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. 

You Had One Job! (Jeremiah 23:1-6)

 Sunrise.

Sunrise.

According to Jeremiah God didn’t say,

You who rule . . . act with suspicion and distrust, and make sure to guard the stock portfolios of the oppressor. And make certain that the alien in your land runs into the wall of your fear and hatred, prevent widows from obtaining access to food and healthcare and housing that should be reserved only for the deserving. And please, whatever you do, don’t fall for all that sentimental political correctness when it comes to orphans—who are lazy and shiftless by nature; they only want to take advantage of the system. Because, let’s face it, the only innocent blood belongs to people who look like us. So if you have to shed blood, make sure it belongs to people who don’t have any power.


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It's Only a Dream (Isaiah 65:17-25)

 A bowl of safety pins, signifying solidarity and support for those less fortunate who have fear.

A bowl of safety pins, signifying solidarity and support for those less fortunate who have fear.

Reality, according to the flattened world in which we live, views poverty, violence, racism, sexual assault, anti-immigrant hatred as something “you people are just going to have to learn to live with."

'You people'—which means 'other people'—which ultimately means 'not me.'

The church—to the extent that it has promoted a version of the gospel concerned primarily only with helping me to get to heaven—has been complicit in allowing Christians to get comfortable with the idea that poverty, xenophobia, racism, sexism, homophobia aren’t a primary matter of concern when it comes to Christian responsibility—that the cries of our sisters and brothers are of interest only after we’ve secured our individual souls.

In our prosaic reality, all that stuff happens to other people who—although we may not make them targets of our open hostility—qualify as perfect candidates for our indifference.


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Hold Fast (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17)

 Derek at Wrigley Field!

Derek at Wrigley Field!

In a world where the sands seem always to be shifting beneath our feet, in a world where fear and trembling are a part of getting out of bed in the morning, in a world where uncertainty holds us captive the ability to “stand firm and hold fast to the traditions” is a way of affirming a different reality—a reality that proclaims that—all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding—God is in control, that God will not allow God’s children to live without meaning in what appears to be a random and arbitrary world, that the fear and trauma we face will be faced by us with God at our side, and that God is already in the process of unveiling a new reign of peace and justice.


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What If I’m Not All That? (Luke 6-20-31)

FYI: We had a technical hiccup about halfway through. For the unabridged sermon, you can still refer to the manuscript below.

 Derek at Wrigley Field.

Derek at Wrigley Field.

You see, saints aren’t people who do great things for God because they have no shortcomings, no flaws; saints are people who do great things for God in spite of the fact that the deck’s stacked against them, that the shortcomings and flaws always threaten to undo them. Saints are people determined to live their everyday lives as if God matters more than the sum total of their weaknesses.


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No Matter Where You're Standing (Luke 18:9-14)

 Derek at Wrigley Field. 

Derek at Wrigley Field. 

The great reversal. God will fill the hungry with good things, and send the rich empty away. Every valley will be raised up, and every mountain be made low. Good news to the poor, release to the captive, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed.

Determined to have the world the way God wants it, God can't just leave it alone. But then again, why should we expect anything less from a God who couldn’t even leave death well enough alone?


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Faith on Earth (Luke 18:1-8)

 Derek at Wrigley Field.

Derek at Wrigley Field.

In the final analysis, it’s an easy thing to say that we depend on God to secure our lives, to establish justice. It’s an entirely different matter to live as if it were true—as if we’re called to be the expression of God’s justice to a world that would just as soon go back to bed and forget the whole mess. Faithfulness requires that we keep knocking on that particular door—even if it looks as if nobody’s home.


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Except This Foreigner (Luke 17:11-19)

When faced with the temptation of dismissing people because they’re different, when persuaded to push the Samaritan lepers of our society into ghettos meant only to protect us from their condemning presence, when convinced that the only way to silence that which threatens our cherished beliefs is by nailing it to a cross, Jesus comes into our midst, sits down at the table . . . spread before us with vivid reminders of his own brokenness, his own 'otherness,' and says, 'no.'


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When Hope Is All You've Got (Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15)

 Derek and his daughter, Mary. 

Derek and his daughter, Mary. 

Keep working. Keep plugging away. Keep expecting that—whatever the appearances to the contrary suggest—I’m fashioning a people there. I launch ships in the desert. I harvest crops in the wilderness. I ride the lame horse and shoot the crooked bow. I’ve even been known to make the dead dance. You may not see it clearly right now. It’s easy to see empty pews and think I’ve bugged out. But I haven’t. Don’t worry. I’ve got big plans for you.


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

 Derek at Wrigley Field. 

Derek at Wrigley Field. 

If the world is ever to take Jesus seriously, in other words, it has to quit seeing those of us who are his followers as fence-builders, as constructers of barriers, as those more willing to exclude than include. To the extent that Christians have continued the divisions—male/female, black/white, straight/gay, fundamentalist/progressive, Catholic/Protestant—we’ve alerted the world that it need not take us seriously. 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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Radical Welcome? (Luke 15:1-10)

 Derek and his son, Dominic.

Derek and his son, Dominic.

In these parables Jesus wants to know: Who are we making angry because we love the wrong people?

And this is an especially important question to ask on the fifteenth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Because somewhere over the past fifteen years an awful lot of our neighbors have gotten the message that it’s okay to be afraid of Muslims, that it’s okay to hate people they don’t even know—just because those people happen to go to a mosque to worship God, or because they happen to be refugees, trying to escape horror and death in their home countries.


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The Cost of Discipleship (Luke 14:25-33)

 Derek and his daughter, Mary.

Derek and his daughter, Mary.

Following Jesus costs a great deal more than we’re able to afford on our own. There are crosses with our names on them, just waiting for us.

Your cross might be made from the wood of ministering to the homeless. It might be carved from the ancient timber of speaking out against rape culture. It might be from the lonely stand of trees that make up caring for those with physical disabilities or mental illness. It might be from the lumber of #BlackLivesMatter, or feeding the hungry, or advocating for forgotten children, or caring for God’s creation, or welcoming the refugee, or standing up against the injustices that confront LGBTQ people, or sheltering the immigrant.

But don’t be mistaken, if you follow Jesus there’s a cross for you.


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Where Is the Lord? (Jeremiah 2:4-13)

 Derek and his son, Samuel.  

Derek and his son, Samuel.  

Where is the Lord?

According to Jeremiah, that’s the question God wants us to ask.

God isn’t afraid of our doubts and fears. God doesn’t shrink before our questions, doesn’t run from our anxieties.

God would rather have us ask tough questions about where God is than to have us throw up our hands in despair.


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What Kind of God? (Luke 13:10-17)

 Derek and his son Dominic

Derek and his son Dominic

Christians can’t just believe stuff. People want an answer to the question: What kind of God they got up inside that church?

They want to know what turns on these much-discussed beliefs, what difference these beliefs make in our lives. Do they help us heal the sick, care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked or receive the outcast? Do they help us stand up for the persecuted and the oppressed, welcome the refugee, or protect the vulnerable? Or do these beliefs merely represent a golden barrier that offers protection against blame—a way to be right?

In short, people who’ve lost interest in Christianity might just like to see Christians for whom believing 'this stuff' is merely the first step to actually living it out.


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What's a hero? (11:1-3, 8-16)

 Ben toting his son, Will. 

Ben toting his son, Will. 

So, the safe thing to do is live as if God exists because the reward of doing anything else isn’t so great as to justify the risk of being wrong on this question. Pascal would have all of us smart people who are really thinking about things make the safe bet and live faithful lives just in case God exists.

It’s so rational and so…unsatisfying. Isn’t it? Trying to be faithful to the edicts of a higher power that just might exist seems so middling, so empty, so impotent, so…safe. It seems like advice a financial planner might give you. This is what the kids call “weak sauce”.

I don’t want that kind of faith. I want the kind of faith that turns away swords, conquers enemies. I want to part seas! Heck, in my line of work, I would settle for some of the more modest accomplishments of our Israelite heroes: obtaining promises and administering justice. Injustice is everywhere. Cruelty and pain abound and I want a resilient, courageous faith. But, I don’t often feel faithful at all, much less full of the faith of our Israelite heroes.


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The Stuff I Have (Luke 12:32-40)

 Derek and his daughter Mary

Derek and his daughter Mary

It’s so easy to think that the more we have the more prepared we are; only to find out that we maybe we’re preparing for the wrong thing.

It’s so easy to fool ourselves into thinking the higher the walls we build, the safer we’ll be; only to be shown that no walls are high enough to keep out the stuff that haunts our dreams, that our safety is not ours to ensure.

It’s so easy to believe that the future we’re waiting for is one we could—through thoughtful planning and safe investments—meet on our own terms; only to find out that the future breaks in on us like the owner of the house returning from a wedding banquet—pushy, demanding.


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The Persistence of God (Hosea 11:1-11)

 Mary Ann Lewis and her husband, Chuck. 

Mary Ann Lewis and her husband, Chuck. 

God has a compelling relationship to us, God’s people. Always there. Constant, persistent, insistent. We need a God who stays. We need a God who invades our lives with presence. We are the ones who move away, who put up barriers, who assign God to safe places in our lives and in our thinking. There is the old line, “if you think you can’t find God, who moved?

Imagine a world where God’s presence invaded every space. Imagine following that presence through the door to healing: healing of broken relationships; relieving painful and infuriating injustice, healing of ugly dialogue--offering peace and wholeness in its place. Because that is what the presence of God--the Spirit-Energy--can do.


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The Bread We Need (Luke 11:1-13)

But Jesus says that in the reign of God, following him toward Jerusalem, we don’t get that kind of assurance. All us type A’s are going to have our worlds turned upside down, because we’re on an adventure—not a tour group.

In a world where too many go to bed hungry at night, where too many wake up to uncertainty about whether their children will make it home safely from school, where too many look for a friendly face among those who claim to follow Jesus but find no one . . . it’s going to be especially tough to make the sorts of things that typically go on a spreadsheet the measure of our success.


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