This is a transcript from the February 9, 2020 sermon, so it contains the character of live, spoken communication.
So this morning, if you weren't here at the beginning, Allie is supposed to be talking about now but she she slipped, hit her head pretty hard, got a mild concussion, went on home and we will get to hear from her, she has a wonderful story. Can't wait for you to get to hear that and we'll find a date in the not too distant future when that can happen.
We had a great experience sometime back where we just carved this time out for questions and answers different than the Q&A after the service. Q&A after the service has to do with program and budgets and decisions and session, we'll get to that. This has to do with faith, this has to do with questions about the Bible. Just questions about culture and what we want to have that intersects. We don't have a ton of time to do that but we're going to take a few and I get to address one of the questions that came out of the class that we're doing right now, Good Goats, as well as every time that I have talked about, and Leanne and I did a class called Reimagining God. What is this reimagining God stuff and why do we have to think about how do we have to heal the image of God and why are we doing that?
In particular, why do we keep talking about the love of God? Yes, we like that part, but here's how the question usually goes, but what about the rest of the Bible Russ? What about the Old Testament when God is saying, "Go ahead and take out your enemies and wipe them out and there's anger and there's wrath of God. Why don't you talk about that part too, what do you do with that part? Let me just kind of address a little bit of that question because I think it's terribly important because it gets to a couple deep things. One, how do we read the Bible and two, how do we follow Christ?
"In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God", that's how John 1:1 goes. It is a way of turning a corner in our perceptions about who God is. "That word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth", then was Christ and in other words, that the deepest word that we have, the clearest word, the clearest representation of God is not the words about God, whether they're in the Old or the New Testament, it is the word incarnate, it is Jesus.
Jesus said the same thing when later in John he's saying, "You want to see God, here, right here. Whoever's seen me has seen the Father, this is it. This is what God looks like". We are invited by Christ, to not settle for just the words about God that are in the Bible, they're important, but they are superseded by the living word, the word that is Christ, and so everything we want to know and everything that we decide and how we make our decisions, should and needs to line up with who Jesus is and how we perceive Jesus.
When we talk about reimagining God, it's really the New Testament invitation. Think differently about God when Jesus calls God Abba, Father, that was a brand new way of seeing God. When Jesus is taking care of the poor and the oppressed and he's saying, "This is what God really cares about". In fact, this is where you'll find God. That's a way of turning our opinion or ideas about God around so that we can see clearly. It doesn't mean that the Bible isn't important. Of course, it's important but it just means that the way we read the Bible and what we take as authoritative, has to line up with who Jesus is.
When I take my ordination vows, when we do that for our elders and our deacons, the phrase is, "Do you believe that the Bible, the Old and the New Testament, are the authoritative witness to Jesus Christ and God's word to you?". Even there, it is, as it lines up with who Jesus is. I know that some people say, "But what about the authority of the Bible?". The Bible has authority as it points to Christ. Jesus said the same thing in Matthew, when he says, "All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me". He didn't say, "All authority on heaven and earth is going to be given to some of the things that some of you are going to write about me", and the reason it has authority is because it points to and adequately reflects Jesus.
What do we do with those passages that talk about the wrath of God and we talk about the anger of God and God wipes out people and God hates people. We got a couple choices. One of them and for some it was well then there are different, they called dispensations. That was then this is now that God operated with a different set of rules and regulations and ways and then that was okay at those times and places, not unlike when your kid gets to a certain age, they can drive because now the rules have changed in before when they're this age. I find a lot of problems with that, well people will find a lot of problems with me when I just say, "I think they were wrong. I think their perception when they heard God say, 'Just wipe them out', I think they were wrong. I think they heard incorrectly". They at least don't hear the way that you and I are supposed to hear because our ears and our eyes and our lives are now attuned to God, by what we see in Christ.
Yes, we need a different image of God if we're still carrying around this idea that God can hate and somehow that justifies us hating, and that somehow we get to separate. The whole Holocaust was about how we could make somebody who's not in the right and we could hate them, and then we could make them less and hate them. We have a piece of our history in Colorado, just not too far from here in Sand Creek where the massacre after a Sunday service when somebody came and talked about how it was that what we need to be doing to do God's will, reading out of that Old Testament, and somehow justifying going down and slaughtering men and women and children and somehow that was somehow Biblical, because it says so.
There's a lot of things there but the one thing, the one True north for all of us has to do with, and what do we see of God in Christ and how do we align our life up there? That's how I would answer that question and I don't know if that sparks other things, I know it does but whether you want to raise your hand or talk to me later about that, I'd be willing to fill that one but I just think that is so central to how we read the Bible. What does it mean when we call ourselves a Christian, a follower of Christ, the one who lines up and everything we believe about God is how we perceive Christ, the life, death and resurrection and the ongoing mission and ministry of Christ?
Well, good. I'm going to let Jordan take the next question then, because he's got a bunch of them in his hand, you get to pick the ones you want to because there's not that much time.
Jordan: I have two here and they're kind of similar. This one says, "Sometimes it feels like everyone is so angry, how can everyone be right and wrong at the same time, or how can everyone and no one be wrong and right?". Then this one says, "How does incarnation of God's Spirit affect your relationships with other people especially people you violently disagree with about important issues?".
I'm just assuming I know what you're talking about with those. Just the general feel in America for this year and just politics in general, not even just politics, but religion too, because those are the two places we just violently disagree with each other. Churches we end up splitting off and creating another denomination, creating other churches when we disagree about something, doctrine or theology. For this for politics, anything like that, what I always go back to is Phillipines 2, and it says that, "Each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men and being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross".
In this, Paul has talked about the example that Christ gives us to live. So learning how to humble ourselves, to empty ourselves, to look not just for our own interests, but the interests of others. That's how the incarnation of the Spirit of Christ within us can help us when we disagree with each other because if we have that sense, that we are looking out for each other, then some things, our ego starts to go away or selfishness starts to go away and then we can talk better with one another.
What keeps us from talking to each other is the fact that we just want to be right, that we want to be certain in our beliefs, that this is what I've been taught my whole life, so this is it. If I let go of this, then everything else feels like it crumbles apart, and so I think we are angry because in some ways, it's just part of history of things changing. We have more technology, more information available to us, people are making, I think, better and worse decisions upon all that information but we have more information and so then we have an opportunity to be more angry all the time, right?
It took a long time to get news about something 60-70 years ago, it took a little bit to get to you on the nightly news but now it's in your pocket immediately after it happens. There's a lot we can be angry about but the Spirit of Christ teaches us to look out for one another, to love one another, to act out as Jesus did. Now we're not perfect, so we're not going to do it all the time perfectly but to remember that, that spirit of being open to one another, and talking with one another.
That's really how it works because whether it's America- America I think what makes us great is our competition of ideas and ideologies and philosophy. We forget that. We just want our party with our ideologies to win and then everything will be better. What makes us good is the competition of that, the talking of that, the discussing and same thing with churches with denominations. The discussion and competition of theology and ideas makes us better in the end because we're emptying ourselves and trying to follow the spirit. Is that good?
Pastor Russ: It's great. We take a lot of time when we plan worship to classes, and we trust that God is in that process of planning and all of that. We also trust that when things don't go well, that in the spontaneity of the moment and the questions that come. God is in that and that's what we have been doing. We've been responding to what, who we are this morning given the day, given the weather, given all of that. This is who we are.
You've given us a lot of questions. We're not going to try and go through all those because we said we wouldn't. We got a podcast that Jordan hosts called The pastor Pod, we will get to these. There's one question that says, "What can we do to grow New Hope in the church, we seem to be stagnant?"I don't think we are but I will answer that as part of the Q&A after because that's a church-wide programmatic piece.
For all of us, we are here today and responding to the way that God comes to us, in our life challenges, in the things we planned, the things we haven't planned, and in all of it, we entrust ourselves to God.