includes entire worship service. Scripture reference: Matthew 13.31-33. Bulletin: https://bit.ly/3eBKXa8 Music licensing: The following music is used by permission under CCLI license #20126570: “Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds” (Lasst Uns Erfreuen) James Mansfield ©1994 Lorenz Publishing Co. “Rejoice, The Lord is King” Tune: DARWALL, by John Darwall (1770) Text: by Charles Wesley (1744) Public domain. “Seek Ye First” Karen Lafferty ©1972 CCCM Music and Maranatha! Music (Admin. by Music Services) “Open My Eyes, That I May See” Tune: SCOTT, by Clara H. Scott (1895) Text: by Clara H. Scott (1895) Public domain. “Morning Prayer” by Richard Blake. ©2011 Lorenz Publishing Co. “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus” by Chandler Moor, Dante Bowe, Jason Ingram, and Steffany Gretzinger ©2020 Fellow Ships Music. “God’s Love Made Visible” Tune: POSADA, composed by Dave Brubeck (1975) ©1976, 1987 by Malcolm Music (a division of Shawnee Pres, Inc.); Arr. © 2009 by Malcolm Music (a division of Shawnee Pres, Inc.) by Malcolm Music (a division of Shawnee Pres, Inc.) Text: by Iola Brubeck (1975) ©1976, 1987 by Malcolm Music (a division of Shawnee Pres, Inc.) “Rejoice in the Lord” James Mansfield ©1982 Lorenz Publishing Co.
69 minutes | Jul 14, 2020
Whose Kingdom is it Anyway? The Weeds and the Wheat 07-12-2020
“Whose Kingdom is it Anyway? The Weeds and the Wheat,” the 7/12/2020 sermon by Pastor Matt Sturtevant. Podcast includes entire worship service. Scripture reference: Matthew 13.24-30 Music licensing: The following music is used by permission under CCLI license #20126750. “God, Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens” by Dale Wood ©1989 Wood Works for Organ/The Sacred Music Press “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord” Tune: ST. THOMAS, by Aaron Williams (1770) Text: by Timothy Dwight (1801). Public domain. “Seek Ye First” Karen Lafferty ©1972 CCCM Music and Maranatha! Music (Admin. by Music Services) “He Keeps Me Singing” Tune: SWEETEST NAME, by Luther B. Bridgers (1910) Text: by Luther B. Bridgers (1910) Public domain. “Since Jesus Came Into My Heart, with Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, with A New Name in Glory,” music by Charles Gabriel, Anthony Showalter, and C. Austin Miles/Arr. by Melody Bober. ©2014 Lorenz Publishing Co. “What in the World” by Kyle Matthews and Scott Krippayne. ©1995, Careers-BMG Music Publishing, Inc. “The Lily of the Valley” Tune: SALVATIONIST, by William S. Hays (1871), adapted by Charles W. Fry Text: by Charles W. Fry (1881) Public domain. “With High Delight Let Us Unite” (Mit Freuden Zart) – Henry Balcombe ©1993, Celebration! Festive Music for Organ, Lorenz.
64 minutes | Jul 7, 2020
Whose Kingdom is it Anyway? The Sower 07-05-2020
“Whose Kingdom is it Anyway? The Sower,” the 7/5/2020 sermon by Pastor Matt Sturtevant and first in a 3-part July worship series. Podcast includes entire worship service. Scripture reference: Matthew 13:1-9. Music licensing: The following music is used by permission under CCLI license #20126570. “Variations on “America” (1891) for organ” by Charles Ives Mercury Music Corporation 1949, Theodore Presser Co. “O God of Every Nation” Tune: BLOW THE CANDLES OUT, English folk song, 18th cent. Arr. by Mary Rose Jensen, Arr. © 2000 Garden Rose Music. Text: William W. Reid, Jr. (1958, alt.), © 1958, Ren. 1986 The Hymn Society (Admin. by Hope Publishing Company) “Seek Ye First” Karen Lafferty ©1972 CCCM Music and Maranatha! Music (Admin. by Music Services) “There is a Balm in Gilead” Arr. Mark Hayes, Traditional Spiritual ©MCMXCVIII by Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. “From Every Race, from Every Clime” Tune: ST. PETER, by Alexander R. Reinagle (1836, alt.), harm. by Michael Evers (2008). Harm. © 2010 Celebrating Grace, Inc. Text: Thomas Bruce McDormand (1973), © Thomas Bruce McDormand and Canadian Baptist Ministries.
69 minutes | Jun 29, 2020
Helping a Hurting Friend: Addiction 06-28-2020
“Helping a Hurting Friend: Addiction,” with Pastor Matt Sturtevant and Dr. Tim Bonner, Licensed Clinical Psychotherapist and former Licensed Masters Addiction Counselor. This is the 4th of 4 messages in the Helping a Hurting Friend worship series. Scripture reference: Romans 7:14–8:2. Podcast includes entire worship service. The following music is used by permission under CCLI streaming license #20126570: “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” by George Blake Based on a Spiritual/Compiled by Lee Gwordz ©1988 The Lorenz Corporation (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.) “O Worship the King” Tune: LYONS, by Joseph Martin Kraus (1784), harmonized by William Gardiner (1815). Text: Author, Robert Grant (1833) Public domain. “Beautiful Things” Words & Music by Michael Gungor and Lisa Gungor ©2009 worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) “Thou Art Worthy with For the Beauty of the Earth” Pauline M. Mills & Conrad Kocher/Arr. Tom Fettke arrangement copyrighted @2006 Word Music, LLC. “All Things Possible” Mark Schultz, Seth Mosley, Tony Wood ©2012 CentricSongs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) All Essential Music (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) Songs From Exit 71 (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) Crazy Romaine Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.) “Come All Christians, Be Committed” Tune: BEACH SPRING. Source: The Sacred Harp,1844. Harmonizer: Benjamin Briggs (2009) Harm. ©2010 Celebrating Grace, Inc. Text: Author, Eva B. Lloyd (1963, alt.) ©1966 Broadman Press (Admin. by LifeWay Worship) “Maestoso In A Major From Sonata No. 3” Felix Mendelssohn, Selected & Edited by Darwin Wolford, ©1992 Harold Flammer Music (Admin. by Hal Leonard LLC) (Admin. by Tom Cat Music)
89 minutes | Jun 22, 2020
Helping a Hurting Friend: Challenges of Family Relationships 06-21-2020
“Helping a Hurting Friend: Challenges of Family Relationships,” the 6/21/2020 sermon with Pastor Matt Sturtevant and Nancy Anderson Bonner, Licensed Specialist in Clinical Social Work. Scripture reference: Genesis 26:34-27:10. Podcast includes entire worship service. Bulletin: https://bit.ly/2YTbCcG The following music is used by permission under CCLI license #20126570. “Guide Me Ever, Great Redeemer” Dale Wood (c) MCMLXXXIX, The Sacred Music Press “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” Words: William Whiting (1860) Music: John B. Dykes (1861) Tune: MELITA Public Domain “Celtic Alleluia” Fintan O’Carroll/Christopher Walker (c) 1985, 1996, Fintan O’Carroll and Christopher Walker Published by OCP Publications “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” Words: Louisa M.R. Stead 1882 Music: William J. Kirkpatrick, 1882 Tune: TRUST IN JESUS Public Domain “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” Martin Smith Arranged Phillip Keveren (c) 2002 CURIOUS?MUSIC (PRS), Admin. In the U.S. by BIRDWING MUSIC, d/b/a of EMI CHRISTIAN MUSIC PUBLISHING “Be Thou My Vision” Arranged by Richard Walters (c) 1993, Hal Leonard Publishing Co. “Would You Bless Our Homes and Families” Words: Walter H. Farquharson (1974) Music: Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second, 1813 Tune: NETTLETON Words (c) 1974 Walter Farquharson “With Peace and Joy” Johann Sebastian Bach (c) MCMXCV, Lorenz Publishing Company Cover art: Rensig, Everhard (possibly) and Gerhard Remisch. Esau Gives Up His Birthright, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. (from http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl…)
76 minutes | Jun 17, 2020
Helping a Hurting Friend: Anxiety and Depression 06-14-2020
“Helping a Hurting Friend: Anxiety and Depression” with Pastor Matt Sturtevant and Emily Reimer, MS, Licensed Clinical Psychologist. This is the second sermon in the Helping a Hurting Friend worship series. Scripture reference: Psalm 6. (Podcast includes entire worship service.) Bulletin: https://bit.ly/2ABR0gK Licensing: The following music is used by permission under CCLI streaming license #20126570: “Friend for Sinners” Music by William Walker and Rowland H. Pritchard, Arr. Molly Ijames ©2015 Lorenz Publishing Company Fintan O’Carroll/Christopher Walker ©1985, 1996, Fintan O’Carroll and Christopher Walker Published by OCP Publications “I Need Thee Every Hour” Robert Lowry/Arr. Stan Pethel © 1997, Lorenz Publishing Co. “It is Well” Words: Horatio G. Spafford/Music: Philip P. Bliss/Arr. Anna Laura Page (ASCAP) ©MMVI by Alfred Publishing Co, Inc. “For the Beauty of the Earth” Music: Conrad Kocher/Arr. Stan Pethel ©1996 Hal Leonard Corporation
11 minutes | Jun 3, 2020
Where Do We Go From Here? 06-02-2020
In this 10-minute podcast, Pastor Matt considers the question, “Where do we go from here?” and shares what he has been doing in his own life in response to the cultural unrest and protests resulting from systemic racism. Here are a couple of links he mentions toward the end: 1. His 7/5/2015 sermon video, “I Am a Racist,” an honest look at his own life and the life of the prophet Jonah, and also a look at how we “need to confess together and name this brokenness, not only in the world around us but in our own lives”: https://youtu.be/DNsi5uIMWwc 2. This webpage about a digital protest happening on June 20, 2020 through the Poor People’s Campaign, “the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington…,” “…the largest digital gathering of poor, dispossessed and impacted people, faith leaders, and people of conscience…”: https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/june2020/overview
72 minutes | Jun 1, 2020
Unanxious Heroes for Uncertain Times: Your Sons and Daughters Will Prophesy 05-31-2020
“Unanxious Heroes for Uncertain Times: Your Sons and Daughters Will Prophesy,” the 5/31/2020 sermon by Pastor Matt Sturtevant, and the final sermon in the Unanxious Heroes for Uncertain Times worship series, on Pentecost Sunday. Scripture reference: Joel 2:28–29. Podcast includes entire worship service. (Bulletin) The following music is used by permission under CCLI license #20126570: “All Glory Be To God On High,” music by Johann Sebastian Bach, arr. by E. Power Biggs. © 1943 Mills Music, Inc./H.W. Gray Publications. “I’ve Got Peace Like A River,” traditional American spiritual arr. by Mark Hayes. © 2011 The Lorenz Corporation (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.) “People Need The Lord,” by Phill McHugh and Greg Nelson. © 1983 River Oaks Music Co. and Shepherd’s Fold Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) “Festive March,” by Rex Koury, compiled by James Mansfield. © 1990, 1991 The Lorenz Corporation (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)
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