Re-Formation: Deconstruction - A Turn Inward

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This week, we continue our series on Re-formation: Building a Faith After Deconstruction, where we have been discussing what it means as individuals and as a faith community to go through the process of a deconstruction of our faith – a deconstruction of those moments and structures in our lives that have come before our present moment, that inform how we understand the divine and understand what it means to be the church. And while it is hard to reflect on the past, especially on those things that have brought us trauma, in that reflection and in that deconstruction we begin to see those things that will allow us to move forward. We were and are invited to become unfamiliar with the familiar in order to fall in love again. To move forward on to a place of restoration. And that is where we move to in week three. Restoration.

In the third week of our series, we’ll look at Micah 6:8 as a turning point out of deconstruction and into restoration. One of the most influential and often quoted sayings in prophetic literature, Micah 6:8 states that we are “to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with your God.” Yet, when you stop and sit with it, what does it actually mean? What does it mean to you? What is it actually asking of you? This is where Micah is most useful in moving from deconstruction to restoration. In the midst of a critique of outside entities, in the midst of a deconstruction of those that oppress or do harm, an important shift must be made. A pivot or perspectival shift. A turn inward. A turn to the self. A reflective turn.

Instead of looking to the outside world for change, instead of getting mired in the blame game and getting frozen by inaction, instead of continually turning or looking outward for change to happen, we need to turn back to ourselves. To turn inward for restoration which then leads to outward action – to reconstruction. Join us as Brian Tipton, our Lay Leader, takes us through the journey of the prophet Micah, exploring what it means to move from deconstruction and into restoration.

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Re-Formation: Deconstruction - New Wineskins

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In everyone's faith journey, there comes a time when our beliefs begin to shift and/or the faith community we grew up in doesn’t look like it used to. Lately, people have been referring to this shift as deconstruction

Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, writes that for many of us, this shift feels like the worst kind of homesickness. At First United, there are many people in the pews who are in the midst of deconstruction after a shift in faith or after watching the church be transformed. Even if we feel homesick, there is an awareness that we can never go back to what once was, and trying to avoid deconstruction isn't very helpful. It's only when we acknowledge the shift and open ourselves up to new possibilities can our faith journey take on a new form.

In the second week of our series on Re-formation: Building a Faith After Deconstruction, we'll look at why Jesus invites us into this painful process of faith evaluation and change using the imagery of wineskins and clothing patches. Throughout this series, we're using the imagery of wood work. When we go to restore or reconstruct something, there must always be a time when we sand away the rough exterior to get to the raw wood that will be the base level of what is being built. This is painful, but needed. Join Pastor Sarah as she talks about the ways in which we are invited to sand away what we once thought was essential and why that is “good news."

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Re-Formation: Deconstruction vs. Demolition

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Deconstruction seems to be everywhere these days. It's a challenging process of dismantling old faith structures and ideals that have become cumbersome, unnecessary, or even painful. Many at First United have gone through (or are currently going through) a deconstruction of their own faith. For some who haven't experienced a spiritual deconstruction, the transformation of our physical property and buildings has been a deconstruction experience in and of itself. The buildings represented a hope and ideal that seems to have shifted. Both forms of deconstruction can feel like death, and the result is great grief.

However, there is a difference between demolition and deconstruction. In demolition, there's no intention to reuse what is being dismantled. Yet, with deconstruction, we're taking things apart in order to determine what is essential and needed.

This Sunday, we begin a new series entitled "Re-formation: Building a Faith After Deconstruction," and our hope is that it will challenge us to think through what we are deconstructing and what it might look like to ultimately reconstruct our faith. Join Pastor Sarah as she shares the story of Jacob wrestling with God to talk about why we need deconstruction in the first place.

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Across the Room: A Conversation on Global Violence and Peacemaking

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You can't read or listen to the news without hearing that our world is plagued with strife. From protests that become violent to civil unrest, it seems that people cannot engage in conversation without coming to blows. With so many conflicts around the world, there's even more finger pointing in the midst of it all. Scripture suggests that God wants us to be a peaceful presence in the world, but we can't even seem to do that among our own friends and families. How are we to be peaceful in the midst of injustice and such political strife? Join us this week as Bethany Anderson shares some helpful ways to create peace both locally and globally. You don't want to miss this last Across the Room conversation!

BETHANY ANDERSON has spent the last 11 years living and learning in a small immigrant neighborhood with a community of believers and nonprofit organization called Solidarity. She serves as both the Advocacy Director for Solidarity and the founding Director of Camino Immigration Services, an initiative of Solidarity that provides quality legal counsel in immigration matters to the North Orange County community. In addition, Bethany serves as a Curator for the Global Immersion Project and a Co-Leader of the Orange County Immigration Table.

Bethany grew up in Long Beach, CA then moved to Fullerton where she attended Hope International University. She has a Bachelors of Art in Inter-Cultural Studies and is accredited by Department of Justice to practice Immigration law. Bethany loves to travel, the beach, In n Out, and spending time with her community and family. She lives in the Gem District of Fullerton, Ca with her husband, Matt, with whom she is raising 3 little justice warriors.

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Across the Room: A Conversation on Homelessness

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It can be difficult to find housing in Orange County - even if you have all the necessary resources. And, for those who have any sort of financial, medical, mental, or any number of other challenges, it can be next to impossible! 

As we read through the scriptures, we find numerous instructions to align ourselves with and provide for people who are less fortunate. It may be shocking for you to discover that the true sin of the city of Sodom was not caring for those in need - not the other sins pastors often highlight in sermons. Clearly, God cares for those who are marginalized by poverty and asks us to do the same.

As we look at the issue of providing housing and care for our neighbors, the problem can seem overwhelming. There's so much information out there between what we read online, what we hear on the news, and what's simply hearsay. As you know, some of it is helpful, and other parts are quite misleading. Our own family members and friends probably have a variety of opinions about the best way to end homelessness. Sometimes, those strong opinions cause disagreements to break out or for people to feel paralyzed on how to address the issue. All of us what to know - what is the best way to address homelessness longterm, and what actually helps in the short term?

BECKS HEYHOE is the Director of United to End Homelessness for Orange County United Way. This initiative involves convening business, philanthropic and faith based leaders to build community-wide collaboration to end homelessness in Orange County by bringing to life the recommendations from United Way’s groundbreaking cost study “Homelessness in Orange County” which was completed in partnership with UCI and Jamboree. Becks is currently a member of the Governing Board of the Continuum of Care for Orange County, CA.

Prior to joining United Way she was the founder of the Trellis Homelessness Initiative in Costa Mesa, and quickly rose to become an expert advocate campaigning for effective solutions to address homelessness in Costa Mesa and Orange County. She has been ranked as a Daily Pilot top newsmaker and her work in Costa Mesa was the subject of the documentary “Those Without a Home” and has also been featured on So Cal Connected. Ms. Heyhoe moved to California in 2009, but is originally from the UK. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the London School of Theology.

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Across the Room: A Conversation on Creation Care

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Global warming, climate change, climate crisis, creation care, green new deal, straw laws, plastic bag rules. There are so many terms buzzing around that refer to what's happening to the planet we inhabit. The conversation seems to be happening everywhere, isn't it? Everywhere that is, except in the church. Scripture refers to God as the creator, and humanity was tasked with the care of that creation. What does that mean, and how is our faith connected to the care of the world around us?

Some say that God is going to destroy the Earth upon returning, and we can just use it however we wish until that time. Others argue that we are tasked with caring for the world as a precious resource. Some think that climate scientists are overreacting, and others think we are not reacting enough. How can we cross the room and talk about the Earth in ways that are helpful? Join us on Sunday at 10am as Pastor Sarah speaks with Gabriela Worrel as she shares from her experience as an environmentally conscious and educated community developer who grew up in the evangelical church setting.

Gabriela Worrel is a writer, urban planner, and biologist working at the intersection of environmental conservation and human culture. She is a Southern California native and holds a B.S. in Biology from Westmont College and a M.U.R.P. from UC Irvine. She currently works as an outreach coordinator at Laguna Greenbelt, Inc. and lives in urban Los Angeles with her husband, two young children, and a rabbit named Hoppy.

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Across the Room: A Conversation on Mental Health

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Whether you're scrolling through social media or watching the evening news, it's easy to see that our nation is facing quite a few challenging issues these days. How do we deal with mental health? How should we respond to the environmental crisis? What is the best way to deal with the issue of homelessness? And, how do we make peace in a time of global violence?

Unfortunately, many conversations with friends, family, and co-workers can be polarizing when these issues arise. These interactions can leave us standing on two different sides of the room. What would it look like to walk across the room and learn their story as a way to begin a healthy conversation? Join Pastor Sarah Heath on Sunday at 10am as she sits down with Reid Walton, a licensed therapist, to kick off the series. 

REID WALTON is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Journeys Counseling Ministry, and he is passionate about helping create intimacy in marriages, helping families and individuals walk through the many seasons and difficulties of life. He currently has his Masters of Science in Clinical Psychology from Vanguard University and received a Bachelor's of Science in General Psychology at Biola University with a Minor In Biblical Studies. In addition, Reid is an Adjunct Professor in Psychology at Vanguard University teaching courses in General Psychology and Behavior Modification. Along with his work at Journeys, Reid has over 6 years experience working with individuals and families in crisis as a Social Worker and Crisis Response Clinician serving Orange County.

Counseling Resources
Journeys Counseling Ministry
Center for Individual and Family Therapy
LGBT Center of OC
www.nami.org
www.ochealthinfo.com
www.samhsa.gov
Crisis Line: 877.727.4747
NAMI Warm Line: 877.910.9276
National Suicide Prevention: 800.799.4889

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Good Grief: Incomplete - Grief in the Story of Moses

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Grief is a universal human experience and natural part of life. Yet, we don't often talk about how that grief shows up in our faith or in scripture itself. Because we don't talk about it much, grief can be seen as bad or something to be covered up, but grief has its place in the way we live out our faith and engage our community. Although hard, grief is both good and natural.

Over the course of the "Good Grief" series, we've engaged with several stories within scripture that illustrate different components of grief. We've learned that grief can be misunderstood (the story of Job's grief), accepted by others (the story of Ruth and Naomi), and shared (the story of Lazarus). This Sunday in the final week of the series, we'll be looking at the story of Moses.

The story of Moses has a pattern of great loss and then renewed purpose. He loses his family, gains a new one, and finally leaves that family to return to his first community. He is given the hope and dream of a new homeland, only to have that dream threatened by the fears of others. We are told that God loves Moses, but that love does not guard him from deep disappointment. As Moses nears the end of his life, it becomes clear he will not get to experience the Promised Land. This leads to great loss and highlights one of the hardest parts of grief - the element of disappointment. We grieve how things are left incomplete. Unrealized and incomplete dreams for our own life or the life of a loved one brings about a grief that threatens our sense of belovedness. How can we feel loved in the midst of such disappointment? Listen in as we explore the story of the death of Moses, and Pastor Sarah shares how God is present in the midst of incomplete grief.

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Good Grief: Shared - Grief in the Story of Lazarus

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“To comfort me, you have to come close. Come sit beside me on my mourning bench.” – Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

In our Good Grief series, we've been talking through the universal experience of grieving. We all experience it, but it's definitely not uniformly experienced. Grief looks different for each of us, and we experience it in a unique way every time we walk through it. The uniqueness of our grief can often leave us feeling isolated and alone. After the loss of a loved one, some describe walking around bewildered and unsure how the rest of the world is still carrying on.

In the first week of our series, Pastor Sarah shared about a book entitled Lamet for a Son where the author, Nicholas Wolterstorff, wrote that he didn’t want clever words or well wishes after losing his son. He just wanted someone to sit with him. Presence seems to provide a healing balm for those who are in the midst of the most difficult times of grief. To comfort someone, we have to risk getting close to them, and therefore, close to their loss.

This week at First United, we hear how Jesus risked getting close to the loss of his dear friend Lazarus, and Jesus actually weeps. Oftentimes, this scripture is interpreted as Jesus’ emotions getting the best of him as he cries over the death of a friend. But, a closer read of scripture reveals that Jesus doesn’t weep until he sees Lazarus’ sisters weeping. Their loss becomes his loss, as he risks getting close to this profound grief. Jesus’ reaction has many lessons for those of us in the midst of loss and for those of us walking with others who are experiencing grief. Listen in as we take a deeper look at “Jesus wept” and learn why this little sentence can help us experience good grief.

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Good Grief: Accepted - Grief in Ruth

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This week, we continue our series on "Good Grief" as we look at the book of Ruth and the story of Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah after their losses. We will examine the perspective this story is written from as well as how we can better interact with those who are grieving.

Speaker: Darcy Anderson is a member and leader at First United, and she holds a Master's degree in American Studies, which examines the how and why of American history and culture. Darcy's research areas include death, dying, and grief in American culture, as well as gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, and ideals and institutions. She currently works at Cal State Fullerton as an Academic Advisor and Program Coordinator and will begin teaching in the American Studies department this fall.

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Good Grief: Misunderstood - Grief in Job

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Anyone watching the Tuesday night baseball game between the Angels and Rangers got a front row seat to a great game....and an entire team experiencing profound grief. A beloved young pitcher for the Angels, Tyler Skaggs, unexpectedly passed away the day before. It was hard to watch the game and not share the team's deep sense of loss. Even though we all experience grief over the course of our lives, we don’t like to see it, much less talk about it.

Whether grief comes from the loss of a loved one or the loss of a hope or dream, it is a universal experience. The problem is...most of us haven't been taught that grief is actually normal...and good. As a result, we can often damage friends and family when we try to help them experience their grief. We may try to give timelines for how long grief will last or the stages through which they need to move. Or, we may even try to distract them from their grief altogether. Sometimes, well-intentioned Christians can suggest that "good Christians" don’t go through grief, because we have an ultimate hope in Jesus and a hope in the afterlife. While grief is universal, it is not experienced uniformly. In our efforts to help, we can unintentionally make people feel even more isolated and alone.

In this message, Pastor Sarah begins a series called “Good Grief” dedicated to the stories in scripture where grief is handled in both helpful and unhelpful ways. We begin with the story of Job. His story is often told as an example of how harmful friends can be in the midst of grief or how life will get better if you're faithful to hold onto hope in the midst of loss. Yet, there's so much more to the story! We'll learn how joy is not the opposite of grief and how hope is never intended to defeat it. Join us this Sunday as we look at the strange story of Job to learn how we can navigate grief in the midst of challenging seasons of life.

Unfortunately, there is no recording of this sermon available.

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A Whale of a Tale: Unfinished Business

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Recently, a blockbuster movie director revealed that American audiences watched a different ending to his latest film than the one released in Europe. When the movie was previewed in the US, the reviews were unfavorable when the storyline wasn’t wrapped up within the two hour timespan, whereas European audiences enjoyed more ambiguity and room for speculation. If we're honest, most of the storylines in our own lives are more like the European version. We don’t always get the closure we're hoping for, and we're often in the tides of in-between times. This is the case with the story of Jonah...a narrative that was first relayed to a community stuck in the middle of their own story. 

As we've been learning, Jonah has multiple layers, and it isn’t as straight forward as it first appears. When we tell the story, particularly to kids in Sunday School, we usually skip the ending and have Jonah giving a half-hearted sermon followed by the Ninevites changing their ways. If the writer had left it there, it would be a warning to all of us that God often includes more people than we are ready to include. After hearing the story, we could evaluate our ability to include others and learn our lesson, but that isn’t the end of the story. Jonah isn't just a hero who learned his lesson. Instead, the story leaves us with more questions than answers...questions that can help us see the character of God and where God is during the in-between times when we can’t see a clear ending. This week as Pastor Sarah wraps up the story of Jonah, we will see how we often miss the grace of God when it doesn’t end up looking like we had hoped.

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A Whale of a Tale: Get Up and Go

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“Change is a gift often disguised as discomfort.” - Unknown

We all know that change can be hard. In fact, many of us have done everything possible to avoid change, but change is the only way that God brings newness into the world. From birth to death, life is a series of changes. Change can cause both excitement and discomfort, but the riskiest changes usually cause us the most fear. We have a tough time when things don't fit into the boxes or categories we've created. Yet, God doesn’t work in these categories and certainly seems to enjoy moving us beyond our boxes! 

This Sunday, as we continue to learn from the story of Jonah, Pastor Sarah shares about how God often invites us into change before we are ready to embrace it. Jonah is willing to share God’s message with Ninevah, but he isn’t quite ready for the Ninevites to change. Jonah wants to stay within the categories and boxes he has created, and he also wants his understanding of God to remain the same. This call to go outside of his box will deconstruct any categories of 'beloved' he has ever created. We can relate to Jonah, can’t we? Our Ninevah may not be a group of people, but there are places in our lives and in our faith where we struggle to accept changes. This week, we'll hear the sermon Jonah delivers to Ninevah and learn why it's one we all need to hear.

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A Whale of a Tale: The Belly of a Whale

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There is a term often used by screenwriters, authors, and playwrights to describe a scene where a character's life seems to be at an all-time low. Everything seems to be going wrong, and the character may have even lost hope. These scenes are called 'the belly of the whale.' Jospeh Campbell, a literary professor, is credited with coining this term as a nod to the story of Jonah. You and I know, even if you take the story literally, it wasn't a whale that swallowed Jonah, but the term still is used to describe the moments in life when everything seems dark and maybe a little stinky. These dark moments feel like being inside of a fish! We’ve all been there, haven't we? We've all been in seasons of life that feel hopeless...a time when our next move isn't clear.

This week, we're going to join Jonah in the belly of the fish as he tries to figure out what is next. When you really dig into the story, Jonah weaves together a couple of psalms to create a beautiful prayer that he offers up as a way to both reconnect with God and soothe himself. Join Pastor Sarah as we ask the question, "How can we find hope in the belly of the whale? And, how can we authentically be present to others when they have their own whale moments?" Sometimes, we miss the richness of this story, because we get caught up in its absurd nature.

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A Whale of a Tale: Unlikely Conversions

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Have you ever traveled for an extended period of time to a foreign country and heard someone speaking your native language but it suddenly seems foreign to you? They may be speaking in your native tongue, but after not hearing it for a long time, it sounds completely different. In our faith stories, we have moments when familiar ideas or beliefs can take on new meaning when we hear it from a different voice or perspective. Because these moments can feel disorienting, we might want to flee from these experiences. Scripture is filled with people experiencing these disorienting and stretching moments. 

This week, we continue our series on Jonah as we will celebrate Pentecost Sunday. These may seem like two unrelated stories, but as Pastor Sarah will share with us, they are both stories where people are surprised by who was speaking in a way they understood. On Pentecost Sunday, we remember the story from Acts when people began to hear the message of God in their own language and from people that they least expected to hear it from. In the story of Jonah, her will have a moment of deconstruction just as foreign sailors are beginning to believe in the God that he professes. Both of these stories teach us that God and God’s Kingdom are so much bigger than the words we use to describe our them. Listen in as we hear how disorienting moments can lead us to growth.

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A Whale of a Tale: The Story of Jonah

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When you were a kid, you probably played the game telephone. It goes like this...one person sends a message at the beginning of a line, and everyone whispers it to the person next to them. By the time it makes it to the end of the line, what was said in the beginning is totally different from what the last person says aloud! Usually, this has funny consequences.

Sometimes, reading scripture feels like a game of telephone. It's like the story started out one way, and by the time it was passed down through the generations, it has some new additions or maybe some things are left out. Most stories weren’t written down until generations after their occurrence. This can make the stories hard to legitimize due to lack of details or historical facts. But whether or not the stories held in scripture are completely historical, they still hold great meaning and help us to further understand God.

Every summer, we take sometime to look at a complete story and all that it has to offer and teach us. This year, we're looking at the incredible and grand story of Jonah. Most of us grew up hearing the story of Jonah as the man who was swallowed by a whale. From art to felt boards, the story is told with a whale, but scripture doesn’t give us that detail. In fact, many of the things we think we know about Jonah are just things we have heard like the telephone game. This week, we'll begin looking at this story seeing it for what it really is...a parable. We know it's a parable because of its exaggerated nature. Both in the Hebrew scriptures and in the New Testament, when a story is exaggerated, listeners learned to hear it as a parable with deep meaning. Just because not all of the parts of the story are factual doesn’t make the entire story untrue. When someone exaggerates the size of a fish they caught, we don’t assume they never caught a fish...just that part of the story isn’t quite factual. In the same way, there are pieces of the Jonah story that even if you don’t buy the whole fish part, you can garner helpful truth and a hopeful story of God’s surprising inclusive nature. 

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You Have Heard It Said: How To Be Perfect

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“Be perfect therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

Perfect...when we think of the word perfect, we usually think of someone who is able to achieve all their goals, be fully present with their family, engage in healing the world...all while making no mistakes. Perhaps “you have heard it said” in church that we should be perfect, but since we can’t live up to that, we need Jesus to step in for us in our relationship with God. The problem with that is that would mean God created an imperfect human that is being asked to be perfect. This kind of perfection feels heavy and is filled with musts and shoulds

Is that really what God wants from us? Does God want us to be able to police ourselves towards perfection? Or, is it possible that Jesus is suggesting something else? Perhaps, we can get to the bottom of what Jesus is really asking when we look at the world translated as perfect. Teleios can be translated as complete, fulfilled, or balanced. If Jesus is asking us to be fulfilled or balanced, how does that change our expectations of other people...including ourselves? This week as we wrap up our series on the things we have heard, Pastor Sarah takes some time to look at how Jesus is offering a new way of looking at our intentions and why that can be freeing and lead to a life that is teleios

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You Have Heard It Said: How To Be Good

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From the very beginning of our lives, we're given rules or laws with which we are to live. In fact, just today, I'm sure you've followed numerous laws you didn’t even realize you were following. From the way we drive, to the order in which we start our day, we follow rules and laws to make life structured and safe.

Often “you have heard it said” from pulpits and churches even more things to add to your list of rules. In fact, some faith communities spend most of their time figuring out who has and who hasn't followed the rules they think make you a “good person.”

This week, Pastor Sarah shares why boiling our life down to a set of "dos and don'ts" can't teach us how to be a good person...and how it stops us from living into the kingdom of God. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addresses some of the rules that people were using to decide who was good and who wasn't. At first, it seems like he's simply continuing a traditional insistence on following strict rules, but the nuances indicate that he's pushing us beyond sin management into whole-hearted living. He's giving us true freedom! 

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You Have Heard It Said: When Things Get Salty

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"I use chips and salsa as a conduit for my sodium intake. I pour salt on my chips! I’m starting to realize though that salt is about bringing out flavor that already exists rather than creating new flavor.” Rev. Robert W. Lee

Scripture tells us that we are to be salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). Oftentimes, that has meant that Christians see themselves as superior as we bring the flavor of God into spaces. This week as we continue our series “You Have Heard It Said”, we are going to hear from guest speaker and friend of Pastor Sarah, Rev. Robert W. Lee. Robert will help us reimagine Jesus’ call to be salt in the world.

Rev. Robert W. Lee was a little known pastor at a small church in North Carolina until the Charlottesville protests. Following the protest, he went public with his denunciation of white supremacy in a captivating speech at the MTV Video Music Awards. As a descendant of confederate general Robert E. Lee, his message held great weight and created both massive support and violent critique. Shortly after he began receiving threats, and he had to leave his post at his local church. Since those days, he has become part of a growing group of activists who are trying to add a little salt to the earth by facing the complicit culture of racism and injustice.

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You Have Heard It Said: The Kinds of People God Blesses

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Everybody wants good things and to live a good life. Many people’s view of Christianity is a religion where doing more and trying harder is the way to please God who will then give you good things. But, Jesus never taught that. In fact, he taught something very opposite. The kinds of people God blesses are not who most people think. Philosophers throughout the ages have been asking the question, “Which life is the good life?” Once again, probably not what you’re thinking.

Listen as Michael Bischof continues our series called “You Have Heard It Said” as we look at the kinds of people God blesses and how we can all be living in a reality where that “blessing” flows normally and naturally.

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