Monthly Archives: August 2009

Love is an Orientation

Love is an Orientation (John 8:1-11)

8:1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Jean Vanier, in his book Drawn Into The Mystery of Jesus, writes that this scene presents Jesus with a test, in which, he can either contradict the law, which demanded the death of an adulterous woman, or contradict his own message of forgiveness.  Instead he simply writes something in the sand but we are never told what he writes.
 
In the ANE, only women were tried for adultery.  They were largely treated as “non-entities” by the religious leaders but not by Jesus.  Who falls into that category today? It seems to be that it is the Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) community.
 
The Marin Foundation (http://www.themarinfoundation.org/) has conducted the largest scientific survey on the spiritual attitudes of members of the GLBT community.  Among their findings:
 
86% of the GLBT community grew up in a church.
 
73% no longer attend a church although many engage in “alternative spiritual pursuits.”
 
Why did they leave? The top 5 reasons are:
       

17.2% because of the church’s stance on homosexuality

16.2% because they believe religion is “destructive, deceitful & hypocritical.”

15.2% Not interesting.

12.1% Disagree with other doctrines or beliefs.

10%    because they no longer believed in God or a higher power.

 
Yet, 1/3 of those who left are willing to give church another shot but what will it take?  Again, according to Marin,
 
1) Patience & time.
2) A non-judgmental community
3) Support of family & friends
4) A place where they can feel God’s love
5) Teaching that is easily understood
 
But how do you handle the initial hostility of the GLBT community?
 
Marin lists the big 5 questions and recommendations on how to deal with them:
 
Do you think gays and lesbians are born that way? I don’t care.
 
Do you think homosexuality is a sin? I think we all sinners guilty of all sins (James 2:10).
 
Can a GLBT person change their sexual orientation? Jesus changes everyone who follows him.  I don’t know how he’ll change you.
 
Do you think someone can be gay and Christian? Can a person be a sinner and a Christian? 
 
Are GLBT people going to hell? Heaven or hell is largely determined not by what we do but by what Jesus has done (2 Cor. 5:21). 

Please understand that this approach is not about affirming homosexuality.  I (Matt) take a conservative stance on what the Bible teaches about homosexuality but it is about following Jesus in elevating the conversation and trusting the spirit to do it’s work. 
 
What did Jesus write in the sand? No one knows but I think the message of whatever he wrote was “we are all broken” and that we need to treat each other as such.
 
Recommended Reading: Love is an Orientation by Andrew Marin

6a00d8341f9dc153ef01157075a436970b-320wiPick it up!

This Sunday Night at Revolution…

we continue our study of the Gospel of John with chapter 8:1-11. My sermon is entitled, “Love is an Orientation.”

Afterwards, Ryan Rolfe & The World’s Most Dangerous Praise Band will lead us in worship.

Revolution meets every Sunday night at 315 Chillicothe Street in Portsmouth, Ohio.

6:30 p.m. for Coffee & Community. I’ll be spinning the new Skillet release “Awake” during that half hour. Justin Clark will bring the main gathering to order around 7:00 p.m. We usually finish around 8:15.

 As always, I hope to see you there. Come as you are.

Revolution: It’s not a church, it’s a movement.

Doubt Sunday

The Fidelity of Doubt
 

In the movie “Doubt,” the priest played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman is targeted by the nun played by Meryl Streep after preaching the sermon on “doubt.”  Streep is convinced that anyone who doubts must be hiding something.

If you were raised in the church like I was then you’ve known your share of  Christians like the sister played by Streep. 

In the 7th Chapter of John, we read that Jesus’ own family didn”t believe in him (John 7:5) even though they’ve known the sinless, son of God all their lives.
 
The people of Israel didn’t believe in him either (John 7:14-31) despite the fact that he performs one messianic sign after another.
 
The religious leaders didn’t believe in him (John 7:32-52) despite his obvious command of the Hebrew Bible.
 
Yet, despite all of this, Jesus doesn’t give up.  He continues to teach, preach, heal, etc. Why?
 
We tend to view doubt in the church as a fault, even as betrayal but should we?
 
As N.T. Wright has pointed out, the Greek word for faith doesn’t mean “belief” as in “I believe in everything in the Bible like I believe that water is wet and the sky is blue” but means trust in- and loyalty to- and one doesn’t need to place their trust in a certainty.  We must trust that which is not completely certain.  Thus, doubt is intrinsic to faith. 
 
In fact, doubt actually deepens faith.  A person who simply accepts everything they are taught as it is taught in church may be an ego boost for the teaching minister but is usually pretty shallow and a broken world doesn’t need a cold splash from a puddle but access to a deep well of truth.  A person who doubts is a person who takes his or her faith seriously enough to do so.
 
I freely admit to my own doubts…what about you?
 
This week at Revolution everyone wrote down their doubts (myself included) and then we took them up in offering plates and laid them on the altar before God.

Why?
 
Revolution must be a community where doubts can be openly expressed without any fear.

It is unfortunate that this isn’t the case in every church.  Christians like the character played by Meryl Streep in “Doubt” also suffer from unbelief, they just don’t want to admit it and they strike out at others who do.  Maybe they do so because they fear doubt and our unnerved when they see it in others.
 

One of the reasons Revolution is committed more to orthopraxy (following Jesus) than orthodoxy (believing the right things about Jesus) is that we believe one cannot truly know Jesus unless he or she follows in Christ’s footsteps by going to where and to whom he would go but it also reinforces our belief that once you state “here is what we believe” that there is a risk that the statement will become something to be defended rather than something to be lived out. 
 
 
Not buying this? Take a look at the man in  Mark 9:24? That’s where I live–somewhere between belief and unbelief. 

How about you?

This Sunday Night at Revolution…

This Sunday night at Revolution is Doubt Sunday and will feature a special kick off. Come see what it’s all about.

We also return to our study of the Gospel of John. We will pick back up with Chapter 7.

After the sermon, Ryan Rolfe & The World’s Most Dangerous Praise Band will lead us in worship.

Revolution meets every week at 315 Chillicothe Street in Portsmouth.

Coffee & Community kicks off at 6:30. I’ll be spinning songs of doubt and then a special kick off at 7:00 p.m.

 Everyone is welcome. Come as you are.

Revolution: Worship-Grow-Serve.

The Revolution is Online…

The new Revolution web page has launched.  Check it out here:

http://therevolutiononline.org/

A Field Guide To A Revolution

Do you read your Bible? If polls are correct then most of you don’t.

Why?

The Bible strikes even those raised in the church as (1) boring or (2) oppressive.
 
I used to think the same thing even after I became a Christian and entered seminary.

Then I discovered Narrative theology, which approaches the Bible as a grand story, instead of a collection of proof texts. 

Narrative theology is informed by teaching and by reflection on the story by a community rather than by individual during their “quiet times.”
 
Such an approach was a revelation to me but still seemed incomplete.

Years later, I was viewing a series of DVDs produced by Ray Vander Laan’s ministries and discovered the following:

*First century Jews viewed the Old Testament as a book that breathed life.  Rabbis referred to it as “the way, the truth and the life.”  It was viewed with such awe and reverential joy that when scrolls were removed from their cases to be read at worship, the attendant rabbi and the people danced as it was lead to the stage.
  
*Bet Sefer: At age 6 all Jewish boys went off to school to memorize the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy).
 
*Bet Talmud: At age 11 the best students from Bet Sefer were chosen to memorize the rest of the Old Testament. 
 
*Talmudine: At age 14 the best of the best could sit at the feet of a rabbi to apply to be his “disciple.”  This would involve an intense Q&A session.
 
-To be taken as a disciple of a rabbi was considered the greatest honor a Jew could achieve. 
 
-The disciples would take their master’s “yoke upon themselves” and follow the rabbi everywhere he went.  The idea was to become like the rabbi in every way.   In fact, first century Jews would say, “Follow a rabbi, drink in his words, and be covered in the dust of his feet.”  A disciple became covered in the dust of his rabbi’s feet by following him closely.

Now back to it, Matthew 28:16-20 reads,

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

As Matt Chandler notes, Jesus commands us to make disciples not “converts.”  He wants men and women who follow him so closely that they are covered in his dust. 

The Bible presents a grand story of redemption but also one to live out in order to follow our master.  Disciple should especially drink in the Gospels as they present the life and death of Jesus as the model for our own lives here and now.  Taken as such, the Bible is not just a collection of things to memorize and affirm but is a field guide to a revolution. 
 
So open your Bibles, take the words and actions of Jesus seriously and may we all be covered in the dust of our rabbi.

This Sunday Night at Revolution…

I’ll preach a stand alone sermon about the Bible entitled “The Book that Breathes New Life” and then Ryan Rolfe & The World’s Most Dangerous Praise Band will lead us in worship.

Revolution meets every week at 315 Chillicothe Street in Portsmouth, OH (just look for the sign).

We have Coffee & Community at 6:30 and Justin Clark will bring things to order around 7:00pm. We are usually finished no later than 8:15.

Come as you are.

PS–Will be spinning the new Thrice release “Beggars” during Coffee & Community.

Posted by Matt, Revolution Leadership Team

Revolution: Worship-Grow-Serve.

Mission of God Accomplished

In the beginning there was a garden and a tree here on earth.  God was there.  People were there.  There was no other place (Gen. 2:8-9).

 In the end, there is a garden and a tree here on earth.  God will be there.  People will be there.  There is no other place (Rev. 21-22).

 So, we live between the trees but the question is how do we live? How do we live in a way that is faithful to God? What is our goal? What is our mission?

 What have we seen far? 

 After God creates a good & beautiful universe, people corrupt it by rebelling against their creator culminating in violence and the quest to seek not just vengeance but vengeance “seventy-seven fold” (Gen. 4:24). 

So, God decides to start over (Gen. 6) but even that new beginning falters (Gen. 11).

 Yet, God refuses to give up.  He calls Abraham to serve as the catalyst for his resurrection rescue plan (Gen. 12:1-3).

He chooses Abraham for very good reasons for he trusts God (Gen. 12:1) and is the type of man who prays for his enemies even those who oppress and rape (Gen. 18:22-33).

 God even rescues Abraham’s children from an evil empire (Exodus 3:7-12) where their worth and identity is in making bricks to a mission to save the world. 

Yet , Israel rebels and seeks to establish it’s own empire.  God, however, in his radical faithfulness to His people and His plan, calls them back to mission through the prophets.

 By the time of Jesus there were essentially 4 different views as to how to live in between the trees:

 -The Pharisees who believed they needed to be the moral police so that God would have no choice but to bless them.

 -The Zealots who believed that it was time to grab a weapon and eliminate the enemy.

 –The Essenes who can be viewed either as the hippie/Jesus people who separate and wait for things to be groovy or the fundamentalist sectarians.

 -The Sadducees who believed that you just go along to get along to enjoy your best life now and make a few bucks on the way.

 -Then there was the way presented by Jesus… 

Matt. 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. 

 –the way of Jesus involves many things and one of the toughest is forgiveness and non-violent resistance. 

Why should we refuse to take vengeance? Why risk being taken advantage of? Being ridiculed? Looking weak?

Because we believe in something.

We believe that in the end, there will be a resurrection.  In the end, there will be a judgment.  In the end, there will be an eternity here on earth where weak is strong.  In the end, we will see that our sacrifices meant something.  In the end, we will see that praying for our enemies meant something.  In the end, we will see that prophetically calling the church back to misssion as well as visiting the sick, feeding the hungry and turning the other cheek is a means of victory not defeat.  In the end, love wins.  Love always wins.

This Sunday Night at Revolution…

Revolution is new and improved with Air Conditioning! That’s right, no more sweat box Sundays! 

This week we will wrap up the series The Mission of God with “Love Wins: Mission of God Accomplished.” 

Ryan Rolfe & The World’s Most Dangerous Praise Band will then lead us in worship.

Revolution meets every Sunday night at 315 Chillicothe Street in Portsmouth. 

Coffee & Community begins at 6:30 and Justin Clark will call things to order with some announcements around 7:00.  We are usually done no later than 8:15.

During Coffee & Community this week, I’ll be spinning new music from Skillet, Thousand Foot Krutch, Red, Capital Lights and others.

I hope to see you there.  Come as you are.

Posted by Matt, Revolution Leadership Team.

Revolution: Worship-Grow-Serve.

The Mission of God = The Way of Jesus

The Mission of God: The Way of Jesus

Within a 24-hour period Jesus was: (1) lied about (Mark 14:56); (2) spit upon (Matt. 26:67); (3) beaten (Mark 14:65); (4) made fun of (Luke 23:11); (5) unjustly convicted (Matt. 27:22-23); (6) flogged (Mark 15:15); (7) stripped naked (Matt. 27:28); (8) clubbed on the head (Matt. 27:30) (9) disowned by his closest friend (Mark 14:71); and (10) murdered (Mark 15:37). *How does he respond? He asks for something to drink (John 19:28) and then he forgives (Luke 23:34, 43).

Did Jesus have a choice to do something else? Of course! See Matt. 26:53.

Yet, Jesus states that the only ones worthy of following him will do the same as he did (Matt. 10:38-39).

This opportunity presents itself to followers of Jesus everyday in many, many ways.

Does this mean you are to be a doormat? No!

We always name the wrong, we always seek systems of justice to prevent pain & oppression and even turning the other cheek is form of courageous resistance.

Forgiveness is a step toward true justice and reconciliation. Forgiveness is not reconciliation itself. One may forgive and not reconcile.

If nothing else, we must always remind ourselves that justice will be done (Romans 12:14-21).

Without forgiveness darkness and evil spread.

“Nobody is more dangerous than a victim.” Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be

“It is a fact that cannot be denied: the wickedness of others becomes our own wickedness because it kindles something evil in our own hearts.” Carl Jung.

Thus, forgiveness is a powerful form of repentance.

“For a victim to repent means not to allow the oppressors to determine the terms under which social conflict is carried out.” Miroslav Volf Exclusion and Embrace

“Victims need to repent of the fact that all too often they mimic the behavior of the oppressors, let themselves be shaped in the mirror image of the enemy.” Miroslav Volf Exclusion and Embrace

Such an approach may still frighten you. 

After all, it means suffering, it means looking “weak”, it means potentially being taken advantage of.

Moreover, where do you take your anger? To God. The Psalms are filled with angry shouts to God! (See Psalms 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137 and 139).

Even if we die at the hands of evil, the resurrection of Jesus and the promise of a resurrection for each of his followers means that love wins. Love always wins!

Peter Rollins records a parable, in How (Not) To Speak of God, of a lone priest in a remote church who late one nights receives a visit from the Devil himself.

Satan asks to come into the sanctuary and the priest welcomes him. Lucifer begins to destory the inside of the church while the priest prays on his knees in peace.

The devil then demands a meal, which the priest graciously supplies while the demon curses him.

After devouring the meal, Satan asks the priest for one more thing.

 “Of couse,” says the priest, “whatever is mine is yours.”

“I want your heart!” demands Lucifer. “Of course,” says the priest but then Satan walked into the night disheartened because he knew he could not enter the priest’s heart for there was no room for him there.

Followers of Jesus need to stop mirroring a broken, fallen world caught in a spiral of hate and violence by keeping their eye on a horizon in which, in the end, love wins. Love always wins.