Oh advent, we need you

by susan on December 1, 2018

If ever we needed the arrival of something new, we need it now (I imagine that’s been said a time or two throughout history, but come on. Look around.).

Fires in California, more mass shootings, millions of refugees fleeing for their lives & a nation formed by immigrants tear-gassing immigrants at our border.

If ever we needed the arrival of something new, we need it now. We mean it this time.

It’s times like these that make me thankful for the church calendar. I know, it seems somewhat inappropriate to claim a cycle of scriptures, stories & rituals can somehow put a dent in our collective failure & suffering. Yet, in some weird & mysterious way, I think there’s something to it. This ancient collection of stories gives us hope, and not the just the put your feet-up-and-get-comfy because everything’s gonna be okay kind of hope.

Instead, it’s the kind that says, something new is not just possible, it’s inevitable – don’t you want to join in?!

It must have taken that kind of hope to invite a not-yet-married teenager to say yes to an angel who abruptly invited her to be part of God’s life-uprooting plan to save the world. And though we are not told there was anything magical or bigger than life about Mary, we have made her so. Icons of Mary can be found everywhere, from stain-glassed cathedrals to shiny hood ornaments. No matter what your beliefs about her, there’s no way to deny her pivotal role in the Revolution.

She felt him grow in her body.
She experienced him stir & move.
She labored & gave birth to him.

This Advent season leading up to Christmas, we are journeying with Mary.

We’re starting our Advent journey this Sunday at Hyperion Brewing Co. It may seem like an unlikely place, but for our community, it’s pretty typical. We believe God is just as present in a brewery as in a church building – maybe more so at times. We’re partnering with The Story Arts Workshop to host a morning of brunch & storytelling centered around preparation, becoming, arrival & anything else related to Advent. It was in the everyday life of Mary (the mother of Jesus) that Hope arrived – perhaps we’ll experience the same as we share stories, food & drink together.

Next Sunday, we’ll be back at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum for a series of Sunday gatherings to journey together toward the birth of Christ. We’ll imagine Mary’s life, light candles remembering various parts of her story & be invited to reflect on her role in birthing Jesus.

And throughout this season, as we have done in years past, we’re choosing to buy less so we can give more. We’re asking those in our community (which includes you if you’re reading this) to buy less “stuff” this Christmas and instead give gifts that make a difference. Our focus is on giving to Amani Sasa (“Peace Now”). Amani Sasa is a holistic ministry among women refugees in Uganda. Many of these women and girls have been traumatized, abused, trafficked and/or are vulnerable to exploitation. Through a shelter recovery program, a vocational training program for women at risk and a social work program, they are experiencing hope & new life. In the new year, Amani Sasa is also launching a new maternal health program to empower vulnerable young moms with vital pre-natal care, medical support, counseling and training skills. This Christmas, you can give a gift to support this new initiative. Gift cards are available to give to loved ones letting them know a gift has been given in their honor.

We hope to see you this season & we’d love for you to join us in expecting & joining in the arrival of One who has & who still is changing the world.

Guns to Garden Tools & Why We Gather

by susan on November 8, 2018

On the heels of yet another mass shooting, this time in a California bar, we are reminded yet again of the reality of gun violence that plagues our nation. It’s not just happening somewhere else, though. For too long, it’s been happening too often here in our own community – in our streets & homes & public spaces.

One of the reasons we gather each week as a Jesus-centered community is to be reminded that is doesn’t have to be like this.

There is another way. 

We come together to remember that Way. Rooted in the imagination of the prophet Isaiah who declared, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Is. 2:4), that way was revealed most fully through the life, teachings, death & resurrection of Jesus.

It is the way of love, not fear.
It is the way of peace, not war.

It is the way of serving & sharing & giving & forgiving, not hoarding & punishing & hating & dividing.

And, while yes we do live in an imperfect “already, but not yet” time, it’s imperative that we come together to remember, that even in our brokenness, God is making a way forward. And we have a part in it.

This Sunday, November 11th, as we come together at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum at 10:30 a.m., we’ll hear the heart-breaking story of one of our neighbors who lost her son in gun violence. We’ll also hear the story of a gun owner in our church family who donated his gun to be transformed into a garden tool. Thanks to the imaginative (& speedy!) work of RawTools, we should have the garden tool this Sunday. We’ll sing, pray, share stories & be invited to live deeper into the way of Jesus.

Then, next Sunday, November 18th at 4 p.m., we’re partnering with other faith leaders & grassroots organizations to host a community gathering in Memorial Park in Riverside. This interfaith-led service will include stories from those impacted by gun violence, reflections from faith leaders, candle lightings & calls to commit ourselves to a better way forward. You can find the details on the Facebook event page.

So, let’s gather. Let’s gather to lament, to confess, to support & to declare once again: “it doesn’t have to be like this.

Artwork: Swords into Plowshares, at the garden at the United Nations, New York City, Yevgeny Vuchetich, 1959.

Setting out again & again

September 18, 2018

These are the “words for the journey” that were shared during The Well’s Sunday gathering on 9.16.18. They are based on Genesis 12:1-9 and are part of our series, Disarming the Bible & recapturing the ancient, messy, complex, inspired, still-speaking story of Scripture. Throughout this series, we are exploring various ways to engage Scripture. Last […]

Read the full article →

Noah, the flood & a God who remembers

September 11, 2018

These are the “words for the journey” that were shared during The Well’s Sunday gathering on 9.9.18. They were based on Genesis 6:11-14, 17-22, 7:19-21, 8:1, 9:8-11 and are part of our series, Disarming the Bible & recapturing the ancient, messy, complex, inspired, still-speaking story of Scripture. — We are told that in the beginning when […]

Read the full article →

Disarming the Bible & recapturing the ancient, complex, inspired, still-speaking story of scripture

September 7, 2018

War stories. Forgiveness. Genocide. Resurrection. Polygamy. Covenant. Anger, joy, fear, love, grief & gratitude. Even a pregnant virgin & a talking donkey. It’s all in there. The Bible contains a collection of experiences, poems, songs, letters and stories that tell us about God, about one another, about what it means to be alive. In some mysterious & […]

Read the full article →

Beach & Baptism Gathering

September 4, 2018

It has become a tradition of our community to choose a Sunday at the end of summer when we head to the beach to remember our baptisms, to celebrate baptism & to just enjoy spending time together. This year, it’s happening on Sunday, September 30th at Little Talbot Island & everyone is invited. Baptism is […]

Read the full article →

Becoming Children

August 9, 2018

The writer of 1 John repeatedly refers to the friends he is writing to as “children of God.” It’s easy to brush right past these words, but maybe we should let them sink in a little. After all, he’s writing to adults. He’s writing to people who have wisdom & experience. He’s writing to friends […]

Read the full article →

Tattoo storytelling & owning our un-orthodoxy

May 30, 2018

In a recent social media conversation, I was described as “unorthodox” (some of you are already starting to laugh). While the rebellious part of me loved that designation, the pleaser part was left a little unsettled. Me? Unorthodox? Is that a joke? Did I read that right? While unorthodox technically means “contrary to what is […]

Read the full article →

A word about healing, worthiness & women’s bodies

May 15, 2018

This is the message shared on mother’s day, Sunday, May 13th during our community gathering. It is part of our “Embody: practicing resurrection through our bodies” series & is based on Luke 13:10-17. — Last Thursday,19-year-old Noura Huseein was sentenced to death. Noura grew up in Sudan, where it’s legal for a girl to be married […]

Read the full article →

Healing Our Broken & Beloved Bodies

May 8, 2018

This is the message that was shared on Sunday, May 6th during our community gathering. It is part of our “Embody: practicing resurrection through our bodies” series & is based on the following scriptures: So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them. – Genesis 1:27a A leper came to […]

Read the full article →