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.”
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
Tim talks about the Exodus story where the Israelites, freshly freed from the bondages of slavery, create an idol to worship, which makes God upset. Somewhere in this is something to be said about waiting and distraction and technology.
1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, "Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him." 2 Aaron said to them, "Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me." 3 So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!" 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, "Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord." 6 They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel. 7 The Lord said to Moses, "Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8 they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!' " 9 The Lord said to Moses, "I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 10 Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation." 11 But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, "O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, "It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, "I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.' " 14 And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
Part two of our sermon series on doubt: Co-founder Tim Kim tries to take a stick and poke around at the roots of our doubt. Also there are references to Ludwig Wittgenstein, the movie Hook (top 5 greatest), and how Jenga is whack.
From the Gospel of Matthew:
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
R&B Co-founder Neil kicks of a sermon series on doubt. Listen, cuz its interesting.
At Root and Branch, we like to talk a big game about how we’re a safe religious space to question even the most central tenets of religion. And simply because we’re trying to put down roots of commitment and to branch out with faith, doesn’t mean we won’t have moments or months where we feel like we’re treading water, and the waves are choppy, and was that a shark fin are you f-ing serious right now?
But is there a point where doubt itself must be put into question? Is there a fruitful kind of doubting and one that is just plain destructive and unhelpful? What’s the difference between intellectual doubt—say about the truth or falsehood of Biblical claims—and existential doubt—say in our own worthiness, or the basic trustworthiness of life, other people, and the God who gives reality to all of the above? Must they be connected at all?
Join us for our sermon series in April, International Doubt Month, and help us dig into doubt.
Doubt, thou shalt be doubted.
Longtime Root and Branch-er, Justin Bloesch, shares some thoughts about what outrage over police violence has to do with hearing the voice of God.
Officially, this is part of our beatitudes sermon series, so keep these two in mind:
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Root and Branch Co-founders Neil and Tim begin a sermon series on the Beatitudes.
The Beatitudes are some of the most memorable and quoted lines from the New Testament. They distill a vision of new ways of living. They only make sense if you can see within and beyond this reality into another one - an upside-down, outside-in, bizarro reality that Jesus of Nazareth not only imagined but saw as if he were rocking contact lenses with a prescription stolen from another dimension.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted. (5:4)
Pastoral Intern (from the University of Chicago Divinity School) Virginia White on Christianity's long obsession with bodies and ways that might be helpful for us to think the about our fleshy selves today.
1 Corinthians 12:12-20
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body.
R&B Co-founder Neil Ellingson concludes our sermon mini-series on healing by reflecting on the power of words to harm and heal, the lessons we learn from kids who say whatever, and trite street art.
When he came into Kfar Nahum (Capernaum), a centurion, a Roman officer, came near, beseeching him. “Sir, my servant boy is lying paralyzed in my house, and in terrible pain.”
And he said to the centurion,
I will come to heal him.
The centurion answered, “Sir, I don’t deserve to have you under my roof. Only say a word and my son will be healed. I am also a man under orders, with soldiers under me, and I say to this man, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
Hearing him, Jesus was amazed and said to his followers,
Yes, I tell you, in all of Israel
I have found no one with such deep faith,
and I tell you, many from the east and west
will come and lie down beside the table
to eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob
in the kingdom of the skies.
And other sons of the kingdom will be thrown out
into the far outer darkness.
There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Jesus said to the centurion,
Go back to your home. Since you have had faith,
let the event take place for you.
And his son was healed in that hour.
Then Jesus went into the house of Peter, whose mother-in-law he saw lying in bed with a fever, and he touched her hand and the fever left her. She got up and served him.
That same evening they brought him many who were afflicted with demons. With a word he cast out the spirits and he healed all their sicknesses. He was fulfilling the words of the prophet Isaiah:
He attended our sicknesses
and removed our diseases.
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.
Co-pastor Neil Ellingson on death and resurrection for Easter Sunday, 2015.
Read on for the readings.