We’ve come to end of our series on relationships (that can make or break you!) having talked about friends, family, and our enemies. So in conclusion, let us focus on this thing which is at the center of all this relationship stuff: empathy. Empathy is sexy (some say) and it’s difficult to get away from the word these days. Many see it as the way out of this dystopian political state we are in, or its lack as the reason we are here in the first place. But what if we are all a bit confused about what it means and what it actually looks like in our day to day interactions? When the Good Samaritan does his thing, is he driven by empathy, compassion, sympathy, duty, all of the above? Is the idea of incarnation, God becomes human, an act of empathy?
“Blood is thicker than water,” that old devilish saying goes. The meaning of this phrase is pretty straightforward: family (blood) relations are inherently stronger than any other kind of non-familial (water) relationship or bond. Right? Nah. This rendition of the phrase actually carries the complete opposite meaning from the original phrase: “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” Funny how words get twisted.
Familial relationships can be great, aaaaand they can be the worst. Join us this week as we continue our examination of the relationships that make and break us. We will examine one of Jesus’s most famous parables - the prodigal son - and see what sense we can make of family, loosely defined.
This week we focus our attention on friendship. On one hand, maybe it's weird for a community of adults to talk about this thing which seems to hold diminishing importance for us as we move through the world. It is also not exactly the most famous of topics when it comes to Christianity and religion and spirituality in general. At the same time, adult friendships are important! Particularly so for a generation that is super transient, getting married later (if at all), having less kids, and has the internet (insert anti-tech screed here). Furthermore, there is actually a rich and robust history of thought around friendship as a theological and philosophical topic. One could even argue that when Jesus talked about love and relationships, he was informed more by his friendships than familial or romantic bonds. In any case, join us as we start to unpack the relationshipthat St. Augustine said was “sweeter than all the sweetness of [his] life."
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?
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?
How does one say goodbye well? Co-founder Neil Ellingson gives his farewell sermon (July 15, 2018).
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.
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??????
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.
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.
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:
2. Personal Transformation
3. Social / World Transformation
4. Purpose Finding
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?'
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Longtime Root and Brancher, Dorian, speaks on love, empathy, people that drive you crazy, and how we might do more than clang a cymbal while creating an inclusive world.
He drew a circle that shut me out--
Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!
-Outwitted by Edwin Markham
1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. 2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. 3And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing.
-1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Co-pastor Tim asks whether or not there is such a thing as a "Christian" response to the election of Donald Trump and compares our current political climate to everything from the first king of Israel to Nazi Germany (but like, without trying to be all sensationalizing).
From the Book of Jeremiah:
As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a penknife and throw them into the fire in the brazier, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier. Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words, was alarmed, nor did they tear their garments. Even when Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them. And the king commanded Jerahmeel the king’s son and Seraiah son of Azriel and Shelemiah song of Abdeel to arrest the secretary Baruch and the prophet Jeremiah. But the Lord hid them.
From Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates:
You must resist the common urge toward the comforting narrative of divine law, toward fairy tales that imply some irrepressible justice. The enslaved were not bricks in your road, and their lives were not chapters in your redemptive history. They were people turned to fuel for the American machine.
From Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
There is a very real danger of our drifting into an attitude of contempt for humanity. We know quite well that we have no right to do so, and that it would lead us into the most sterile relation to our fellow-human beings. The following thoughts may keep us from such a temptation. It means that we at once fall into the worst blunders of our opponents. The one who despises another will never be able to make anything of him. Nothing that we despise in the other person is entirely absent from ourselves. We often expect from others more than we are willing to do ourselves. Why have we hitherto thought so intemperately about people and their frailty and temptability? We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer. The only profitable relationship to others - and especially to those weaker - is one of love, and that means the will to hold fellowship with them. God did not despise humanity, but became human for humanity’s sake.
Keri talks about the story of Jonah (dude in who ends up in the belly of a whale) and tries to figure out where the @#$%^&*() God is in all of that. She also talks about what we might do with Bible stories that portray God as the oppressor and whether God has a plan for our lives (easy enough!).
The Story of Jonah (look it up!)
“For I know the plans I have for you,”
declares the Lord.
“Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.
Plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me,
and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you.” -Jeremiah 29:1-14
i found god in
and i loved
i loved her
fiercely. - Ntozake Shange