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Vignettes of Hope: New Access

Acts 16:9-15, NRSV

Reflections

A lot of people suggest that the Millennials and Gen Z have given up on traditional religion. I do not think that is accurate. I believe they are doing what most generations have done in their 20s and 30s – taking a break from organized religion. Some will come back when children are born. Others will not return until the arc of their life experience brings them back to recognizing the need for spiritual community.

— Paula Stone Williams, The Stages of Faith

  • We give away our freedom because we care more about belonging
  • We care more about belonging than the truth
  • There are 3 moral standards in human history
  • The oldest: there is no greater moral good than protecting integrity of our tribe
  • There is no greater moral good than obeying the teachings of gods
  • In secular America and the west, there is no greater moral good than protecting the freedom of individuals; origin from Christianity
  • We often ignore our soul and spirituality, because of our ego: power and safety
  • 6 stages of spiritual development
  • At stage 4, Doubting everything is the beginning of wisdom, and it’s terrifying
  • Retreating back to stage 3, easier to just follow the rules
  • Or stuck in stage 4, just dropping out of spirituality, and let ego taking over
  • Or moving on to stage 5, not so much in following rules, but more rooted in love

 

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Vignettes of Hope: New Experience

Acts 11:1-18, NRSV

Reflections

Theologically and objectively speaking, we are created in union with God from the beginning (e.g., Ephesians 1:3-9). But it is hard for us to believe or experience this without a healthy ego and boundaries. Thus, the first part of the spiritual journey is about externals, formulas, superficial emotions, flags and badges, rituals, Bible quotes, and special clothing, all of which largely substitute for an authentic spiritual experience (see Matthew 23:13-32).

— Richard Rohr, The Container and the Contents

  • Peter changed, not because of new information, but because of new experience
  • Dominator culture has tried to keep us all afraid, to make us choose safety instead of risk, sameness instead of diversity. Moving through that fear, finding out what connects us, reveling in our differences; this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values, of meaningful community. – bell hooks, Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope, 2003

 

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Vignettes of Hope: New Life

Acts 9:36-43, NRSV

Reflections

Standing in line, marking time
Waiting for the welfare dime
‘Cause they can’t buy a job
The man in the silk suit hurries by
As he catches the poor old ladies’ eyes
Just for fun he says, “get a job”
That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
Ah, but don’t you believe them

— Bruce Hornsby, The Way It Is

  • A piece of clothing that meant so much for others: when Peter visited town of Joppa, widows were weeping and showing him clothing Tabitha made before she passed away
  • There would be conservative Christians questioning when Jesus or Gospel is mentioned while work of caring for the poor is done
  • There are progressive Christians who would agree and affirm with the work, but not actually doing it or giving sacrificially themselves
  • Churches cannot be giving up, cannot be telling ourselves that’s the way it is; we need to have doors opened for the poor

 

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Vignettes of Hope: New Zeal by Joshua Jalandoon

Acts 9:1-19a, NRSV

Reflections

There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and… Your vision is distorted… That’s what hate does. You can’t see right…Hate destroys the very structure of the personality of the hater.

— Martin Luther King,
Loving Your Enemies sermon, delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church

  • Nowadays, so much passion and zeal are displayed in social media, although most are wasted and misdirected
  • Saul was so certain that he was following God, doing work according to His will
  • Comparing to Saul, and in a more subtle way, Ananias is also experiencing blindness
  • So now [Ananias] must face a decision. Do I act on a truth about someone, a truth that may put me in danger, or do I follow the word of the Lord and touch this dangerous person? Luke does not tell us whether or not Ananias was afraid of Saul but only that he was honest with God. We must not rush past his honesty with God. He reminds God that Saul is a killer, and God in turn calls Saul his vessel who will carry the name of Jesus. God sees us differently no doubt, but the question for the disciples is, Can we see with God? Can we see those who are in rumor or truth dangerous as God sees them—with a future drenched in divine desire? — Willie Jennings
  • Our sight is suffused with knowing, instead of feeling painfully the lack of knowing what we see. The principle to be kept in mind is to know what we see rather than see what we know. — Abraham Joshua Heschel

 

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Vignettes of Hope: A New Way of Seeing

Luke 19:28-40, NRSV

Reflections

Jesus authenticates his resurrection through showing his apostles the physical signs of his suffering. And that is the threat of moral authority people like Jesus pose: a firsthand experience with imperial brutality and a willingness to talk about it. “This is what happened to me” may be one of the most singularly powerful lines a person can utter.

— Broderick Greer

  • New belief that includes doubts
    • doubts that are not shortcomings
    • Jesus didn’t judge Thomas for his doubts, He offers peace
    • Honest faith with doubts and questions
    • Mary Magdalene needed to hear her name spoken in order to believe. Peter needed to hear “Peace be with you” and be forgiven to believe. Thomas needed to touch the wounded places to believe. Paul needed to be knocked off his high horse to believe. God meets us where we are. In Jesus, Mary found the One who called her by name. In Jesus, Peter found the One who forgave the past and empowered for the future. In Jesus, Thomas found the One who shares our pain and helps us transcend it. In Jesus, Paul found the One he’d been waiting for but never expected. In Jesus, I’ve found that same One. So with Mary, I say “I have seen the Lord”. With Peter, I say “Lord, you know I love you.” With Thomas, I can “My Lord and my God!” With Paul, I say “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” —Reverend Daniel Brereton
  • New belief that includes scars
    • We are have scars; some we can talk about, some we cannot
    • Scars proclaim that we live a life
    • Jesus is not ashamed of the scars
    • When we share our scars with each other, we feel less alone
    • Our scars are part of our story, but they are not its conclusion. The past is ours and will always be a part of us, and yet it is not all there is. It’s a process, moving from wounds to scars to grief to showing those scars. It takes time, and maybe therapy, and maybe being vulnerable in community, and maybe working through the twelve steps, and maybe making a lot of mistakes, and maybe experiencing a tiny bit of joy. —Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber

 

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Full to the Brim: Even The Stones Cry Out

Luke 19:28-40, NRSV

Reflections

We people are the likes of which God came to save. God did not become human and dwell among us as Jesus to save only an improved, doesn’t make the wrong choices kind of people. There is no improved version of humanity that could have done any differently. So go ahead. Don’t wait until you think your motivations are correct. Don’t wait till you are sure you believe every single line of the Nicene creed (no one does). Don’t worry about coming to church this week for the right reasons. Just wave branches. Shout praise for the wrong reason. Eat a meal. Have your feet washed. Grab at coins. Shout Crucify him. Walk away when the cock crows. Because we, as we are and not as some improved version of ourselves…we are who God came to save. And nothing can stop what’s going to happen.

— Rev. Nadia Bolz Weber

  • Expectations are resentments under construction —Anne Lamott
  • Two kinds of people were present welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday
  • Hail him and then Nail him
  • “Hail him” group of people felt being seen, even though they typically have no voice, were shouting Hosanna
  • “Nail him” group of people expected Jesus to be overthrowing political authority and rulers
  • They are more interested in worshipping Jesus, than following Jesus
  • Worshipping Jesus as a way of not following Jesus
  • Jesus was not killed by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. —Barbara Brown Taylor

 

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Full to the Brim: Brazen Acts of Beauty, by Emily Hansen Curran

John 12:1-8, NRSV

Reflections

“absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.”

— Simone Weil

  • We are often taught that this world is not our home, that it is a step before returning God, that we might not need to care so much about what we are leaving behind
  • And we might be starting to think we can just use up whatever it is here on earth
  • Wisdom is about joining inner life with our outer presence in the world — Krista Tippett ‘Becoming Wise’ is a meditation on meaning

 

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Full to the Brim: Prodigal Grace by Dr. Paula Williams

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32, NRSV

Reflections

This is the portrayal of God, whose goodness, love, forgiveness, care, joy and compassion have no limits at all. Jesus presents God’s generosity by using all the imagery that his culture provides, while constantly transforming it.

— Henri Nouwen, , The Return of the Prodigal Son

  • Unlike shame, guilt is a positive emotion
  • Guilt is when you think you have done something wrong, but shame is when you think you are bad
  • As human species, we are more interested in belonging, more than about the truth
  • We might come to our senses, and truth might set us free, but being shunned from our belonging might make us miserable
  • We need to acknowledge the abiding shadow side we all have
  • The parable is not really about the prodigal son, nor about the older son, but about the love of the Father for both his sons

 

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Full to the Brim: You are Worthy

Luke 13:1-9, NRSV

Reflections

Sometimes I wish I was the fig tree.
No fruit here, just soaking up the sun,
growing roots, turning green,
stretching out my branches until
I can hug the horizon.

Sometimes I wish I was the fig tree,
because she doesn’t produce,
and she’s not exhausted,
and she probably gets eight hours
of sleep at night.
And her branches,
unlike my shoulders,
are not heavy with work—
pulled toward the ground,
threatening to break.

And her trunk,
unlike my spine,
is not fighting to stand tall
while holding it all together.
Sometimes I wish I was the fig tree
because she knows
what I forgot
many years ago.
You are still worthy
even if
you don’t produce.

— Rev. Sarah Speed

  • The landowner in the parable, who wanted to cut down the fig tree, is more like the Roman emperor, not God
  • The story of the fig tree reminds us that the world’s expectations do not need to be ours. The gardener puts their faith in that which they have no control. Digging a bigger hole and filling it with manure, they tend to the tree with everything it needs to grow into its purpose. Perhaps this means bearing figs. Or maybe it provides shade for the laborers during the harvest, an opportunity for the gardener to tend to the fields in a new way, or transformation of the owner’s ability to see beyond the commodification of the land. — Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia
  • Jesus, like the gardener, would always be saying one more year

 

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Full to the Brim: Under God’s Wing

Luke 13:31-35, NRSV

Reflections

To be a Mother is to weep
over the fighting and exclusions and wounds
your children inflict on one another;
To long for reconciliation and brotherly love
and—when all is said and done—
To gather all parties, the offender and the offended,
into the folds of your embrace
and to whisper in their ears
that they are Beloved.

— Allison Woodard, God Our Mother

  • Mother’s love is transformative
  • Mother’s love is not afraid of getting dirty
  • Mother’s love is fierce
  • Sometimes we are not ready to receive the love all the time
  • Sometimes we doubt mother’s love is enough for all children

 

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