This last week I was in Grocery Outlet buying whipped cream and bacon because yolo.
While I was walking down the aisle with one eye on my children and one eye on sales prices a man started speaking in my general direction. I say general direction because he was facing a pre-packaged rack of ribs.
"I've never see ribs this cheap. This is a great deal. This is a GREAT deal."
At the second "great" he turned and locked eyes with me. There was no confusing what was going on. He wanted confirmation that this was an exceptionally great price for ribs and I was his man.
Now, I want to be the kind of person who can help out a stranger in a time of need. I just taught on the Good Samaritan last week. Nobody had been robbed or beaten, it was just one man looking for agreement over reasonably priced butchered meat.
I couldn't do it. I mumbled "pretty great" while pretending that my boys were a danger to themselves or others and I ran after them.
This week when we're going to be having the exceptional Harriet Congdon leading us through our core value of Intentionality. This is stepping into relationships a step beyond what is known or comfortable. While you could make a case that this man wasn't someone in my community that I needed to engage seriously, what I felt when he started talking is common with people much more familiar.
We're overwhelmed with our own lives and circumstances and taking on anyone else's burden feels impossible. So what do we do in those spaces? How do we balance self-care with other's care? What's the step beyond that God is calling us into with our relationships?
So what kind of person are you?
Because there are clearly 2 types of people in this world.
Type 1:: When you go to a restaurant you have been to before you immediately order the thing that you've ordered every other time you've been there.
Type 2:: When you go to a restaurant you have been to before you immediately look through the specials or new menu items to see if there's something fresh you can try.
Now, I'm normally a type 2, but I can see the appeal of that type 1 life.
There's something so disappointing about branching out of your comfort zone and feeling like things were so much better and safer with what you already knew. You bought the hype of the new lettuce and dill pickle wrap when a burger would have safely hit the spot.
What's interesting about people is that different times and emotions can cause us to lean towards adventure or comfort. Sometimes we want to get a little crazy and branch out and other times we want the power of the known and predictable. There are better cups of coffee than Starbucks to be found when you travel into other cities, but there isn't a more predictable cup of coffee to be found.
This week we want to talk about that push and pull of adventure and comfort with something more important than food and beverage choices.
We are often drawn to consistency and predictability in our relationships. We want people who come from similar places with similar backgrounds and experiences. Finding out you share a common interest as an acquaintance is a GAME CHANGER. We have something to talk about or something in common to fall back on if things get awkward.
The problem is that these comfortable relationships (while good and necessary) can also unintentionally reinforce our experience as the only experience. We struggle more and more to understand people in media, news, work environments who come from different places and their words feel more and more foreign to us.
This Sunday we want to talk about our value for diversity by exploring all the incredible benefits God has in store for us when we intentionally step into stretching spaces relationally.
Jesus consistently spoke against the kind of faith that was certain it was right at the expense of people on the margins. Jesus invited the disciples to see people, the world and God from a different angle that was far more inclusive and grace-filled than they had previously known.
How is it that this movement can be marked by some of the more religiously certain and judgemental folks we all know and work with? At least part of it is stepping away from the wonder and mystery Jesus was inviting us into and trading that for a religious certainty that makes us feel right and safe.
This message is all about Cascade's core value of curiosity, which is seeing that there is more that we don't know about God and the world and stepping into that mystery with questions and a willingness to learn.
Cascade is a church.
Churches are not new, uncommon or especially different from one another.
So, why should you come to Cascade this Sunday or any other Sunday for that matter?
That's exactly what we want to talk about and we're throwing a party tomorrow to have that conversation.
Cascade was started with an eye for people who don't feel comfortable in church anywhere else. It exists to welcome in your friends, co-workers and family members and all of their uniqueness. We got started to create a safe space for uncomfortable conversations. We don't all agree and we celebrate that fact.
Ultimately what we do share is a curiosity and a love for the story of Jesus. God showing up in our daily realities to be with us and to lead us more fully into ourselves. We are saved, redeemed and restored by this crazy God and man walking and living with us on a path through death and onto new life.
What's unique is you don't have be all the way aligned with that previous paragraph to belong. Come experience something before you have worry about believing it all.
Take a listen to hear our heart for doing church and if you're far away from Portland, take a listen to be encouraged in your journey of faith from two of the best communicators around.
Of all the similarities I have with my Dutch grandfather the sweet tooth is the one that has haunted me the most.
It's incredibly rare to ever feel like ice cream isn't an option. It doesn't matter how much of any meal I've had, ice cream always seems to be the best way to wind it down.
During the really dark days in our house when we don't have any ice cream on hand I start scavenging and making the poorest of choices. Currently I could not tell you the location of the chocolate bars my wife purchased for making s'mores. They have been hidden from me.
I've previously been banned from getting into the chocolate chips that we use for baking.
My children have a small stockpile of granola bars and fruit snacks at all times. My wife can't figure out how they eat through so many of these items in a week. I could tell you, but it would make me very sad.
If it has sugar in it I will probably start thinking it's a good idea to eat all of it around 8:00pm.
I've tried so many times to mentally reason through making better choices that don't involve eating all my children's fruit snacks.
It isn't healthy to eat 12 packages of fruit snacks.
My children will cry when they see that they don't have any fruit snacks.
There's no good answers when someone discovers this pile of wrappers.
This won't actually make me feel full.
I will be actively sick in t-minus 45 minutes.
There seems to be a very active divide between my brain and my body. There's this drive to eat even when my brain is screaming to stop.
And there is language in the Bible that seems to support this reality when they talk about the Spirit and the flesh. In Galatians 5 it says;
"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. "
But what is the flesh and what is the spirit? Is the flesh the sugar monster within me and the Spirit the eye of God watching me gorge myself disappointedly? Is it possible that a surface reading allows us to pull apart two things that are actually inextricably linked? What is the flesh all about and what is the Spirit all about? Is there a war raging inside of each and every one of us?
Welp, I think you should show up this Sunday to hear more of the conversation. There are deep waters here and it may help us to think of ourselves as needing alignment of two complementary parts of ourselves, and less a civil war to be won by one side or the other.
After my high school graduation we had a grad night party put on by the PTA.
It was this huge ordeal with a yacht facade over the front of our gym and boarding passes to get inside. They auctioned off a car, had games galore and endless supplies of food and soda. It was an all-night affair and one of the highlights was when they brought up a hypnotist.
Now, normally you don't even need to get me in some sort of altered state to get in front of my classmates and bark like a dog, but this time it definitely helped. It was a goofy kind of fun that we talked about many times afterward.
I can still remembering recounting this experience with some Christian friends that summer and they weren't laughing.
"You were hypnotized? You shouldn't have done that. You were letting another power or force take control of your body."
This confused me. I didn't know that anti-grad-night-hypnotism was a thing. Not only was it a thing for these friends, but it was a violation of my faith.
They were operating within a world where every behavior, piece of media you take in and thought process fell neatly into one of two categories.
Sacred or secular.
Things were either of God or the devil.
Divine or disgusting.
I explained that it was just a goofy joke and while more open to odd suggestions, I never felt out of control.
"That's how it starts. How could you be so naive to assume that this wasn't dangerous Your thinking it was just a joke made it the perfect vehicle for Satan."
Harry Potter? Witchcraft and sorcery.
Red Starbucks Cups? Denial of the birth of Jesus.
Fidget Spinners? Creates idle hands, WHICH ARE THE DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND.
Now, there are certainly things in our world that seem fun or safe enough and promote a lot of harm internally and externally. This isn't a conversation about calling all things good. This is a conversation about not trying to have correct labels but to simply experience where God is working, moving and calling us forward. It may not be in places we've previously labeled as sacred or secular.
My wife and I have two wiener dogs. Frank and Beanie. We got them soon after we were married and they've been significant parts of our family.
They are a real pair of dachs.
Thus concludes the greatest introduction to a sermon series I have written. All downhill from here, folks.
A paradox is a statement that while appearing true and reasonable leads to a logically unacceptable conclusion.
Here's an example that probably does a better job of explaining it than any definition.
The following sentence is true.
The previous sentence is false.
You get put on an endless loop of trying to make sense of these two ideas and end up nowhere.
Now, imagine that two large groups of people encountered these two sentences and decided that the problem was that they were linked together. When that happens they both can't be true so two very distinct and antagonistic groups of people were formed.
Team the Next Sentence is True and Team the Previous Sentence is False.
TNNSIT and TTPSIF were their acronyms, which they put on shirts and hats and bumper stickers. Very catchy when you think about it.
They adopted mottos and mascots. "The Truth is Out There" and a blue whale (nicknamed the true whale) marked one side while "Don't Believe the Lie" and a unicorn marked the other. There were rallies and marches where they simultaneously celebrated how right they were in their belief and how wrong the other side was.
It would be a lot of energy and devotion centered around a flawed premise. In the end unless you uncovered the absurdity at the root of the statements you'd never find anything true in sitting down and listening to hours of debate from either side.
In our world there are a number of false premises and paradoxes that are traps we fall into. Jesus was very familiar with these as the religious leaders of his day tried to capture him in them to compromise his ministry.
Do we pay our taxes to the Romans and elevate their right to rule over us, or refuse to pay and incite violence and lawlessness? Do we let people walk away from being caught in acts of relationship destroying behavior or do we put them to death?
Jesus never took the bait and left us with a template to avoid these absurdities, which deal with the most serious issues of our day.
Have you ever hung out with a couple who is dating or engaged and they say, "We haven't even had our first fight yet!"
You know who else hasn't had their first fight yet? Strangers.
The reality of relationships is that we will hurt one another. We will have disagreements and fights. It's certainly not the goal of relationships, but if you reveal enough of yourself and learn enough about another person there will be pain and conflict.
Sometimes it's the result of trying to create space emotionally. We say or do hurtful things and we know which things to say or do because of how well we know each other.
Sometimes we respond to the examples we grew up with from our own family. We fight or nag when we should have a conversation because that's what we saw modeled.
Sometimes we take out frustrations from work or other relationships out on those who are closest to us. We feel stuck in other spaces and we take out aggression on the ones we love the most.
If we constantly move on from relationships when there has been pain or conflict we will end up in a world of strangers. While we shouldn't always reconcile because of abuse, we benefit greatly from dealing with the pain and finding a path forward in our relationships.