2014 Archives

With ten years of messages to archive, we’re still working on it. Our latest messages appear on this page, but if you want to look at earlier years, click the construction banner below to go to our full archive, then scroll down to the year you’d like to browse.




Outrunning the Rules

Dave Brisbin | 9.10.17
Anyone who’s played football had to learn the playbook and how to run the plays in the book, but the real play of football begins where the playbook ends. What do you do when the playbook has delivered you the ball, put it in your hands, and now it’s just you, a field full of linebackers, and a goal line? A great chef begins where the recipe ends and jazz players are defined by the music they make beyond the printed page. It’s a great irony that the church has traditionally told us that God will bless us if we just obey the rules, the law…especially considering that Jesus spent most of his precious time trying to tell us and show us that we can only begin to see the blessings God is constantly showering on our lives once we outrun the rules: 

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transcend them, graduate beyond them, fulfill them by becoming them—living with their original intent written on our hearts. Until and unless we begin to see that Jesus is trying to grow us up and over mere acquisition and obedience as the means to God’s love and approval, we’ll never experience the freedom of simply running downfield with abandon, the ability to make a feast out of whatever ingredients each moment provides, or the creativity in flowing with music that has never been written, and will exist only as long as we are playing.

Kingdom of Presence

Dave Brisbin | 9.3.17
A pastor once told me that the pulpit is the last bastion of uninterrupted speech in America. That may be true, and monologues have their place and power, but from time to time we like to have “Conversations” on Sunday mornings, times when we can interact as a group—ask questions and make comments, tell personal stories—sometimes open ended and sometimes directed. Today, directed a bit, realizing that how for the past few weeks I’ve been focusing on the “via negativa,” the ancient, Christian tradition of descent, of letting go of whatever is false in our lives may have created an overly negative view of Jesus’ Way, it seemed to good time to talk about what willingness to let go actually brings into our lives. 

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Letting go of more and more of what is false is really a letting go of fear, and letting go of fear finally allows us to see what is real before us. And what is real is Presence. What does this presence feel like and how do we experience it in everyday life? We all throw in to discuss.

Leaving Home

Dave Brisbin | 8.27.17
In saying that Jesus’ hidden years show us a life of willingness to let go of anything that is not truth, to descend first, with no guarantee of ascension, just a promise…what does that look like? What does it mean in real life? Our lives? Piecing together the clues in the few stories we have in the Gospels, it looks like leaving home. Leaving everything that is familiar, comfortable and comforting, what has always been and seems secure and certain, stepping out into the unknown without a safety net, away from those on which you’ve always depended. We see Jesus leaving home four times in the Gospels—short bloodless, matter of fact descriptions with little or none of the raw human emotion and drama of such leavings, both for Jesus and his loved ones.

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From age twelve to thirty plus, he leaves the warmth and comfort of home to pursue his unswerving desire for truth. If we read between the lines and layer our own experiences of leaving home for college or summer camp, for the military, or job, spouse, prison, divorce—whether anticipating better or worse, it’s wrenching to leave what we know and love, and just as hard for those who love us. Are we willing to leave home? Sometimes literally, but always emotionally, intellectually, spiritually? Willing to leave what we think we know sustains us for something deeper, truer? If not, then we are not following the Way of Jesus.

The Hidden Years

Dave Brisbin | 8.20.17
Francis of Assisi is credited with saying that we should preach the Gospel continuously and use words where necessary. Taking his cue from Jesus, Francis understood that the Gospel was first a way of living life and only secondarily and of necessity a concept put into words. That words were only as good as the experience that gave them life. Jesus himself and his life itself is the message, the Way, but in our hyper-intellectualism, we miss all that, and in our focus on Jesus as God, we miss his life as a human, as a man—as scripture tells us: fully human, like us in all things, prone to all our weaknesses, learning and growing as we do, yet with an unquenchable desire to know truth, which brought him fully one with the Father, or as scripture puts it, “without sin.” What does that “gospel” look like, what does the shape of Jesus’ life tell us about the shape of ours? 

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Is all this really supported by our scripture? We know very little about Jesus’ life outside of his public ministry, but it’s by stringing together the clues of his first 30 hidden years, with some reading between the lines that we see what it really looks like to follow Jesus, to live a life that is always willing to let go of anything that is not truth, to descend before you ascend, to feel your way to the Father when there are no words to express the process. We focus on the teachings and healings of Jesus during his public ministry, but it’s only in understanding his hidden years, his life journey to his ministry that we can understand what his words really mean.

Always Today

Dave Brisbin | 8.13.17
The hardest thing for us to understand about Kingdom is its immediacy. The understanding of Jesus’ Kingdom as the heaven of afterlife is so deeply embedded in us, that intellectually understanding otherwise doesn’t really move the needle much. We can say we understand and yet for years still operate as if this Kingdom is still off waiting to happen in some undertermined future. It’s only by living the process of Jesus’ Way, day in and day out, that little by little the conviction builds that when it comes to Kingdom, its’ always today. 

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Kingdom is the state and quality of living a completely healed life, yet when we read of all the healings of Jesus, we focus on the literal, physical healings, allowing us to keep the full, spiritual healing of Kingdom still off wanting to happen. The blind seeing, deaf hearing, lame walking are also about the process of becoming open to new Ways of seeing and hearing and moving past the paralysis of fear that keeps us stalled on Jesus’ Way. The full healing of Kingdom is always right here, right now, always today.

Process to Person

Dave Brisbin | 8.6.17
When Jesus says that he is the Way, truth, and life, if we’re to take him at his word, what he is saying is that he is both a person and a process. The implications of this statement are radical, but we typically don’t even consider them as the church has come to focus almost exclusively on Jesus as a person and has lost the promise of process: finding the person/truth that makes us free. But though the processness of Jesus may be lost on us, it wasn’t on his first followers who called themselves “talmidey urha,” Aramaic for Followers of the Way…not followers of Jesus. 

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And even though Jesus was understood as identical with the Way, still their distinction pointed directly to the fact that we as followers actually do need to follow a Way, a process of becoming more and more identified with both Jesus and Way. So now as modern Westerners, we need to follow a process of unlearning that will take us from the person of Jesus we think we know to the process of Jesus that his first followers knew, that will then take us to the person of truth that will make us free.

A Functional Heretic

Dave Brisbin | 7.30.17
How could an abundance of emphasis on the absolute love of God be a problem? What could go wrong? It is one of the ironies of my life and chosen profession that my absolute focus on the absolute nature of God’s love has placed me at odds with many of my Christian contemporaries, and though this over simplifies the nature of any controversy, it at least accurately expresses my intentions and the method in my “heresy.” At a recent gathering, in the midst of an energetic discussion, one man called me a “functional heretic,” a term I just loved and enthusiastically accepted. I knew what he meant: that I was someone pushing the envelope just short of too far to remain functioning within Christendom, remaining true to Jesus and his message even if expressed in radically different ways. But the reason I loved and accepted the term is because I believe it absolutely applies to Jesus as well. 

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Jesus never stopped being perfectly functional within Judaism, but in his attempt to cut through accepted doctrine and beliefs that had come to burden and separate the people from their God, he pushed the envelope as far as he could—eventually too far for the authorities to permit. And if we’re ever to understand and experience the freedom of Kingdom that Jesus was teaching and living, we’ll need to become functional heretics too, unafraid of the opinions of others and the disturbance of pushing the envelope just short of too far…

Such as These

Dave Brisbin | 7.23.17
If God is a playful God—as mirrored by Jesus who loved to play with children, tell colorful and funny stories, eat and drink with his friends—how are we to react and respond? How does this notion that God doesn’t live life as a duty to perform but a playground to be experienced change the shape of our journeys? Why is playfulness so important? Think on it: to be in a playful mood and mode is to be tender and open…to be vulnerable. It’s a place of the surrender of control, a suspension of disbelief and reason and defense. It’s far too frightening a place for many of us to go, who don’t feel safe enough to be playful. 

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The arch enemy of playfulness is control, and control is always the foot soldier of fear. We can’t be playful, childlike until we know that we are loved. This is the essence of the Good News: that we are loved enough that being playful is not only possible, but the only possible response…which is why the emblem of Kingdom, the living out of God’s playful love, the proof of that love is always “such as these,” those who, like children, are free to live and love playfully.

A Playful God

Dave Brisbin | 7.16.17
On the 15th anniversary of my ordination, I took a look back at the subject of my first sermon on ordination day all those years ago: The Gospel According to Lou. A beloved friend who died from complications arising from diabetes two weeks before my ordination, Lou’s last words to me and my wife fueled a fundamental change in me and my first sermon that I thought I already had in the bag… “Love each other, just love each other…and kid around a little.” Twelve words. But it was the kidding around part that characterized Lou, who’s playful smile always made me feel I was the only person in a crowded room. It was his playfulness that made all of us aware that Lou actually enjoyed the love he expressed for everyone in his path. 

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And it was his playfulness that finally broke through a theological view of God by showing me the playfulness of Jesus hiding in plain sight in the words of the New Testament. To see Jesus as a laughing, smiling, energetic man playfully living his relationships began redefining my understanding of God’s relationship with me and mine with everyone in my path. I wanted to become someone like Jesus, like Lou, who loved being in love and could state the Gospel with authority in only twelve words.

Be Ye Healed

Dave Brisbin | 7.9.17
What about faith healing? What is it? How does it work? Does it work? Is it biblical? Questions such as these are always present. They are born out of a deep human need for healing and wholeness—and out of the pain, trauma, and fear life presents. People in pain can be most easily manipulated so we need to be wary, yet Jesus healed many of the people around him…aren’t those gifts still in operation? How do we know how to proceed? 

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Although Jesus tells us he came to bring good news to those who have been marginalized, freedom to those who are captive and oppressed, and healing to those in need, he also shows us that kingdom—his word for abundant, healed, liberated life—is a process of becoming that he calls the Way. Is healing an event or a process or both and how do we balance our desire to change our circumstances with learning to be content in all our circumstances? Let’s talk about healing and faith and see if we can find the Way through together.

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Everyone is recovering from something… Admitting this is the first step in spiritual life, because any unfinished business in our lives–trauma, unforgiveness, fear-based perceptions–fosters compulsive behavior and keeps us from connecting spiritually and emotionally.

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