9/29/11

STREET BEAN ESPRESSO AMPED

Remember the Dr. TEK & the PREACH'R fundraiser in May? After that auspicious beginning, more musicians lent their hands and voices over the summer, helping Street Bean Espresso reach their goal to buy sound equipment and invite artists to their stage. Our own Mark Nelson was asked to purchase the equipment; he recently ran the first artist showcase using the new gear. It was the advent of many nights of music at the corner of 3rd and Cedar, a much needed, positive new activity in this corner of Belltown. Look for another Dr. TEK & the PREACH'R night at the Street Bean soon.

9/28/11

TWO IRONIC SONS

Notice anything special about the Gospel According to Matthew? Though once a tax collector and outcast, Matthew writes the story of Jesus’ ministry for a devoutly Jewish readership. He calls attention to Jesus as the promised Messiah, fulfilling the Law, bridging the era’s of what we call the “Old Testament” and “New”. Within Matthew’s narrative, Jesus’ parables have a distinctive tone: emphasis is given to the implicit warnings in the Lord’s teaching, warnings spoken specifically to the religious establishment of that time and place. Though we are not of that time, the established church from every age must listen carefully to Matthew’s message; warnings to the religious remain relevant. Even among the Gospel crowd, God's Good News can be resisted with fear and selfishness. Matthew records this conflict via an encounter between Jesus and Jerusalem’s religious elite, along with Mark and Luke, though the Parable of the Two Ironic Sons is found only here, in the second part of Matthew 21:23-32.

Jesus was frustrated: “And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.” Is it possible to see, yet not believe? Usually, it’s the other way around. Here, the tables have turned: Jesus’ enemies have seen – along with everyone else in the region - John the Baptizer’s ministry of preaching and baptism in the desert. They saw the crowds repent and respond. Though they saw, they would not believe. They resisted.

More tables are turned. Having already turned the tables of moneychangers in the temple courts, Jesus turns the tables on his questioners, meeting their question with his own. He flips expectations further, contrasting a polite son who rebels with an insolent son who changes his mind and obeys. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” The father had wanted his sons to work the vineyard – a biblical metaphor Jesus employs from Isaiah and Jeremiah, signifying the work of God's servants among God’s beloved. Jesus’ implication is that the first son, like so many self-serving leaders of Israel over the ages, does not care for God’s people, God’s vineyard, nor God himself. Jesus again turns tables, prophesying about the kingdom; the least likely to enter lead the way; tax collectors and prostitutes go ahead of priests.
They did not like his parable, nor his prophecy. Do we? The tale of these two sons is aimed at those who say the right words, perform the proper rituals, yet avoid service and true ministry; those who supposedly love “truth,” yet scorn people. Outwardly pious, yet inwardly rebellious and apathetic to the Spirit’s leading, they are unwilling to work in the Father’s vineyard. Those who truly love God demonstrate devotion and faith through love of others, a willingness to tend to the vineyard.

Tax collector, prostitute, or priest: who needs God’s grace? All of us. At some point, the tables must turn for us to understand, to realize God’s grace is given, not earned. We must see the low lifted high, and acknowledge the humblest who lead the way. As this becomes clear, we are led to carry the message of God’s love and power to save – to tend the vineyard – beyond the confines of church ritual and congregational comfort. Evangelism happens beyond Sunday. We are led out into the wilderness where John baptized sinners, far beyond the Jerusalem Temple. We follow Jesus to the tables of tax collectors like Matthew. Good news results in good works. God’s love for us empowers our love for others.


9/22/11

CHILDREN'S MINISTRY 2011/12 LAUNCHED

This past Sunday, September 18, our Godly Play storyteller, Mr. Matt, resumed the weekly routine of stories and play during worship. Simultaneously, we launched a trial program for an older group of children. Angie R. led the first session of this new program Sunday with four children, telling the story of Noah, remembering Adam and Eve, and how God began to make his Covenant known to us. To view a schedule of stories and read the story Angie used this past Sunday, read more.


JEALOUS OF GENEROSITY


Jesus spoke many comforting, now popular words: “Blessed are the poor…”; “Let the little children come to me….”; “He who hath no sin, let him cast the first stone…”; “Today you will be with me in paradise…”; “Love one another…” These are words we like. They inspire and make us feel good.

How many of us like his story about the landowner,
from Matthew 20:1-16?


What is this story about? Since Jesus begins, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner…”, it’s safe to say this story is about the kingdom, God’s kingdom. By association, it is about the king himself, here portrayed as a landowner. Right away, this landowner stands out as peculiar: his concern for profit seems marginal. His bottom line is unconventional. He is obsessed with gathering, employing, and paying, as many workers as possible. He violates worldly wisdom regarding efficiency, merit pay, and seniority. Furthermore, he pays the workers in a backward, vexing manner. As we consider how odd this landowner is, how unrealistic his behavior, we realize there is something familiar about him. Remember the character of the master from the parable of the Unmerciful Servant? He was similarly outstanding in his extreme generosity, completely canceling a servant’s massive debt. Another example is the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son/Forgiving Father, who also behaves in an abnormally forgiving and generous manner. According to Jesus, God is extraordinarily, even scandalously, generous and forgiving.

Scandal is the appropriate term, for when God behaves this way, observe people’s response! While some are blessed, others are greatly upset. The early workers grumble about how unfairly the landowner treats them. They resent his same-wages-for-all policy. These Johnny-come-lately drifters do not deserve equal pay! While it is sometimes nice to be gracious and generous, this is insulting! We have seen this attitude elsewhere, this scorn for God’s grace. Remember the end of the story about Jonah? Jonah criticizes God for being such “a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” This prophet did all he could to avoid preaching repentance to the wicked people of Nineveh, craving their destruction. God’s patience and generosity disappointed and angered him. Remember, also, how the father of the prodigal son is begrudged by his older, responsible son, who is resentful of the father’s unconditional love and acceptance of his screwed up younger brother.

Naturally speaking, these people of the bible should be upset with God. As an Israelite, Jonah may have feared, perhaps even suffered, at the hands of people from Nineveh. At the very least, he was likely an upstanding Jew, a careful follower of the Law, in contrast to these violent barbarians. God’s love should be reserved for people like him. In the Prodigal Son story, the older brother/son had every reason to be upset; his father had depended on him to be the responsible one after his younger brother rebelled and squandered a small fortune. Are not the responsible, righteous people of this world entitled to greater reward than lowlifes who have done nothing to earn God’s favor? God could be cast as an enabler of the weak and morally lax. By blessing both as if they are the same, he devalues the work of the faithful. What about the vineyard workers’ rights, those who bore the bulk of the burden through the heat of the day?

“Right” is an interesting word in this story. When the landowner hired his second round of workers, he said, “I will pay you whatever is right.” Later responding to the protest of an early worker, the landowner says, “I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money?” In Jesus’ story, what is right is determined by the landowner, as opposed to tradition, economic convention, or anything else. Over the spiteful worker’s feelings of entitlement, the landowner reminds him that the vineyard and the opportunity to work there belong to the landowner, and he has decided to be exceptionally generous. He reminds the man that their agreement about the days wages have been honored. The man’s real problem is not that his rights have been violated; rather, he is jealous of the landowner’s generosity. Though he saw himself as first, he is paid last; though he saw himself as more, he is shown to be less. At the end of the story, Jesus’ prophetic words, "So the last will be first, and the first will be last,” reveal the reversal some will experience at the coming of God’s kingdom.

Does this story speak to us? Yes. It speaks to our confusion, when our walk with God has been supplanted by a loveless, joyless set of rituals and moral battles, bearing a burden of obedience through the “heat of the day.” Working for God is something we HAVE TO do; having worked for so long, we feel entitled to special treatment and status. Faith has been usurped by zeal for achievement in a spiritual meritocracy or search for status. We resent the church’s extension of God’s generous hospitality; we are cold to “eleventh hour” newcomers who have not proven themselves. We are jealous of God’s grace. When we no longer enjoy the Good News, that joining God’s kingdom work is something we GET TO do, because he has called, liberated, and forgiven us, this parable has a way of stirring, even stinging, us awake. If we have fully received and experienced God’s generous grace beyond measure, can we honestly be jealous to see him bestow it on others, as he sees fit? Are we the first who will be last? Let us enjoy fellowship with God, and with each other, whether early or late-comers to the vineyard.

9/14/11

CHILDREN'S MINISTRY & PARENTING BEYOND SUNDAY

Our final ALL AGES SUNDAY for the summer was followed by a Road Crew lunch and brief presentation by Pastor Likkel. The presentation focused on the upcoming launch of Children's Minsitry programs and some Parenting Beyond Sunday ideas. Thanks to Cynthia Tanis, who volunteered to provide our lunch!

Presentation Points:

CHILDREN'S MINISTRY
September 18 launch of new Big Kids' Bible Workshop along with Godly Play; how we arrived at this point and where we go from here.

PARENTING BEYOND SUNDAY
Two issues related to Parenting Beyond Sunday: recognizing our role as Christian parents and how our own relationship with God can become transparent to our children; two ways of addressing these issues which were offered include the sharing of stories, and learning events, such as Children in the Faith Community: Continuing the Conversation, Thursday, October 13, 11:30am - 1:30pm, Saint Paul's Episcopal Church, Seattle and Children, Youth and Family Ministry in the 21st Century, Monday, October 24 · 6:30pm - 9:00pm, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Lynwood.


Read all the Road Crew meeting minutes here...

WELCOME TEAGAN GRACE ENGEL

We share praise and thanks to God with the Engel family as they welcome Teagan Grace into their lives. Congratulations to Ryan, Kristin, and big sister Brynn, as Teagan was born the morning of September 14.

9/3/11

NEW KIDS PROGRAM: SAMPLE STORY

Last week, an announcement was posted about a new kids program being developed for the fall. A selection of bible stories is still being chosen for September through November, but here is a sample of material that could be used for Advent:

Advent story 1:

1st part of "He's Here!" (from Luke 1-2) Credit to the Jesus Storybook Bible

"Everything was ready. The moment God had been waiting for was here at last! God was coming to help his people, just as he promised in the beginning.
But how would he come? What would he be like? What would he do?
Mountains would have bowed down. Seas would have roared. Trees would have clapped their hands. But the earth held its breath. As silent as snow falling, he came in. And when no one was looking, in the darkness, he came.

There was a young girl who was engaged to a man named Joseph. One morning, this girl was minding her own business when, suddenly, a great warrior of light appeared - right there in her bedroom. He was Gabriel and he was an angel, a special messenger from heaven. When she saw the tall shining man standing there, Mary was frightened.
'You don't need to be scared', Gabriel said. 'God is very happy with you!'
Mary looking around to see if perhaps he was talking to someone else.
'Mary,' Gabriel said, and he laughed with such gladness that Mary's eyes filled with sudden tears.
'Mary, you're going to have a baby. A little boy. You will call him Jesus. He is God's own Son. He's the One! He's the rescuer!'
The God who flung planets into space and kept them whirling around and around, the God who made the universe with just a world, the one who could do anything at all - was making himself small. And coming down...as a baby.
Wait. God was sending a baby to rescue the world?
'But it's too wonderful!' Mary said and felt her heart beating hard. 'How can it be true?'
'Is anything too wonderful for God?' Gabriel asked.
So Mary trusted God more than what her eyes could see. And she believed. 'I am God's servant,' she said. 'Whatever God says, I will do.' "

Advent story 2:

"The light of the whole world" (The story of the Shepherds from Luke 2)

Advent story 3:

"The king of all kings" (The story of the Wise Men from Matthew 2)



The Emmaus Road Story

In the winter of 1997, we began as a small team of about 10 people, committed to gathering and growing a church that would connect with others like ourselves; people interested in connecting with God, in the person and work of Jesus Christ, but disconnected from the activity of many mainstream congregations. With the financial support of a larger church organization, our pastor was able to work full time with the team in planning, leadership development, and meeting people in the community.

Our first meetings were open discussion forums. We talked about prayer, scripture, spiritual discipline and the issues with which we all struggle. As friends talked to friends, the first group expanded and we multiplied into two.

Inspired by the journey process as a metaphor for spiritual growth, we searched for a name which would reflect that idea. In the resurrection narrative of Luke 24, we found our name "on the road to Emmaus."

After our first worship event on Good Friday of 1997, both groups began to gather together for worship once a month. In various coffee shops and rental spaces, we gradually increased our worship times to twice a month, and in September of 1998 we decided to gather every Sunday. Since the beginning, numerical growth has been gradual but steady, most often through the personal contact of friends talking to friends.

Today, several small groups continue to meet for open discussions on prayer, scripture, and the process of encountering God in daily life; we all gather for worship each week.