The One Man: Righteousness by Faith // Romans 1:16-17

The Gospel of Jesus Christ rescues people from the most deadly trap of the human frame -- self-righteousness. Because in Jesus, the righteousness of God is revealed. Jesus shows us a righteousness of shimmering light that renders our conceptions of our own decency rather dark by comparison. We are not righteous. We have within us, each one, all of the shadowy material responsible for the world's great evils. Dark seeds of bitterness, envy, malice, and fear are planted in the soil of our broken flesh. And when watered in the rain of politics and culture, they sprout into racism, classism, fascism, and lies. We are the enemies we claim to oppose. But a true righteousness has emerged from within this soup of human ruin. And he is Christ Jesus -- the righteousness of heaven breaking into our twisted history. His righteousness is ours to walk in, if only we would forsake every confidence in ourselves and receive his life as our own.

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The One Man: Paul Among the Romans // Acts 22:25-23:11

00The Apostle Paul was born Saul of Tarsus, a Roman citizen educated in the most prestigious of Jewish schools. In his early adult life, he was a man of fierce conviction, who thought nothing of destroying others for the sake of advancing his cause. But meeting Jesus broke him. Mighty Saul became suffering Paul. And in the latter half of his adult life, he poured out his days not to trample others but to build them up. Paul lost reputation, comfort, freedom, and finally his life for the sake of one aim: to live in Christ and invite others to do the same.

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The One Man: Christians in Rome // Romans 15:8-21

When the Apostle Paul wrote his great letter to the church in Rome, he was addressing only several dozen Christian converts, who would have gathered in homes in the city's poorest districts. Surrounding this humble church, hundreds of thousands of pagan Romans, many of them hostile to the Jewish religion and its offshoots, made up the largest and most powerful city in the world. How could so few Christian believers, with no historic tradition to guide them and overwhelming cultural pressure to abandon their faith, become the first building block to an eruption of Christian converts in the decades to follow? How could this fledgling group even have survived the sweeping public executions of Christians that would come by order of the Emperor Nero just a few years later? The answer to those questions is contained in the content of Paul's letter. "Those who have never been told of him will see," the apostle writes, quoting the prophet Isaiah. The story of Christianity in Rome defies historical explanation or precedent. It is a story of God's power to save.

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Members of Christ // 1 Cor 6:12-20

We cannot know who we are apart from relationships. There is no such thing as an independent person. Personhood only exists in relation to others. So it is that true identity is not discovered by looking inward but rather in moving outward. We find ourselves not in the recesses of self-referential naval-gazing , but in the risky glory of love. Love is the height of personal relationship. It binds persons together eternally, such that those caught up in its grasp are ever defined by one another. The three persons of God, Father, Son, and Spirit eternally live in such love. And God has shared this love with us. Jesus has entered the human story so that we might discover who we are in relationship to Him. He has bound himself to us in love. To receive this love, then, is to be caught up in him, to be one with him, to be defined by him. Indeed, all who receive the love of Christ are bound eternally to God and to each other. We know who we are. We are the body of God’s beloved Son.

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Samantha ConnourTopical
The Suffering of Compassion // Colossians 1:24-29

Our God is a compassionate God. We know this only because he has entered our suffering with us. That is the very definition of compassion -- "to suffer with." How then can we consider ourselves the body of Christ if we fail to enter the suffering of our neighbors? Many among us relish the thought of being compassionate people, but whose suffering are we sharing in? We live in a cultural moment when the dogmatic teachings of the church largely fall on deaf ears. Our pronouncements of judgment against sin are like clanging gongs in an echo chamber, ever ricocheting off hardened surfaces, finding no soft places to land. Yet mercy and compassion are the instruments of God's Spirit to turn stone into clay. Our church has a mission: to participate in the life and death of Jesus, to suffer with sinners as he did, to offer this Christ within us.

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Samantha ConnourTopical
Good News for The Painted Door Church // Romans 12:1-21

Our country is divided. Rage and fear abound. And people line up across these divisions convinced of their righteous position. Are we convinced, too? Is The Painted Door Church convinced that we are among those who get it? That we are among the enlightened, the compassionate, the inclusive? God forbid that such delusion would fog our minds and hearts. A record of misdeeds towers in our wake. We have no moral high ground. In the wretched public theater of American race relations, we are complacent villains. Yet, this condemnation and folly has no power to define our future. We are not subject to its demands for atonement. Nor do we have any reason to spin our wheels in self-justification. We are guilty and forgiven, shameful and covered. Repentance is ours. We are free to be new. 

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Good News for Artists // Matthew 26:6-13

When Mary Magdalene anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive perfume, many of the onlookers were indignant. After all, her act of adoration was unnecessary, a costly use of resources that might have gone to nobler purposes. But Jesus rebuked this indignation and welcomed his disciple's flourish. In much the same way, artists throughout history are often seen as superfluous, their work an unnecessary luxury. Accordingly, they are often unappreciated. Yet this dismissive attitude cannot undermine the value of artists' work. Jesus himself is pleased with every creative endeavor that celebrates the beauty of his world. Since ultimately, it all celebrates of his Father.

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Good News for the Traumatized // Isaiah 42:1-4

Every person experiences trauma at some point in life. And when this trauma takes place in a context of heightened vulnerability, say during childhood or within a trusting relationship, its devastating effects often reverberate for decades. Trauma can so alter a person’s view of themselves and the world that relating to others can prove near impossible. Like communication between alien species, misunderstandings abound. That difficulty tempts many of us to withdraw from the traumatized, or perhaps to offer glib fixes. But doing so forfeits seeing one of the great glories of God -- namely, that he is re-creating all things from the very fiber of trauma. God is remaking the world through the cross of Christ. In other words, apart from the trauma of Christ we are incomplete. But as his trauma manifests in us, we learn the language of heaven.

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Good News for the Weary // Romans 15:1-7

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

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Good News for the Bootstrapper // Judges 6:7-16

Our present culture hails the bootstrapper (one who gets into or out of a situation using existing resources instead of external resources) as the epitome of the American Experiment -- without need, resilient, self reliant. The super Dad, the super Mom, the super Coworker. We often hear “God helps those who help themselves.”

I offer another definition of bootstrapper -- Coward. One who actually lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things. Even in our attempted bootstrapping ways, we’re not calmly pausing to look around at available options and resources for solutions. We’re desperately fighting to get out of the perceived weight we’re stuck under. The story of cowardly Gideon in Judges is much the same. Just like Gideon, we need help beyond ourselves, we need rescue. Thanks be to God that “The Lord was with Gideon” just as He is with us. And thanks to the Lord’s holy wisdom: Weak cowards are exactly who Jesus is looking for. We’re plan A. He loves cowards at the end of our rope, and He moves toward us, wants to be present with us. We who were given faith are his tangible presence on earth as the Holy Spirit moves within us. He gives us life abundant beyond any resources we have available, any scheme we can think up, and anything we can see here in our earthly reality.

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Good News for the Hurting // Luke 7:11-15

The Christian life is anything but the exemplar of ease and comfort that many of us seek. But what we receive, what we have, is God himself. Particularly, in times of dire affliction and distress, the LORD promises us himself, unconditionally and unreservedly. He is with us in our deepest anguish, heartache, and despair. And he will never leave nor forsake us! Yes, Jesus Christ is the Good News for the Hurting, and he is Good News even unto death; because Jesus, the destroyer of Death, is with us.

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Good News for the Disillusioned // 1 Cor 1:20-31

Children enter this world wide-eyed and curious. And when nurtured and protected, they’re sense of wonder mixes with developing skills and understanding to birth dreams. They want to be astronauts or rock stars or Olympians or all of the above. But then they outgrow the safety of parental nurture, and the world’s cruelties rain on their parade. Dreams become a casualty of maturity, filed away alongside unicorns and fairy tales in a folder of the mind marked “former naiveties”. Turns out, life isn’t fair or sensible or trustworthy. The celebrity public service announcements got it wrong: you can’t be whatever you put your mind to. But what if somewhere amid this abyss of disillusionment, there was something even better than dreams -- something that cynicism and apathy could never quench. What if everything weak and lowly and pitiful proved to be the very substance of hope. What if being a nobody placed us in the company of kings.

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Good News for the Achiever // Phil 3:4b-13

For many, résumé building is far more than a professional activity. It is a way of life. Adding bullet points to our running list of accomplishments feels like salvation, a way to assuage those haunting doubts of our self-worth. With each new achievement, we add a layer of protection, more proof that we matter, more distance between us and the terrifying prospect of being a nobody. But for all the successes our strengths can produce, they cannot erase our frailty. And when the pressure of racing to credential ourselves finally outstrips those frailties, we burn out. We crack at our weakest points and the whole building crumbles. It is the very fear of such a moment that drives us toward it at breakneck speed. Who would you be if your résumé were suddenly a blank page? To answer that question on your own is to know panic and self-deceit. But God has an answer for us: Who you are has nothing to do with what you’ve done. Breathe. Beloved children have no need for résumés.

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Good News for All People // Col 2:8-3:4

Jesus is good news for all people. We see it in his incarnation, his atonement, his resurrection. He took up residency here among us and flipped the script on us: the power structures and motivations of his present time didn’t seem to hold sway on him--he lived in an upside down sort of way. He embodied perfection, too; the religious leaders were always trying to corner him on something with no success--he lived at peace with God from the inside out in a sort of way that people were drawn to. He also thought he was rich. No, he was wholeheartedly convinced that the power and glory of his Father was present even though it led him into death. Yes, Jesus lived an inside out, upside down, now but not yet life; he is Lord of us all, and that is good news indeed.

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The Psalter of Jesus: Levity and Knowing God // Psalm 148

Let us not take ourselves so seriously as to think we can grasp reality. All evil stems from the belief that we can understand all things, that we can put the pieces of the whole puzzle together, that we can arrive at clarity. In fact, clarity is always an illusion. It is the erroneous absence of need, the end of dependence, the death of God. If we have clarity, we no longer need God. We have built Babel. In such a state, we may give God credit, but only in the past tense, as if his contribution has run its course. We'll take it from here, thank you very much. After all, we have clarity. May it never be so among us. Rather, may we always know this: There are chasms of mystery beyond us, transcendent realities to which we have no comprehending access, but only the chance to wonder and worship. Laughter and praise are the fitting offerings of dependent, beloved children. And so we are.

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The Psalter of Jesus: The King of Glory // Psalm 24

This week is Trinity Sunday, the first week of Ordinary Time in the Christian calendar.


Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? Everything in salvation and the life of faith is so utterly Christ conditioned, that we are not only connected to His present, but also His past and His future. He goes first. So follow Him, even to a Cross. He is perfect God and perfect Man, so that His place can be your place just as you are, a sinner saved by grace.

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Guest Speaker: Andrew Stravitz // The Cruciform Spirit

Through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, God has provided hope for the world and for all our lives. But so much of life seems tied up in our fragility, stress, inadequacy, and failures. So often, we do not feel or sense the Spirit of Pentecost, and hope seems a hoax. But the Spirit of God doesn't abide by worldly wisdom, but by a divine and cruciform wisdom -- a wisdom that leads us to feel both ours and others' regrets and suffering deeply, even as God had felt the regret and suffering of us all.

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The Psalter of Jesus: The Presence of the One // Psalm 139

When God made the world, he filled it with mirrors. And the largest of these mirrors is us, human people. The purpose of these mirrors is to reflect the beauty, goodness, and truth of God, so that the creation might enjoy and thrive in the love of its creator. But there's a problem. All the mirrors are marred now. Some are twisted. Others cracked. And many have shattered into a thousand tiny pieces. In this state, our experience and vision of God is distorted at best and more often wrong altogether. We have all sought to fix this problem. We've pursued healing, both for themselves and the rest of the world, seeking to restore our view of God and rediscover a pure vision of his love. And some have done great work. Some mirrors have moved back toward their true shape decidedly. Trouble is, even if some mirror somewhere could reach full restoration -- and none yet have -- what benefit is it to insert a few true mirrors into the circus funhouse of distortion that is our world? Once reflection becomes as bent as it is here, no amount of true reflection can unbend the light. Truth is, we need something more than better mirrors. We need the light source himself. Reflection will not do here. We must have flesh and blood.

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