Philemon:: Honor and Shame

June 7, 2017

**Disclaimer** We lost the first half of this message via technical difficulties!

We are rapidly coming up to the last day of classes for our students. It's a joyous day for everyone involved. Teachers and students alike can smell the sweet, sweet freedom on the other side a few more days, hours and minutes. Everyone is ready to be done and we barely need to hold on until homework, grading and testing are all in the rearview mirror.

My last day of my freshman history class was not my finest moment. Our teacher, Mrs Coslett, was more excited than we were for this final day. Her ability to hide her disdain for us was hanging on by a thread. She had made our class a batch of homemade cookies that we were 95% sure hadn't been poisoned, and was clearly an attempt at having something other than words in our mouths. As she was walking down the aisle handing out her baked peace offerings I had a thought about these particular cookies.
They looked funny to me. They were unusually shaped. 

Now, people have thoughts all the time. As we get older we usually become better at separating the thoughts that should be articulated from the thoughts forever and ever stay just thoughts. As a freshman in high school my ability to filter thoughts off the brain to mouth pathway was marginal at best. 

"They look funny."

These are words that I said out loud when I was 18 minutes away from the sweet release of summer and 18 seconds away from having a free, probably non-poisoned cookie headed towards Belly-Town. 

"What did you just say?"

Mrs Coslett was getting along in age but her hearing was exceptional, and her ability to decipher the male freshman mumble was unparalleled. 

Now, this was my opportunity to say something different than what I had actually said. I could re-interpret those sounds and avoid a world of pain for everyone involved. Let's take a quick look at just some of my options.

"I feel funny" - Strong candidate. Take a trip to the nurse for feigned sickness and not a Mrs Coslett hand-sized abrasion to the face. 

"They look sunny" - Your cookies make me reflect upon light and beauty and the sustaining force of our planet. This takes us from disaster to happiness and joy. Best choice, in retrospect. 

"Shea took money" - The old switcheroo. Blame another student for thievery instead of taking account for your words. If I had lived in Ireland where children are named Shea instead of Escalon, California where no human was ever named Shea, this would be a very strong option to consider. 

What did the freshman version of myself do instead? I double-downed, obviously. 

"They look funny. Not bad, just not like you see in the store. Kinda weird shaped."

This made sense to me. Lean all the way into your thought process and describe this labor of time, money and kindness as looking not like a cookie. What's the worst that could happen in the face of honest assessment of cookie norms? 

I can remember hearing the cookies slam against the back wall and break into dessert shrapnel.
I remember hearing something to the effect of "an ungrateful generation who will be the end of humanity as we know it."
I remember the deafening silence as Mrs Coslett stormed back to her desk and didn't say another word until the bell rang. 

I was totally and completely shamed in that class. My commentary on the treats had cost most of us a chance at cookies and all of us a chance at a harmonious end to class. My actions had impacted everyone in that class and it wasn't in a positive way. 

This week Harriet Congdon will be taking us through the book of Philemon through the lens of an honor/shame society. While all of us have experienced shame, the United States isn't a honor/shame society. Understanding how these kinds of societies function can open up the Bible and can help us better interpret and deal with the shame we experience. 


Philemon::Context, Context, Context

May 28, 2017

One of my favorite quotes (I heard it from Ben Witherington III, but it may have originated elsewhere) is; "A text without a context is a pretext for making it say whatever you want."


That is sooooo good. We do a deep dive in this message of the cultural and historical context of the letter to Philemon because without it we are powerless to contextualize to our present day. We need to dive deep into back then so we can make these words sink deep into today. 


Reason to Sing:: Nothing is Holding Me Back

May 22, 2017

Have you ever considered the number of "thank yous" you say on any particular day? 

I started off thinking that I very rarely say "thank you", but after paying attention I've noticed that I say it all the time.

When I get my order from a coffee shop
When my sons do what I've asked them 
When someone holds a door
When someone lets me in on the freeway
When someone pumps my gas

The thing is that all of these "thank yous" are basically unconscious. I didn't think I said it very often because the reflex of saying it and a feeling of gratitude aren't the same thing.

What's really interesting is when you last said a "thank you" that you really, deeply and truly meant. When did it come tumbling from your lips because you were so full of gratitude? When was the gesture or act of service so profound that you wanted to say more than "thank you" because those words couldn't capture what you felt.

I was in a Fred Meyer buying a pack of Pokemon cards for my son for St Patricks Day. Leprechauns are both generous and avid consumers, it appears. I was pulling this off with my four-year old sleeping on my shoulder. A woman in front of me in line grabbed the pack of cards and put them on her side of the plastic dividing wand. I tried protesting in a whisper to keep my son asleep, but she was having none of it. 

"Thank you. That's so incredibly kind of you."

This was an out of the blue unexpected grace that I was compelled to respond to. She was making a decision to forsake social norms and just buy the thing for my boys. I was so very aware of that "thank you". It didn't slip past me without notice. I was fully awake to that gratitude. 

Singing in worship can be this exact same kind of gratitude. We can have experiences of thanking God for grace, peace, the ability to breath, the beauty of creation or even the fact that we're still standing. We can also have experiences of passive praise where it's akin to having your gas pumped or having your coffee delivered. 

The encouragement for this week is to explore ways worship can be engaged as gratitude. We can acknowledge the things in our lives that are really difficult and also acknowledge the things that are really, really good.


Jonathan Martin:: Shaken, Not Stirred

May 16, 2017

Jonathan Martin shares with Cascade about the nature of things being shaken up in our lives. The same shaking can be freedom for some and chaos for others. Who are God's people called to be in the midst of the shaking in personal, communal and even national spheres? How are we invited to both receive care and deliver care in the midst of shaking? 


Reason to Sing:: Great is Thy Faithfulness

May 8, 2017

Music has taught me so many things over the years. I would guess that many of life's most important messages were received through the miracle of song. 

Want proof? 

Cyndi Lauper taught me that fun is something that girls just want to have. 

Pat Benatar taught me that love can be a battlefield. 

Journey taught me the that giving up on belief is a bad idea. 

Nirvana taught me about the scent of adolescence. 

TLC taught me to value rivers and lakes over the fickleness of waterfalls. 

MC Hammer taught me that there were things that I should not touch. 

Creed taught me the proper way to hold my arms is wide open. 

If I did my job well you are still singing along with at least one song. 

The power of music is evident when you hear a song you know and you can feel yourself transported. You can see, smell and feel all kinds of things that were significant when you first heard that music. It informs us about how life works and how we deal with joy and pain. 

This is one of the major roles that worship music plays in our life. There are certain songs that play on mental repeat in times where we're struggling or in pain. "It is Well With my Soul" has gotten me through many a difficult night. 

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

Listen as we explore the role of worship music as education. There's an opportunity to learn something new or reinforce something familiar, if we have have eyes to see it in worship. 

Reason to Sing:: In Christ Alone

May 1, 2017

A couple years back I was leading a group of folks on a trip in Kenya. We were there to support work being done with orphans. One of our projects was to help clear branches and small trees by using a machete. A chance to pretend I knew what I was doing with a sword?!? You know I was all about it. 

I was trimming smaller branches off larger branches and tossing them in a pile when Travis Baker, one of our Cascade Kid's volunteers, yelled at me to freeze. 

One of the things you don't want to hear while working in brush in Africa is, "Don't move! Don't move! Don't move!"

He walked up and pulled one of these off of my back...

How adorable is that?!?

We were so pumped that we had found this little guy that we walked around showing him off. 

One of the leaders of the organization came up to us and asked if he could borrow the chameleon. He was pretty excited to show us something amazing. 

He walked up to a group of kids nonchalantly and pulled his hand back to reveal the chameleon. 

It was like someone had just turned on an industrial fan and blew these kids back 8 feet. There was screaming and running and general mayhem. 

Now, I had heard about a King Cobra sighting on my last visit to this region. Some people debate if Black Mambas can live at that elevation in Kenya, but others swear that they've seen them there. 

One of the only animals I was confident couldn't harm me in that place was causing mass chaos with the locals. What in the world was going on?

Apparently its a pretty common myth that parents tell their children involving the chameleon as a bearer of bad omens and even death. The fact that it was physically harmless didn't matter at all. 

This is the importance of framing. Framing is the stories or information that we allow to shape our understanding of the world. We are all listening to different stories that influence if we approach the world with fear, joy, anxiety or anger. Join us this Sunday we we look at the role that singing in worship can play in the framing our experience of God. 


Reason to Sing:: Be Thou My Vision

April 24, 2017

At church we arrive, come into the sanctuary and soon afterwards we start to sing. 

Well, you may not sing. You may watch. You may mouth the words. You may sit and pray. 

Our singing experience at church can be odd and we want to peel back the curtain and talk about all the ways that singing can function in the church. 

Take a listen to Bradlee Hersey share about his path to leading worship and his love for "Be Thou My Vision"


Easter Sunday:: The Tomb Is Empty

April 17, 2017

Life can be a blur of commitments and obligations. 

We move from one day to the next with a humming buzz of routine.

Every once an a while something breaks the certainty of this week looking like last week and we are invited to ask some bigger questions about life. This is Easter.

What is the nature of death, loss and grief? Does God helps us avoid pain or is God giving us a path through it? How do we respond when all hope is lost? How are our expectations for God blocking our ability to experience God? 

And on the other hand, what do we do with unexpected hope, joy and grace? What does resurrection look like in our lives? What does Christ overcoming death mean for us?

Come and see the tomb is empty and that changes everything. 


Good Friday:: Stages of Grief

April 17, 2017

The Christian story walks directly through pain, suffering and loss. Good Friday is an opportunity to not walk around the difficulty of pain, but to sit in it and find that God is there with us. 


Death’s Door:: Good Day to Die

April 10, 2017

Would you believe you were lovable if you didn't have people who loved you? 

Would you believe your life had value if you didn't have any accomplishments? 

Would you believe in yourself if nobody had ever believed in you? 

We usually can't separate who we are from what we've done or what we've received from others. We may know that we are more that who loves us, what we've done or what people say about us, but that's the constant feedback loop we're all stuck in. 

When things change in our lives we almost always need to recalibrate our identity. It's constantly getting informed by relationships, work, or the opinions of others. When any of those things change we are forced to go back to the place of discovering who we are. 

Jesus pushed into these kinds of places. Who are the disciples when they leave what they've know to follow him? Who are the Pharisees and Sadducees if they don't have all the answers? Who are the blind, lame or leprous once they are healed? Who is the rich, young ruler if he gives away his riches? Who are the disciples as servants instead of heroes?