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
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
Neil talks about the story of the Israelites escape from Egypt, a story that depicts liberation from bondage as well as a God who seems pretty brutal.
Exodus 12:1-13; 13:1-8
12:1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: 2 This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. 4 If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. 7 They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. 10 You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
13:1 The Lord said to Moses: 2 Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and animals, is mine. 3 Moses said to the people, "Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, because the Lord brought you out from there by strength of hand; no leavened bread shall be eaten. 4 Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out. 5 When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this observance in this month. 6 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a festival to the Lord. 7Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen in your possession, and no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory. 8 You shall tell your child on that day, "It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.'
From "Vulnerability" by David White
To have a temporary, isolated sense of power over all events and circumstances, is one of the privileges and the prime conceits of being human and especially of being youthfully human, but a privilege that must be surrendered with that same youth, with ill health, with accident, with the loss of loved ones who do not share our untouchable powers; powers eventually and most emphatically given up, as we approach our last breath. The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant, and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.
Luke 12:32-40 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
39 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
How long will this go on? This is a question that I am sure many are shouting to God after the brutal murders we have seen these past weeks and months and years, and the volume grows and grows with each name added to the list of black lives that bear witness to a systematic and government sanctioned reality of racism, violence, and exploitation. In Psalm 82, God prepares to indict the gods that "judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked." We must ask God in these moments, "How long can this go on?" And in Psalm 82, God asks of these wicked gods, "How long will you judge unjustly?" Can these questions exist together?
Tim is a co-founder of Root and Branch Church.
What do we all want, deep deep down? Love? Meaning? Purpose?
The answer is already implied in the question: if we WANT anything, it's the fulfillment of want, of desire. The word for this is joy.
It's different from happiness.
You've probably experienced it, even if you don't remember.
None of the central theological concepts in Christianity make sense without an understanding of joy.
It's not selfish to want to be joyful, in fact, it's selfish to want anything less.
The source of true joy is beyond this world, but joy can be experienced here and now.
Contrary to popular belief (i.e., Christianity), perhaps "and a little child shall lead them" isn’t just about a baby born next to a cow who grows up to inspire both the awesome and awesomely awful. What if it also has something to do with the ability to play like we used to? What if this child is to remind us to enjoy the useful uselessness that makes life worth living? What if God's "holy mountain" isn't a metaphor for the love and safety of eternity but for today? WHAT IF?!
Chris Hanley is a graduate of the University of Chicago Divinity School, a soon-to-be minister, a longtime RnB attendee, and an all around cool dude.
Caroline Wooten shares stories related to the seemingly antithetical ideas of humility and audacity. Topics include Monica Lewinsky, cars that look like boots, and how the apostle Paul is often annoying but right.
2 Corinthians 4
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.