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 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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You Who Were Far Off (Ephesians 2:11-22)

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On Easter God said 'no' to the death-dealing powers that divide us on the basis of money, power, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and immigration status. Indeed part of the reason Jesus was killed was because he announced a new world breaking in, a completely different kind of politics that has as its primary focus the destruction of the walls that divide us—since the powers that be always have the most to gain by keeping people divided, and therefore, powerless.


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What We Need (Mark 6:1-13)

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Of course, the church seeks to meet people’s needs. But one of the most pressing needs people have is to see a vision of the world the way God envisions it—a world in which sick people, and poor people, and hungry people, and disabled people, and immigrants, and LGBTQ people, and marginalized people not only have a seat around God’s table . . . but have been made the guests of honor.

We ought to spend more energy worrying about how the church should form its community and its members as stirrers of the waters, as a sanctuary for compassion, as healers of brokenness and isolation, as lovers of all people, as Dr. Martin Luther King called us, members of the 'creatively maladjusted.'


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Hiding in the Shadows (Mark 5:21-43)

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When Jesus walks the margins looking for those who creep around the edges, he redefines the edges, so that the margins are set in the center; and it's the folks who usually occupy the center who risk finding themselves on the margins. When Jesus starts looking for people to love, he first starts with those who have for too long been hiding in the shadows.


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Who Then Is This? (Mark 4:25-31)

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And Jesus looks at this giant mess of a world and says, 'Peace. Be still'—not, like some mystical incantation, but in a sweeping new act of creation. Jesus speaks into existence the possibility of a new world of shalom, where the scales are rebalanced in favor of the poor and the powerless, where things are finally made right for the vulnerable and the dispossessed. Jesus offers the possibility of a mega-calm, the power of which, overwhelms and subdues the mega storm.

The difference is that this new act of creation places us at the center of the chaos as Jesus’ shalom. We are the word Jesus hurls against the tumult, expecting the wind and the sea to respond to our presence in the midst of the maelstrom. You and I are the power of God that Jesus expects to shelter a world buffeted by the enveloping storm.


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Remarks for the Poor Peoples Campaign

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By Derek Penwell

Power. It always comes back to power:

  • Who has it and who doesn’t.
  • What those who have it will do or fail to do with it.
  • What those who have it are willing to do to keep hold of it.
  • And on whose behalf it will be used.

Government, which is preoccupied with the strategic application of power, must continually have an answer about how and on behalf of whom power will be used.

At its worst, government exercises its power to conquer and subdue those it feels threatened by. Whether it’s the North Koreans or undocumented immigrants trying to support their families (or, God have mercy, just to keep them together), whether it’s the Iranians or African Americans sitting in Starbucks waiting on a friend, whether it’s the Syrian government or the refugees that government makes by the hundreds of thousands, or whether it’s ISIS or trans kids who just want to go to the bathroom in peace (or any kid who wants to go to school without the fear of being shot), the government has a habit of employing the power at its disposal to smack down any perceived threats.

At its worst, the military, the justice system, ICE, militarized law enforcement, private prisons are tools the government uses to beat back those threats.

But, you see, saying it that way keeps the discussion abstract. The thing of it is, those tools don’t use power abstractly; they use it on real people—the poor and the dispossessed, the marginalized and outcast, the voiceless and the vulnerable. To beat back a threat, in other words, is most often an exercise in beating down a human being.

At its best, government uses its power to work for and protect those who lackpower. At its best, government has the ability to defend the poor and the dispossessed, the marginalized and outcast, the voiceless and the vulnerable.

If you have power, you can either use it to safeguard the interests of the rich and powerful or advance the interests of the poor and powerless. If you happen to follow Jesus (a man executed by the state as a threat to the interests of the rich and powerful), as most of our politicians in Frankfort claim to do, you can’t pursue the former at the expense of the latter and still believe Jesus is smiling down on you.

To the Christians in Frankfort: You can’t beat people down in the name of the one who gave his life lifting people up.

I didn’t write the book; I’m just telling you what’s in it.

Protesting in Public (Mark 2:23-3:6)

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So why does Jesus perform his protest in the way most likely to make his opponents want to destroy him? Why not just do his good work without making waves?

Do you recognize those questions? Those are the kinds of questions I learned as a middle class suburban kid to ask of protesters when they did something outrageous. Those are the kinds of questions I might have asked of Colin Kaepernick: “Why protest in such a public and controversial way?” Or Black Lives Matter: “Why not just protest in a less confrontational way?” Or the Poor Peoples Campaign: “Is it necessary to be so disruptive?” Or the Parkland young people: “Can’t you just grieve without getting all political?”

But the problem with those questions is that they assume that everything is basically all right, and that what is needed isn’t a radical dismantling of an unjust system, but a few cosmetic tweaks. Because if we take seriously the public testimony of the marginalized and the vulnerable, we have to come to terms with the fact that we’ve participated in systems that by their very nature protect the interests of the powerful at the expense of the powerless."


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Truth as Vocation (John 17:6–19)

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I think Jesus prays that his disciples will be sanctified in truth, not as a way of 'taking them out of the world,' but as a way of embracing the world in which they live—not the world they imagine God should surely want if God were paying attention to the way things are currently situated. The disciples are looking for a world where everything turns out well for the good guys, a world where it doesn’t cost anything to follow Jesus.

But according to Jesus, this world is the one we’ve got—and God wants to save it, not the one we think is worth saving. This one . . . in all its messiness and violence and pettiness, in all of its craven sneaking around and brazen wantonness. This is the world dying for the truth.


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The Most Damaging Word for the Church (Acts 10:44-48)

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Following Jesus is scary because, according to Acts, God moves us to go to 'even the Gentiles,' to those people who might not look like us or talk like us or love like us or dress like us, and invite them to sit around God’s table, the same one that so many us were taught was reserved for people like us.

Following Jesus is scary because it asks us to live out the story about how God has shown us a vision of a new world, where the word “even” is stricken from the lexicon—a world where everyone’s welcome, without regard to their their race, their immigration status, their sexual orientation, their gender identity, or their bank account.

Following Jesus is about confronting our fear of 'those people,' and learning to love the people God loves. And, in case there was any question, God loves everyone—even the people who seem unlovable by the standards of polite society.


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The Opposite of Love (1 John 4:7-21)

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Those who trump up fear are at odds with God, whose primary action and identity is love. Preachers preach. Engineers engineer. Doctors doctor. God loves. Consequently, sowing fear against those who appear different is an act in direct opposition to God.

John says, “We love because God first loved us.” The way we typically read that passage is as an exhortation: “God loved us; therefore, we ought to also love others.”

But the older I get, the more convinced I am that it’s not an exhortation but a description: “God loved us; therefore, we are now capable of loving . . . where before we were incapable, bound up in our fear of losing our place to someone else.”

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In Truth and Action (1 John 3:16-24)

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It’s not enough to avoid hypocrisy by acting in congruence with our words—that is, it’s not enough just to be who we say we are. Realistically, who would ever argue otherwise? I mean, after all, you can say you’re a heartless jerk . . . and actually be a heartless jerk.

Moreover, we’re not just trying to be loving by some broad calculation of human niceness. Rather, we’re trying to be loving in the way Jesus was loving--the one who gave himself up, who laid down his life for those who believed their lives weren’t even worth notice.


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