September 17, 2019
In my late high school and early college years I listened to one album more than any other album in all the years before and since.
"Through Being Cool" by Saves the Day was on constant rotation day and night. 33 minutes and 22 seconds making up 12 songs of pure emo-punk perfection. I was sure it was the greatest feat of musicianship and lyrical content ever created.
What kind of transcendent lyrical content am I talking about? How about;
"And my spleen is dripping from my pants."
If you're not sold by that little nugget, I'm not sure what you're doing with your life.
If that album came out today exactly as it was back in 1999 would it still be the monolith of music in my life? Very doubtful. It's hard to be as angsty and driven by frustrated heartbrokenness when you have a mortgage, a minivan and you're coaching 6-7 year old soccer.
The reason that album holds such a special place in my life is due to it's timing and what I was experiencing. I'm not a static institution that remains unchanged throughout life. The ability of different kinds of art to deeply connect with us changes as we change.
Often we identify pieces of art for their transcendence without ever acknowledging half of the equation. We talk about the book, film, music or painting for all that it possesses without ever acknowledging that thing that it is being processed through.
This message continues to go through our Biblio-Idolatry message series led by Scott Erickson. He helps us uncover half of the equation of the Bible's impact by posing the question, what do you want from the Bible?
I hope you enjoy!
(And yes, I did listen to "Through Being Cool" again while writing this)
September 9, 2019
When we attempt to make an argument one of the best strategies involves pointing out historical evidence to support your claims.
If I can find individuals or large groups of people who've "successfully" negotiated the world operating with an assumption I hold true, then my belief can be justified. And this makes sense when you think of humans as pack animals. Individual thoughts, actions or behaviors are inherently dangerous because that differentiation can threaten your survival. Wolves can easily take out one lone sheep, but a flock of sheep is much more difficult to attack.
This is why we dress, talk, and consume media in alignment with some number of people who currently or have previously existed. There can certainly be change in people's behaviors, but only when enough people move together to create it.
What makes this concept interesting in Biblical interpretation is that 2,000 years has created millions of ways to view the various parts of the Bible and what it is saying. Now, that statement probably doesn't feel true because people like to talk about the Bible with only one dominant lens of interpretation. When we grow up in one Biblical culture it doesn't even feel like a lens, but rather the Bible.
We want to zoom out of our last couple hundred years to see the ways that the Bible has been interpreted historically. The hope is that experiencing a diversity of Biblical lenses can give us all permission to acknowledge the lens we're using at any given moment.
When we gain awareness of how we've interpreted the Bible it gains a new voice that it hasn't been able to have before.
September 9, 2019
When I hear "The Bible says.." my ears immediately perk.
That's a pretty lofty claim regarding 66 books covering a 1,600 year span originating 3,500 years ago.
The Bible is the key sacred text of Christians, so it makes sense that there would be a lot of emotion and authority wrapped into it. Culturally, when we try and make a point or win an argument we often go to the highest shelves of language and thought.
Skipped breakfast? You're starving.
Woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't fall back asleep? You're dead.
Someone cut you off in traffic? You'll kill them.
Step in gum? The worst.
Every conversation is prone to extremism to make a point, but all of this extremism takes a toll on our relationship with the things we place at the peak.
Our relationship with America gets strained when all political disagreements end with "Love it or Leave it." Our relationship with Justice gets strained when all issues are this age's holocaust.
And our relationship with Faith gets strained when everything gets litigated through various interpretations of the Bible.
We want to explore our relationship with the Bible and the ways that we've elevated it beyond God.
September 9, 2019
Prophets and the prophetic voice exist throughout the entirety of the Bible.
There are prophets throughout the First Testament like Jonah, Elijah, Jeremiah, Amos and Hosea. Many of them got full books named after them.
The New Testament has the prophetic voice of John the Baptist, Paul, John and Jesus Christ.
The nature of prophets and has become a bit co-opted today to mean the people who are putting forward an ideology that we agree with. Across political and religious lines people would point to very different individuals as prophets of truth.
But one of the key roles of prophets throughout the Bible isn't just to call out injustice, but to remind the people how these injustices are the result of forgetting who we are. War, violence, pollution, exclusion and financial inequity are the product of losing sight of who we are and how we best operate in relationship with one another. The prophet holds up a mirror to illustrate the cost of participating in systems that benefit some at the expense of others.
So, who are our prophets today and what are the ways that we try and silence them? What are areas of reminding others who they that we're avoiding because of the potential costs?
When the tool of shame grows dull, the work of holding up a mirror to remind people of who they are is even more important. And this action begs participation that moves beyond simple critique.
August 13, 2019
For the past 6 weeks our church has looked at the topics of fear, grief & sadness and shame.
The summer of bummer.
Ok, I don't think those emotions are a bummer, but it definitely causes us to access a place that many of us put effort towards avoiding. And these are conversations that are desperately needed in the church, because they aren't likely to come up otherwise in our culture.
But this Sunday we're going to be exploring the tension we hold in the midst of tough emotions.
We're going to be looking at the nature of hope.
Hope is a popular word in the Christian world, and for good reason. The Jesus narrative is all about hope in the face of suffering and injustice. That the difficulty of the current situation is not the forever reality. It was this hope that inspired the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and is resonant throughout his "I Have a Dream" speech.
What we want to explore is the complexity of hope and how to hold it in tension instead of a using it to avoid hard times. Hope is never meant to mask pain, but rather give us the strength to be in the pain.
Take a listen to a phenomenal woman willing to share her story of pain and the promise of hope she's been able to live into. I loved this conversation with Lisa Schmidt (aka The Sober Hipster)
August 6, 2019
One of the most destructive aspects of shame is it's baked-in certainty.
Shame can feel like a really squishy and uncertain emotion, but it has such a predictable outcome for every person who runs across it.
Some aspect of your being isn't enough.
You don't have enough intelligence.
You don't have enough training.
You don't have enough patience.
You don't have enough love.
You don't have enough discipline.
You don't have enough physical strength.
Most of us structure our lives in such a way that we never have to face the areas of our lives that we don't feel "enough" in.
We don't speak or sing in public.
We don't do games.
We don't engage in conversations outside of our area of expertise.
We don't speak up in our area of expertise in case we're exposed for not being expert "enough".
"Enough" is a myth. And when shame enters the picture "enough" always moves just out of reach to expose us for what we don't have.
So what if we heard the voice of God celebrating what we are instead of what we aren't? What if we felt a swell of joy for the way our brains, bodies and souls did operate when we faced the areas we don't thrive in?
The hope in acknowledging and releasing that repetitive voice of shame pointing to our "not enough-ness" is that we can enjoy and celebrate what is. On the other side of everything you're not is something that you are.
Your unique mix of skills, gift, insights and perspectives is desperately needed in this world and facing our shame can help allow that awesomeness flow more freely. To let the voice of shame paralyze those amazing gifts would be like a fish not swimming because it couldn't walk around on the land.
August 6, 2019
I have a love/hate relationship with small talk.
I know that it's pretty popular to despise small talk, but I can't get fully on board with that movement. I've had too many great conversations and connections come from chatting about work, the weather and the location of people's current or former home to completely write it off. I'm also aware that it can actually inhibit true connection. Sometimes it's just a swirl of information swapping and never gets to anything people are passionate about.
One of my least favorite aspects of small talk is when it comes to vocation. I never quite know how to ask the question.
1. I never want to assume that people are currently employed somewhere. It can deeply sting to have your identity reduced to employment and asking it as a first question can do just that.
2. There is this strange dynamic in the U.S. where we assume that you need to be passionate about what you do for work. In small talk I'm trying to discover the other person's passion and talk about work can sometimes do the opposite. This can expose a strange guilt in people that they've done something wrong by not earning money via their greatest passion.
3. I don't want to keep reinforcing the narrative that people's value is found in what they do for work. If this is consistently one of the first things we ask each other, we are saying that what we do for work is one of the most important aspects of our identities.
One of the places that this becomes most evident is in the crisis of identity that people feel in changing jobs, losing jobs or being without jobs that financially compensate us. We've wrapped up our identity in our jobs, which has about as much to do with our identity as our clothing or vehicle choices. They are all areas where our identity can find expression, but they are definitely not to be confused with our identities.
This message is a transition in our Liturgical Flow message series from Grief & Sadness to Release of Shame. We have the great privilege of hearing from Lindsay and Koes Bong, who share so much with us about seeing and letting the shame within us go.
July 15, 2019
As human beings we sure are funny about routine.
If you sit in any public space long enough you'll hear someone complain about the monotony of life.
"Another day, another dollar"
"Same stuff (or some variation of that word), different day"
"I just want one day where I don't have to sit in traffic for an hour"
It makes sense. A lot of our television, movies and books center around ordinary folks being pulled into extraordinary circumstances. We long for aliens to arrive, super powers to be bestowed or portals to another dimension to appear. We want there to be some break in the ordinary and expected outcome of our days to remind us we're still alive.
But how do we (and the characters in TV, film and literature) usually respond when the regular rhythms of life break into a drumroll? We long for the boring! We want to be returned to routine and met expectations. We long for the mundane to remind us that life isn't just wild chance and chaos.
In the midst of these competing desires is a truth to sit with. We need to mourn the loss of our expectations and dreams. We need to observe their passing and sit with the hold they had on our lives.
Whether the things we lost were incredibly painful and really beautiful, there is still a loss. Whether we lost the regular routine of our days or the dreams instantaneous adventure. Life has a way of exposing our expectations and these moments require some reflection and hospitality.