Douglass Blvd Christian Church

an open and affirming community of faith

n open and affirming community where faith is questioned and formed, as relationships are made and upheld. 

Unsettling the World (Luke 3:1-6)

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Luke’s quoting of Isaiah isn’t meant to help us visualize a flatter, smoother world, or to help us to feel better about the hilly, bumpy world we live in. In this context John the Baptist’s call to repentance isn’t about trying to be more sincere about our remorse. It’s about shaking up the world as it’s currently situated, so that something new can be born.

In Luke’s hands these words are about tearing things up, about unsettling the way things are currently arranged. But this time around, what’s going to be disrupted, what’s going to be toppled aren’t hills and valleys in the wilderness that stand between Israel and home, but the powers and principalities that stand between God’s people and the future God has planned—between the way things are and the reign of God, the way things ought to be.


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Breaking Through the Numbness (Luke 21:25-36)

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Apocalyptic is always a difficult word for those used to a world that serves them. People at the top of the food chain, people satisfied just fine with the way things are, don’t want to hear that things are about to be shaken up.

But there are other people for whom such news is a long awaited word of redemption, a bit of hope in a dark place. Those on the bottom, the small and the forgotten, those who have little to gain from the preservation of the present arrangements, get all kinds of hopeful upon hearing Jesus talk about a new world designed with them first in mind.


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Adjusting Our Expectations (Luke 23:33-43)

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Not only does God not respond to us with violence—God, in Jesus, has a front row seat to the very systems of domination that deal in the kind of death Jesus suffers—the kinds of death people continue to suffer at the hands of the wealthy and the powerful—the very people Jesus announces from the beginning that his new reign will lift up: the poor, the prisoners, the blind, and the oppressed.

It’s hard to imagine Luke getting any further away from our established understandings of what constitutes a viable kingdom in our world. After all, crosses don’t make good political mascots."

Editors note: Please forgive a few techincal difficulties.


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What Will Be the Sign?

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"Look at popular Christianity and you’ll find that what many people want out of faith is not a way to relinquish control. Many Christians don’t live as though they believe God is in charge even when they don’t understand how it’s all going to work out. Instead, people often look to faith for a way to order their existences…a way that will inoculate them against pain.

"But we trivialize the gospel when we convince ourselves that it’s possible to be a disciple of Jesus without it ever costing us anything."


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Everything She Had

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We need to advocate for a just economic system that looks out for the needs of those on the margins, that refuses to devour widows houses—that refuses to make the poor feel like they’re not full participants until they cough up their last five bucks until payday.

But in the meantime, we need to work like crazy to be a church worthy of the kind of financial sacrifices people make.


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What If Love Isn't a Second Hand Emotion?

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And the fact that Jesus links love for neighbor and love for God together suggests that the way we love God is through our love for our neighbors. Jesus doesn’t offer up some vague notion of love that centers first on our ability to muster up the correct emotional responses.

In fact, if we’re ever going to feel love, then, in all likelihood, we’re going to have to act lovingly first.

The secret of love that our culture seems not to know is that the feelings of love generally follow loving action; they don’t necessarily precede them. It is easier, as the saying goes, to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.


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Just a Crumb (Mark 7:24-37)

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I love the idea that the Jesus I’ve spent my life learning how to follow is big enough to allow himself to be stretched by a Gentile woman with a sick kid—about the very last person in the whole world Jesus ought to be taking religious instruction from.

I love the idea that Jesus is big enough to listen for the voice of God in even the most unlikely places—not in the institutions busy authorizing and credentialing everything, making sure that it meets all the government standards for cage free, free range faith.

But here’s what I want to propose: I think this Syrophoenician woman challenges us to encounter newness and change not as a threat, but as God trying to break in among us and stretch our understanding of how big this welcome is we’re supposed to be giving, how expansive is the vision of just who God wants to offer hospitality to."


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Clawing Our Way up to Middle Management (Mark 10:35-45)

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Popular Christianity promises a Jesus who wants to be your pal, a Jesus who doesn’t want you to be inconvenienced, a Jesus whose real concern is that all your biases are continually reconfirmed for you. A Jesus who knows what true glory looks like. And, let me tell you, that would be a whole lot easier on me.

But unfortunately, I’m not good enough at this to give you that Jesus. Instead, I’m so incompetent at my job that all I can manage to figure out how to give you is a Jesus who seeks out the small, the irrelevant, and the marginal. I’m only skilled enough to show up on Sunday mornings with a Jesus who thinks glory looks like losing, sacrificing, and dying on behalf of those everybody else walked away from a long time ago. I hope once again that you’ll forgive me my vocational inadequacies.


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The Question Is: Who Gets into the Party? (Mark 9:38-50)

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Let me put it this way, in the reign of God not only do I want everyone included, I want it so badly that I don’t want anything to stand in the way. I don’t want your need to have final approval on God’s guest list to be an obstacle to them knowing they’re welcome to the party.

Moreover, I don’t want your zeal to scare off the people who’ve spent so much time convinced that they’re not welcome at any party—let alone one thrown by God. And, just so you know, your judgmentalism isn’t helping. It’s scaring off the people I’m most interested to see have a seat at the head table.


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Abide—in the Active Voice (John 15:1-5)

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Abiding, which on the surface feels so passive, is just the opposite. If we abide in Jesus, if we live out the vision of the world he sees, we can’t help but take on the work of dismantling the systems that result in the shedding of the lifeblood of the poor and the outcry of the oppressed. We have no choice but to stand against the powers that foreclose on the futures of the defenseless, in the service of adding to the stockpiles of their own avarice.

Abiding, at least as Jesus imagines it, is the greatest act of communal resistance there is.


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There Was No One (Ephesians 6:10-20)

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When Paul says that our struggle isn’t against enemies of flesh and blood, but agains the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places—he’s not talking about some other worldly weirdness. The cosmic powers of this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places aren’t some kind of super demon army, some version of Indiana Jones and the Flaming Arrows of the Evil one.

And he’s not talking about our personal demons for which we need a mystical Batmobile and sanctified kevlar. He"s talking about the powers and principalities that institutionalize injustice and subjugation right here, right now.

The kind of powers and principalities that let LGBTQ people die alone with no one to speak their name, the kind of spiritual forces of evil that have systematically terrorized African Americans for four hundred years, the cosmic powers of this present darkness that lock immigrant children not in spiritual prisons tended by celestial guards, but in actual cages tended by agents of Caesar.


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The Economy of God (1 Samuel 15:34-16:13)

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We’re conditioned, socialized to the see the world through lenses that magnify everything. Ministers often keep score the way everyone else does.

What we rarely stop to ask ourselves is whether, in all our scorekeeping and advanced measure-taking, we’re keeping score of the right things, measuring the stuff that really matters.


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Food that Endures (John 6:24-35)

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Eternity can, of course, mean in the great forever in the future—some endless span of time. But eternity doesn’t just have to be about the length of time; it can signify the depth of time, which is to say the quality of time. In that sense, then, food that endures for eternal life can be about food that deepens the quality of time right here and now by having enough, so that people no longer need to follow a potential messiah around the wilderness in constant search for a little relief from the hunger that besets them—so that eternity can begin to break into the world right now.

Notice that Jesus doesn’t talk about bread that lasts forever; he offers bread that endures for eternal life.


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The Bread We Need (John 6:1-21)

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Jesus in this meal isn’t just—as Pastor Bob says— 'staying out of politics and unconditionally loving, comforting & healing all the hurt and damaged people.' In feeding the 5,000 Jesus disrupts one of the political and economic tools the powerful use to keep the peasants in their place—hunger and scarcity. And in so doing, Jesus offers up a political challenge to the ruling authorities.

That’s why Jesus was always getting sideways with the Romans. His ministry was by its very nature a threat to the political and economic status quo. In other words, in accounting for his conflict with and eventual execution by the Roman state, we have to come up with a picture of Jesus as something other than a nice guy dispensing Deepak Chopra-nuggets of wisdom. If that’s all he were, the Romans would have loved him. It’s because they understood the political implications of his teaching that they killed Jesus.


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