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. 

Nevertheless, She Persisted (Luke 18:1-8)

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Setting aside for a moment Luke’s focus on prayer, in this parable Jesus takes aim at a state of affairs in which the powerless find themselves repeatedly at the mercy of those who have power over them. Jesus is, in other words, indicting a system in which widows can’t assume they’ll receive justice. In order to find it, they have to make spectacles of themselves, embarrassing and shaming the powerful who are supposed not only to know better, but to be better.

In other words, Jesus attacks a system in which justice is only for those who can afford it. And unfortunately, this kind of system flourishes because it flies under the radar. When nobody speaks out against it, the big shots in power get to keep fleecing those who have no power to defend themselves. Silence is a boon to injustice, which requires for its survival that nobody make it public.


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What If We Welcomed Them? (Luke 15:1-10)

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Who are we making angry because we love the wrong people?

This is a question we need to have an answer to right now as transgender people are being harassed because they want to use a bathroom one of the morality hall monitors doesn’t approve of, and LGBTQ kids are being bullied—to death, in many cases—because they happen to be attracted to people the religious big wheels don’t endorse.

How exactly do we love the people some of our fellow citizens are comfortable putting in cages?

Which people do we care about so much that we’re willing to risk the wrath of the folks in charge just to welcome them, to have a meal with them, to call them our family—event though they were born someplace else?


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Counting the Cost (Luke 14:25-33)

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And once again, Jesus is just baffling. Notice here that we find Jesus once again throwing up roadblocks to following him. In one breath he says, “If you’re invited to the party, don’t make excuses not to come.” In the next breath he says, “If you’re invited to the party, don’t come if you don’t think you can handle the conga line.”*

So which is it? Follow or stay home? It’s kind of difficult to figure out what you’re driving at here, Jesus. Kind of passive/aggressive, don’t you think? Come, don’t come?

But part of the reason Jesus puts out this disclaimer is that too often what people think they want is ease-of-use, friction-free, pre-packaged, no muss—no fuss, no ironing necessary.

But Jesus knows that there are some hardy souls who aren’t in the market for easy; they want interesting. The kind of people Jesus is appealing to are looking for meaning, purpose, adventure.


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It's Always about Politics (Luke 14:1, 7-14)

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The world we live in tells us that the way we order our lives, who gets to sit in first class and who has to clean up after the party, isn’t a matter for religion. But Jesus says that our faith is precisely about seating charts and who makes them and who gets to sit where.

The world we live in tells us that we should only invite to the party those who deserve to be there, those who can invite us back. But Jesus says, nobody deserves to be there (not you … not me), so you’d better invite everybody. And when they get there, you’re going to have to redraw the seating chart.


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The Liberation of Sabbath (Luke 13:10-17)

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Think about it: this woman hasn’t been able to look anyone in straight in the face for 18 years. She couldn’t stand up straight. She’s hobbled her way through life in a permanent bow. Her view of the world has consisted largely of staring at everyone else’s footwear.

Then Jesus comes along and offers her liberation from a life of pain and humiliation, freedom from the suffering and the sidelong glances, welcoming her back into full participation in a community she has been excluded from for 18 years—because of her affliction.

That’s right, not only did she suffer from a debilitating physical condition, she would have been denied access to the life everyone else in the community took for granted—because she would have been viewed as broken in a religious context that required health and wholeness. In healing her, Jesus gave her back her life.*


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When the World's on Fire (Luke 12:49-56)

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And as painful as it is, Jesus says that in order for the fire of transformation to be kindled—that is, the fire of God’s change in the world—we have to speak the truth about the new world God desires.

We live in a world where division feels inevitable; but Jesus announces a world where divisions are healed—not by passively ignoring injustice, but by shining a light on it.

We live in a world that feels like it needs the fire of God’s transformation, a new way of living together.


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Maybe Charity's the Problem (Luke 12:32-40)

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If you notice in our Gospel this morning, Jesus doesn’t try to impress on his disciples how much better off the poor will be if they receive alms. He’s not trying to persuade his followers that those who are without need charity. Jesus wants to call his followers into the new world he’s announcing, where there is enough for everyone, where people share as a matter of course, into a world that needs them to give their lives and their resources away before they calculate people’s needs—because what’s at the heart of this world is becoming the kind of people whose primary need is to participate in the solidarity that comes from giving.


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That's Not the Prayer I Remember (Luke 11:1-3)

As I’ve grown older, it’s become clear to me that the Lord’s Prayer—far from being about stuff “out there” in some gauzy unbounded ether, or as a prayer about my personal relationship with Jesus—was about the very real and gritty kinds of things that happen right here, where we worry about things such as getting grandma’s outrageously expensive medication, or making sure that our LGBTQ kids won’t get beat up and harassed on the school bus, or how our African American friends and neighbors will survive traffic stops, or whether our Muslim coworkers will have their mosques vandalized, or if our Latinx family will wake up to find someone missing, or whether that’s the bill collector on the phone.


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The Gift of Life (Luke 7:1-17)

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We followers of Jesus are called to follow him into the heart of hell to shake loose the bars of oppression and death, setting loose the captives and freeing the oppressed—not because we’re capable of fixing those things, but because we follow one who’s calling into being a new world where those things no longer lay people low. Like Jesus, we’re called to be prophets of true life—who refuse to acknowledge that death is in charge.

Jesus, in walking among the dead and the dying, takes a stance against a world enamored of the spectacular, and aligns himself with the decidedly unspectacular—the poor, the outcast, the widowed, and the orphaned, with the unemployed and the uninsured, with the people forced to live in the cages we pay for—with all of those who’ve been forgotten.


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It Depends on Which Kingdom (Luke 10:1-11, 16-20)

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One of the primary ways in which the kingdom Jesus’ disciples announces is different from the coercive kingdoms of this world is that the first thing they’re supposed to say when they go to a stranger’s house is, “Peace to this house!”

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, in Roman occupied Palestine, everybody already knew what peace looked like in the hands of the powerful. The Pax Romana was a peace imposed on the weak by the dominant, a peace that benefitted the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and dispossessed. But the peace that these disciples offer doesn’t rely on the ability to impose its will on others; it’s a peace from a kingdom that relies on a commitment to vulnerability and the trust that there is enough for all of us, if we share what we have.


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The Reign of God (Luke 9:51-62)

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We walk with Jesus toward Jerusalem, knowing that Jerusalem doesn’t just exist in the heart of the Middle East. The Jerusalem toward which Jesus heads is everywhere—from the U.S.-Mexico border to the West Side of Louisville.

Jerusalem is wherever those in power steal bread from the hungry and slake their thirst with the tears of the forgotten.

Jerusalem is wherever the vulnerable live in fear and the dispossessed die in despair.

Jerusalem is wherever people suffer and die because of the color of their skin, or the object of their affections, or the country of their origin, or the God to whom they pray.


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Crossing Borders (Luke 8:26-39)

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Legion’s still in power wherever the poor are kept in their poverty by those who believe they have everything to gain and nothing to lose, wherever children are bullied, and the elderly are forgotten.

Legion still lives wherever people are made to believe that the way they have been created by God is not good enough—either for God or for us.

Legion still runs the show whenever little children are kept in concentration camps without toothpaste, soap, and mattresses—while the folks in charge stoke the fears of the credulous.


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Which God? (Acts 17:22-31)

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What Paul’s getting at is that after Easter, if it’s true that we’ve been given the assurance that “by raising [Jesus] from the dead” God has said “no” to the the systems that sacrifice our children, then we have a story about a new world that we can’t keep to ourselves.

In a world willing to pray to any god who promises to keep us safe from people who don’t look like us, in a world where the music of our worship sounds like the ticking of a time clock, or the growl of an SUV, in a world in which we tithe our time and money to gods defined by national boundaries or party affiliations, we have good news about a new world God is busy creating that we can’t keep to ourselves—even knowing that in proclaiming it we risk looking like the very people we privately roll our eyes at.


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A Whole New Set of Problems (Acts 2:1-21)

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The great paradox of Pentecost is that we find ourselves not by hunkering down, trying to avoid the pain of a world that feels like it will swallow us whole, but by being led by the Holy Spirit out into that world for the sake of those who need the kind of disruption the Spirit always seems to stir up.

Pentecost doesn’t necessarily solve our problems; it confronts us with a whole new set of problems.


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That They May Be One (John 17:20-26)

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Jesus prays that his followers might be one not for their sake, but for the sake of the world—which is, as we’ve said, fundamentally divided. He prays for unity for those who follow him, first as a sign to the world that he is who he said he is.

If the world is ever to take Jesus seriously, in other words, it has to quit seeing us as wall-builders, as constructers of barriers, as those more willing to exclude than include.

To the extent that those who claim to follow Jesus have continued the divisions—male/female, black/white, straight/gay, citizen/immigrant, deserving/undeserving—we’ve alerted the world that it need not take us seriously. Christians have sent out the signal to the rest of the world that we’re just like everybody else: willing to declare war on whomever and whatever we can’t figure out how to fit in the tent.


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A Different Kind of Peace (John 14:23-29)

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Roman peace rigs the system to benefit only the folks who were already born on third base. But the shalom Jesus gives is a different kind of peace; it draws the defenseless to his breast and extends a healing hand to the despised.

Roman peace views anyone who’s at all different as a potential threat, an incipient enemy of the kingdom. But the shalom Jesus offers sees those the world has called “other” and places them at the center of the life of a new kingdom that embraces the vulnerable and the stranger.

Roman peace ensures the wealth and security of the “one percent.” But the shalom on the lips of Jesus secures justice for those who’ve lived their whole lives without being able to take justice for granted.


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How Will They Know? (John 13:31-35)

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"I’ve seen people proclaim their love in some pretty suspicious ways.

"I’ve seen women with bruises all over their bodies, permanently scarred on their souls from having been “loved” too intensely by the men in their lives.

"I’ve seen homeless LGBTQ kids who’ve been “loved” out into the street by families with Jesus dripping from their lips.

"I’ve seen women clothed in shame by people who loudly proclaim their “love,” as these women seek to make decisions about their health, their bodies, and their lives.

"I’ve seen people kicked off food stamps by Christian politicians who announce their “love” with words like “personal responsibility” and “incentivizing the poor.”

"I’ve seen people who claim to follow Jesus “love” immigrants by putting their children in cages.

"Love, at least the way it gets enacted in our world, appears to be a much more malleable concept than we like to believe."


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