Stranger Things...a sermon series!

A few weeks ago, Carolyn Shields came to Steve and I with an idea: a sermon themed around the Netflix series, Stranger Things. I think we both surprised her because we jumped on it and where we landed was not just a sermon, but a whole sermon series!

If you’ve seen Stranger Things, you know it’s a pretty weird show. Without any spoilers, the basis of the show is something like this: “Set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, in the 1980s, the first season focuses on the investigation into the disappearance of a boy amid supernatural events occurring around the town including the appearance of a girl with psychokinetic abilities who helps in the search.  The nearby Hawkins National Laboratory ostensibly performs scientific research for the United States Department of Energy, but secretly does experiments into the paranormal and supernatural, including those that involve human test subjects. Inadvertently, they have created a portal to an alternate dimension called "the Upside Down". The influence of the Upside Down starts to affect the unknowing residents of Hawkins in calamitous ways.”[1]

How could we not do a series about how strange church is and the radical idea of an upside-down kingdom of God in which we follow Jesus in his wild and crazy gospel of justice-love? So we won’t have any spoilers, like I said, but we’ll do some play on Stranger Things words and phrases, so true fans might catch on.

[1] Stranger Things, Wikipedia.

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Star Words

by Cathy Baskin

What’s in a word? I guess the usual answer is “it depends”…on who is using it, the context, etc. In this case the best answer might be “we’ll see!”  In our Sunday worship, Leah introduced us to “Star Words.” As baskets were passed, we each chose a star-shaped cut out with a word written on it. In the same way that The Star guided the three eastern pilgrims on their journey to Bethlehem, we committed to “following” our Star Word--allowing it sink into us, become a part of us, and guide us in the coming year.

This was a new idea to me, and it brought a festive feeling to our worship; which shouldn’t be surprising, since it turns out Leah’s Star Word was Festivity. Coincidence?  Maybe, but I believe that word definitely captures something of Leah’s spirit.

My Star Word is Communion. I look forward to meditating on this word in the coming year, to see where it might lead me. Already, I am thinking of Communion as much more than what we do at the Table each month. It has something to do with how we are connected--how we have Communion with each other--through the profound mystery of being “in Christ.” That’s as far as I’ve gotten!

Here are some of the other words that will intrigue and guide us in the coming year: Beginning, Cleansing, Discipleship, Caring, Difference, Enthusiastic, Fitness, Community, Confident, & Comprehension. Is yours on that list, or is it different? Leah invited us to keep the conversation going with each other as we head into 2018, following our Star Words. If you have an epiphany about your word, drop her an email or a note, or share it with others on the journey at RBC.

And may the (transformative) Force (of the Spirit of Christ) be with you!

Photo from "Star Words, Presbyterian Outlook." Learn more about how other churches observe Star Words.

Photo from "Star Words, Presbyterian Outlook." Learn more about how other churches observe Star Words.

Our Hearts Break Again and We Must Act to Prevent Gun Violence

I was enjoying a beautiful October afternoon as I was walking up the long, gravely hill at Bull Run Regional Park toward the Northern Virginia Pride Festival, yesterday. From where I was walking, I could see rainbow flags, booths handing out candy and kids running around playing. I could smell delicious food from the food trucks that had gathered for the occasion. And then I heard something that contrasted the children’s laughter and the music on the main stage: gunshots in the distance.

I froze.

They kept ringing out. This time, I could tell they were far away.

That’s when I looked over my shoulder and saw that Bull Run had a shooting range next door to the event area. I breathed a sigh of relief because my mind had immediately gone to the possibility of a mass shooting at an event like a Pride festival. I wondered if anyone else heard the gunshots in the distance too and what it might feel like to be a group of people gathered for celebration and joy, to be reminded of pain and trauma that struck the LGBTQ community less than a year and a half ago at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.

And then this morning, I woke up to the news from Las Vegas. Another mass shooting. There is no sigh of relief today.

In fact, there hasn’t been a sigh of relief in a long time, really.  A lot of us are walking around with chests heavy, tears welling up in our eyes and a constant awareness of the need to scout out locations whether it be movie theaters, Pride festivals or even our places of worship.

The tragedy in Las Vegas is horrific. Horrific.

We can say that our thoughts and prayers are with the people. And they are. They have to be.

And had our thoughts and prayers lingered from the previous mass shooting and turned to action, there might have been sensible gun control legislation passed. Had this country taken seriously the need to care for the victims of previous shootings, there might have been sensible gun control instead of continued idolatry of the second amendment and the National Rifle Association.

We must keep working and advocating. Organizations like Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence and Sandy Hook Promise are working to prevent gun violence. Call your Senators and Representatives.

The sadness will be here today and in the coming days. It’s grief. Grief for the horrific tragedy in Las Vegas where people have died and been injured once again. And grief for the fact that we find ourselves here again. And when that haze of grief lifts, we must, as people of faith advocate for the safety of all of God’s beloved.

We are peacemakers in this world and we must pursue peace with justice.

-Leah Grundset Davis

A Life Defending Religious Liberty

If you get a chance, take 15 minutes and watch this mini-documentary on the life and legacy of our friend Brent Walker, who will retire as Director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty at the end of the month. Brent has been a tireless advocate for true religious freedom -- the freedom of all to worship as belief and conscious dictates, and not as government or a majority religion would dictate.

On a more personal note, when I briefly joined the BJC as an intern in 2007, Brent welcomed me with an energetic kindness that I've rarely encountered. He so clearly loved his job, that he infected the whole office. His ready smile, though genuine, can be misleading, though -- he has this way of getting you to agree with him before you even realize that's what you're doing.

As Buzz Thomas says at the end of the video, "the BJC's best days are still ahead of it." But we will all miss Brent's leadership and enthusiasm.

- Ben

https://vimeo.com/194092926