Hillary McBride:: Becoming Fully Alive

February 19, 2018

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

- Galatians 5:16,17


It's not for no reason that Christians have struggled with the ways they view and interact with their bodies. Galatians 5 may be the most extensive and well known treatise about the dangers of the flesh and the virtues of the Spirit, but it's not the only one. 

There is deep truth in recognizing that there are ways of viewing and engaging with our bodies that are deeply problematic, but creating a sharp separation between the body and God's Spirit can be damaging. 

How do we understand our own bodies and experiences in light of Jesus Christ and bring them fully into our practices of worship and spirituality? What if we understand the Galatians and other biblical texts not as a condemnation of our physical selves, but a mindset of flesh versus a mindset of God's Spirit? 

I'm excited that we have Hillary McBride sharing with us on this topic and more!


Word Made Flesh:: John 5

February 16, 2018
Do you want to get well? 

The story from John that we're looking at this Sunday is centered around this primary question. 

Does it seem like a ridiculous question to you? 

If you have to ask this question than you can assume the person being asked the question has something in their life worth being made well from. There must be something wrong to be asked this question. So, who wouldn't want to be made well when something is obviously wrong? 

The most dangerous illness is the one we refuse to acknowledge. One of my professors once told me that people won't change unless the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change. Put in another way, we live with all kinds of dysfunction and pain in our lives and we don't face our dysfunction until its presence in our lives becomes unbearable. 

Unfortunately most of us are living proof that we can hobble along with so much pain, dysfunction and illness. The cost of acknowledging the pain is usually greater than pain itself. We make it work. We find solutions to carry our dysfunction along in the journey before we ever consider facing it. 

Can you live with dysfunction, pain and illness in your life? Of course you can. We all do in so many ways. 
So the question, "Do you want to get well?", isn't about living.
It's about living with freedom.
It's about living in the wholeness we were created for.
It's about moving through life lighter because we've stopped carrying our pain, illness and dysfunction along for the journey. It's a deeply powerful question that's obvious answer causes us to look deeply into our own hearts and motives. 

Do you want to get well? 


Word Made Flesh:: John 4

February 5, 2018

Today I have 4 different meetings with people. Met someone at a coffee shop. Met someone over lunch. Had a phone meeting and a meeting in someone's office. They've been in my calendar for a week now, so I've known they were coming. I was looking forward to each of them because I really, really enjoy meeting with people. I love hearing about how people are doing and the things they are passionate about. I learn something new or create a new connection of ideas that I've never connected before every time I meet with someone. 

I didn't walk into any of these meetings with the thought they could change my life. 

They were going to be good. They were going to be fun. They weren't going to take the course of my life in a new direction. 

Have you ever had a meeting that did that for you? The direction and expectations that you had for your life changed radically from before the meeting to after the meeting? 

Usually you don't know those meetings are coming. They catch you by surprise. You think you are going to talk about one thing and something totally different happens.

Maybe you get told that your position has been eliminated in the company. 
Maybe you are offered a new job in a new state. 
Maybe you are told that your parents love you and each other vey much, but they're getting a divorce. 
Maybe you are told that the test results are positive. 

When the trajectory of our story changes course it feels like everything is upside down. Positive and negative news both cause a disruption that make us re-evaluate our lives. We find out a lot about the foundation of our peace, hope and trust when our circumstances change radically. 

In this message we're looking at a very good and very disruptive meeting that Jesus had with someone that very few people thought he should be meeting with.  The fact that we know the story today hints at the impact of this meeting that started with two people and has sent our a ripple effect to hundreds of millions of people ever since. 


Word Made Flesh:: John 3

January 30, 2018

Way back when my wife and I were engaged I went to her grandmother's house for Thanksgiving. It was a great time of getting to know her extended family and over-eating, but the best moment was walking into the play room. It was a bunch of toys for the now fully grown grandkids and this Mork doll was part of the amazing collection. I didn't know they had even made Mork dolls, much less that one could still exist in the early 2000's. 

My fascination with the doll was noted and guess what showed up in my Christmas gift that year from Sally's grandmother that year?

If you haven't had the privilege of watching this amazing show that aired from 1978-1982, here's some of the things that really stuck. Robin Williams character Mork would sit on him head when asked to take a seat. He would great everyone by saying, "NaNu NaNu" with a very vulcan-like hand sign that turned into an awkward handshake. 

What was so great about the show is that it exposed through an alien culture and system how strange we all are. Every episode ended with a transmission from Mork to his home planet explaining some of our customs as extremely odd practices. By introducing a character who doesn't assume anything we do is normal, it shows us how strange the whole enterprise of being a human is. 

This week we're going to be looking at Jesus comment in John that we need to be "born again" or "born anew". What does it look like to orient your life in a way that takes nothing for granted? What if we take an alien's view of our lives and customs and normalize different values? How does Jesus invite us to make our experience of the world intentionally odd to see, speak and act in a way that brings mutually thriving to all?


Word Made Flesh:: John 2

January 22, 2018

A couple years ago I heard a short story on the radio that made me weep. 

If you don't have 4 spare minutes to listen to the audio in the link above, here's the gist. A father starts telling his daughter about Jesus and she becomes very interested. They read the Bible together most every night and she loves the part where it says, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." One day as they are driving by a church they see a cross and she asks, "What's that?"

The father realizes that he never quite got to that part of he Jesus story. He tried to explain the fact that they killed Jesus because of his message, but that's a hard concept for anyone to fathom, much less a 4 year old. 

As time goes on the young girl has the day off from school because of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. She's interested in who this man was and why they are celebrating him with a holiday. The father explains who MLK was and what his work was to help people not judge others by the color of their skin. The daughter makes the connection that this man is a preacher for Jesus and his message sounds a lot like "do unto others." The father agrees and says that he never really thought of it that way before. 

At the end she asks, "Did they kill him too?"

We're tracking this message series in John all the way until Easter. The road we are walking with the life of Jesus will end with him suffering a political enemies death on a cross. We can try and explain it away by talking about the barbaric nature of the Romans and how they couldn't deal with any kind of disruption, but that's a version of Jesus life that is far too sanitized. 

Jesus was a radical. Jesus made people that were comfortable in their religious system very uncomfortable. To truly experience these stories as they were told, written and lived, we need to feel the discomfort too. Jesus is breaking social and religious norms on purpose to cause us to ask why they are there in the first place. Life has a way of creating these pillars in our heart and mind that were never meant to be load-bearing, and the disruption of Jesus calls that into question. While it can be confusing and at times violent, the space that is created afterwards is always better, clearer and more able to engage with the complexities of the world. 

So, let's get disrupted towards peace together. 


Word Made Flesh:: John 1

January 17, 2018

You may think that pastors are equally comfortable with all books in the Bible, but not so much. 

The Gospel of John makes me uncomfortable. I much prefer the overlap and safety of Matthew, Mark and Luke ad how they talk about the Jesus story. 

If you're not familiar, the book of Mark is likely the earliest written and its stories are almost entirely repeated in Matthew and Luke. There are subtle shifts in how they tell these stories, but the details are largely all the same in the 3 books. And then John comes in and blows the whole thing up. There are stories in John that aren't in the other 3 books. It tells the stories differently and the focus from the beginning is the divinity of Christ. 

When you read and teach out of Matthew, Mark and Luke the overlap helps you more quickly know where the story is going. You pick up patterns faster because the stories sounds familiar, even when you're in a different book. 

If I'm honest, I like the security that familiar stories offer. I feel more in control when I can anticipate the direction, even when the story itself is uncomfortable. Looking at a story that is largely known in unfamiliar ways throws off my equilibrium. I have to get used to being uncomfortable.

My hope throughout the entire message series on John is that we commit to celebrate the discomfort of it all. Jesus came and brought disruption for the sake of real and lasting peace. We need to have parts of our own lives disrupted so that real peace can ever take root. 

If you feel like you're pretty familiar with the story of Jesus, but are lacking peace in certain areas in your life, then maybe there's a disruption in the story of Jesus you haven't experienced before. I hope you'll join us starting this Sunday!


Donna Barber:: The New Year

January 10, 2018

Welcome to 2018! Donna Barber brings a message to welcome in the new year.


Advent:: Magi

January 3, 2018

Star gazers from the east came to a foriegn land to see a foriegn king promised through prophesy and then they went home. 

What were they seeking after? 

What did they think they'd find? 

These questions are vital not just to ask of their story, but also to ask about our own stories. 


Advent:: Shepherds

January 3, 2018

The concept of God can be overwhelming. 


Above, beyond, eternal, creator, maker and judge. 
We call out to God to hear us, intervene on our behalf and save us. 

Only God is able to help us when all human methods have failed.
Only God hears us when everyone else has abandoned us.
Only God has the power to create and destroy the universe that surrounds us. 

This mix can be incredibly comforting and incredibly fear-inducing. The power that is held in God can empower the powerless, but it can also create feelings of fear and insignificance. 

This week we remember that in a humble stable this God of all power, presence and knowledge became like one of us. God became limited in the same ways that we are limited to make the vast love and power of God tangible. 

When we feel all alone we pray to a God who was abandoned by all of those who were closet to Him. 
When we feel powerless we pray to a God who experienced the powerlessness of being a child. 
When we ask God to use power on behalf of the marginalized we are praying to the God who did that very same thing as Jesus Christ. 

Because of Christmas God's power, presence and knowledge is personal. We are never alone and the difficult path to being fully human has been charted before us by Jesus Christ. 


Advent:: National Shame

December 18, 2017

I wonder if at the 2016 Summer Olympics the athletes from Finland ever said, "It's not how you start, it's how you Finnish."

I'll start printing the shirts for the 2018 Winter Olympics. 

Unfortunately the Finnish didn't finish well. They won a single medal. The bronze medal in women's boxing, lightweight division.

It was their poorest showing at any olympics in their history, which includes participation from 1908 until now. I think it's safe to say that it won't go on the highlight reel for Finland. I imagine they'll focus heavily on Nokia and their indestructible brick phones from the early aughts. 

Now, in sporting competition it's easy to say that you didn't care that much about the games anyway. You can separate from the under-preforming and chalk it up to a bad year. But what happens when your national identity is tied to failure on the international stage? What if your country of origin is the butt of jokes around the world? What if people perpetuate horrific stereotypes about all the people from your country? 

I would imagine that it could deeply impact your psyche and invite you to disassociate from your country of origin. You could start to question your abilities and successes because it will always be couched within a national identity of failure or shame. 

If you are from an affluent Western country in the world today you may not identify with that feeling, but that's why we'll take a look this Sunday at the story of Jesus birth. This is the reality that Jesus was born into. The Jews were a conquered and globally insignificant people in the ancient world. They definitely had a defined culture, but defined cultures are usually only valued if they have international successes.

How is the birth of Jesus into a globally shamed nation instructive for our own stories? How can it help us disengage from our shameful or deeply proud national identities to see another identity Christ called "The Kingdom of God"?