Young adults at First Church this week:

Special Events:
April 13: Come eat and plan the Young Adult Service! Second Sunday lunch in Loper Chapel. Food provided! Lunch from 12-12:30, then you are welcome to stick around to help plan the 11:00 Young Adult Service on April 27! RSVP to kryan@fccb.org.

April 19: Holy Saturday Service in the Hall of Entrance to the Sanctuary. Benjamin Bigney, First Church young adult member, will be preaching. This will be geared towards young adults, but all are welcome. The evening light through the stained glass windows there is incredible. We will be sitting with the feeling of waiting and stillness between Cross and Resurrection. 7:30 PM.

Gather: How to Save a Life
Thursday April 10
7-8:30, meet in Small Assembly Hall (through “church office” doors on Channing Way)
In Thursday Gather this week, we’ll be engaging with the idea of resurrection, and how we have experienced new life and new possibilities.
Check out our Gather Blog for a few articles you can read beforehand. Conversation won’t be specifically around one post, but they will offer some awesome perspectives and questions on the topic.
Please RSVP for dinner to kryan@fccb.org!

Check Out:
Into the Wilderness, a pop-up spiritual community meeting during Lent. Headed by PSR seminarian Leslie Leasure, and co-sponsored by First Church. Contemplative worship Tuesdays in Lent from 6:30-7:30 PM in Loper Chapel.

Cosmic Mass in Oakland on May 25: it’s basically an interfaith worship service and dance party. There’s a DJ and sometimes a Rabbi doing Communion in Aramaic. Or things like that. More details coming soon.

Worship this Sunday, April 13:
This Sunday is Palm Sunday! First Church will have a parade between services complete with the infamous massive puppets. Young Adult Jorge Bautista will be preaching in the 9 AM, and Patricia de Jong will be preaching in the 11 AM.

Things to do Between Services at 10 AM:
Meet in the Middle inter-generational fellowship hour at 10:00, leading into the Palm Sunday Parade at 10:30.
FCCB Cafe in the Small Assembly: catch up with friends, or have breakfast with someone you don’t know yet.
The Cellar Thrift Shop is also open! So much cool stuff.

Ways to Give:
Hang out with Kids: Carolyn Ash, our Director of Children’s Ministries, is looking for folks to hang out with kids during the 11:00 service and help support the Sunday School leader. Email clash@fccb.org for more info.

Donate Food: Lenten Food Drive is happening now through Easter Sunday, April 20th. Bring in canned foods and non-perishables!

Build something with your own two hands: Rebuilding Together on April 19 and 26. Help rehabilitate the home of a person in need in the local community with First Church members! Contact Janet McDonald (janetmcdonald5000@sbcglobal.net) or Paul Chapman (pchapman5@gmail.com).
 

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One of the most important things that I can almost never do.

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This is a powerful sermon by Nadia Bolz-Weber, one of my favorite preachers these days. She speaks about death, resurrection, and broadening our vision beyond our disappointments.

My husband Jason often points out to me when I am “fretting.” This regularly looks like me trying to make sure I have managed every possible contingency for some situation or relationship so that there is as little likelihood of any adverse effect as possible. When I sit with what is behind the fretting, I think I am afraid of losing control of a situation. I get spiral-y about it: That if I don’t manage this now in this way, it will be even more difficult and uncomfortable to handle it later on.

I am always grateful for a call to not worry about controlling everything so much, which is what I hear out of this sermon. That I can’t know what I am attempting to control for, because I can only see so far, and so wide.

When I try to control everything, I am worried about what I might lose if I don’t have control. Would I lose this image of myself as independent if I have to borrow money from my parents? Would I lose the chance at a great job if I don’t maintain this relationship perfectly? It’s like I build this nest of things I can manage around me to protect me from the sucking vastness of ambiguity. I believe that being able to sit with ambiguity is crucial to most things in life–but it still scares the crap out of me.

The fascinating challenge I am coming to is: what would I worry about if I believe in a God in whom nothing, not even the finality of death, has the final word? This immensity of this notion is almost dizzying. That there is nothing that cannot be rebuilt in new ways, nothing that I can never come back from.

At On Tap last week, we talked about dry bones in Ezekiel 37 and resurrection. Someone pointed out that with resurrection, things don’t come back the exact same. New life is not just old life revived; it is something altogether new. It has new qualities, new textures, touches new places. How freeing it is to hope in a God who does not renew things in the image of what I would want to see again, but deals in spaces where we are surprised by joy.

This calls me to release some of that control, that fretting doesn’t get me anywhere because the most life-giving things in my life may not look the way I expected them to. And I’m terrible at not attempting to control things. Despite what I can aspire to, I still fear loss. But I can practice it, and hold those times when I am reminded to release that tight fist close. And, like anything practiced, it gets easier and more natural the more you do it.

So I’ll keep practicing.

 

A Cross Between Empowerment and Self-Giving

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Santuario de Chimayo, New Mexico

 

This article by Jessica Parks, a grad student at Houston Baptist Seminary felt like the framing of a question I have batted around for years: where does the empowerment of feminism meet with the self-giving nature of the Christian life? More precisely, what does that look like in practice?

She refers in her article to Philippians 2:1-11 (copied below), where Paul encourages the Philippians to empty themselves in emulation of Jesus. Paul is suggesting here that when God became Jesus, that moment of incarnation is God giving up God’s power. And that Christians should emulate this action by giving up power that they have as well. This emulation of giving up power as demonstrated in incarnation and crucifixion is the “cruciformity” Parks is referring to.

This article brings up some great questions, including some of the assumptions she is working from.

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Criminal Justice and a Broken Theology of the Cross

This article by Benjamin Corey looks at the legacy of how punitive atonement theologies are reflected in our justice system. He makes some positive claims about what Jesus dying on the cross is doing, which you may or may not agree with and which makes for great discussion as well.

But I think his reflection on our justice system is simple and powerful. Whether or not it is a legacy of one theology of atonement that arose out of Feudal Europe or not, a strong contingent of popular theology today holds that If there is offense, then someone needs to be punished. A recent Pew poll on American support of the death penalty still showed white Christians across the board as supporting the death penalty substantially more than the broader American adult population (and the racial differences in support of capital punishment are worth another discussion unto itself).

Granted, punishment as a form of “making things right” has been around for much of human history. But we can see instances of choosing a different path, such as in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-Apartheid South Africa. In that case, those offenders, those who committed heinous crimes and murders, heard the stories of how those left behind, the survivors, were affected. And the offended against heard the stories of their offenders. Across the board, offenders and survivors were humanized in each others’ eyes.

In a culture where violence and punishment make up justice, how can we be agents of reconciliation? How can we keep another’s humanity, his or her joys and struggles,  at the forefront before anything else?

Community Post!

Young adult and Emerging Leader Alex Bonte wrote this powerful reflection on hope for the Carillon this last week. I appreciate his wrestling with how to reclaim hope and make it come alive. What does it mean for you for hope to come alive?

If [you] would ever like to offer something–a reflection, song, video, image, whatever, let me know and I would love to post it here. I would love this to be a community-curated page!

 

View From Here from The Carillon, March 26, 2014:

“I have been struggling to connect with our lenten theme this year. It is difficult for me to not think of hope as delusion, or as some sort of a future-focused betrayal to the proudly present grace and love of God. Making hope something that feels alive has been difficult.
     At Gather this week, instead of an extended discussion time, Kelly (our Young Adult Coordinator) provided us with different sized paper and card stock, crayons, pastels (which I mostly understand as “fancy crayons”), and colored pencils and asked us to draw what we felt or thought about hope. 
     I started with a deep, black hole in the center of my paper. The deepest black I could grind into the page. Surrounding that darkness was a loosely orchestrated cacophony of color that radiated from and swirled around the black. The colors bled together, some were pleasant, others muddy, and faint streaks of black cut through the colors at uncomfortable moments. It was not pretty. It was not meant to be pretty. And this is how I understand hope – the colors that surround the deepest solitudes I face. Hope is my answer to nothingness, hope is what is there when I am hopeless, and I wonder if it has to be much else.
     I used the word “understand” but even now I obviously have trouble describing it in specific terms. For whatever reason though, drawing those very ugly color swirls helped push the word hope toward real feelings in my soul. I don’t know what it means yet, but at the very least it has confusing and colorful meaning now, where it held only flatness before.
     It is these practices of reexamination, redefinition, and reclamation that are the hope I see for new a new voice of Christianity. Taking words and ideas that have fallen stale or grown painful and powerfully grabbing them back into the realm of life. Into a context where concepts like hope can again inspire in a way that hooks your gut and tugs at it, or where the mention of sin will not be toward an ambition of shame, but rather an acknowledgment of our shared humanity, our collective imperfection. The safest and boldest context of all: the loving embrace of others like us, the warmth of creation itself, and the endless compassion that is God. To be loved is to be known, and to be known is to be loved. Hope has come before, hope is here, and hope will come again; even though it may be neither pretty nor readily understood.”

 

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“Jesus, Jesus” and Stark Prayer

I just discovered this artist, Noah Gundersen. I love the stark realities, questions, and frustrations all held in sung prayer here. I am drawn to the way this sounds like an address to Jesus without seeming like a well-crafted prayer presentation. It’s just a guy holding all his questions, hopes, and messiness up to Jesus and asking “where are you? How do you work?”

For a long time, I felt like I was crappy at praying. I didn’t do it in private that much. And if I could avoid doing it in public, that would be great, because I would trip up, get embarrassed, or say many things while saying nothing, really, because I kept just saying the same thing over and over again. I avoided prayer because I didn’t know how to do it myself, and it seemed like something too important to mess up.

Then I read this fantastic book from a former Episcopal priest, Barbara Brown Taylor, called An Altar in the World. She has a whole chapter that blows open notions of what prayer can be. She says something to the effect of:
I always felt like I was a prayer weakling because I would spend so much energy worrying about making my prayers properly reverent, or thorough, or fully focused. But then I realized prayer is about holding people and situations before God, in love and care and intention. Or just spending time in God’s presence. The rest is nice, but not required.

This freed me to feel like prayer is not something to avoid. Because, like many things in my perfectionism-prone life, prayer was another one of those things I avoided because I didn’t feel like an expert at it. It still can feel challenging or intimidating sometimes, but I don’t worry about doing it “right”.

a space to share, question, rejoice, lament, and gather.

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