2017 Archives

Quo Vadis

Dave Brisbin | 10.15.17
At the end of John’s Last Supper account, Peter asks Jesus in the Latin version, “Quo vadis, domine?” Where are you going, Lord? Isn’t that the question we’ve all been asking since the very beginning and are still asking now? We’re still asking because a question this large, that encompasses all of life and all it means to be human, is not answered in a conversation. It’s not answered verbally at all, but in the actual following after…once we have discerned a general direction. And what is that direction? If we are willing to look at scripture in a different way, from Genesis to Revelation, the direction the Lord is going becomes apparent. 

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Looking at the Hebrew description of Presence, sometimes called shekinah glory—where and when it descends and where and when it is removed—we begin to see that it’s not the Presence that is changing, but our perception of where to look. If we can entertain the notion that the Hebrew and Christian scriptures together contain the record of the evolution of faith in a people collectively, the deep insights of certain individuals among them, both the problem and the solution, a description of where we have come from and where we’re going, then we will be prepared to see the where the Lord is going and to follow after in an ever-expanding experience of his Presence.


Dave Brisbin | 10.8.17
Ever notice how it seems to take longer to get somewhere you’ve never been than to get back again? Why is that? Watching every turn, wondering if you missed one, if there’ll be a street sign, how much longer…? I always like to look at a map of the whole route before letting the GPS lady lead me around by the nose. There is a certain amount of anxiety involved in going somewhere for the first time that is relieved once we have some idea of the overall shape of the journey. And what’s true for external journeys is certainly true for interior ones as well. We are always looking for signs and prophecies, plans and God’s will to help us see the way before we actually travel the way.

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But what Jesus is constantly telling us is that we won’t get the kind of sign we’re looking for if what we’re looking for is certainty. All we get is the “sign of Jonah,” the general shape of the Way that descends into the belly of the beast before it ever leads anywhere else. Jesus is saying that life is shaped like this, that the nature of the journey doesn’t require certainty or even clarity, and if you persist in clinging to those obsessions, you’ll never open to the trust that really is the engine of the only Way to Father.

The Gift of Subtraction

Dave Brisbin | 10.1.17
Meister Eckhart said that the spiritual life is much more about subtraction than addition, but what does that mean? Many spiritual teachers have spoken about the fact that life is divided into halves, but what is the distinction? Putting the two together, the first half of life is about building the physical platform for survival, happiness, meaning, purpose, identity—it’s about acquisition both physically and emotionally…about addition. The second half is about undoing all that, about the subtraction of layer after layer of manufactured identity and the illusion of certainty. It’s about coming full circle back to the garden where we play with Presence in the cool of the evening and become vulnerably secure in trust. But what does a second half of life journey cost and look like? 

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How do we know we’re in it? Here, Paul comes to the rescue with a beautiful moment of vulnerability and self-disclosure at Romans 7. In a passage that has traditionally been hard to understand, in this context, we see Paul showing us the push and pull, the disorientation and frustration of moving from the first half practice of law-following as righteous addition to the gift of finally letting go of the effort to be good enough, subtracting our way into the weakness that makes us strong in God’s embrace.

The Art of Waiting

Dave Brisbin | 9.17.17
If you’re waiting for anything, you’re not herenow—you’re projected somewhere into an imagined future. And if you’re not herenow, then you’re not in Kingdom, not on Jesus’ Way. Life is like music and dance: you’re either making it or you’re not…if you’re waiting for it, you’re not making it. And yet, as long as we’re breathing here, time appears to us as a sequence of events, past, present, future, and we really do need to learn from the past and anticipate and prepare for the future. How do we do that and remain in Kingdom if life is made up of a combination of now and then, being/doing…and waiting? 

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There’s an art to waiting, a way to wait that keeps us grounded herenow and on Jesus’ Way, and the key to understanding how Jesus is telling us to wait lies in the ancient customs of the Jewish wedding traditions. To understand prophetic and apocalyptic scripture as well as the simple moments of your day begins with knowing how a young Jewish bride waited for her new life as wife and mother between her betrothal and wedding. And then to understand why both Israel and the church understood themselves as God’s bride living between heaven and earth, between life herenow and new life anticipated any moment is to begin to practice the art of waiting.

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.

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