Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Communion Service Liturgy at PTS Today

Phillips Theological Seminary Midday Chapel
September 29, 2010 - WEEK 5

Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Proper 22c/Ordinary 27C

Psalm 137 2 Timothy 1:1-14
Lamentations 1:1-6 Luke 17:5-10

"All are welcome
--the guilty and the grateful, the busy and the rested, the devout and the indifferent,
the clear and the confused, those who have feasted and those who have fasted,
those called successful and those called failures—
all are welcome,
for this is the Lord's table and the Lord's love goes out to all."
Rev. Carl Scovel, Minister Emeritus, King's Chapel, Boston



Today is the day which God has made:
Let us rejoice and be glad therein.
What does the Eternal require of us?
To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

Chalice Lighting

This is our covenant as we walk together in life as a people of God
striving to make Jesus visible in the world:
In the light of truth, and the loving and liberating spirit of Jesus,
we gather in freedom, to worship God, and serve all.

*Hymn "We'll Build a Land" Singing the Living Tradition

*Please rise in body or in spirit.
Scripture 2 Timothy 1: 1-14 NRSV

Unison Prayer from King's Chapel Book of Common Prayer

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hid,
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Homily "311 at The Welcome Table" Rev. Ron Robinson


Prayer of Confession

Gracious and Loving God, we acknowledge to you, to one another, and to ourselves
that we are not what you have called us to be.
We have stifled our gifts and wasted our time.
We have avoided opportunities to offer kindness, but have been quick to take offense.
We have pretended that we could make no contribution to peace and justice in our world and have excused ourselves from risk-taking in our own community.
Have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and help us live our lives differently.
We long for peace within and without, for harmony in our families,
for the well-being of our neighbors, and the love for our enemies.
Yet we have too often not made the hard choices that love requires.
Show us how to walk in your path of faithfulness, hope, and love.

Words of Assurance

One fact remains that does not change: God loves all, for all time.
This is the good news that brings new life. Thanks be to God. Amen.

The Prayer Jesus Taught:
for all those who would follow in his way of radical compassion, courage, conscience,
and commitment.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil,
for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
forever and ever. Amen.

Hymn “We're Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table” Singing the Living Tradition

The Agape Grace

O God, we gather at this welcoming table open to all
as Jesus gathered people from all the walks of life,
stranger and friend and enemies,
gave thanks to you,
broke and offered all the bread of life and the cup of blessing
and proclaimed a covenant of peace through justice for all in your name.

We remember too his unjust death, executed by Empire,
and all the terrors and the tyrannies that oppress people today.

And still we come to sit at his table of resurrection,
the mystery of faith in the everlasting Spirit, the triumph over fear,
and call to mind and heart all those who have given Love the ultimate trust and the last word
and who have worked to create the beloved community of renewed and abundant life.

Help us to remember with this meal especially all those among us and around us who are hungry, and may we treat all our meals as sacred and to be shared.

O Lord, as we take and break and bless and serve this manna of hospitality,
so too Take us, even us,
lift us with hope, bless us with insight and urgency, so that we may serve You and Your mission.

Hymn “Let Us Break Bread Together”

Let us break bread together on our knees. (2x)

Refrain: When I fall on my knees, with my face to the rising sun,
oh, God, have mercy on me.

Let us drink wine together on our knees. (2x) Refrain
Let us praise God together on our knees. (2x) Refrain

Closing Responsive Prayer

Let us go out into the highways and byways.
Let us give the people something of our new vision.

We may possess a small light, but may we uncover it, and let it shine.
May we use it to bring more light and understanding
to the hearts and minds of men and women.

May we give them not hell but hope and courage.
May we preach, and practice, the kindness and everlasting love of God.


311 At The Welcome Table: communion homily at Phillips Theological Seminary

PTS Chapel Communion Homily, Sept. 29, 2010: 311 At The Welcome Table
Rev. Ron Robinson

As on The Daily Show, when they have more footage than they can show, here is my "extended" version of the shorter homily given today; I will link to the actual podcast of it when it is up. The liturgy itself will come in a next post. The lectionary readings used for this week's chapels leading up to World Communion Day included this one I used from 2 Timothy 1:1-14:

1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, 2To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. 5I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.
6For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; 7for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. 8Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, 9who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, 12and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. 13Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.


I should say right upfront: If the idea of a Unitarian Universalist leading Communion strikes you as….interesting?, if not a tad heretical….know you are not alone. In fact, you would be joined by many Unitarian Universalists today, especially those outside of our oldest colonial era churches back East where it is somewhat more commonplace.

A characteristic of our faith is that each of the free churches in the UUA determines its theological orientation, most are now rather pluralistic, but even among those churches with a more particular orientation and worship tradition, whether it be an unapologetic humanist atheist church up north or an unapologetic neo-pagan church in Texas or say, First Church of Christ, Unitarian of Lancaster, Mass. Founded in 1635, all impose no theological tests for membership, including on their ministers. Free pulpit, free pew, free church. Confusing, I give you. But at our best, Covenanting with one another to engage with one another, learn from one another precisely because of our differences, guided into the future together by that old admonition in our DNA that there is more truth and light yet to be made known.

So definitely don’t assume our service today is typical of what you will find. It is not typical even among our Christian churches, and it is not even what you will find down on North Peoria when our own group there has communion each Sunday morning, because we are smaller and primarily missional and we are more conversational than homiletical, informal than formal. Whether one chooses to participate or not, for whatever reason, is fine with us, there and then or here and now: your presence blesses and itself helps create the Welcome Table.

Okay, so much for the introductory tap dance.

If I have a point today, it is that communion need not be primarily about a point. I know we are in a seminary and so thinking about and coming to conclusions about and sharing our ideas about such things as this is vital and needed. That’s why I said primarily not about a point. It is primarily about people, and too, a people, and, as well, yes, the spirit of a person. Maybe if we’d practiced it that way all these millennia there wouldn’t have been so much bloodshed because of it, or angst over it.

Do not, it reads in Timothy, be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, 9who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace.

I believe that, but I also believe what a seminary professor of mine once said, well probably more than once said, in words to the effect of “Don’t preach on not being ashamed of the gospel until you first preach on why, in light of the actions of the centuries between Paul and us, you might be ashamed of it now, for what it has become or how it has been misused.” Or at least consider the model of the heartfelt call by WEB Dubois to white Americans: “I don’t want your guilt; I want your responsibility.” Shame makes an idol of the self and tends to paralyze us; responsibility is other directed and motivates us. So don’t be ashamed of the gospel, or of the way it is embedded in the practice of communion, but, in light of a history that contains so much fearful exclusion and terrifying triumphalism coming out from such radically inclusive liberating sources, do be responsive---for it, and to it.

I must say too that even in my own particular heretical tradition, UU Christianity, of our general heretical tradition, UU, (and I suppose Christianity itself should be seen as a kind of heretical tradition within the Empire culture of the world), while I do love our high church of Unitarian Universalist Christianity, Kings Chapel in Boston on the freedom trail, or at the Universalist National Cathedral in Washington D.C., or the Trinitarian Universalists in Rhode Island, or those old Puritan churches of the Massachusetts Standing Order, still I admit that for me the radical economic and theological communitas of Eucharist would get lost or diminished after a steady diet of the liturgy inside all that architecture and history and formality, when so much money has to go to maintain those things, instead of creating the world envisioned by the very liturgy itself. While I did get a thrill out of leading communion using Paul Revere made communionware in Salem, Mass., I don’t think of it as often as I do my current dream of participating in a kind of moveable communion along the hot and hotly contested downtown Tulsa streets during the Gay Pride Parade.

Because the most important thing to me about communion is the sharing of the experience of it, as an encounter in community, one that can be an opening, a garden if you will, where God, beyond any name or doctrine, acts in and among and through us to literally grow souls and the soul of the world, and in my theology, to grow God as well. Communion can refresh us and remind us to be in community all the rest of the time with people who are, thank God, different from us.

It is not about making a point, but about making a people.

There once was a young Tulsan in the early 1950s, not me, whose family attended a big downtown church where his father was on the vestry and after six months of arguments and stalemate about intinction, yea or nay, came home to announce they were leaving the church and joining All Souls Unitarian. Thus and thereby Putting that issue to rest. The young man grew up with decided opinions about communion and went to Harvard Divinity School where they found some theological force, but then he happened in 1963 to do his internship at that flagship Anglican Unitarian Congregationalist Kings Chapel. He used to argue against communion to the supervising minister there—we encourage that sort of thing—until finally the senior minister leaned across the desk, looked him in the eye, and said, “Friend, this is my body. I would break it for you. Friend, this is my blood; I would shed it for you”

That got the student feeling about communion a little differently anyway. And soon after that, came Nov. 22, 1963, and Boston particularly reeled from the shock of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It just so happened that the intern had been scheduled to preach his first sermon to the church on that Sunday following the shooting in Dallas. He goes to the senior minister and says, “but of course you will want to be up in the pulpit,” but, being a wise mentor, the minister says, “no no, it is still your turn.” And so the intern preaches and helps administer communion, and he watches as the people silently line up, stack up against each other, first in the pew boxes then in the aisle, come forward, receive, and return. So simple. So simple church can be, even in such ornate surroundings after all.

And he knows it is true, what his mentor later told him after he’d asked him how he’d done, as they were walking across Boston Common from the church to the Parish House, Something like “You were fine. It didn’t matter. I could have been up there preaching my finest words, most healing sermon, and they would not remember. It isn’t what they came for.” Not a point about suffering or hope or God. They came for communion. To be a people.

Even a temporarily gathered people, and gathered for not explicit religious services.
As related in the book Proverbs of Ashes, Rebecca Parker, UU seminary president with remaining dual affiliation as a United Methodist minister, tells how she, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, stopped doing and going to communion because of how it had become only a story of suffering and acceptance of pain in order to draw close to God; how she as a young minister preaching the same thing as part of communion liturgy had one of those come to Jesus moments when a victim of domestic violence sought her counsel and spoke of needing to accept her own situation, for didn’t Jesus accept his on the cross?

But then Parker was in a recovery group with a fellow traveler who himself had once been the abuser of his children, and who was learning to live with all he’d done, without it spinning him into a shame cycle that would lead to more abuse, and there she began to experience a different kind of community, one that lifts up lamentation, solidarity, struggle, the telling of truth, accountability, and possibilities of new life that form bonds unheard of. She experienced a new kind of people. It only happened because she was able, in this new setting, to sit close together with one whose experience reminded her, in ways, of her own abuser, and yet because of being a people she began to see both him and herself as more than what their respective shame tried to make of them apart.

And Soon after that she was at a worship service led by a woman she knew and trusted. Still, when it came time for communion, she thought of slipping out. But this time instead she risked staying, and the service was more about being present with suffering, about being a feast amid famine and funeral, about life and finding food for the soul there. That night when, as a part of the small group, she received the plate and the cup from another, she had a liberating vision of receiving it from, and giving it to, the one who had abused and betrayed her.

A people, not ashamed of their pain, able to see it in others; and, being seen, becoming more than they had been.

Which brings me to the 311 at The Welcome Table.
Between just May 1 and Aug. 4 of this year, those 96 days in Tulsa, there were 311 reported shootings. Doesn’t count the ones not reported. Doesn’t count the ones just across the city limits line. Or the ones before or since for this year. The bulk of them on the northside. My friends from school days on the northside, now police officers who track this thing and are in the group 100 Black Men of Tulsa, say there is not a day without a shooting on the northside; those statistics back it up. I can tell you I hear many of the shots myself. It happened just the other night when the 14 year old boy was killed in the convenience store. I was at McLain High School on North Peoria, my alma mater, the next day, where many of his friends were, and learned sketchy details of it there, and also learned of the grief and anger, and yes the Empire’s old innate response of honor and shame and revenge was very much present too. Made me wonder what kind of table the students will choose to sit around? What kind are we preparing in the presence of mine enemies? This is about communion.

Instead of seeking to be “over and against” this, to use the theological language, we need to go “under and within”, with a multitude of welcome tables, of holy communion, everyday Eucharist in the neighborhoods here. Of all kinds. And it is happening some here and there. But imagine: Welcome tables as abandoned homes that become safety centers for connections. In greenspaces, gardens, in front yards and backyards next to the boarded up row of homes. In parties thrown in parking lots (it would help if we could ever get pizza delivery). We need to see all the so called secular space as sacred space, worthy of our communion. And everytime we come to the table, wherever and however it is, we need to see it as including the 311 shooters, and the shot at, and their families and others in their blocks.

Timothy says:
to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; 7for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

When you practice that, though, it can get messy. Like the communion bread itself, torn and soaked.

This past Friday our little group celebrated approval of the loan to buy a big church building, built in the 1920s, one of the very oldest still standing in the area, near 59th and North Peoria, but abandoned and rundown. Years ago it had been my own very first church building, with its Good Shepherd stained glass window one of my earliest memories. It will be our new and expanded and improved community center, clinic, chapel, classroom. But then on Saturday we discovered it had been seriously vandalized; stained glass windows, except the Good Shepherd facing the street, all broken out, graffiti spray painted throughout, again fortunately not on the original Indian art painted itself directly onto the concrete walls of the prayer room in the days it had belonged to the Indian Methodist Conference; doors busted, glass mirrors and lights strewn about. I thought of my grandparents and those in their generation who helped build it, all those married inside it like my parents, and the funerals, the baptisms, the wild onion dinners. The last funeral in the sanctuary was for the pastor of Zion Baptist Church when they owned it; he was shot and killed sitting in his car in a nearby elementary school parking lot, unsolved to this day I believe.

See, I told you, we heard the folks around us say…Try to do something good here, and that from our neighbors. Thank God it didn’t make the Tulsa World, this old reporter says, because I don’t even have to imagine the reader comments. But Jesus comments differently. He says come and see a new world not only possible but present in small ways. Not ten minutes after we discovered it on Saturday evening a sign was nailed to the building that said “We love the vandals. God loves the vandals. We pray for the vandals.” Still there is that fight against that old familiar feeling, the shame thing, that says the people living here deserve what we get because we live here; what do we expect? if we were cool enough, smart enough, rich enough, all the enoughs of the American Dream, we wouldn’t be here in the first place. The place is just for those starting out or with nowhere else to go. So we learn to accept what comes. The Jesus Dream is about a different kind of having enough, enough of the spirit of love to share with damaged places and people, us included.

The next morning, we few gathered inside next to the Good Shepherd where the light was coming in, and we sang the song we sang a minute ago about building a promised land, and we read Genesis 28, that God is in this place, even this place, even as is, as the realtors say, even as it is now, and if we don’t pay attention we will not know God is here, and then to help us pay attention we passed to each other the bread of life and the cup of hope, and we said
communion is about living in the world of vandalism and violence, but where there’s more than enough love and help, forgiveness and fun, health and hope, to share, with all, the 311, and the more to come. Communion creates and shapes a community as much or moreso as it is a practice of that community.

So we returned to the current community center where we normally worship and we ate our common meal with others who came in and joined us. And shared favorite bible passages and made small talk until we drifted away, a few to go garden together, a family on to home, a few to show a visitor around, a few to check on family. All Taking with them a piece of the welcome table for the days ahead, for others.

I brought mine to you here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

We Will Stay Hungry If We Eat Alone

Hi all. First a list of events today, tomorrow and Sunday we invite you to come participate in, rest, reflect, serve others. Good for families, youth, etc. Then an uplifting message from Sara Miles' latest book "Jesus Freak" that is so apt for our small band of community organizers. Come be with us some during the weekend events; we will have a writer for a national magazine here with us this weekend and a good show of support even for a little while will help capture the energy.

Today at 1 pm at Cherokee School, planning, dreaming, working on creating a whole new safer for students, better for business, area on North Peoria around the school and up to the bike trail along the historic old Turley downtown that has all but been cleared over the years with just a few reminders remaining; hope to make it a jewel of the area.

Today making a food pantry run to bring in some stop gap food items for our pantry until our next Food Bank order goes through. Always need help unloading, etc. call 6913223 to get update on when that will be.

This evening 6 pm doing an hour of intensive trash pickup in a few of our illegal dumping areas, then free supper at The Center, 6514 N. Peoria Ave., for all helpers. Meet there at 6 pm and we will figure it out.

Saturday from 8 am on we will be doing beautification projects, plantings, in our TNT, TurleyNorthTulsa area at some of our community and guerilla gardening sites. Surprise the community with a little beauty in an area with so much neglect. Call the number above or 3463475 to find out where groups are gathering to garden or beautify.

Saturday 11 am Turley Area History Talk and Map Making Project to show all that used to be here in this area. Bring stories, memories, photos, etc to share and let the history move us forward into a different, even better future.

Saturday Noon. Live music and Turley Heritage Lunch. Bring soups or salads or drinks if you can, but mostly just come and eat. Freewill donations, but come and eat and listen to Johnny and The Oklahomans play and work on our history map and visit.

Saturday 1:30 pm I will give an overview of our A Third Place projects and our future plans, all about the Miracles Among the Ruins, and other partnerships and projects and ways we together are making a big difference in the area. We will go tour up at the Welcome Table Kitchen Garden Park site we just bought and which will be cleared very soon and ready for our groundbreaking ceremony and start of the transformation project, and we will see the new building we are hoping to buy for the new Neighborhood Center and Health Hub and Spiritual Center.

Saturday 7:30 pm 12 Step Recovery Group weekly meeting.

Sunday 10 am gather at the old Turley Methodist Church building, 5920 N. Peoria; even without power and even after being abandoned for years, we will gather inside for communion, sharing our favorite at the moment bible stories, passages, events, people, etc. and why they speak to us today, and then we will dream about brainstorming design ideas to share with architects. Then we will go back to the Center for the Common Meal.

Why do we do all we do, without pay, with so much else going on in our lives? Sara Miles catches it in her usual wonderful way in the following excerpt: She is what she calls a late arrival to following Jesus. She was atheist activist revolutionary journalist; she is lesbian, she is mother; she discovered Jesus eating food and serving food to the hungry in San Francisco. Here is what she writes in her newest book. It is all about what we call "third places" of renewing community, empowering residents, growing healthy neighborhoods and lives through small acts of justice done with great love.

"The kingdom of Heaven is not privatized. It is not about commerce, about buying what you need for yourself. It is not passive: Jesus doesn't ask his disciples to wait for a miracle, but commands them, with a brusque authority..."You give the people something to eat."Because life in the kingdom means there's more than enough for everyone. (Ron's note: I wish people here in our area as well as elsewhere understood that when it comes to health care resources, so they would share them with all, especially those in abandoned communities; there is enough even among our activists here in North Tulsa to share; we need all of us and more instead of worry about who is getting what piece of what pie).

"Jesus enjoins his disciples to participate in God's work. Then he takes the bread and gives thanks to God to show them that the bread doesn't belong to them. Like everything we have, he says, bread comes from God, and your job is just to break it up and give it away. Give it to the wrong people, to the ones who haven't washed their hands correctly, to the latecomers and the women, to anyone who's hungry (Ron's note: whether they have a social security card or not)..

"Jesus shows the disciples and the crowd that there is always enough to go around: God's economy is one of abundance, not scarcity. By giving away the things God has given to us, by giving as profligately and unconditionally as God does, we receive everything we need.

"We'll stay hungry if we eat alone. We'll be lonely if we think we can only share fellowship with the right people. We'll starve if we believe that a community is a supernatural kind of miracle, or a product we can buy--not something we create by offering ourselves recklessly to others. We'll never feel truly fed if we're constantly competing to get our share. If we believe that love is scarce, and are afraid to give it away.

"But the good news, the promise of Jesus, is different."
Amen. blessings, thanks for all y'all do, and hope to see you here or there as we recreate the realm of "feeding, healing, and raising the dead" to borrow from the subtitle of Sara Miles newest book.

PS. Check out our Dallas Revival; spread the news to others. Extended discount period for registration until Monday, Sept. 27. Then come on Oct. 14-17 or just for that weekend for lower rate, and catch the spirit of progressive Christianity in a liberal free church faith. All the details at Share with others this news, and the above post.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Exciting New Expanded "Good News" Publication Seeking Your Writing: Oct. 9 deadline for "Making Flesh Holy" Christmas Issue

Please read this letter below from co-Editor Rev. Kathleen Rolenz about the new printed publication coming from the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship in time for Christmas, and then again in time for Easter, and all the ways we are seeking your writings for many of its departments and areas.

Pass this on to others who you know who write in different genres, review, exegete, want to extend sermon audience, are varied artists, create liturgies, etc. By following the link below to the UUCF website you will see the proposed subject areas for the new issue focusing on mind, body, heart, spirit, and taking it home practical suggestions.

Be a part of a new voice in progressive Christianity, and Unitarian Universalism, but remember you don't have to be a Christian, or a UU, to contribute with us.

Dear UUCF members and friends,

The Good News newsletter is morphing into something more like a bi-annual journal, (Christmas and Easter) which will contain stories, sermon excerpts, poetry, art work, prayers, etc, but we need your help. Please consider submitting any of the above by October 9, 2010 so that we may be able to have it in your mailbox and in your hands before Christmas.

The working theme is "Making Flesh Holy," and the seasonal reflection, rituals & prayers should be geared towards Advent and Incarnation.

For more information about submission guidelines, go to the UUCF website: describes the format for the new journal (think along the lines of "Sacred Journey"(to view, go to-- ) or Parabola or Weavings.

Co-editor Kimberly Beyer-Nelson and I are very excited about this new project and look forward to receiving your material by October 9, 2010.

Blessings on the start up of the Fall Season--wherever your various ministries may take you,

Kathleen C. Rolenz
Cleveland, OH
Rev. Kathleen Rolenz
West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church
Parish Co-Minister
440-333-2255 ext. 115 (alternative email)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Finding Organic Church: Insights

Once again I am bringing to progressives some of the missional insights from author Frank Viola, author of Pagan Christianity, Reimagining Church, and others.

I will concentrate on two short areas, keeping it, appropriately, simple and sustainable. The Five Unmoveable Principles. The Four (I would make it Five) Practices of Meeting. The Three Things Pastors of Institutional, Established Churches Can Do If They Want To Become Organic. These are good summaries of some of the questioning, the findings, we have made here in the past four years, or past seven years; some still challenge me and us; some will guide us as we are about to embark, we hope, on a new phase and in new places for church as A Third Place Community.

The Five Unmoveable Principles:
1. Become like Little Children...drop your agendas, your ambitions, unlearn the institutional church ways, be curious and ready to discover new ways. No one is or becomes the clergy or designated leader full time. (This is the biggie; it is why it is number one; some will stop reading at this point; it is also difficult, but it is even more of a problem not to address it; there is also a spectrum that can come into play, and later in this post you will see that this doesn't mean relying on others with an outside role with wisdom and experience).
2. Your feelings will get hurt. Great that he puts that as a principle, almost like if feelings are not getting hurt than it isnt organic and it isnt missional and risky and dangerous enough to be called church. It emphasizes that the church isnt really about us individually.
3. Be patient with the progress of the group. It takes time to unlearn, to practice new ways, to develop authentic community.
4. People will leave your group. It is natural and expected and desired for what it means you arent trying to be all things to all people, but know your mission and your ways. It creates the spirit of abundance that is so vital, and that often sets you a part from other churches.
5. People will experience exciting spiritual growth and healing.

Think about what is the opposite of these five principles and how much of your institutional established church might hold to them instead: People focus on the past, are afraid to explore new things and ways; people keep their feelings to themselves and so don't share deeply with others; people are anxious about how the church is doing, growing or not, trying one big thing after another; worrying about attracting and holding members instead of focusing on mission
; there is no dynamism or surprises or sharing of pain and healing, of changes.

The Four (or Five) Practices of Organic Church Meeting

1. Sing Together. Viola puts this first. It builds real authentic community as people together learn the value of their own voices. Becomes a place of vulnerability, the first step in a trusting community, a necessary step to becoming a leadership team.
2. Share Together. Go deep into spiritual lessons, oddyseys. Here is where i would call it serve and share together. working on things together in the poorest areas if possible.
3. Eat Together. Intentional meals, potluck, or preparing together, creating a place for relationships to be grown.
4. Have Fun Together. Many ways suggested for getting together, especially at times along gender and age lines where you can focus on the unlearning how church can be church without focusing on the religious trappings. creates opportunities to see children as blessing, not as some problem to be dealt with.

The Three Main Ways to Move From Institutional to Organic, lessons for pastors especially.
1. Shut down Wednesday evening "services." Instead have a Wednesday evening ministry meeting. Lots of teaching can happen then, go through a book like his or some others, as well as some of those four or five practices above. You can still start with singing, see above, and some worship but in an organic way, then move into the heart of the "meeting."
2. Shut down Sunday morning "services" that meet all together in one place. Meet in homes, no more than twenty in a group, based on geography. Their new church. They will do the practices above.
No designated facilitators for these meetings.
3. Once you are going, invite an experienced church planter to hold weekend conferences to help you envision your next steps and stages and review the transformation. This networker will be a designated leader, but she will not be staying in the group as a part of it. These people will probably not be paid, or just for expenses.

We will be coming back to these simple but transformational steps.

On Jesus, The Bible, Religion, More

On Jesus, the Bible, and More: Revival Keynote Lecturers Book Excerpts

Here are some of the insights, thoughts, and reflections by our Revival Keynote Lecturers based on some of their published works.

1. Former UUA President John Buehrens, from his latest, "A House For Hope"

"My path is one of liberal interpretation of the biblical tradition...My job today, it seems, is to try to save the Bible from conservatives who claim to be its friends but who interpret it in oppressive ways that violate the Spirit that formed it...Many people yearn for a fresh, transforming encounter with the Bible,I find...When it comes to the Bible, what I most hope is that people will have a fresh I and Thou experience, both with the text and with the Spirit behind it....I do not deny that the biblical heritage has contributed to a sense of America's exceptional place in the world, to a privileged sense of being God's holy, chosen people, and to a self-righteousness that should be subjected to critical scrutiny. But I do say that if we were to ask more often the prophetic questions that pervade the Bible, we might do better at what the Lord most requires of us: namely, doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God....

"Evangelicals know that their mission is chiefly to spread the gospel. Progressive evangelicals, however, along with liberal Christians, add that this is best done not just by talking about Jesus, but also by helping to realize the kingdom, the commonwealth of God that he proclaimed. This means living the religion of Jesus, in his prophetic spirit, by performing the mitzvot of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, proclaiming liberty to the oppressed, and saying that now is the acceptable time for justice, healing, and reconciliation. As Francis of Assisi is said to have put it, "Preach the gospel always; when necessary, use words."

"No wonder so many of the most influential and important theologies that have emerged in recent decades have been theologies grounded in the real-world experiences of the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized. These theologies of liberation are varied, depending upon the experience of different forms of oppression. But they all seem to have this in common: they have variously tried to express what Cornel West has called "the courage to hope." Some of this hope may be for progress toward human rights, democracy, and a more prosperous future. But the strongest forms of it are what Rebecca Parker has called "responsive hope," grounded in gratitude for the gift of life itself....

"...So let us begin where we all hope to end: in gratitude---with a radically realized eschatology. After all, if Jesus was an eschatological preacher, warning contemporaries about the consequences of self-indulgence, injustice, and oppression, he also preached that the kingdom of God is right here among us wherever and whenever we make it real by loving the very ground of our being with all our heart, mind, and strength and by refusing to give our allegiance to any oppressive power. It is among us when we love our neighbors, even the very least of these, as we should also love ourselves. It is among us when we put our anxieties over what to eat, drink and wear into proper perspective and consider the lillies of the field. For we are in the garden of creation, where surely not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. So may our final words, at the end of lives, be words of thanks. And may we sustain all our efforts and hopes along the way in that same spirit."

"Hope that is based on personal, political, or group pride is often headed for a fall. As Andrew Delbanco writes in The Real American Dream: A Meditation on Hope, the Puritans were wise in teaching that "pride is the enemy of hope." He says that he relearned that lesson while researching the spirituality behind Alcoholics Anonymous. That organization, too, has a covenant grounded more in shared human experience and hope than in any particular creedal theology. Yet it wisely passes on a form of spiritual wisdom that resembles that of the Puritan divine who said that "a holy despaire in ourselves is the ground of true hope." Too much liberal and modernist religion, I fear, is all too likely not only to forget that ground, but even to think that covenantal relations are simply a matter of our own intentionality, and not a gift--what the Puritans called "a covenant of grace" rather than one of works. In the biblical tradition, after all, the most basic covenants were initiatives not on the part of human beings, but on the part of God, starting with the covenant of being itself, the Creation...Covenant as a concept is not just about commitment to a particular community. Because of its connection to hope, it is also about a community's commitment to a vision without which we all perish.

"Progressive religion in America is needed to remind America of its highest hopes and ideals and of what its heartwood concept of covenant most basically teaches: that authentic hope can never be merely individualistic or self-developed. It has a social and transcendent dimension. But it does need to be renewed and strengthened within human hearts and communities through a form of what has been called "the dialectic of covenant and conversion," first practiced by the earliest churches of America....That is what we do in progressive religion. In the midst of an economic system that increasing treats human beings as expendable "deadwood", we insist on restoring heartwood. We offer a framework of covenantal committment. We live by shared hope. We make a path by walking it--not alone, together. And we pray that along the way, those who walk with us will be converted and will make a deep personal commitment to its radical form of hope---not for themselves alone, but for everyone."

For more excerpts from Buehren's work go to

From Professor of New Testament and Jesus Seminar Fellow Brandon Scott, excerpt from his book :Re-Imagine The World: an introduction to the parables of Jesus.":

"The parables give us access to the way Jesus reimagined the possibility of living, of being in the world. They are not just religious, not just about God, although they are that too. As we investigate the parables as fictions we will begin to see that they are multifaceted re-imaginings of life, of the possib hilities of life. They help us imagine how we might live life in this world....Jesus' parables are a 'glimpsed alternative, a revelation of potential that is denied or constantly threatened by circumstance" or, in my terms, constantly threatened by the default world. It is always temporary, glimpsed. It is a possibility, not a reality....Jesus' language offered to his audience an alternative to the world in which they were trapped--a world burdened by purity laws segregating the unclean from the clean and into further degrees of purity or shame. A world where those on the bottom are imprisoned in unchangeable structures and await a divine solution. A world in which enemies threaten at every point. Jesus in his language offers a counter world, a vision, an openness to experience...Jesus revolts in parable and the parables create a counter-world, a hoped-for world that redresses the world as it is and surely makes sense, regardless of how it turns out, even it if turns out to be his crucifixion.

"Just as Jesus is not the topic of parables, we need a Christianity without Christ. The question we should be asking is not who Christ is, but the nature of the God Jesus hides in his parables. I use "hide" deliberately because God is no more the the explicit topic of the parables than Jesus. The parables thus force another radical question: Why trust this re-imagined world? Why trust Jesus?...Ultimately we have faith not in Jesus, but faith with Jesus. In the re-imagined world of the parables we stand beside Jesus and trust that his world will work, that it can provide the safe space--the empire of God--that resists all other empires. Jesus is our companion on the journey, not our Lord and Master. The parables lead us to the conviction of the reality of this imagined world. Like Jesus, we can be faithful to the vision of the parable.

"Jesus' life bears witness to the re-imagined world of the parables. It estalished for him and those who followed him a new consciousness, a new way of being in the world. Such a consciousness represents for me a new foundation for Christianity. To be more accurate, it represents for me a return to the original basis for the resurrection. Those who had faith in the parable's re-imagined world proclaimed him still alive because of their faithfulness to that re-imagined world.

"The God Jesus hides in the parables identifies with a polluted world, not the world of the temple; Adonai's presence is discovered in absence, not apolcalyptic revenge; and G-d's empire is based not on shame and honor, not on patron and client, not on contest--but on cooperation. The risk in such a counter weighted world is that the power of other empires is mighty indeed. Since the counter-world of the parable is always an imagined world, the real world is always there, always threatening to destroy that world of imagination. But faithfulness demands living out that risk by re-imagining with Jesus the parables once again."

For more on Scott's latest published book, a ground breaking biblical interpretation method, called Sound Mapping The New Testament, go to

Hear, Pray, Affirm: Three Essentials of Liberal Christian Formation, book excerpts

Read Excerpts below from Hear, Pray, Affirm: Three Essentials For Liberal Christian Formation. The Decalogue, The Lord's Prayer, and The Apostles' Creed, and more. Sermons by the Rev. Thomas D. Wintle, senior minister, First Parish Church, Weston, MA, long time editor of the UU Christian Journal. This book is vol. 62 published by the UU Christian Fellowship. Copies of the Journal and more excerpts to read are available by going to to read more, or to to order a copy or order gift copies for others.

From sermons on The Ten Commandments:
"The first commandment--no other gods--provides at least two things: order and unity. It provides order by forcing us to recognize that there are and there must be priorities--if you cannot sort out your priorities, you will be forever thrashing around rushing from one hectic moment to another, without ever knowing accomplishment, completion or peace. I do not mean that if you obey the first commandment you will not have conflicting priorities: I mean that if you try to dethrone God in your life, you will be forever shifting your allegiance among lesser things. And it provides unity to our lives. Once upon a time the world was filled with people who believed there were many gods, one or more to each people and nation, even each village or brook or storm. But the Hebrew people taught something new to the world. In so many ways, the consciousness of one God created the consciousness of one world and one humanity...

"What do you do when you break the commandments? And, for that matter, just what's the purpose of the commandments? What's the goal? Is it to make you feel guilty, inadequate, a failure? I'm convinced that's one of the reasons the Ten Commandments have pretty much disappeared from the liberal and mainline churches today. It's not that people disagree with the commandments, it's just that they make us uncomfortable. We think that we already have plenty to make us feel guilty and inadequate and failures!...I don't know who said it, but religion was once defined as 'the art of keeping good company in the inner life.' The good company consists of those models, the motivators, those who inspire. What works inside you are the stories that move you, the tales of action that excite your deepest feelings of rightness, the ones where you say to yourself, 'this is right, this is how things ought to be.' It is the whole orientation of your inner life. In a word, Jesus. We haven't said much about Jesus in this series, but I want to suggest that what enables us to do the will of God is the way in which "the spirit of Jesus Christ" (as we say in our church covenant) lives in us and we in him. We need his life, his spirit, inside us....

"The point is not that we're going to hell if we break the commandments; the point is that, with God's help, we can keep the commandments. We can keep them not just by obeying the letter of the law, but we can understand the meaning and the purpose and the intent behind the commandments. Rules alone are not enough. God, I am suggesting, wants spirited lovers, not nitpicking legalists. And for that, we should give thanks.

From sermons on The Lord's Prayer:

"I call God "Father" because Jesus called God "Father" and taught us to do the same. Jesus was not the first to call God "Father."... The kind of father Jesus had in mind, I think, was not the father in a patriarchal society (where fathers rule) but more the father in the story of the Prodigal Son...God, like that father, will let us go off on our own, and live as if God didn't exist, and make fools of ourselves, and still embrace us when we finally come home....So, can we call God "Father" anymore? Not, I think, in the secular culture, for in the world's eyes, we would be saying that men are better than women. But here, in the Christian community, among people who have been taught by Jesus and blessed by his presence, here in the community founded by him, we have a special treasure, an inheritance, and that is the invitation to call God "Father" in the same way and with the same meaning and with the same intimacy as Jesus did. It is, finally, a question of how we hallow the name.

"[on For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory]...The finest prayer is when we stop asking for what we want--gimme this and gimme that, God--and start asking God what God wants: "not my will, but thine be done."...For all our uncertainty, our weakness in prayer, our doubts, these last words of the Lord's Prayer provide what one scholar called "our redemption from ambivalence." Our last word of praise,you see, is simply the recognition that the last word will be God's.

From sermons on The Apostles' Creed:

"Creeds are not as important as deeds...creeds are narrow and defining and are incapable of capturing the fullness of Christainity...Creeds are non-biblical ecclesiastical constructions, and we prefer to go directly to Scripture...They can be wrong...They promote a legalistic outlook...They have been used as conditions of fellowship...and as ways to declare anathema upon others...But Christ envisioned a more welcoming church...They become a source of division between Christians...They can promote a "Christianity by rote"...In churches which proclaim them as required beliefs, they inhibit liberty of interpretation and free inquiry...They emphasize faith as a body of doctrine at the expense of faith as a personal act...

"Having said all that...if you break the spell of creeds, if you eliminate the idea that you "have to believe them" if you recognize their limitations, in other words, if you remind yourself first of the ten points above, then an ancient creed can be useful. Here are three possible ways: 1. A summary of faith....Although the Apostles Creed was not really written by the Apostles, in its present form it dates from the sixth century and an earlier form has been traced back to the second century. It lifts up the beliefs Christians considered central for centuries. it is our heritage. 2. A personal affirmation...You may find you agree with parts nd disagree with others--that is your right--but the process is important. Unlike some creeds that go off into terribly esoteric areas, the Apostles Creed points to some crucial themes. 3. A doxology:...they are like hymns sung to God, and the very saying of the creed becomes a devotional act in much the same manner as reciting the pledge of allegiance is for many an act of patriotism. The idea is that the act of saying/singing them is more important than the meaning of the specific words, which need to be reinterpreted for every age.

"In this free church, no one is required to accept the Apostles' Creed. But here is the flip side: you're also free to accept it!

Other sermons address What Is God? What is a Christian? A Theology of Prayer. A theology of baptism. World Religions.

The Trouble With Resurrection, new book by Revival Keynote Lecturer

The Trouble with Resurrection: From Paul to the Fourth Gospel, the newest book by Dr. Bernard Brandon Scott can be ordered now. Publisher is Polebridge Press.

Here is the blurb:

The term “resurrection” has come to stand for what Christianity is all about. But a close look reveals that it should not be understood monolithically, but rather as a pluralistic and diverse phenomenon. Early Christian communities were convinced that Rome had not defeated Jesus when they crucified him.
They employed a whole host of metaphors to express that conviction. The use of the single term “resurrection” to cover the phenomenon is a mistake-one that has tyrannized Christianity.

Furthermore, most Christians believe in a physical resurrection, although Paul clearly calls this into question. Once that tradition became fixed, it provided the lens through which everything else was viewed-and distorted.

The purpose of this book is not to say whether Jesus arose from the grave on the third day, or whether such an event is impossible. Rather, by examining the so-called resurrection stories in chronological order, it aspires to prompt readers to consider questions such as • what does the New Testament really say about the resurrection
• what is the influence of Judaism on Christian belief in the resurrection
• how did the resurrection become the central belief in Christianity
• why did early Christians choose to believe in the resurrection
• and why is resurrection not the right word

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Come Plant Seeds of Change With Us This Saturday, and Beyond

Ways you can participate with us, come help us. Especially on the next two Saturdays.

News and Updates and More from our A Third Place Community, serving TulsaNorth/Turley area: Please pass on to others on your email lists who might be interested, or who haven't heard about us yet, or social networks, organizational partners, etc.

1. Thank you again for your support of the Miracle Among The Ruins community gardenkitchenpark project of ours. We raised the funds, bought the block on North Johnstown, and the County should begin clearing the property this Fall. Stay tuned for groundbreaking ceremony news when that happens. We will have a yard sale on the site Sat. Oct. 2 selling stuff off of the block plus other items. Abandoned properties were one of the top issues raised by community residents during our first forums three years ago facilitated here in partnership with the OU Graduate social work students, and was a major focus of our first social work intern documenting properties especially in the area outside the city limits where there is no zoning enforcement, and we are thrilled to see not only this property but perhaps up to 30 that will be removed by the county with owner permission in this new project thanks to federal stimulus funds.

2. Chance To Help: This Saturday Sept. 18 from 8 am to noon, please come for as long as you can, bring families, church groups, youth groups, friends, to Horace Greeley Elementary School, at 63rd and N. Cincinnati, as we begin the beautification of the entry, bringing a focus point, creating outdoor classroom opportunities, uplifting the spirits of children as they come in the morning. Last September we had our big event at Cherokee School on North Peoria and it has had a major beautification transformation; this September let's do it for Greeley School. No experience necessary. Free lunch for helpers noon at A Third Place Center, 6514 N. Peoria. Bad weather will move it to the next Saturday. Let's show the children of Greeley and the residents of surrounding subdivisions (Greeley is my own closest school) that we believe their area is worthy of attention and value.

3. Saturday Sept. 25, come from 9 to 11 am for community center project reports from OU graduate social work students, volunteer trash off day, 11 am to noon, Turley Area History Project, tell stories, help us map the past to plan for the future; noon to 1 pm Heritage Lunch and live music, freewill donation, afternoon beautification projects and guerrilla gardening events around our two mile service area as part of our Four Directions Initiative of community renewal. We will have a reporter for a national religious magazine with us this weekend doing a story on us and our area, so please plan to come by and participate for as long as you can in one of the many hands on projects, or just the lunch, that day.
3. This Sunday, 10 am at church at the Center, focus in relation to Yom Kippur, will be showing the acclaimed documentary "The Power of Forgiveness" directed by Martin Doblemeier who did the biopic on theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This one highlights the aftermath of the Amish school shooting, 9/11, Irish violence, holocaust, and insights from Vietnamese Buddhist monk Tich Nhat Hanh. Sunday, Sept. 25, will be sharing biblical passages and stories that most move us and have changed us and that we use as guides. Sunday, Oct. 3 we will celebrate World Communion Day. And book Sunday Oct. 10 as we take church on the road and go on a retreat to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve and Pawhuska. From Oct. 14-17, or the weekend mini-conference, come to Revival/Retreat with us in the Dallas area. See more at

4. In other news, we received a grant from the Zarrow Foundation to help with, and we have a signed contract to purchase, the old church building near 59th and N. Peoria, and are hoping to get a bank loan for it, to expand and move to the next plateau in fulfilling our mission of "Renewing Community, Empowering Residents, Growing Healthy Lives and Neighborhoods." A center for our community and library and computer center and art, for our health clinic and new lay health advocates network, for a full food justice center, beautification and gardening center, service learning for students and urban missional monastery, with a chapel, for those who wish to come stay and serve with us. We will let you know if it all comes together soon.

5. We are working with Cherokee School and community activists and governmental planning officials on major federal grants to transform the streets in front of the school, and up to the old train tracks bike and walking trail where the historic Turley downtown used to be that is virtually all gone now. The area, which includes a state highway, is a dangerous one for students and for residents who walk to school and the stores and have to use the street itself. We will be meeting at the school Friday Sept. 24 at 1 pm for more planning, but if you or others you know have skills or interest in recreating a walkable, bikeable beautiful ecological community with sidewalks, lights, trees, for safer students, better business, here in this much needed area, let me know.

For more events (like the monthly diversity movie night showing and conversations, the monthly second Saturday community reconciliation lunches, the weekly gatherings, and with our partners and for background on our grassroots all volunteer neighborhood renewal movement, go to

blessings, Ron

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Trouble With Resurrection, and more

This link takes you to information about the newest book by Revival/Retreat keynote lecturer Bernard Brandon Scott.

Here s a wonderful book! The scholarship is meticulous, but at the same time every page is readable and, often quite compelling. Scott starts with the Hebrew scriptures and traces four different models of resurrection into the letters of Paul and the Gospel writings. Scott has candor and yet a fine respect for the mystery of God. The book should be on every minister s reading list. The Trouble with Resurrection will stir your thinking, your imagination, and yes, wonder. --David Buttrick, Professor Emeritus, Vanderbilt.

Product Description
The term resurrection has come to stand for what Christianity is all about. But a close look reveals that it should not be understood monolithically, but rather as a pluralistic and diverse phenomenon. Early Christian communities were convinced that Rome had not defeated Jesus when they crucified him. They employed a whole host of metaphors to express that conviction. The use of the single term resurrection to cover the phenomenon is a mistake-one that has tyrannized Christianity. Furthermore, most Christians believe in a physical resurrection, although Paul clearly calls this into question. Once that tradition became fixed, it provided the lens through which everything else was viewed-and distorted. The purpose of this book is not to say whether Jesus arose from the grave on the third day, or whether such an event is impossible. Rather, by examining the so-called resurrection stories in chronological order, it aspires to prompt readers to consider questions such as; what does the New Testament really say about the resurrection; what is the influence of Judaism on Christian belief in the resurrection; how did the resurrection become the central belief in Christianity; why did early Christians choose to believe in the resurrection; and why is resurrection not the right word.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Revival/Retreat 2010 Great Video Links of Presenters

See a bit about some of our keynote lecturers and presenters in previous videos of them.
Deadline for Early Discount on Registration for Rediscovering Jesus and Communities of Hope is Sept. 19. Come experience the dynamic vibrant inclusive of all spirit of Jesus and Progressive Christianity, the emerging future of Christianity. Brandon Scott part one by John Buehrens. the other two parts of the sermon are available in links on this site. John Buehrens at Harvard speaker series Ruben Habito Ruben Habito Ruben Habito David Owen-O'Quill Jonalu Johnstone