message archive

Audio recordings of messages from Sunday and some Tuesday Recovery Gatherings are archived here for downloading or streaming. You can browse current year messages below from most recent to oldest, or select a category for specific years or one of our “boxed sets,” message series on specific topics.




Overturning Tables

Dave Brisbin | 3.19.17
On the third Sunday of Lent, looking at Lent as a positive-negative: an affirmative stripping away of anything that distracts, obscures, or keeps us away from God’s presence, we use Jesus’ cleansing of the temple to give us our next Lenten principle. When Jesus rampages through the Temple court overturning tables, he is, in effect, calling into question a given in the daily life of first century Jews: that the Temple, the Temple priests, the Temple system were as good as God, were their means to connection with God and community. Jesus underscores the obvious—says right out loud what any thinking person could see but was afraid to say: that the system had become corrupt and instead of being a means to God’s presence, had become a hindrance, a limitation, a wall between the people and their God. 

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Making the principle personal, what tables to do we need to overturn in our lives? What “givens” that we take for granted as established truth do we need to question to discern whether they are still leading or have ever led us to the experience of God’s presence? And not just truths or institutions or people external to us, but what internal beliefs, attitudes, and patterns of behavior need to be overturned as well? Giving ourselves permission to begin the process of questioning, the courage to be disoriented and disturbed as we clear the courtyard in preparation for new life.

Prayer Muscles

Dave Brisbin | 3.12.17
On the second Sunday of Lent, looking at Lent as a positive-negative: an affirmative stripping away of anything that distracts, obscures, or keeps us away from God’s presence, we naturally turn to prayer. What is prayer really? And specifically, what is the continuous prayer to which Paul calls us? Using the Hebrew bride as the bible’s metaphor for the balance of living a balanced life of awareness and presence, we can start to look at prayer in the same way. Not a constant stream of words pronounced verbally or mentally, but a continuous awareness of our place and position and relationship to everyone and everything in any given moment—all infused and sourced in unseen Presence. 

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But is there a difference between mere mindfulness and prayer. How do we know the difference, practice the difference, and above all how do we develop the ability to pray without ceasing? It begins with intent, the intent of our mindfulness and awareness—what is it we are intending to be mindful of and present to? It has to do with our intent leading us an actual structure that we honor with the discipline of showing up day after day and moment after moment. It’s not complicated, just a patient and dedicated building of our prayer muscles.

Change of Plans

Dave Brisbin | 3.5.17
On the first Sunday of Lent, we have begun to look at Lent, not as a negative—as a voluntary deprivation of pleasure in penance for sin—but as a positive stripping away of anything that distracts, obscures, or keeps us away from God’s presence. Looking at the Hebrew meaning of the parable of the ten virgins/bridesmaids—the five who are alert and present and keeping their lamps filled with oil and the five who are not—becomes not a statement of final judgment, heaven or hell, but another image of balanced life and awareness herenow. How do we balance our desires and plans for the future: how we think things ought to be, wish them to be, were taught they should be, need them to be…with a simple awareness of the flow of things as they are right now? 

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To remain alert to present even as we plan for and prepare for radically changed life? What does balanced planning look like? Planning that is as healthy mentally and spiritually as it is effective? Surprising insights come from military leaders who must plan, but at the same time acknowledge that no plans survive contact with the enemy; that all plans must be laid carefully and just as carefully released in the flow of real time events. Balance means being present to all of life, to plan and then stop planning, to question and then stop questioning and let life question us, change us, and change our plans.

Lenten Within

Dave Brisbin | 2.26.17
As we approach the Lenten season, many of us have not experienced the annual cycle of a liturgical church, and among those who have, many have never been taught what the liturgical traditions really mean to the spiritual life. This year, we want to try to make Lent, as preparation for the new life of Easter, come alive in a new way—really prepare us for that new life. What does Lent mean? What is Shove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday and how has the church celebrated these liturgical days for centuries or millennia? If Lent is meant to mirror Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, how are we to understand his emptying, his moving into silence and suffering in a positive and affirming way for ourselves? 

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To make these connections and see Lent as an interior journey that we can enter at any time is the beginning of our preparation, and understanding some contemporary tools—mindfulness and centering prayer—can be our first steps along the way…and a challenge and encouragement to begin.

It Is Good

Dave Brisbin | 2.19.17
Living the balanced life of the Hebrew bride, between heaven and earth, between the reality of daily relationship and task and the promise of radically changed life at any moment is fragile and delicate and easily lost. In fact, it’s not so much about whether we’ll lose balance, of course we will; it’s about how quickly we can recover afterward. As Western Christians, we’ve been conditioned to see this life in a fallen state and our reward for finishing the race of this life well coming in the heaven of the next life. But Jesus is teaching that whatever we think heaven is, if we’re waiting for it, it never comes—being out of balance keeps us from seeing heaven where it always is: forever here and now. 

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Many of us are focused on end times, on rapture, on the snatching up out of a dying world into new life, but what does that say about our view of life herenow? As we look at Paul’s actual words from 1 Thessalonians that have been interpreted as the doctrine of end times rapture, we see the wedding tradition imagery at work again, giving us an intensely balanced view of life along Jesus’ Way. And any such balance must first acknowledge, with the words of Genesis spoken over and over, that all of God’s creation is good, very good. Without such a beginning, how can we ever balance herenow and therethen?

Breathless Brides

Dave Brisbin | 2.12.17
Why try to understand Jesus’ message from a first century, Hebrew point of view? What will that change? There’s a question I get a lot. The answer is: mostly everything. Whatever we say about Christianity being a relationship rather than a religion, the truth is that Western Christianity has become heavily focused on an intellectual understanding of theology and a rational/literal understanding of scripture, a legal view of our relationship to God, a dualistic view of life—especially the separation of the spiritual and physical, and an emphasis on the afterlife as opposed to life herenow that sharply defines our view of and attitude toward life and spiritual practice. 

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From a Hebrew point of view, the intellectual gives way to the experiential, the literal to the metaphorical, the legal to the relational, dualistic to holistic oneness, and therethen to herenow, which changes everything about our view of life and practice of faith. One of the primary metaphors Jesus and the Jewish authors of scripture use to describe this way of seeing and living life is the ancient Hebrew wedding tradition, in which a bride waits up to two years between the kiddushin/betrothal and nissu’in/wedding for her groom to come unannounced to claim her. Knowing the details and significance of the wedding tradition, how it shaped everyday Jewish life, how a young bride lived between betrothal and wedding, between the life she’d only and always known and the radical change of a new one to come, between heaven and earth—the present embrace of a too-short experience of love and life mixed with the excitement and anticipation of sudden newness at any moment—points us toward the rich experience of living kingdom as breathless brides.

From Here To There

Dave Brisbin | 2.5.17
Growing up, my church taught me to believe that a savior was coming—someone out there who would change me, save me from myself and my sin. I just had to believe and obey and wait. And that belief ordered the understanding of my faith, dictated day to day choices and attitudes. But reading through Hebrew eyes, Jesus is teaching something quite different…that no one is coming to save us. No one is coming because everyone and everything we’d ever need has always been and is already here. He says the waiting is over, the kingdom is here; he says we won’t find it by looking out there somewhere–it’s within and among. He really couldn’t be any clearer that the salvation, the transforming change we seek is already right here in our midst. 

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One of the problems with what Christianity has become in the West—primarily an intellectual understanding, a theology and a moral code, belief and obedience—is that there is little talk of the process of change. Fundamental change is what Jesus’ message is all about, but if change is seen as an event coming from outside in, we miss the essential participatory process moving the other way: from inside out. When Jesus tells us to repent and believe in the Gospel, that really translates to change direction and trust in the truth of the Father’s love. If our faith remains an intellectual understanding, we will miss the journey, the process of transformative change as we wait to be changed. But…if everything and everyone we need is already here, how to we get from here to there? Repent and believe, change and trust points us to the only tools we have to get from here to there, to kingdom living: awareness and choice. We don’t choose just once to follow Jesus. We choose every moment of our lives, again and again to be present to the Presence that precedes us. The spiritual life is really about developing awareness of Presence in each moment. And with awareness in hand, spiritual discipline is about then choosing where Presence leads: from here to there.

Amiable Uncertainty

Dave Brisbin | 1.29.17
Just last week I was asked why churches and religions have to “always say that they are right and everyone else is wrong?” Great question from a young person looking at church from the outside in, trying to figure it all out: why the exclusion, the judgment. Why indeed? What is it about us that needs to build tall walls, delineate us from them, make our spirituality, which is inherently mysterious, an absolute certainty. In a word, it’s fear of course, and when we’re afraid that we may not be worthy of acceptance, love, or belonging, then we immediately begin the exhausting task of removing any pain, imperfection, and uncertainty from our near vicinity. We need to be right, be flawless, be certain, because the alternative is just too terrifying or at least uncomfortable to entertain. 

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And in the making of all uncertain things certain, there has to be winners and losers–a zero sum game in which there are haves and have nots, the elect and the damned. But it was not always so in Christian thought, and certainly Jesus never taught so. To begin to understand the transforming message that perfect love casts out fear is the beginning of a journey that will lead to an embrace of mystery and a faith based on trust and not certainty…to a living of life that once again makes friends with the unknown, finds contentment and adventure in an amiable uncertainty that admits that while we don’t have all the answers and may not be right about everything, we know we are loved in such a way that mere clarity becomes a footnote.

Kingdom Presence

Dave Brisbin | 1.22.17
We all want to be happy, don’t we? All our choices are arguably made in order to be happy, either in this moment or one further down the road in this life or the next. We’ve learned that certain things or activities make us happy so, we pursue them over and over looking to repeat the experience of happiness. One young man told me that happiness was opening a new can of Folgers coffee and just smelling that smell. Another person said that laughing made her happy. But if you really think about it laughing and fresh coffee don’t really make us happy, they make us present…and that makes us happy. Happiness is the feeling we get when we are completely present to a moment intense enough to clear away all the thoughts, emotions, expectations, and judgments that distract us from what is right in out midst. 

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When we chase the things we think make us happy, we’re chasing the effect instead of the cause. While laughter can lead to presence, presence doesn’t lead to happiness; presence is happiness itself. And we can have presence anytime we want, if we’re willing to practice it, whether we’re laughing or not, whether there’s any coffee in sight. To realize that happiness is presence and presence is always available right here and now is to finally begin to hear Jesus’ words, because kingdom is presence, which means kingdom feels like happiness too.

Happiness Is…

Dave Brisbin | 1.15.17
Just completed the move of our family home of 17 years to a downsized house closer to work and faith community, and just about every nightmare scenario that I could imagine and project on to moving day and was working and praying to avoid came to pass. Escrow was delayed so that new flooring was only half completed when moving crew arrived with all our belongings in the hardest driving rain that southern CA has seen in years with cable and internet crew arriving in the middle of it all to add to the chaos. 

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Trying to just stay out of the way and survive the day, I slowly became aware of the undaunted moving crew taking the rain as an adventurous challenge: to keep our stuff dry and keep their schedule intact while being unfailingly energetic and personable. Then arriving at the new house, the Hispanic crew laying the floor was blaring their music in Spanish and singing along as movers stepped over them with wet shoes and furniture… What is happiness and how and when is it experienced? Does it come from circumstances matching our expectations and prayers or as Jesus is trying to tell us, from a completely different direction, a direction we can choose anytime, even in a driving rain watching muddy footprints trailing off on newly laid floor.

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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.

Since we’re all recovering, we accept everyone right as they are—no expiration dates or deadlines. We don’t tell anyone what to believe or do. We present points of view that we hope will engage seekers in their own journey; help them unlearn limiting perceptions, beliefs, and compulsions; give opportunities to get involved in community, building the trust we all need to find real identity, meaning, and purpose. In other words, to engage the transforming Way of living life that Jesus called Kingdom…non-religiously understood from a first century Hebrew point of view.



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Embedded in the fun and laughter of each of our gatherings and events is the connection and accountability as well as the structure, discipline, and opportunity for service that authentic community is all about. We help create programs for physical support, emotional recovery, and spiritual formation that can meet any person’s needs. Such programs work at two levels: first to address a person’s physical and emotional stability—clinical, financial, relational,professional—anything that distracts from working on the second level: true spiritual formation centered around the contemplative way of life defined by an original Hebrew understanding of the message of Jesus.

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Seeing ourselves as a learning and recovery community that worships together, the focus isn’t on Sunday morning alone, but on every day of the week as we gather for worship, healing and support workshops, studies, 12 step meetings, counseling and mentoring sessions, referral services, and social events. We maintain a food pantry for those needing more support, a recovery worship gathering, and child care for those with little ones.

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