Advent 2018 - Change

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If everything you’ve ever known was turned on its head how would you feel? Probably not calm, confident, and comforted. But, distraught, uncertain, and uncomfortable. Yet, Isaiah’sprophecy (Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God) tells us that everything must change to prepare for Christ to come into the world. Valleys need raising and mountains and hills flattening. We’ve got to boldly shake it all up. So why don’t we? Why is change, even change that we know will be good for us—like saying “no” to that toxic relationship or giving up our facebook profiles—so hard?

This week we are going to talk about change. The changes that we yearn for, the changes that scare us, the changes that we might even be too afraid to admit that we need. We’ll grapple with the heart of the Advent message: that things don’t have to stay the same as they are—in fact, that they can’t stay the same if we do our work in preparing the way for Christ to come. Maybe we’ll discover a little of that comfort that Isaiah seemed to think change has to offer us, and some of the courage and hope that we need to change our lives for the better.

Grace as a Lack of Control

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Grace is kind of a big deal in Christianity. Yet, it often takes a massive back seat to things like faith and love (so boring). Why is that? Maybe part of the reason is that grace is like the beginning stages of a romantic relationship. All that “hi, I like you” stuff is really fascinating until you get married and have kids and blah blah and then it's like it was just a point on a linear line towards death. But grace isn’t just a thing that gets us from A to Z. It is the thing that actually creates and shapes our destinations. And not just one time but continuously, again and again. It isn’t just the opening up of a possibility. It is possibility itself opened up to us as possibility. Which is why it’s so strange that we often think of grace as something like avoiding disaster or damnation. After all, why would a life that is all about the absence or avoidance of terrible things worth being thankful for?


A Lonely God

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If everything you’ve ever known was turned on its head how would you feel? Probably not calm, confident, and comforted. But, distraught, uncertain, and uncomfortable. Yet, Isaiah’sprophecy (Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God) tells us that everything must change to prepare for Christ to come into the world. Valleys need raising and mountains and hills flattening. We’ve got to boldly shake it all up. So why don’t we? Why is change, even change that we know will be good for us—like saying “no” to that toxic relationship or giving up our facebook profiles—so hard?

This week we are going to talk about change. The changes that we yearn for, the changes that scare us, the changes that we might even be too afraid to admit that we need. We’ll grapple with the heart of the Advent message: that things don’t have to stay the same as they are—in fact, that they can’t stay the same if we do our work in preparing the way for Christ to come. Maybe we’ll discover a little of that comfort that Isaiah seemed to think change has to offer us, and some of the courage and hope that we need to change our lives for the better.


Doing and (not?)Believing - Tim Kim

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We're spending sometime with this Jesus as bread, eat and drink, weird cannibalistic language thing: "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.”

Before we jump too quickly into the realm of metaphor, the word used here for “eat” is a Greek word that means something like to gnaw, crunch, and chew. This isn’t some sort of “Jesus please feed my soul” kind of thing. It depicts something quite literal. Eating together is a ritual of the Root and Branch community. We’ve always done it. We’ve done it many many many times. We’ll keep doing. Which begs the question: Why? What do such ritual things have to do with our idea of what is true, our beliefs, our sense of God? When we eat bread does it mean we believe? Or do we believe because we eat bread?


Within Good and Evil - Virginia White

A man in a position of immense power seriously screws up. He lies and connives to cover his ass. His misdeeds cast a pall over his entire administration. WE ARE TALKING ABOUT KING DAVID ;). The same one credited with writing the Psalms. The one typically remembered as the godly man who led Israel through its glory days. But he's just violated a married woman, ordered her husband’s murder, and he’s still king. What are we to do when the people who are supposed to be on our side, to have our interests at heart, let us down? When they might even be outright evil? 

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A Good Goodbye

How does one say goodbye well? Co-founder Neil Ellingson gives his farewell sermon (July 15, 2018).

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Revelation 21:1-7
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.


Neil Ellingson - Easter: Object Permanence - April 1, 2018

On Easter we are asked to focus our attention on something that is hard to look at. Not because it is disturbing or painful (that would be Good Friday when we remember Jesus’ brutal crucifixion, and the brutality of oppression and death in our lives and our world); quite the opposite, because what we’re asked to look at on Easter is too good to be true. We can’t fix our gaze on the resurrection because it doesn’t fit our experience or understanding of how things go. People live, they die, and then their bodies decompose, eventually even all memory of them wisps away after a few generations. That’s all we know, anything else is wishful thinking, land of make believe, childish illusion.

OR IS IT??????

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What is Community at Root and Branch? - January 21, 2018

Sermon by Tim Kim

As the year begins, we are starting a series of talks and conversations around the core values and beliefs at Root and Branch. We begin here with the question: What does community look like at Root and Branch? Co-pastor Tim shares reflections on how getting to know one another is the first step in getting to know God. 

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Mark 1:14-20
1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,
1:15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."
1:16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea--for they were fishermen.
1:17 And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people."
1:18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
1:19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.
1:20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.


Manifesto for the Manyfesto

New R&B Conver-Sermon Series:

Time to Get REorganized Religion: A Community Manyfesto

Where Is Our Solid (Or At Least Holy) Ground In These Shifty Times and In Our Blessed, Unsettled Lives?

In our first time gathering as a community in 2018, those who came to church received "R&B-Incarnation Cards," each with a unique word we were invited to ponder and seek to embody over the next year. (If you weren't there we have plenty more - we'll have them in a basket Sunday Mornings this month and next). It's our hope that these can also be the basis for soul-opening conversations, informal and formal, about what we're each living out and into. (Shout out to Anna T.)

We also want to ask: as our weird, winding lives-on-the-way-to-the-divine come together, what do we hope to "incarnate" as a community?

We who hang around Root and Branch are on the cutting edge of a growing, loosely defined movement of people who are unsatisfied both with what's been presented to us as “organized religion” and the self-serve, rootless, go-it-alone spirituality that emerges to fill the gaps left in its wake. 

What is this other way we're after? Sometimes it can feel like our underground spirit mission is a lot of groping in the dark with a flickering headlamp for whatever this new/old something is. We can lose sight of the loves, longings, and truth-glimpses that brought us here in the first place. 

What are the stakes of all this for our lives?

Does this soul spelunking lead to any wide gleaming places? What do we hold--or seek to hold--sacred? We're pretty sure we value conversation and openness and the quest itself--is that the most we can positively affirm? Is that enough to carry us through life's inevitable holy sh*t moments? Is it enough to bring us to love's front porch, let alone it's living room?

Over the next few months, in Sunday Morning and Welcome Table reflections and conversations, we'll be attempting together to give sharper definition to where we stand/sit/want to grow from in relation to six themes. Each is a central aspect of what we think brings most of us to be interested in co-soul-searching. Our goal with each will be to draw clearer connecting lines with Christian story and theology, and also to our tragically, hilariously tangled times and individual lives right now.

By the end, with community reflection and conversation forming an integral part of our Manyfesto, we hope to have a bolder, more fertile-grounded sense of where we grow from here:

1. Community

2. Personal Transformation

3. Social / World Transformation

4.  Purpose Finding

5.  Creativity

6.  Accountability


Liz Bajema - Broken People Healing Broken People - September 14, 2017

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Root and Branch community member, Liz Bajema, shares thoughts on September's theme: THE FALLLL. What is the point of doing good things? Most of the reasons we have for doing good are selfish, and much of the good we do seems to lead to more problems. The very state of reality would often suggest that it isn't really worth it. So what then? 


Numbers 21:4b-9 21:4b
But the people became impatient on the way. 21:5 The people spoke against God and against Moses, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food." 21:6 Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. 21:7 The people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people. 21:8 And the LORD said to Moses, "Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live." 21:9 So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

“The Doer of Good” by Oscar Wilde
It was night-time and He was alone. And He saw afar-off the walls of a round city and went towards the city. And when He came near He heard within the city the tread of the feet of joy, and the laughter of the mouth of gladness and the loud noise of many lutes. And He knocked at the gate and certain of the gate-keepers opened to Him. And He beheld a house that was of marble and had fair pillars of marble before it. The pillars were hung with garlands, and within and without there were torches of cedar. And He entered the house. And when He had passed through the hall of chalcedony and the hall of jasper, and reached the long hall of feasting, He saw lying on a couch of sea-purple one whose hair was crowned with red roses and whose lips were red with wine. And He went behind him and touched him on the shoulder and said to him, 'Why do you live like this?' And the young man turned round and recognised Him, and made answer and said, 'But I was a leper once, and you healed me. How else should I live?' And He passed out of the house and went again into the street. And after a little while He saw one whose face and raiment were painted and whose feet were shod with pearls. And behind her came, slowly as a hunter, a young man who wore a cloak of two colours. Now the face of the woman was as the fair face of an idol, and the eyes of the young man were bright with lust. And He followed swiftly and touched the hand of the young man and said to him, 'Why do you look at this woman and in such wise?' And the young man turned round and recognised Him and said, 'But I was blind once, and you gave me sight. At what else should I look?' And He ran forward and touched the painted raiment of the woman and said to her, 'Is there no other way in which to walk save the way of sin?' And the woman turned round and recognised Him, and laughed and said, 'But you forgave me my sins, and the way is a pleasant way.' And He passed out of the city. And when He had passed out of the city He saw seated by the roadside a young man who was weeping. And He went towards him and touched the long locks of his hair and said to him, 'Why are you weeping?' And the young man looked up and recognised Him and made answer, 'But I was dead once, and you raised me from the dead. What else should I do but weep?'


Tim Kim - The Temptation of Contradictions - July 2, 2017

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Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be putting me on”
God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me coming you better run”
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killing done?”
God says, “Out on Highway 61”
-from Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan

The first conversation on series about GOD (July 2017):

The story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, from the book of Genesis (Ch. 22), usually elicits a strong response and by golly it should! There’s no getting around a God who asks a father to kill his son. Open the lens a little wider and we see a picture of God who does a lot of things we find strange and looks like a walking contradiction of violence/peace, vengeance/compassion, and so on. One way to try and understand who God really is amongst these confusing opposites is to ask ourselves whose voice we actually hear giving the request. 


Neil Ellingson - Revelation - June 18th, 2017

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A lot of people think revelation means hitting the pause button on the natural ordinary functioning of things as a miraculous event appearing out of nowhere like a godly pop-up ad.

BUT what if revelation was a surprising, life-changing uncovering of a pattern, purpose, perhaps even personality hiding from our everyday anxious ways of looking at the ordinary? Revelation then becomes a lens showing the ordinary for what it really is: always potentially a benevolent trojan horse for the extraordinary.

Listen as we continue to examine the religious way of knowing what's true and what matters: revelation. Neil reveals the ultimate truth about revelation with reference to the alt-right and Holy Laughter. Readings: Genesis 18:1-15


Keri Anderson - Pentecost Sunday - June 4th, 2017

Co-pastor Keri Anderson's final sermon to the Root and Branch community on Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost Sunday marks the story in which the Holy Spirit (in wind and fire) was bestowed upon Jesus' disciples, and Keri breathes some fire on us about the feminine Spirit of God.

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A reading from the Book of Proverbs about the Feminine Wisdom of God:
God created me at the beginning of creation,
    the first of the creative acts of long ago.
23 Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped,
    before the hills, I was brought forth—
26 when God had not yet made earth and fields,
    or the world’s first bits of soil.
27 When God established the heavens, I was there,
    when God drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when God made firm the skies above,
    when God established the fountains of the deep,
29 when God assigned to the sea its limit,
    so that the waters might not transgress the Lord’s command,
when God marked out the foundations of the earth,
30     then I was beside the Lord, like a master worker;
and I was daily God’s delight,
    rejoicing before the Lord always,
31 rejoicing in God’s inhabited world
    and delighting in the human race.

A reading from the Book of Acts:
When the day of Pentecost came, the disciples were all together in one place.2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a fierce wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.

5 Now there were devout Jews in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard the sound of the disciples speaking, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

14 Then Peter stood up with the eleven other disciples, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit.


Tim Kim - See for Yourself - April 16, 2017

Easter 2017. A sermon on truth in a "post-truth" America. What does it mean to be a witness to the resurrection, to give testimony to what has taken place? Sometimes you gotta go see for yourself. 

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From the Gospel according to John

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

From the Gospel according to Matthew

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”


James Alison on Atonement

This essay was talked about in a recent sermon and the preacher promised it would be linked on this blog. So here it is: James Alison - Some Thoughts on Atonement.

Agree or disagree with him, it is a worthwhile read. Here is an excerpt to get you going:

The first thing that I ought to do, therefore, is to give you a brief account of what is traditionally called the substitutionary theory of atonement; of what we are up against; of what a certain crystallization of texts has thrown up that has kept us captive; and how we are going to try and move from a two-dimensional account to a three-dimensional account and see that actually all the creative lines in that story flow in an entirely different direction. So, here's the standard story, which I'm sure you've all heard before:

God created the universe, including humanity, and it was good. Then somehow or other humankind fell. This fall was a sin against God's infinite goodness and mercy and justice. So there was a problem. Humans could not off our own bat restore the order which had been disordered, let alone make up for having dishonoured God's infinite goodness. No finite making up could make up for an offence with infinite ramifications. God would have been perfectly within his rights to have destroyed the whole of humanity. But God was merciful as well as being just, so he pondered what to do to sort out the mess. Could he simply have let the matter lie in his infinite mercy? Well, maybe he would have liked to, but he was beholden to his infinite justice as well. Only an infinite payment would do; something that humans couldn't come up with; but God could. And yet the payment had to be from the human side, or else it wouldn't be a real payment for the outrage to be appeased. So God came up with the idea of sending his Son into the world as a human, so that his Son could pay the price as a human, which, since he was also God, would be infinite and thus would effect the necessary satisfaction. Thus the whole sorry saga could be brought to a convenient close. Those humans who agreed to cover over their sins by holding on to, or being covered by, the precious blood of the Saviour whom the Father has sacrificed to himself would be saved from their sins and given the Holy Spirit by which they would be able to behave according to the original order of creation. In this way, when they died, they at least would be able to inherit heaven, which had been the original plan all along, before the fall had mucked everything up. My guess is that you've heard something like that before. This is a familiar story.

Now, rather than make mockery of it, I want to suggest that the trouble with it is that it is far too little conservative. I want to put forward a much more conservative account. And the first way I want to be conservative is to suggest that the principle problem with this conventional account is that it is a theory, and atonement, in the first place, was a liturgy...