Merry Christmas – When the Good News isn’t Warm and Fuzzy


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“One Day” from Koolulam

From their YouTube Channel description:

Koolulam, a gibberish word based on the Hebrew word for “everyone.”, is a social-musical initiative based in Israel that is aimed at strengthening the fabric of society. The project centers around mass singing events in which large groups of non-professionals come together to form a collaborative musical creation. Koolulam brings together people from all walks of life to do one thing: stop everything for a few hours and just sing – together.

In this video that we just saw, 3000 Jews, Muslims, Christians, and others came together on February 14, 2018, in Haifa to sing a song of unity and the interwoven fabric of humanity in a spirit of peace. 3 languages sung, 1 hope for the world.

All my life I’ve been waiting for | I’ve been praying for | For the people to say | That we don’t wanna fight no more | They’ll be no more wars | And our children will play | One day | One day | One day

Our scripture passage this morning from the book of Isaiah, Chapter 61, Verses 1-4 and 8-11. I’ll be reading from the NRSV.

61 The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
    to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and release to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins,
    they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
    the devastations of many generations.

For I the Lord love justice,
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing;[a]
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
    and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
    and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
    that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
    my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
    he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
    and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
    to spring up before all the nations.

Our scripture this morning is about making the wrong right. About injustice becoming just again. It is here that God’s anointed are sent to bring hope to the hopeless, comfort to those in despair, liberation to those who are oppressed. For those who have been in Babylonian exile are returning and all is not what they had hoped it would be. It is a story of those who are in need of the Good News! In Luke, this scripture is referred to when Jesus opened the scroll in the Temple and read the first two verses of this scripture today. He points towards him as the fulfillment of this prophecy. We refer to that part as Christ’s mission statement. And Christ’s mission is our mission. So, this text is a guide can be seen as a guide for how we are to live out our lives as a people committed to the pursuit of peace as Disciples of The Way.

There are many inconvenient truths that this scripture causes us to wrestle with. Where we are invited to examine how we interact with the world and those around us. We could literally go through every part and discover examples in our world today that relate to that part and spend time in exploration. We don’t have time for that, but we could.

So, what are those hard inconvenient truths happening in our world today that this scripture of the wrong becoming reconciled can point us towards? Where is the Good News of Christ needed? There are so many places. I want to focus on one in particular this morning. The death penalty is back in the news again this week. Personally, I find many reasons to be against the death penalty but here is a big one. A 2017 NAACP study found that in states across the U.S., that even though, “Black people make up 13 percent of the population, they make up 42 percent of death row and 35 percent of those executed.” And that when it came to the Federal level, the statistics were about the same. The same study found that if the victim was white, there was a greater likelihood of the accused receiving the death penalty. The study goes on to share that “Several reviews of the federal death penalty have found troubling racial disparities in charging, plea bargaining, sentencing, and executions. For example, a review conducted by the United States Department of Justice found that 48 percent of White defendants were able to receive a sentence less than death through plea bargaining. Yet, only 25 percent of Black defendants and 28 percent of Hispanic defendants were able to plead guilty in exchange for life sentences.” And folks, I’m not even talking about the unnerving reality that for “every ten people executed, more than one person has been exonerated.” Let alone others who may have been executed but not even guilty. How is any of this aligned with God’s vision for the world?

At the April 2000 World Conference, Community of Christ passed the Healing Ministry and Capital Punishment resolution which declared, “That we stand in opposition to the use of the death penalty” and “That as a peace church we seek ways to achieve healing and restorative justice.”

This is who we are and what we are to be about. Today our scripture is filled with examples of restoration. So how can we be people who are passionate about forgiveness and the restoring of relationships and support government sponsored murder? I get the emotion behind it. I even get the justification for it at times. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there aren’t people out there who haven’t committed horrific crimes. But as a faith community, we don’t believe that it is the way of Christ and the way of Christ is what we’re called to strive to be about in the world. Death penalty is simply justice in the form of revenge. I have to believe that God is calling us to a better way of addressing our justice systems in the world today. And that we are called to take it seriously and not dismiss as something that is not realistic for our world today.

Some of you have heard me share this movie illustration before but it gets to the heart of what I’m talking about here, so I’ll share it again. In the 2005 movie “The Interpreter”, there is a scene that addresses this topic. It unfolds like this… “Everyone who loses somebody wants revenge on someone, on God if they can’t find anyone else. But in Africa, in Matobo, the Ku believe that the only way to end grief is to save a life. If someone is murdered, a year of mourning ends with a ritual that we call the Drowning Man Trial. There’s an all-night party beside a river. At dawn, the killer is put in a boat. He’s taken out on the water and he’s dropped. He’s bound so that he can’t swim. The family of the dead then has to make a choice. They can let him drown or they can swim out and save him. The Ku believe that if the family lets the killer drown, they’ll have justice but spend the rest of their lives in mourning. But if they save him, if they admit that life isn’t always just… that very act can take away their sorrow.”

Folks, it’s Advent. Our journey towards Christmas is in full swing. But life isn’t always Hot Cocoa with whip cream and sprinkles or Jingle Bells or unwrapping a new video game. If we truly are to be a people of the Good News, we need to also make sure that while we are celebrating the materialistic and fun side of Christmas… and friends, I freely admit that I fully engage in that side of Christmas as well… and that I need to hear my own words as well… and that is this… The Good News that is ushered in by the birth of Christ is one that has to radically change the way we look at the world. And I gotta admit, it often feels like the way we celebrate that is the antithesis of what his message is calling us to. It’s kind of ironic. Jesus didn’t come to begin a new religion… and I’m gonna bet there are many ways that we celebrate his birth that may cause him to shake his head…. But for us, he is our leading example of the Way. So how are you sharing the Good News? Not just during the Holiday Season but year-round?

Well, I have already seen examples resident within our community of just that…

I see peace being created in the world through notes of love and compassion. You have heard at least two people share on here the past few months to write a note and send it to people. Margaret Polly gave us a challenge to send 20 cards using Bugs Bunny stamps back in September and I believe it was Donald Welch who also recently shared the importance of doing so. I have also seen it suggested by many people on Facebook. This is already a season of isolation for so many, now that is compounded by COVID loneliness and grief, so reach out to folks, let them know you care. Send them a card, give them a call, and you can even text them. In fact, as your listening to the song following my sermon. Send someone a text. Let them know you care. We have over 225 devices on this worship, that likely represents over 450 people. If we all send someone a text in the next 20 minutes, imagine how many people will have received some Good News in their life today from you. If your bored by my sermon and want to do it now, that’s okay too.

Become a people of the Temple–those who see violence but proclaim peace, who feel conflict yet extend the hand of reconciliation, who encounter broken spirits and find pathways for healing.

Fulfill the purposes of the Temple by making its ministries manifest in your hearts. It was built from your sacrifices and searching over many generations. Let it stand as a towering symbol of a people who knew injustice and strife on the frontier and who now seek the peace of Jesus Christ throughout the world.

I see peace being created in the world by the work of our North American Climate Justice Team. This team is sponsored by our Mission Center but it is actually a group of amazing folks throughout the USA and Canada. A primary focus of the work they do is to bring about education, awareness, and formation related to climate justice in our world. In the Doctrine & Covenants, a collection of Community of Christ Sacred Texts, we read “The earth, lovingly created as an environment for life to flourish, shudders in distress because creation’s natural and living systems are becoming exhausted from carrying the burden of human greed and conflict. Humankind must awaken from its illusion of independence and unrestrained consumption without lasting consequences.” I see peace that this group of committed disciples are seeking to do something about this in Community of Christ. If you haven’t done so yet, I encourage you to go to and register so that you receive their updates about future online events that they are sponsoring. You only have to register once to get on their email list. Join, learn, Be transformed, act.

I see peace being created in the world by the many wonderful ways that I witness our young adult parents raising their children. I got permission to share this particular story. Recently a kid in my home congregation here in Eugene turned 8. His name is Jaron. His ministry in our congregation is already very apparent. So, there was a birthday parade scheduled to celebrate his 8th birthday. I wasn’t able to go so I asked Carron, his mother, what he might like as a gift so that I could drop it off a different day. She gave me some ideas but after reading the first one, to be honest, I didn’t really read the rest. She mentioned that he had been learning a lot about the Black Lives Matter movement and had become passionate about racial justice and that he would love a Black Lives Matter shirt. As soon as I read that, I knew that was the gift I had to get for him. She went on to share that recently when her young boy was watching a movie where an African-American boy was being beat up, he stood up and said, “BLACK LIVES MATTER” and was then able to explain to one of his grandmothers what that meant. And a child shall lead.

Folks, this is the Good News. This is what we are called to be about. Whether your act of peace is in the form of a text message or card, whether it is working to change the systems of incarceration and capital punishment, or maybe it’s raising a child that will help make the world a better place. Whatever it is… The ushering in of the Good News is what we are celebrating this time of year and as disciples of Jesus Christ, may we continue to find ways big and small to share that Good News with others all year round.

Also, from our sacred text…

One day this all will change | Treat people the same | Stop with the violence | Down with the hate | One day we’ll all be free | And proud to be | Under the same sun | Singing songs of freedom like | | | All my life I’ve been waiting for | I’ve been praying for | For the people to say | That we don’t wanna fight no more | They’ll be no more wars | And our children will play | One day | One day | One day

It’s almost like following the teachings of Christ… authentically… without being watered down by our own biases of prejudice and hate and competing loyalties and indifference… could be the greatest Christmas gift we can give back to God and to honor Christ for the well-being of humanity.

One Day. One Day.

Maybe today?


This sermon was preached for the Community Connections Online Worship on Sunday, December 13, 2020.

Bi Visibility Day: My Story


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From the Human Rights Campaign’s Glossary of Terms:

Bisexual | A person emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender or gender identity though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree.

It was the 1995-1996 school year and I was in the 5th grade. On the first day of school, Michael and I sat next to each other in Mrs. Rodriguez classroom. He was a new kid to the school and had that “cool kid” look about him. He had great hair and put off this kind of “bad boy-ish” vibe. All I cared about at the time was that I had met my best friend. We did a lot together that year. Talked about girls we liked, had sleepovers with friends, and so on. Occasionally he would come to church events with me. He was a friend. That was all.

I had a few crushes that year. There was Sarah and Lisa and then there was Jennifer. I had the biggest crush on Jennifer. She was cute and smart. I would occasionally walk her and her brother home as they lived near the school. We both served on Safety Patrol, as a Conflict Manager, and may have both been in band as well but I don’t remember for sure. My birthday and Michael’s were like two weeks apart and as gifts to ourselves, we both quit on our birthdays. Haha. The band teacher didn’t quite help us appreciate being in band.

Anyways, I really liked Jennifer. One day she even asked me about it since there were playground rumors swirling about my crush on her. Naturally, I did what every anxious elementary boy would do, I denied it. It’s amazing how even in elementary school, we’ve already learned how to be afraid of rejection. I still vividly remember the day that I told her that I didn’t know why there was that rumor and that it was wrong. Anyways, that’s not what this post is about.

As the school year progressed, my crush on Jennifer remained. And I continued to notice Sarah and Lisa and other girls as well. Here’s where I first noticed a change though. I began to realize towards the end of that school year that I thought Michael was cute. WHAT? This male best friend of mine was turning into a crush. I started to wonder what it would be like to kiss him. What would it be like to kiss a boy? I was so confused at these feelings and thoughts that I was developing.

Over the summer, Michael and I drifted apart and as we entered Middle School, our friendship was basically over. There would be other boys that I would begin to wonder about though. Boys that I would think were cute. There were girls though as well. My confusion had reached a point where almost every night I would go to bed praying that God just make me gay or straight. I wouldn’t pray to not be gay. I wasn’t bothered by the reality that I liked boys. I was bothered and confused that I liked boys AND girls. I just didn’t understand. As a night owl, I spent so many nights lying in bed thinking about my sexuality.

At the time, my faith community separated boys and girls into two separate camps during their pre-teen/early teen years. There would be Jr. High Girls one week and then Jr. High Boys the next. I didn’t attend though. I was too afraid. Fear had taken over. You see, for me, having boys and girls together at events was the equalizing force in my journey. The idea of being at an all-boys camp with no girls to balance things out was too much to handle. What if a boy saw me look at him different? What if they found out that I thought one of them was cute? What if there was an awkward moment in the cabin or in the bathroom? So, I avoided it. I attended the blended boys and girls Elementary camp and Sr. High camp but never the Jr. High Boys Camp.

This journey of trying to figure out who I was would continue throughout my high school years and well into my young adult years. I never acted on attraction to guys during this time and rarely towards girls as well. I would overeat to deal with my struggles which just made my anxiety and fear of rejection even worse. I also had this growing internal dilemma that caused me to think, “Ok, if I marry a girl, I’ll just be straight. No issue. If I fall in love with a guy though, I’ll come out as gay and just be gay.” That didn’t really ease my struggle though. I knew that if I decided that my sexuality was one way or the other then I’d be denying something that was a huge part of who I was.  So, I kept it in and essentially avoided any potential relationships. But what was that part of who I am? Why was I experiencing this?

I shared the next part of my story on my “Coming Out” blog post so I’m just going to cut and paste that part here. This was in December of 2016. Here ya go:

It wasn’t until earlier this year, at age 31, that I had my “ah ha” moment. That “ah ha” moment happened through one of the most cliché ways in the LGBT community… via entertainment. The first “ah ha” moment happened while watching an episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend back in March. In the “Josh is going to Hawaii” episode, one of the characters has the breakthrough he needed to be comfortable with declaring his sexuality. As this show often does, he embraced his orientation in the form of an over-the-top song called “Gettin’ Bi”. The lyrics state: “It’s not a phase, I’m not confused. Not indecisive. I don’t have the gotta-choose blues. I don’t care if you wear high heels or a tie. You might just catch my eye because I’m definitely bi.” That’s was my ultimate “ah ha” moment. It was me. I mean the “over-the-top” delivery was a little much but the message resonated with me.

Then a few weeks later the second “ah ha” moment happened while watching the “Death Will Have His Day” episode on Empire. In this episode, character Jamal Lyon is talking with his mother about being with a woman even though he identifies as gay. When she tells him to “pick a damn team”, he responds with the following: “I’m picking nothing. I do what I want to do. It ain’t nobody’s business who I’m getting down with… Sexuality is fluid… You have straight and gay and bi a lot of a bit of everything… Sometimes things happen. You feel a certain way. You act on it or you don’t.” He then followed that by singing the original song “Freedom” to declare the need for society not to draw lines when it comes to sexuality. This episode and song helped me begin the process of using the “Bisexual” label to describe myself even though it was only to myself. “Freedom” helped me to discover my own freedom with fully realizing and accepting my sexual orientation. I considered coming out this past Spring but ultimately decided to wait until later.  

I realized that Spring of 2016 that being attracted to both males and females was okay and natural. That I didn’t need to be gay or straight, I just needed to be me and that was bisexual. While many other millennials seek to avoid labels, I was embracing mine and found freedom in it. I have come to realize that sexuality can be so gray and as someone who runs towards the gray of life, I dig it! I am now comfortable within the gray of sexuality.

The journey of acceptance didn’t end there though. You see, I soon began to realize the stigma towards bisexuality. As I studied more, I began to understand that there can be deep animosity, and even hate, towards those who are bisexual from some others who are gay within the community. There is this stereotype that I am only bisexual until I meet the right guy to help me realize that I’m just gay. I have had people close to me tell me that I should be open to the realization that I’m probably just gay. Folks, if I was gay, I would have come out a lot sooner. Again, I wasn’t scared of being gay, I was scared because I was attracted to male AND female. I was scared because sex education is so limiting that it is harmful to people in the LGBTQIA+ community and beyond. Now this doesn’t mean that attraction is 50/50 either. Bisexuality is not black and white. It doesn’t mean my attraction is bound by any percentages. Honestly, the scary thing for me to admit is that I typically have a preference for guys. Why is that scary to admit? Because it in no way does that mean that I am not attracted to girls though. It is scary to admit because the stereotype of “just being gay” comes back to haunt me. Regardless of a generalized preference, love is love. And once love occurs, that is the preference. That is the reality. It would be the same as a guy saying he has a preference for blonde girls. Does that mean he may not end up marrying a brunette? Absolutely not. Preposterous, right? Same thing with bisexuality. I tend to have a preference for guys but that in no ways means that I won’t be falling in love with and marrying a girl someday.

I have had people in the church link bisexuality to polyamory. This notion that just because I’m attracted to both male and female means that I’m going to enter into a relationship with both and jump into bed for a 3-way is preposterous to me. I’m not degrading polyamory here. That is a different discussion. I can be bisexual though and still be monogamous in a relationship. I am a one-women or one-man type of man. I mean… I would get too jealous anyways in a polyamory relationship. 🙂

My story is not necessarily representative of all within the bisexual community. That is important to understand. Even within segments of any population, the experiences and journeys are varied but they are still connected with common themes. Though it is fun to say and joke that being bisexual means you have more options, and we probably do, that doesn’t make the experience easier. I am out and proud now, but it wasn’t always that way. From the time I realized I was “different” to the time that I realized who I am, was a journey of 20 years. That is a long time to live in fear and anguish and confusion of who you are. That is 20 years of being afraid that I had to choose. That is 20 years afraid that I might choose the wrong side. That is 20 years of denying who I am. That is 20 years of late-night thoughts that would often times leave me crying myself to sleep. That is 20 years of praying to be one way or the other. Meanwhile, I imagine God trying to get through to me and saying, “Beloved, stop letting society limit you. You are gifted with an attraction to beyond what culture is trying to limit you to.”

Please understand that the journey for all in the LGBTQIA+ community, not just bisexuals, begins at a young age. It begins as we take our first breath and then are molded and shaped into what society limits us to be. That even though culture has progressed so much, especially in the past 10 years, there is still so much work to be done. Don’t be afraid to teach our children and youth about sexuality. Empower them in it. Help them to understand their bodies and discover who they are. Maybe then we’ll actually raise children and youth to accept and respect and love themselves more. Help them to understand who their neighbor is as well. You just might save their life or the life of someone else. Or you may just save them from 20 years of tears and confusion and struggle.

September 23 is Bi Visibility Day. So today, I share more of my story because stories are meant to be shared. I share to help bring further understanding of the journey I have gone through as a way to educate others. I also share because as a minister, I especially crave the need to be authentic and not just be some comfortable version of myself to appease everyone else. This is especially important for me as a youth minister. If children and youth are living and growing up in a space where they feel the need to hide themselves because of who they are, I want to make sure that in the spaces of Christian community there are ministers who deeply know their struggle and are here for them. The face of Jesus is too often masked as a face of oppression and hatred towards certain groups of people in Christian circles. This isn’t the Jesus I know. So for me, it’s especially important that others come to know the Jesus I know. The Jesus found in the Gospels.

I am God’s beloved. You are God’s beloved. Let’s embrace freedom together. It is a freedom granted to all. Happy Bi-Visibility Day, y’all!

Please Note: The names of people shared in my story were changed. You never know where a blog post will end up. Haha. My teacher’s name is correct though.

When the Nativity makes us uncomfortable


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“God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering. Such conditions are not God’s will. Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare.” – Community of Christ Holy Text

This past week there has been an image of the nativity scene at Claremont United Methodist Church in California in where Baby Jesus, Joseph, and Mary find each of themselves in their own cage. It’s a protest visual in response to our governments border policies. To view the image, check out this article from CNN. To use the nativity in this way is provocative, sad, disconcerting, and even maddening, and that is why it is incredibly appropriate. I wish more faith communities were brave enough to make a similar statements. For the purpose of Christ’s message wasn’t to spread a message of rainbows and butterflies with pats on the back for good deeds done. It was to challenge unjust laws and spread a message of Joy, Hope, Love, and Peace in the midst of a society that seemed to contradict that message. It was to bring hope to those who were lonely, oppressed, marginalized, and forgotten. It was to live within a spirit of shalom, not fear.

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National Coming Out (Every)Day


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“I am brave, I am bruised. I am who I’m meant to be, this is me”
– “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman”

A couple nights ago I attended the “Coming Out Monologues” in Portland with my IMG_5501good friend Dylan (pictured on the right). We listened to stories of those who are gay, lesbian, and trans as they vulnerably shared their journey of coming out. We heard from parents who shared stories of love for their child who came out to them. One parent shared the story of her trans daughter who knew about her gender identity when she was 2 ½ years old. She then invited her courageous now 12-year-old daughter up to share her own story of transition and coming out while being a pre-teen. Throughout the evening there were many moments of laughter, tears, hope, and real-world realities brought to light.

Today is a day of mixed emotions for many. We celebrate our coming out stories. We remember the pain of the journey it took to get to that point and the pain that has happened since. With stomach in knots, tears flowing, fear suffocating, and a new sense of freedom, many choose to come out on this day. While others wonder if one day, they too will be able to fully live as themselves among their family, friends, co-workers, classmates, and strangers in society. Meanwhile there are those who just aren’t sure and are still trying to figure out what their orientation and/or identity is. That’s okay. Questioning is okay. Experimenting is okay. Studying the varied expressions of orientation and/or identities to see if one is right for you is okay. YOU are okay. Figure it out in your time, no one else’s. Maybe your experience doesn’t resonate with what I’ve mentioned here. Maybe you feel who you are is no one else’s business. No matter how you choose to come out or when or if you do, know that you are loved. You are respected. By me, and by many kickass amazing people that I know!

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Yesterday There Was A Storm (Transgender Military Ban)


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Yesterday there was a storm.

Lighthouses are used for navigation during stormy, dangerous weather. To warn captains of hazards before them and to guide them safely into port.

Yesterday there was a storm

A friend and I visited the Oregon Coast on a blustery, rainy Tuesday afternoon.

Yesterday there was a storm.

Through the haze of stormy weather, Heceta Head lighthouse shined brightly on the land and sea.

Yesterday there was a storm. Continue reading