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. 

The Man Born with . . . Pre-existing Conditions (I mean, blind) (John 9:1-41)

'It’s not us, it’s them' is a more palatable take on society for many people, but it’s one, I imagine, Jesus would take issue with.

That’s my principal objection to the now-dead healthcare reform. It scrambled desperately for ways to soothe people’s consciences, by implying that we should feel no responsibility to help other people find adequate healthcare, because it’s their fault for not having it in the first place. But, this is church, so let’s be honest: booting 24 million people off of healthcare should pose a problem to people who follow a guy who spent a great deal of his ministry roving about the countryside dispensing free healthcare to people who didn’t deserve it. Just ask the man born blind in our text for this morning.

Being born blind is the definition of a pre-existing condition. But according to Jesus, it should never be a pretext for finding an excuse for why helping that person to find healing is wrong."


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Make Good Choices (John 4:5-42)

And this isn’t just any unsavory Samaritan woman either. She’s at the very bottom of the social heap—a Samaritan woman whose domestic life has been epically, unthinkably, impossibly unstable. John wants us to know that she’s the first century Guinness Book of World Records-holder for powerlessness. Social status doesn’t get any worse than this poor woman.

Jesus, incapable of making good choices, goes out of his way to have an encounter with the last person on the earth he should be talking to.

But that’s Jesus, isn’t it? You can’t take him anywhere, because he’s got really bad social instincts. He spends all his time talking to the wrong people.


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Just Go (Genesis 12:1-4a)

Where does that kind of courage from—the kind that drives you to leave Ur and take a hike when you can't even see the path?

You know what I mean, right? What kind of store do you have to go to to pick up the econo-size box of audacity that will allow you to launch out into the unknown, with only the knowledge that doing so is a risk that might blow up in your face?

You could play it safe, of course. Nobody would really blame you. But somehow you know that to do so is to turn your back not only on who you are, but on the kind of world you almost don’t even dare to imagine is possible—but from which you can’t afford to avert your gaze, for fear that it will all just disappear.


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The Politics of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11)

The idea that Jesus wasn’t political is a fiction typically maintained by middle class white folks who’ve more or less benefitted from the political status quo—who have the luxury of not thinking about politics, because politics has typically been pretty good to them—and they have no reason to fear that that state of affairs won’t continue for the foreseeable future.

But if you’re among that increasingly large group of Americans who haven’t fared so well as a result of how our political systems are designed, the idea that Jesus had no interest in politics is most likely unintelligible to you. If you’re among that group of folks who have historical reason to fear the power of the political class, then maybe you feel like you can’t afford to sit back and see how everything will shake out. You’ve seen how things have 'shaken out' in the past, and you have little confidence that if you just shut up about politics things will work out fine for you and yours.


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Divided Loyalties (Matthew 6:24-34)

Have you ever been to a church in which justice is not just the securing of individual rights, but the pursuit of a vision of the reign of God in which there is no justice until it gets extended to everyone? Where the people who live in fear of what an uncertain world holds for them are more important than the people who are making laws to oppress them?


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Establishing Justice in the Earth (Isaiah 42:1-9)

derek02122017.jpg

God is a God of justice, who empowers people to live in ways that welcome all people, in ways that look after the rights of all people, in ways that ensure the safety of all people—and sometimes, in ways that ask of us to put ourselves and our bodies between the vulnerable and those who would seek to destroy them, between those whose race or religion or sexual orientation or gender identity is being threatened and the ones who brandish fear and hatred against them, between families and those who would tear them apart by ripping children from the arms of their foreign born parents.


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Invitation to Failure (Isaiah 58:1-9a)

Crowd at the Rally for American Values on January 30, 2017.

Crowd at the Rally for American Values on January 30, 2017.

We who follow Jesus make up that unbelievably weird group of people who claim to take the side of the powerless against the powerful, to worry more about securing food and housing and healthcare for the poor than securing tax breaks for the wealthy.

We’re the folks who see refugees not as terrorist threats, but as neighbors who are literally running for their lives, who see Muslims not as our religious or political competitors but as fellow seekers of God’s peace and justice for the world, who see undocumented immigrants not as sponges who suck up our resources but as families who bring vitality and worth to our lives.

In a world in which the beautiful, the influential, the successful get all the attention, we followers of Jesus opt for failure by being called to love those for whom so many others can manage only fear and hatred. But a people who follow an executed criminal can never get too caught up in what everybody else understands as success anyway.


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Where Some Do Not (Matthew 5:1-12)

DBCC sanctuary

DBCC sanctuary

Jesus announces a new order of things in which the anawim—a Hebrew word applied to those who are the very lowest in society, the huddled masses, the wretched refuse, the homeless, the tempest-tossed, the folks who live out next to the garbage dump of life (literally, the $#!& of the earth)—a new order of things in which the anawim occupy the places of honor, finally get to sit at the big people’s table, no longer handed the crumbs and the leftovers.


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The Fierce Urgency of Now (Matthew 4:12-23)

Derek and Jennifer at the Rally to Inspire in Downtown Louisville.

Derek and Jennifer at the Rally to Inspire in Downtown Louisville.

When Jesus calls us to follow him to Galilee, to the walk with the socially marginalized, do we go? Immediately?

There’s work to be done, my friends. Following Jesus as he heads into the shadows to find those people who are trying to remain invisible for fear of what will happen to them requires a sense of the 'fierce urgency of now.'

It’s not easy. Who knows what it might cost you and those you love in the coming days?

But as the activist priest Daniel Berrigan once said, 'If you want to follow Jesus you’d better look good on wood.'


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Yet Surely (Isaiah 49:1-7)

Derek and his son Dominic. 

Derek and his son Dominic. 

There are too many people looking around, seeing the good others have, and wondering why it’s been reserved for the few. They see folks with reliable health insurance, folks whose children can walk to school without fear of being bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender expression, folks who don’t fear that anytime their fathers goes out for a drive that they’re in danger of being shot. And they say together with one voice, 'You’ve got pretty good lives. That’s good for you, but what about us?'

The church can say all kinds of beautiful things. It can build beautiful buildings, and play beautiful music. It can pack the people into the pews and get itself on radio and T.V., and get invitations to rub elbows with the powerful and the well-off. But let me just say something, if the church can’t answer that question, whatever else it is, it’s not church.


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There Will Be … Surprises (Matthew 20: 1-16)

Jai Husband

Jai Husband

Jai Husband in the pulpit this week!

When we’re the establishment, it’s very difficult not to fall into the trappings of entitlement. Easily I’m talking about spirituality and religion, but I could just as well be talking about gender, sexuality, economics, politics—anytime you have the introduction of the other—into a routine or system previously established, it seems our subconscious default is the exaltation of the normative expression at the expense of and usually invalidation of other-ness. But it’s an illegitimate default as it’s built on authority derived from a projection of ownership that does not exist. IT ALL BELONGS TO THE OWNER OF THE FIELD and that is not us.

🔥


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And Rachel Weeps (Matthew 2:13-23)

Derek and his son, Samuel.

Derek and his son, Samuel.

The truth of this story, the grim portion of the Christmas story that doesn’t find its way into the Hallmark Christmas Specials, is that Jesus is born into a world that kills children to protect those in power. And we ought not to look too far down our noses at these pre-modern hayseeds from the Palestinian boondocks either. We know all about how those in power seek to trade the lives of children in order to maintain a claim on political power. Flint, Michigan is just up the road after all.

Just because we believe that the work Jesus ultimately accomplishes is precisely what this world needs, we should never be so callous as to say that it magically takes away all the pain the world experiences. As Stanley Hauerwas has said, 'The gospel—the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus—is not a consolation for those whose children are murdered. Rather, those who would follow and worship Jesus are a challenge to those who would kill children.'


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Trying to Figure It All Out (Matthew 1:18-25)

Derek and his son Dominic.

Derek and his son Dominic.

In a world that maintains such a casual relationship to violence, a taken-for-grantedness that ought to shame everyone who claims to follow a man who—when given the chance—chose to endure violence rather than inflict it, we need a dangerous mercy, a world altering generosity, the kind that turns reality on its head.

We need a new way of locking arms with those who are too often the targets of cruelty, those who live in fear that the bigwigs who run the show will notice them and begin to stoke the fires of fear and hatred against them—a kindness so destabilizing that the world, as it’s presently ordered, can’t contain it.


Apologies for some of the recording hiccups. You can fill in the missing pieces below in the manuscript.

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Welcome One Another (Romans 15:4-13)

Derek and his son, Samuel. 

Derek and his son, Samuel. 

How can we ever expect the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Hutus and the Tutsis, the Indians and the Pakistanis, the Chinese and the Taiwanese (or the Tibetans), the United States and the Afghanis to live together peaceably if the church doesn’t show them what that might look like?

The church offers hope to the world precisely to the extent that God establishes the church to give the world a glimpse of the new world God has in store—a world in which wolves and lambs lay down together, a world in which Jews and Gentiles claim one another as family, a world in which black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight are no longer epithets to keep one another at arm’s length, a world in which Muslims and immigrants and refugees don’t have to spend their lives always looking over their shoulder for people determined to fear and hate them, a world in which that which unites us is always stronger than that which divides us.


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