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 Cost of Following Jesus (Matthew 28:16-20)

Keep this in mind when you bring your children to church: You may not be prepared for the consequences. It can be dangerous to have your children hang out with Jesus because, if they do, someday they might just hear his voice. They might drop their nets and follow him, and then one day head out into a world that doesn’t want to hear what they have to say about how God wants to see the world work.

They start talking about things like loving gay people and trans people the same as everyone else, and looking out for poor people (even the ones everyone else says don’t deserve it), they start talking about things like refusing to be silent when black men and women die in the streets—just because of the color of their skin, and not cooperating with authorities who want to split up the families of undocumented immigrants . . . they start talking about stuff like that, stuff they hear in this place in the middle of Sunday morning worship . . . and take it from me, they’re going to run into people who don’t like it. They’re going to make respectable people uncomfortable. They’re going to make the people in charge nervous.


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The Creatively Maladjusted (Acts 2:1-21)

I’ve spoken with Christians who’re convinced that it’s not politically expedient to call for a beloved community that protects African Americans and LGBTQ people, that includes our Muslim neighbors, our refugee neighbors, our immigrant neighbors—even though this constituency recognizes, as Dr. King reminds us, 'the natural impatience of people who feel their hopes are slow in being realized.' These timid folks believe that taking any kind of a stand will be heavy-handed and disruptive, while failing to realize that, if the Holy Spirit is in our midst, heavy-handed disruption of the existing unjust order is not the thing we wait for the right time to pursue, but the very thing we lead, empowered and emboldened by the Holy Spirit who breaks in on us with an apocalyptic mini-tornado, the one who sets the shape and trajectory of our ministry.

The prophet Joel says to all the people made prophets by God's Spirit: 'And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.' And there’s nothing politically expedient about that."

Apologies for the sound hiccup.


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You Will See Me (John 14:15-21)

We live in a world where people of color need someone to stand up and take some blows for them from a world that has too often focused its violence and hatred on their bodies, where undocumented immigrants need someone to stand between them and a system designed to devour their families, where Muslims need people like us to stand arm-in-arm around their mosques to keep out the forces that want to consume them, where LGBTQ people need someone to stand by their side as they seek to make their way through a world that too often would rather they just go away, where people need all of us to stand up for their children and their parents with pre-existing conditions.

You want to know what the Holy Spirit looks like? You want concrete instead of abstraction? Look for the advocates.


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A Different Reality (Acts 7:55-60)

But I would like to suggest that it is impossible to live the Christian life correctly without making any enemies. In fact, if I’m a Christian and I haven’t made any enemies, maybe I’m not doing it right.

Why do I say that? Because we’re struggling against the powers and principalities. The very existence of a people who serve the Prince of Peace in a world defined by its ability to wage war puts us automatically in the cross-hairs of those who have a vested interest in promulgating war as a way of achieving peace.

In a world that specializes in putting locks on doors to keep people out, we cannot but appear to be threatening when we go to the doors, tear the locks off and invite everybody to come in.


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Making room at the table (Luke 24:13-35)

The church has been inhospitable to a wide range of folks over the years, excluding people because somehow they aren’t right the way some church folks figure right ought to look.

But it’s not right. If there’s one thing following Jesus teaches us, it’s when strangers and wayfarers come among us, we’d better make room at the table. Because it’s in those acts of hospitality—the sharing of food, the loving embrace of those who’ve been turned out, the kind word to the one whom the world has beat down, the hand on the shoulder of the grieving—it’s in acts like these that we can finally see Jesus for who he really is. It’s precisely in these welcoming gestures that we find Jesus.


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The Breath of Life (John 20:19-29)

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Jesus, as God did back in Genesis, breathed and brought forth new life—transformed lives, no longer in need of worrying only about existence and comfort and survival, about success and wealth and fame, about avoiding the hard demands of the presence of God . . . but about truly living—about being there for others, about binding up the wounds of the sick and the dying, about going out into the world and feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, liberating the oppressed, and finding those who’ve been forgotten and cast aside.

'As God has sent me to give you new life,' Jesus says, 'so I send you to give new life to the whole world.'


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No Words (Matthew 28:1-10)

The emphasis in Matthew’s Gospel seems to be less on what happened than on what happened next. That’s why Matthew has Mary and Mary burning up the road, not sitting around talking about it.

What work does the resurrection achieve? Victory over death. Freedom from fear. Salvation from sin.

However you want to talk about it. But the real question to us is, 'Now that you’ve got this shiny new resurrection, what are you going to do with it? Are you going to hang out with it, set up a shrine to it and serve lattes, thinking all the work’s been done two thousand years ago? Or are you going to realize that the freedom the resurrection brings is the freedom to back out of the tomb, walk down the road, and get back to work?


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Blessed Is the One Who Comes in the Name of the Lord (Matthew 21:1-11)

We heal the sick, we bind up the broken-hearted, we comfort the grieving, we pick up the downtrodden, we fight for justice . . . not because it makes for good strategy, but because we follow Jesus, which means we're prepared to walk with him down any dark alley he enters—in search of those the rest of the world would just as soon leave behind.

We do it because it's right. And because God loves us enough not to let us stay where we are, because we’re the blessed who come in the name of the Lord, and because we don't know how to do anything else.

Those who follow Jesus have a weird way of looking at blessing. We see blessing as a struggle, as the courage to fight in the face of almost certain defeat, the determination to look death in the eye without turning tale and running.


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Life in the Graveyard (Ezekiel 37:1-14)

The recording was compromised, so we're skipping out on the audio portion this week (oops). We'll be back next week. It turns out the words are still good.

'Oh come on, preacher. Pie in the sky. We need to be realistic. Face facts. It’s a grim world. You’re just whistling past the graveyard.'

Am I?

If you trust me even a little bit, then hear this: Hang on. God is still breathing. The spirit still comes from the four winds. Life my seem to be having a rough go of it in the valley of the dry bones. But God’s isn’t finished yet.

You see, in two weeks we’re going to have a party—a little thing we call Easter. It’s where we really get to see what God thinks of death and despair. You don’t want to miss that one.


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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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