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Not fanatical enough

Rev 3:14-16

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Our Lord isn't hurt, nor angered by in this passage - but nauseated by lukewarmness.

Zealousness doesn’t go down very well in our culture. It’s not cool to be a radical extremist of anything. What’s cool is being cynical, moderate, centrists, libertarian-middle of the road kind of people, right?

People are worried about being seen as a “fanatic.” What is a fanatic? Most people know what a fanatic is. A fanatic is someone who is rude, who is insensitive, who is counter-productive because he/she tries to get his/her opinion across in the most offensive way possible and as a result often achieves the opposite of what was intended. Fanatics are cruel. Fanatics are bigoted. Fanatics are proud.

So when it comes to Christianity most people think that fanaticism is the cause of the cruelty, bigotry and pride often associated with Christians. To cure them of these maladies you need to turn down the zeal. To be “less committed.” To be more moderate. More relaxed. Not so. The problem with the Christian fanatic is not that he/she is too fanatical –it’s that he/she isn’t fanatical enough.

They are fanatically like their Lord in SOME ways, but not in MOST ways. For example, they are not fanatically sensitive (loving, self-sacrificing, humble, wise) like Jesus. Matt 12:20 “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.”

Follow Me

Join us as we go through a new teaching series on the "follow me" passages in the Bible.   It's something unique about Jesus Christ.  No other major religious figure would have the gall to tell people to follow "me."  They may tell people to follow their example or to follow their teachings, but Jesus wanted complete allegiance to himself.  Why?  What does that tell us about him?  And what does that mean for us today?   ~Ed

6:04AM Easter Sunrise Service

"...as they proceed on their way to Emmaus, instructing Jesus along the way, it is remarkable that they do not recognize who he is. We tend to blame them for this, but perhaps we are far too quick. We are not talking ’regular stuff’ here. We are talking about the resurrection. That we expect these two on the way to Emmaus to recognize Jesus shows us how difficult it is for any of us to comprehend the resurrection...Resurrection is the reconfiguration of all we know, have known, and will know." ~ Stanley Hauerwas, The Great Reversal This Sunday we will be having ONE gathering (there will be no 11AM service). The Easter Sunrise Service will be held @ the Don Armeni Boat Ramp in West Seattle (1222 Harbor Ave SW). Sunrise is scheduled for:

6:04AM

After our service we'll all head to the Chelan Cafe for breakfast. If you can't make it for the service at sunrise, come over later to the cafe and join us. We usually get there just before 8AM.

3527 Chelan Ave SW Seattle, WA 98106

Here's a a map from the sunrise location to the Chelan Cafe. The most important thing is to STAY LEFT so that you stay under the West Seattle Bridge instead merging onto it (the steel mill will be on your right)

I look forward to celebrating and remembering the Resurrected One with you all.

Blessings, Ed

Starbucks vs Victrola

Listen to sermon We continue our study of Romans 12:3-8.

I never tip for drip coffee. What does a barista do to earn a tip for that? So I was confronted by one our members recently who work at Victrolas. He was confronted by one of the other baristas who received a 3 cent tip from me which was me just rounding up to the nearest dollar on my credit card slip. Yeah, yeah, yeah - I know - why bother. So Tim (the barista who attends our church) says to me: "They know you are my pastor. It's kinda embarrassing." I explained to Tim how for me to tip for a cup of coffee at Vics would make drip coffee twice the cost of me purchasing coffee at Starbucks. "That's ridiculous!" I told him. He then went on to explain how local shops like Victrola would not be in existence if it tried to compete for the same customers like myself - "takers" - consumers who want to be served rather than serve. But hold on. Am I not here to be served? The point is, Victrola, like other independent coffee shops, depend on folks who are willing sacrifice what they would not have to sacrifice if they didn't have to. I was told in seminary that a church needs to model itself after Starbucks. You need to "market" God and the church in a way that cuts out the competition for people hearts. Essentially, make God cheap. Make church "worth it" for the people.

Something happens when we replace God as our object of worship. Rather than a life consumed by the awe of God and service to Him, we become consumers of God's things and his service to us. And given the fact that our hearts have been made for eternity, our appetite is insatiable.  Sure, that may be good for our economy, but this "consumer" mentality flies in the face of the One who came "not to be served, but to serve."  And it flies in the face of what Paul describes as the motivation for why we gather as a church.

to consume or be consumed

humble
humble

Listen to sermon We continue our study of Romans 12:3-8.

Something happens when we begin to replace God as our object of worship. Rather than being consumed by the utter otherness of God and serving Him, we replace Him with someone or something that can serve us - someone or something that we can control and consume. And given the fact that our hearts have been made for eternity, our appetite is insatiable.  Sure, that may be good for our economy, but this "consumer" mentality flies in the face of the One who came "not to be served, but to serve."  And it flies in the face of what Paul describes about the relationship we are to have with one another in the church.

He reminds us of four things about believers:

1. We are same. There's unity and equality. No one is better than or less than. No one can be because we rely on the merit of Christ for our righteousness. That gives us a basis for humility and the courage to be sober in our judgement of ourselves. 2. We are different. There is a uniqueness about each and every one of us. A diversity in our unity. 3. We are one. We are fellow citizens not asking the church what it can do for us, but what we can do for it. Church is a ministry center, not a commissary. We are serving each other, not consuming each other for our ego sake. 4. We are able. We have been outfitted with spiritual gifts to be the body of Christ to make all this possible.

Worship Modification

altar
altar

Listen to sermon Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom 12:1-2)

The opposite of Christianity is not atheism. It is idolatry. That means everyone worship someone or something - all the time. So who or to what do you pay homage to? What or to whom are you are willing to lay yourself on the altar for - to have you, to take you, to possess you? What or to whom are you a "slave" to? Whatever or whomever that is will profoundly shape one's being. All to say, transformation doesn't begin with behavioral modification. It begins with worship modification. ~ Ed

Christ's Exodus - Our Story.

Listen to sermon The experience of pain and suffering have little meaning in and of themselves. Meaning requires context.

Gabriel Marcel, the Christian existentialist philosopher, would talk about how the human person is a participant in, rather than a spectator of, reality and the life of the world. He writes: "All human life develops in the manner of a drama."

What do you consider the 'principle' drama in your life? In other words, what's "gospel" to you? What is the underlying story that puts all your experiences into context?

All of Habakkuk 3 is a recapitulation of the Exodus. The pestilence and the plagues. That's how God got them out of Egypt. The shaking of the ground. That's Mt. Sinai. The trampling of the sea - that's the crossing of the Red Sea.

In the face of impending evil, what Habakkuk does is go back to the story of the Exodus. It was his gospel. It was the principle drama of the Israeli people that put all of their life into context. The children of Israel were in slavery and bondage, and they didn't have the power to get themselves out - but God came and he miraculously intervened by entering into history and he brought them out, and they were saved – not by what they did, but by what HE did. That's was their gospel. What Habakkuk is doing is telling himself and reminding himself of this gospel - until he gets to v.16 and says, "OKAY. Now I got peace."

You see this all through the bible - the process of remembering context. Often that process begins with intense self-examination. In Psalm 42, the psalmist writes, "Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?" It's only after that he writes, "Put your hope in God." In Psalm 103, the psalmist writes: "Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s."

In the face of evil and difficulty, they remind their souls of the One who entered time and space to save them. It gives their experience of grief and sorrow context for meaning and hope.

What is your gospel? What is the lens (story) by which you interpret your experience of pain, grief and sorrow?

~Ed Park

Facing Evil Times

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How do we face evil times? First of all, we need to understand the source of evil. The reason why the Babylonians were out extorting, plundering, killing and using people, and the reason why you and I do so much of what we do - if you know your own heart, you know to a great degree it is because we are TOO PROUD to entrust the Creator with our emptiness and we instead trust in our own creation. Habakkuk 2:18, 19 -

18 “Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman? Or an image that teaches lies? For the one who makes it TRUSTS IN HIS OWN CREATION;; he makes idols that cannot speak. 19 Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.”

And so we are attacked by the demons of fear and anxiety - we want to swagger and bluff, and we look everywhere for people to use, to scapegoat, or to buttress our shaky ego that this pride has created. This is the Babylonian way.

Second, we also need comfort to face evil times. Sometimes the chaos is so intense that you can't help but wonder if we are beyond hope. In the midst of the darkness, Habakkuk writes v.20, "BUT the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” What does that mean? It means, that on the one hand, you can really screw up your life, and you’re decisions count, and you’re responsible for them, AND YET, God says, “I have a plan that will overrule all evil, all bad choices, I’m going to have my purposes for you and for the world fulfilled.” How can that be? It sounds contradictory. Scholars call this an antimony. Antimonies are apparent contradictions. They just looks like a contradiction, unlike paradoxes which are contradictory. One classic example of an antimony is light. Light is a wave. Light is a particle. How can they be both? We don’t know. It’s an apparent contradiction, but that’s just the way it is.

We have a tendency to say, “If God is in control of everything, we are just puppets and we cannot help the mess that we are making.” Or we think, “If my decisions count, then it IS possible for me/us to mess up history, mess up god’s plan.” That’s not true either. The Bible depicts a God that says, "You’re absolutely free and responsible for your choices, at the same time, you’re going to screw things up, BUT the LORD is in his holy temple, i.e., I’m overruling it all. Cause I am in charge. I’m sovereign.” HE NEVER LEAVES HIS THRONE. He never leaves his place of rule and control. That allows us to face evil with comfort - not panic. He’s always there. He’s controlling everything. No matter how much you muck it up.

~Ed Park

Puffed Up

Listen to sermon RECAP from Sunday: Habakkuk 2:1-20

During evil times our default is to aim our cross-hairs at someone or something to blame. It could be your family of origin or a certain person.  Perhaps you blame it on your lifestyle or life experience or a particular philosophy on life.   When it comes to societal evils we often times blame the government or blame the capitalists or the homeless.

Blaming something or someone however is too simplistic when it comes to responding to hard times.  Solzhenitsyn puts it like this:

"If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them.  But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”

The source of  "evil"  is far deeper, and it's not about what has been done to you.  We don't like to hear that.  We like to think that our difficulties can be solved by changing something - the people in our lives, our philosophy, our lifestyle, our religion, our career, etc.

Christianity teaches us that the source of evil is within ourselves - our spiritual pride.  In the vivid language of the Bible, pride is puffing yourself up in God's face. “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright - but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness" (Hab 2:2)

Lewis Smedes puts it this way - from his book, Love Within Limits,

“Spiritual pride has to do with how we feel about God. Pride in the religious sense is an arrogant refusal to let God be God. it is to grab God's status for one's self. Pride is turning down God's invitation to join the dance of life as a creature in his garden and wishing instead to be the Creator, independent, reliant on one's own resources. Never does pride want to pray for strength, ask for grace, plead for mercy, or give thanks to God. Price is the grand illusion, the fantasy of fantasies, the cosmic put-on. The fantasy that we can make it as little gods leaves us empty at the center. Once we decide we have to make it on our own, we are attacked by the demons of fear and anxiety. We are worried that we cannot keep our balance as long as we carry no more inside our empty heart than what we can put there. We suspect that we lack the power to become what our pride makes us think we are. So we learn to swagger, to bluff, to use symbols to cover up our fears that we lack substance. We force other people to act as buttresses for the shaky ego that pride created by emptying our soul of God. In the words of God's love song, we become arrogant. Every new situation calls forth the question: "What can I get out of this to support the need of my ego for power and applause?" As he encounters new people, he wonders, "How can this person contribute to my need for applause and power?" He projects his own anxieties onto other people, so when others come to him he wonders, "What is this person's pitch? What does he want from me?" Life becomes a campaign to use people to support oneself and a constant battle to avoid having others use oneself that way. Vanity creates the need to use people because we cannot keep our balance spiritually if we are empty at the center."

This kind of pride leads to vanity. Vanity is emptiness. A person who is empty at the center of life is vain, and a vain person is almost always arrogant. This kind of arrogance breeds contempt and sows seeds of destruction in our lives and the world around us.

Preaching by Ed Park

An overused cliche

Listen to sermon RECAP from Sunday: Habakkuk 2:1-4

Through the Thou a person becomes I. - Martin Buber

In any relationship, when the Other doesn't wait on us (serve our interests, meet our expectations) we tend to stop waiting on the Other. Imagine if a friend, family member, spouse or an employee, walked out on us because they felt it was unsatisfying or that it no longer benefited them anymore. What kind of relationship would that be? We would be furious! And rightfully so.

It's the kind of relationship Satan accused Job of having with his Creator - he was just using God to get God's things (affirmation, community, inspiration, forgiveness, peace, health, wealth, prosperity, etc.) Take those things away and Job will push God from center-stage to the margins of his life. How would God feel about that? I figure Satan could have taken some insecure, lonely, grumpy person and ask God to "bless" him/her to prove the same point.

Habakkuk is considered by many as a "little Job." He didn't lose a family or a farm like Job did, but he did see his nation ravaged by injustice and experienced a God who seemed like he didn't give a damn. But he waited. He waited for, and waited on God. What does it mean to "wait on the Lord"? It's such an overused cliche.

Preached by Ed Park

Reflection

The incarnation means that for whatever reason God chose to let us fall into a condition of being limited, to suffer, to be subject to sorrows and death—he has nonetheless had the honesty and the courage to take his own medicine.... He himself has gone through the whole of human experience—from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death.... He was born in poverty and...suffered infinite pain—all for us—and thought it well worth his while. ~ Dorothy Sayers

Advent 2010 - Freedom and Being

What does it mean to become ourselves? To be authentic? To honestly live "my life"? What is "my life"? And where does freedom come into play? Consider a fish out of water. It would gasp for its life. When it is in its element, it has the freedom to be what it was meant to be. Same with an acorn. Leave it above ground and it will eventually die. Put it in the ground and it will realize its true potential.

Bob Dylan once said: "No one is free, even the birds are chained to the sky." But chained to the sky does a bird find the freedom to be what it was meant to be.

What about us human beings? Chained to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we find the freedom to become ourselves, to be authentic, to honestly live my life as it was meant to be lived.

We ask ourselves during this Advent season: Is he my Lord and King?

~Ed Park

Advent 2010 - Past Present Synergy

synergy syn·er·gy (sĭn'ər-jē) n.The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.

Colossians 1

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.

It seems from these verses that the our 'blessed' state is contingent upon our obedience - that we will be presented holy and blameless "if" we remain faithful - as if our eternal salvation depends on our performance.

In the Greek, the "if" is not an “if” of the future; it is an “if” of the past. It indicates an assumption of truth. Paul assumes that the Colossians will continue in the faith. The word can be translated “since": "since indeed you continue in the faith."

How is that possible? Our 'blessed state' is an accomplished fact. It's something DONE for us. We living in a 'blessed' way is a proof of that reality, not a means for it.

Point: God calls us to become who we already are.

We are children "qualified [by the Father] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1)

We are in an 'already but not yet' state of being. We are to become who we already are. It's a paradoxical way of looking at identity.

Often times when it comes to our identity, we focus on the not-yet, or we focus on the already. We focus on one or the other, leading to burn-out or a passivity.

The Christian comes at identity from both sides making for a kind of synergy. We have drive but are not driven because we already are who we are becoming. And yet we can rest without becoming passive because we are becoming who we already are.

This season bring together the already (the first Advent) with the not-yet (the second Advent). It's a cause for both celebration (rest) and anticipation (drive) - at the same time. It brings together what has been done (our rescue) with what is to become (our restoration). Combined, their effects are greater than the sum of their individual effects in our lives!

Advent 2010 - Reconciliation

Listen to sermon YouTube links referenced in the sermon:

Text: Colossians 1:19-23 Speaker: Ed Park

Recently there was a remake of the 1985 charity single “We are the World” written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie for Haitian Relief:

We are the world, we are the children We are the ones who make a brighter day So let's start giving There's a choice we're making We're saving our own lives It's true we'll make a better day Just you and me

After a Live AID concert, Bob Dillon said to the press that he was uncomfortable singing that song. When asked why he was uncomfortable he said, “man cannot save himself.”

In a 2007 Times article, at 41, Bono says, he has given up on music as a political force. He believes his work negotiating in political back rooms is more vital and effective than singing in sold-out stadiums. "Poetry makes nothing happen," the poet W.H. Auden once wrote, and Bono wistfully agrees. "When you sing, you make people vulnerable to change in their lives. You make yourself vulnerable to change in your life. But in the end, you've got to become the change you want to see in the world."

We must become the change. But we cannot. Therein lies a problem. Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners need to be reconciled. But by whom?

The Bible teaches us that there is a Designer behind the design of the universe.  And that he came in the flesh in order to reconcile creation to its Creator.  The result of his work is both legal and personal.

Colossians 1:21-22

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation

He finds you beautiful personally. He treats you as perfect – legally. There has never been such a radical claim that such a relationship with a creator God is possible. And those of us who have that relationship, know that it gives you a joy and a confidence that cannot be put out.

Passionate Riskiness

Listen to sermon Text: James 5:1-6 Speaker: Gabe Molinaro

A proper eschatology (view of end times) will lead us view others rightly, and our hearts will be free from caring too much about this world or caring too little. And there will be a “passionate riskiness” when it comes to your wealth.

Conservative churches are too hung up on the ‘when.’ They are apocalyptic. There is apathy about THIS life and an obsessiveness about the after-life. Why care for the poor? Why care for the earth? Let’s not do anything to improve social conditions. Let’s just save their souls. Why? Jesus is coming back. He may come back tomorrow! The signs, the signs!!! They don’t invest in others because THIS life doesn’t matter enough.

Mainline churches, on the other hand, are ambivalent about when Jesus is coming back. “Who knows?” There’s an obsessiveness about this-life and apathy about the after-life. They get all their satisfaction on whether they make it in THIS world. They don’t invest in others because THIS life matters too much.

Biblical doctrine cuts against both of those things.

The individual’s death is to an individual what the 2nd coming is to the human race. If your eschatology is on straight – your heart will be free from not caring out this world, and caring too much about this world. There will be a passionate riskiness when it comes to your wealth.

Moreover, for the Christian, another reason that we are so concerned with money and our own comfort is that we have forgotten the one who did not resist, but died for us.

Karl Barth: “Instead of striving for a higher position, more power, and more influence, Jesus moved from the heights to the depths, from victory to defeat, from riches to poverty, from triumphs to suffering, from life to death.”

Forgetting to Remember

Listen to sermon Text: James 4:13-17 Speaker: Ed Park

The perfect justice of God requires him to forget us if we forget him. Haven't we forgotten him? Therefore on the basis of perfect justice, God must have forgotten us. But James is talking like God hasn't and even asks us to presume his grace. How is this possible? How could he be a God of grace without contradicting his perfect justice?

ANSWER: By forgetting his son. On the cross Jesus took the ignoring that WE deserved in order that we can get the remembering HE deserved. He was forgotten, utterly, cosmically ignored by the only person in the world that mattered to him. Remember his final words on the cross: “My God, my God, why has Thou forsaken me?”

That’s the reason why God can say as he did in Isaiah 49.15

15 "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

The Judged Judge

Listen to sermon Text: James 4:11-12, 5:12 Speaker: Ed Park

Moral evaluation isn't the same thing as condemnation. Unfortunately our modern culture tends not to differentiate the two. Any kind of moral evaluation is labeled as “judging” and is seen as wrong. That connection is at best contradictory and at worst hypocritical!

Nevertheless, because of the connection in our culture, Christians clearly over-react. And what the world sees are churches filled with the legalistic judgmental spirit of judging or they see churches that are afraid of calling anything wrong at all.

Could we be a community that is absolutely committed to absolute truth without an ounce of self-righteousness, moral superiority, or a judging spirit?

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Father in Heaven, Lord, may your name be glorified, above all others, above all this world, above everything else in our lives.

For nothing else in all of this world matters but to live our lives for you and you alone.

May your wonders never cease May your Spirit never leave May we ever long to see your face. And when we’ve turned from you again, oh how quickly we forget, May we be reminded of your grace.

Beautiful Savior, truly You proved your love for us. While we were sinners, in all our weakness, still you gave your life on the cross.

You saved us Lord from all of our transgressions and delivered us into your loving arms.