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. 

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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Just Trying to Hear (John 10:22-30)

It strikes me that much of what drives this unenthusiastic response to religion—at least in the case of Christianity—centers on the apparent inability of Christians to hear Jesus, and then to live like him. 

The “Nones” have heard endlessly about Christianity and how everybody would be better off if the world would just believe the stuff Christians believe.

But many of them have read the Gospels. They’ve seen all the stuff Jesus did. But then they look around at his followers, and they see something different. They see people worried about stuff Jesus never uttered a single word about, stuff he never spent a single minute worrying about.

Here’s a thought that ought to scare all Christians: What if part of the reason the “Nones” are so underwhelmed by organized religion isn’t because they don’t find Jesus interesting, but because it appears to them that Christians don’t find him sufficiently interesting enough to take seriously?

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Feed My Lambs (John 20:1-19)

 

Real forgiveness is tough. It’s not for cowards.

Forgiveness requires truth-telling, a willingness to decide that maintaining relationship means more to you than the pain of walking away.

Forgiveness costs … sometimes everything.


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Breaking through the Barriers (John 20:19-31)

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The most tempting thing to do is to hunker down, and wait for Jesus to show up and calm the storm, re-order our worlds, take the heat off, make everything all right.

Jesus asks us to throw open the doors and announce a new world not only absent violence and hatred, but filled with the goodness of God’s blessings—a world in which the poor have enough to eat, enough to care for the health of their children and their aged; a world in which those who’ve been turned out, sent away, shuffled off because they don’t look right, don’t love right, don’t have the right papers—so that everyone might finally find a place at the table, finally find the outstretched arms of embrace, finally find a home.

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I Will Not Be Put to Shame (Isaiah 50:4-9a)

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But please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not suggesting that the humiliated just bide their time until some day in a diaphanous and distant future. Because, if that were the case, there would be no need for resistance—since there would be no more shame. The Suffering Servant is, if anything, one whose denial of the power of the system to shame renders that system impotent right now.

The Suffering Servant in Isaiah is talking about setting our “face like flint” in ... the present, refusing to allow a system of honor and shame to continue to order our lives and confer our identities ... today, looking to the one who vindicates us ... in this moment.

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When the Story Takes a Turn (Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32)

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We need to think carefully about what Jesus is selling here. Since we’re the children of this parent who stands looking out the window—waiting for us to come home, waiting for us to come inside—we need to ask ourselves, 'Who are we looking for?'

Because here’s the thing, there are an awful lot of people who’re trying to find their way back home—but they’re scared that we who’ve been here for so long, we who’ve faithfully tended the fields for all these years—they’re scared we don’t want them here. They want to know if they’re just as welcome in this home as we are.

And if we’re ever going to be like the parent who waits for us, our job isn’t deciding who should be on the guest list. Our job is popping champagne corks when another one comes home.


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The Commonwealth of the Reign of God (Philippians 3:17-4:1)

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We serve a God who came among us, who refused to stand back from us in the comfort of heaven. We model our life together on the God who forsook security to become vulnerable by coming down among us, placing God’s life in our hands. God is able to “transform the body of our humiliation,” because God took on that body … felt the humiliation that comes from living in a commonwealth where the wealth is anything but common.


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