November 19, 2019
This Sunday we're going to be talking about the Parable of the Sower, or as I knew it as a youth "AM I GOOD SOIL WILL I DIE TONIGHT OH PLEASE DONT LET ME SUFFER FOR ETERNITY".
Ok,maybe that was a little bit dramatic, but the parable really did fill me with a low level of anxiety.
The story Jesus tells is about someone throwing out seed on soil and only one particular patch of soil actually goes on to flourish while much of it never gets started or quickly dies. I was really interested in discovering how I could be good soil and how I could maintain my place in the "Good Soil Society".
The ultimate Christian aim in the world I grew up in was to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is beautiful in so many ways and is still a reason we take the bread individually when we do communion at Cascade. There's a very personal aspect to our faith journey. One area of faith that can be ignored in that world is the communal nature of faith. How does my understanding of Christianity help me understand my place in this world and relationally to other people?
I'm starting to explore Jesus and Christianity in relationship to the social, corporate and political structures of our current context and of Jesus' context. What if there are structures in this world that serve as a kind of soil that we often don't choose but currently find ourselves in? Can these systems choke out a spiritual life that is all around us? Could God's design of the peaceful thriving of all people be compromised in certain systems in relationship to others?
I think about the spirituality many of us observed in the film "Harriet" this past week about Harriet Tubman. How did being a slaveowner impact your understanding of Christ vs your understanding as a slave? Maybe this rotates the conversation to include personal relationship with Christ as well as illuminating the cultural and societal impacts we're sitting in every day.
October 14, 2019
Just the other day I had a friend reference the story of Peter walking on water to Jesus.
I'm very familiar with the story. I grew up with images of a sinking Peter in the waves and a gracious Jesus reaching out a hand to lift him up. I remember dreaming of the ability to walk on water and hearing people snidely say, "So and So thinks they walk on water."
But as I return to the story I'm struck with how beautifully constructed it is.
There's the unexpected return of Jesus in a miraculous way. There's a devoted follower of Jesus who believes that this kind of miracle could be one of participation and not just observation. There's a thrill of joining Jesus and then failure when the insanity of the moment sinks in (*fist pump* - nailed it).
The story operates as a striking metaphor for so many aspects of faith, doubt, courage, success and failure.
How do we respond when hope joins us in a moment of struggle? Do we stand in awe or join in? Where are the places we're sure we don't belong? How can we be searching for proof we don't belong and allow that to sabotage us?
This story isn't one isolated example of the power of the Biblical narrative to help us reinterpret the world around us. There are so many stories that help us see God and ourselves in a new light. This impact can be lost if we spend all our time laboring over the events as either being literally true or literally false. It can strip the power from the narrative so fully that it's no longer worth engaging.
I hope you've been with us through this series and I hope the topic of Biblio-Idolatry has been one that offers freedom. This message finishes up with Harriet Congdon. I really hope you find a hand offered to pull you from a sinking relationship to the Bible to one of engagement and hope.
September 30, 2019
Talk a listen to this incredible message from Insil Kang as she draws the most graceful Bible and Keanu Reeves metaphor ever constructed.
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.