…Making All Things New: 4:36pm Service Time

It’s a new year and there’s a lot of new things happening at Church of the Beloved for you to know about.  Take for starters the new service time at 4:36pm.

 

Why 4:36pm?  Well, we could say, “It’s a small compromise to accommodate kids and families in our community” or “It’s a memorable time that stands out.”  But we’re not entirely sure.  Go ask your mom.

 

Now, even though the time has changed, it’s the still slightly odd, community oriented, creative worship service that you’ve come to love.  There is a space for children, both school aged and toddlers – in our worship, as well as dedicated ‘Godly Play’ time.  If you walk in at 5pm we’ll understand.

 

Hope to see you in the new year!

The Way of the Cross

WHAT: an art exhibit based on the 14 stations of the cross and led by music and story audio recording

WHERE: Edmonds Church of God 8224 220th Street Southwest  Edmonds, WA 98026

WHEN: Holy Week – Tuesday April 3, Wednesday April 4, Thursday April 5, 5-8pm

COST: Free

“This was truly an incredible experience that fed my soul and was just what I needed as my heart is getting ready for Easter.  Thank you! Thank you!” – Way of the Cross Participant

*Some content may not be suitable for young children. Parent’s discretion advised.

What Is Your Name? The Demons of Addiction

I talked to five friends this week, each of whom are therapists and each of whom were trained in a different kind of therapeutic method or school of thought.  I asked each the same question, “Will you tell me everything you know about addiction?”

And each one of them said, “We like to think there are addicts and there are the rest of us.  But the first thing you need to know is we are all addicts; every single one of us.  There is a large spectrum of addiction and severity of addiction and some people function at greater levels than others, but we are all addicts.”

“Okay, then describe addiction for me.”

“Addiction is a coping method that helps us avoid pain or anything that is too vulnerable, too shameful, too scary, or simply too much for us to handle.  Addiction offers a withdrawal, a distraction, a way to avoid hard issues.  It’s highly personal too, meaning your addiction is as unique as your pain.  The greater your pain, the greater your shame about yourself.  And the greater your shame, the greater your addiction.  As the addiction grows the more the feeling of powerlessness grows until a switch takes place and you feel as if you no longer have the addiction, but the addiction has you.  Even if you know it will do you great harm, and even if you know it will cause great harm to those you love, and even if you know it will destroy whatever is good in your life, you still choose it.”

“So let me get this right.  You’re saying that addiction tends to usurp our identity, possess power over our wills, lie to us and promise us things it can’t deliver on, and wants to harm us and those we love.”

“Yep.  That sounds right.”

“You know, listening to this as a Christian pastor, this sounds demonic.  Would that be crazy to call this demonic?”  (Now here’s where I thought that professionally, these therapists could not go there with me, but each one, Christian or not, responded, “No.  It’s not over the top.  Most people who are confronting their addiction will readily call it their personal demon.”

I want to offer this paradigm as a way for us to enter into this Gospel story from St. Mark, chapter five.  Of course it’s not the only way into this story, but perhaps it is an urgent way for us to listen to the story in our day and in our place. So in the safety of this sanctuary,

I want to invite you to become open to epiphanies about your own demons, your own addictions on a broad continuum, and the pain lies beneath it, in order that the Risen Christ who is present with us now might continue to be truth and grace for you.

MARK 5: When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him.  Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

We don’t know much about this man.  We don’t know as a little boy what he wanted to be when he grew up.  We don’t know what evil and traumatic thing may have happened to him that continued to follow him as he got older.  We don’t know how it was that he came to be in this place where the only home he had left to go was a graveyard on the furthest margins of his community.  But what we do know is that there was a lot that led up to this moment and now he is utterly alone in his misery.  People have tried to help him.  People have tried to isolate him.  People have tried to forget about him, but when the town is asleep in their beds they still hear him howling and wailing in the cliffs.  The children shuttered at the sound.  The mothers remember when they helped midwife his birth.  The father’s remember coaching him in little league.  And now his persistent screaming in the night terrorized the whole community because they knew that it was not only his demon, it was their demon.

The therapists I talked to said, “Our culture treats addiction like a medical problem, like a disease.  Certainly there are chemical and biological issues at play, but emotional and spiritual healing cannot take place simply through will power.  It must be addressed in relationship because under every addiction there is a yearning for relationship and when the trauma of a broken or abusive relationship leaves you fragmented, the craving for and repulsion for relationship is intensified and that’s where the addiction grows.”

The odd thing about our story is that as horribly conflicted and ambivalent as this man might be, he comes out of isolation and hiding to be in some kind of relationship to Jesus:

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him.

He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!”  For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

Perhaps this is the crux of the story.  Perhaps no one had ever asked this question of him before.  No matter who you talk to, naming addiction is fundamental to healing.  Every AA meeting starts the same way – “Hello.  My name is Ryan and I’m an addict.” This mantra holds two very tenuous truths together at the same time, that I am both “Ryan” and I am an “addict”.  Most of us wont allow both to be true.  Martin Luther called this the paradox of always being at the same time both “saint and sinner.”  For those suffering from severe addiction, the lie is with them every day of their life, “You are your addiction.  That’s it.  Your addiction makes your choices for you, defines you, and directs you.”  But naming our addictions puts us back into the paradox and returns our truest name back to ourselves.  When we name our demons we can now tell the who truth about who we are, “Yes, we are addicts.  But we are more than addicts and we are more than our addiction.  There is something true about me long before my addiction – I am God’s Beloved.  And not even my addiction can take that from me.  Not even I have the power to screw that up.”

A friend of mine who is both a pastor and a recovering alcoholic told me, “My AA group was more honest than any church group I’ve ever pastored, and in our brokenness we found freedom.”  What if our church was a place safe enough to tell the truth about ourselves – the whole truth?  This man who came out from his isolation to meet Jesus had become so enmeshed with his demons that his very identity was usurped.  Not even the man could tell where the demons stopped and he began.  Jesus simple question, “What is your name” brings distinction between the person and the addiction.

The story continues:  The demon said, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”  And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside.  The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.”   He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

Here’s the thing that we might not be ready for:  Loving each other in the midst of addiction costs.  It costs a lot. Being on a path to healing costs.  It costs a lot.  Not just the individual, but it costs the whole community.  For this town in the region of Garesene, it cost this man’s community two thousand pigs.  Last summer we bought a pig for the pig roast and it fed a whole community of people – 200 lbs of pig cost us about $500.  That means at that rate 2,000 pigs would cost exactly a million dollars!  What an extreme cost.  This was likely the entire livelihood of an entire village.  No wonder Jesus wasn’t asked to stay for dinner.  But there’s a way in which Jesus was inviting the entire community into the healing of this man and to bear the cost of his healing.

We can no longer pretend that addiction is the problem of an individual.  Addiction is a systemic problem.  Addiction is a communal problem because the man didn’t get to where he was on his own and he wont return to wholeness on his own either.  He needs the community and the community needs him for their own wholeness.  But it costs a lot.  Who’s healing is bound up with your healing?  And what price will you put on that healing?

The story ends by saying:

Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened.  When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.  Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well.   Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him.   Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”   So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

What a miraculous thing:  the man goes from screaming at the furthest margin of community to sharing his story in the Decapolis – the very center of community.  The twelfth step in every AA program is this:  “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”  Sounds like echoes of a baptismal covenant to me.

The man wanted to go with Jesus.  Sounds like the “Christian thing to do”, but Jesus said, “Look.  I can understand why you would want to leave here and have a redo.  But your redo is right here, because here is your community.  Here is the place where your addiction took root.  Here are the people who have both helped and harmed you.  Here are the people who don’t know what to do with you nor their anxiety about what to do with you now that you are not howling in the caves.  And here are a people who need naming and need freeing relationships and need you to tell your story.”

On the one hand, this was only the beginning of healing for this man and his community.  What happened next would be hard and slow.  It may even result in some more pain and wondering if he should just go back up to the tombs again.  But he would be brought back to community knowing that his experience with Jesus had fundamentally changed everything.  And it was that hope that possessed him now.

We tend to say there are addicts and the rest of us, but if we are honest with our selves we know we are all addictive people.  We all have places that we go to to escape ourselves.

Man, that’s scary to name.  I imagine some, if not all of you might be in a place where just talking about this brings up some major fear and anxiety and that is sure understandable.  But I promise you, Jesus is speaking to you the same word of grace as you come out of hiding: “You are more than your disease.  You are more than the labels you are given.  You are first and foremost made in the image of God, claimed by God and you are free.  Free to be human, free to be in relationship. You are free to be whole.  And I’m here with you, as you much as you push and pull on me.  As much as you yell and scream.  I’m not here to torture you.  I’m here to restore your true name and restore you to community.”

Holy Weirdness

My two year old son, Moses had a landmark realization the other day.  He asked me, “Are there two Papas?”  I said, “Sorry bud, I’m it.  I’m the only one you got.”

Then he asked, “Two Mama’s?”  “Nope. Just one of her too.”

“Two JuJu’s (the name we call his sister)?”  “Nope.  Just one JuJu.”

He then proceeded to list nearly every person he could think of and each question had the same reply, “Nope.  There is only one of that person.”

Moses was discovering the distinction of each person, until he finally came to himself and said, “Just one MoMo.”  “That’s right son.  You are a one of a kind… just like everyone else.”  He had stumbled on to one of the most important realities: “You were made utterly unique, handcrafted, and that utter uniqueness makes you different.  Psychology would say, “This is the beginning of differentiation:  The ability to hold one’s boundary and respect where it is that I end, and you begin.”  While the therapeutic world might call this differentiation, I want to call it “Holiness.”

Throughout the story of Israel in the Scriptures, Yahweh keeps calling out to his people saying, “Come out from them and be ye holy!” God continues to use the word “holy” to define the people that he calls, but what does this mean?  In my younger years I thought that holiness meant moral superiority –

“being holy” meant “being better”.  While ethics certainly have something to do with holiness, I don’t think being ‘good’ is at the heart of holiness.  I used to think it was about self-righteous segregation, and therefore, I didn’t want to have anything to do with the word “holy”.  And yet Jesus, who defines holiness for us, does not segregate at all, but becomes one of us… so that can’t be it either.  What does it mean to be “holy”?

When St. Peter is describing the Church he says, “You are a holy people… you are a peculiar people.”  And if the lives of the holy saints tell us anything, they tell us that “Holiness makes you weird.” Just look at the life of anyone the church deems a saint and you’ll find one common characteristic among them all – they are totally strange.

Yahweh says, “Come out from them and be ye holy”  I wonder if this separation that Yahweh is calling for is actually a healthy differentiation.  It’s the opposite of enmeshment.  Maybe it’s what the Apostle Paul is talking about when he says, “Be no longer conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed.”  This world wants to cookie cut you into something so much smaller, and blander and dimmer than who you truly are – for God says, “You are light and salt.  Never be normal!”  Normal is profane.  Holiness is recognizing that you are different from the other, and the other is different from you.  To worship a Thrice Holy God is to say, “Who is like God?… No one!  There is no other God like Yahweh!”  God is utterly unique.  And our God is utterly weird.  Some of you already knew that.

Here’s what I believe the truth is about you and your sainthood: God has made you – your truest self – to be far more ideosyncratic, far more unique, far more ‘holy’, far more “you” than you are willing to become.  If this is true, then it means that becoming holy is not about becoming someone or something else.  It is about becoming even more of yourself in the grace of God.  It’s the way God already sees you. It’s in your DNA.  Tara becomes more herself when she sings the moment she feels the Spirit, and that means she’s a little weird.  And she is Holy.  Donna becomes more herself the more people she feeds, and that makes her not normal.  And she is a Saint.

I’m now convinced that Saints are strange for two main reasons:

  1. Saints are strange because they have come closer to their truest self.

2. Saints are strange because they value the opinion of God over every other opinion.

They don’t care who thinks they are weird.  This was a tough one for the family of St. Francis.  It wasn’t enough for his father that Francis went to war.  It wasn’t enough for his father that Francis returned home,

having survived the war.  He wanted Francis to take over the family merchant business. And Francis wanted to give all his possessions to the poor outside his door.  Francis’ father drug him to the public square in front of the Church so that the Bishop might discipline his son in front of everyone.  Francis was asked to account for himself, to explain his actions:  He told the bishop that he wished to follow Christ in his poverty and simplicity.  “The birds didn’t have his father’s money, and yet their bellies were full.  The wild flowers didn’t have his father’s money, and yet they were dressed like kings.  God provides everything for the birds and wild flowers, and God would provide everything for him too.”

There was only one thing to do.  He would give everything back to his father and he would be free to follow his Christ.  He would give everything back at that exact moment.  Turning to his father he said: “Father I give you back everything that belongs to you – your possession and your clothes.” With that he stripped naked in front of the crowds and handed his father the clothes off his back.

The more that Francis followed Christ, the more Christ led him into a unique weirdness that we call “Holy”.  He preached to the birds…  He arbitrated peace between a village and wolf…  He kissed the feet of lepers… He looked at an abandoned old church, saw in it a cathedral for the people and in his holy foolishness, began to renovate it with a ragtag group of people.

So Beloved, be ye holy.  Be strange in loving the unlovely around you.  Be ye holy.  Be peculiar in your passion for peace.  Be ye holy.  Be weird in the way you listen deeply to others.  Be ye holy.  Be down right goofy in your generosity.  For you are a holy people who serve a holy, holy, holy God.

The Gospel According to Big E Root Beer

Because Tara and Nathanael were married at Camp Gorhmley Christian Camp, the wedding merriment did not include alcohol, rather, in it’s place the reception party provided copious amounts of local, hand-crafted, Big E root beer.  Now, there is a certain kind of silliness that happens on the dance floor after a couple glasses of beer or wine, but there is a whole other kind of silliness that follows from drinking lots and lots of sugary, sweet root beer!  That night the sassafras kegs had flowed freely, but by the next morning there was still more left-over.

Tara and Nathanael sent a keg of root beer home with me to share with Beloved.  We made vanilla floats both before and after service that Sunday, Rosewood drank their fill and there was still more left-over.  It was like the proverbial loaves and fishes.  We could not seem to reach the end of the barrel.

So, the next day, Labour Day, we decided to make a root beer stand, setting out a table on the sidewalk in front of Rosewood where thousands of cars pass by each day.  A sign sat on top the table that read “Relax!  Have some root beer.”  It was hot out and the root beer was chilled and ready to refresh.  Perched up on the front steps, we watched car after car drive by.  Some looked, some smiled, some raised eyebrows, but few stopped.  What was it about this free gift that seemed so suspicious?  I imagined all the people driving by, some returning from a weekend at the lake, some headed out for an afternoon hike.  Everyone was trying to get somewhere and soak up the few rays of sunshine the summer had offered us.  The few that actually did stop, said, “Whoa! This stuff is amazing!”  After four hours only about nine or ten people had enjoyed a glass of foamy goodness, and still the keg felt practically full.

I thought “Where could I take this on Labor day where people would enjoy it?  Who would be working on Labor day?”  Moses and I threw the keg in the back of the Volvo and headed towards our house.  I needed to pick a few things up at Home Depot on the way back, and as we pulled into the parking lot there stood a group of a dozen or more men baking in the heat.  “Who’s that, Papa?”  “Moses!  Of course!  Those men are looking for work… on labor day!”  We pulled over and five men immediately came to my door.  “Do you need two?  Do you need two?”  The loudest guy asked.  “Um.  No, but I have root beer.”  I said.  The men were crowding around our car now.  They all looked confused and were speaking to one another in Spanish.  I opened up my trunk to show the keg of root beer and asked, “Who wants some ice-cold root beer?”

Laughter erupted.  They laughed like little kids and instantly there was line.  There were seconds and thirds and fourths.  The wedding celebration was spilling out onto those waiting for work on a day in which most people had the luxury of not working.  The men drank and drank some more.  And still there was more left-over.

“So You Think Mars Hill Church Sabotaged Our Pig Roast”

But you would be wrong. It’s been two weeks since Church of the Beloved hosted a pig roast, at which over 200 of our friends and neighbors and local churches enjoyed themselves. But the leading story among many circles has been drastically different than the leading story of our neighbors. While our neighbors have said,What an amazing celebration that was! Thanks so much for having us over!, I also hear, almost daily, a variation of a rumor that needs be cleared up, namely, Mars Hill Church sabotaged the pig roast.

The truth of the matter is this: A former resident of Rosewood, who was one of the originators of the pig roast five years ago, attends Mars Hill Church and helps lead its small groups in the Edmonds area, asked some of his small group people to help fund, set-up and have a meet-up prior to the opening of the pig roast. In the spirit of hospitality and peace, Church of the Beloved said, “Sure.” About 25-30 folks from Mars Hill attended. Furthermore, we invited nearly all the churches around us, regardless of their doctrine or social stances. Church of the Beloved even unwittingly invited the Ethiopian Orthodox Church down the street…except they don’t eat pork. Oops! In the weeks leading up to the roast we wanted it to be clear that this pig roast would be offered as a free gift to all our neighbors, and that included those who go to Mars Hill Church.

I’m writing this open letter because of the cloud of volatile whispers that was kicked up. I take very seriously that many have been hurt and are sad and angry. I, too, am in that camp, but the roast was not an endorsement of Mark Driscoll’s teachings. Rather, it was about us offering hospitality to all our neighbors.

As I say this, I’m pointing four fingers at myself: We claim that we better understand the breadth of God’s grace and that we are practitioners of that grace over and above ‘the women- and homosexual-haters’, and yet we can’t even welcome our Christian sisters and brothers from Mars Hill to our table without mistakenly calling them saboteurs and invaders. This event has exposed our own prejudice and disgust for our neighbors, and we need the grace of God even more.

There may be more to the story than I am aware of, but it didn’t seem right to let the whispers gain momentum without this side of the story being present, because regardless of creed or lack of creed, this is a place of welcome in the name of Jesus.

PIG ROAST ~ Sat Aug 27 4-8pm

PIG ROAST – SAT AUG 27 – 4-8pm – FREE

Come join us in giving thanks to God and celebrating the purchase and first stages of renovating Rosewood Manor. We’ll have live music, games for kids, Hawaiian Style Roasted Pig with all the trimmings and beverages.  And it’s free, seriously free and our gift to you.  If you want to give a gift back to help us cover the costs, we wont say “no”, but this party is to say thanks for all you’ve done to help us get here.  So come hang out and we’ll give you a tour.

*After party outdoor showing of Zoolander at sundown.

who here has ever known a leaving like this

an ascension day poem by ryan marsh


“and they went home rejoicing…”

who here has ever known a leaving like this?

suspiciously absent of estrangement

and lacking the assumed abandonment

who here has ever known a leaving like this?

the old man told the old man,

“No one has ever seen the Father,

and Jesus ain’t ’round anymore,

so all we’ve got is the Spirit…

but no one’s ever seen the Spirit.

Seems like we’re back where we started.”

but they “went home rejoicing”

who else, besides you, could come closer by leaving?

you, who are universally local.

you, who are humbled down all the way up to glory

the old man told the young man,

“There is no heaven other than the place

where God’s will is truly done”

well, then that must be where you are now

and if you are there now

i imagine what you did here

you are doing there:

healing our sickness,

feeding our hunger,

dismantling our privilege,

freeing our prisons,

and praying for us…

everything you did here

you probably still now do there

at the very heart of God

and if you return to the heart of God

you take me there too

the old man told the child,

“If we don’t leave,

we can never come back”

and the child thought it a trick

to stop the tantrum and tears

why do I keep looking into the sky?

when you said ‘stay in the city’

why do I keep looking into the sky?

when you said ‘wait for the spirit’

why do I keep looking into the sky?

when you said ‘my forgiveness spreads everywhere

starting with you’

who here has ever known a leaving like this?