Manna and Mercy

Video Clips

Here are a few highlights from each video clip:

1. Introduction. The Bible is not a weapon but rather a gift or an instrument of healing. The problem is how we read the Bible (so we can avoid the atrocities committed by people who claim the Bible is their book). Just as world maps distort either shapes or sizes when a globe is reduced to a flat surface, so our “map” of the Bible has often been distorted – leading to death and destruction rather than abundant life. When we say the Bible is a “two-edged sword”, it needs to be a surgeon’s scalpel rather than be used as a mugger’s knife. Watch the clip.

2. The Lens of Jesus. The litmus test for understanding Scripture should be: would Jesus say “Amen!” to this interpretation? Would Jesus want us to imitate that concept or action? Instead of “having faith in Jesus,” we need to ask, “what did Jesus have faith in?”  If our faith is in Jesus, it is too easy to make him into an idol. Watch the clip.

3. The 4 Questions. When reading the Bible we should ask: What does the passage say about God? What does it say about human beings? What does it say about creation, the environment? What does the passage say about the relationship between creation, God & humanity? Watch the clip.

4. Context Gives Meaning. We need to honor the original context in which the Biblical account is written in order to properly understand the meaning. In 1675, Christopher Wren was told by the Queen that his work of 35 years was “awful, artificial, and amusing”. What we would understand as criticism today was in his day the highest praise! To learn the context of a passage we must ask: Who is the author? Who is the audience? What is the date and social setting? And what language is being used? Watch the clip.

5. By The Rivers of Babylon. Here is an example of context giving meaning: Genesis, Chapter 1. Since language is time-bound, study the language used in this chapter. Look for other passages using the same language and style. Look at Psalm 137 to find the language context for the Genesis 1 creation story. That story tells those who have lost everything that God can create beauty out of nothing. “You are born in the image of that creative God” – a message needed for those in captivity in Babylon. Watch the clip.

6. Truth Is Larger Than Fact. Some spiritual leaders of old would say, “I don’t know if it happened this way but I know it’s true.” Genesis 3, the Adam and Eve story is a parable: it’s true but I don’t know if it happened this way. The movie “Big Fish” is an example. It asks us which story we prefer – one based on fact or one based on truth? Facts can’t hold the miracle of truth. You have to reach for story or metaphor. Facts can’t hold the depths of feeling and love. But if you take metaphor literally, you end up with an absurdity. We don’t ask factual questions about parables. Parable is metaphor that can hold truth that facts are unable to hold. Watch the clip.

7. Freedom is the Air Love Breathes.  In referencing the Garden of Eden story, we know that snakes don’t talk but we can hear them “speak”. It is anything that causes us to doubt the loving abundance of God. The minute we rely on ourselves rather than God, we listen to the snake. Humanity struggles to trust that God provides when “snakes” talk to us. God gives us free choice. If you remove freedom from a relationship, it can’t breathe. It becomes false and manipulative. What makes love special is when someone freely chooses us rather than having been programmed to be with us. You can’t love without risk – because when we love, we feel vulnerable. But even when we “fall”, God comes looking for us. Watch the clip.

8. In Love, By Love, For Love. The Biblical creation story was written to counteract the Babylonian creation story which featured many gods fighting each other. Humans were slaves to the gods – very different than one God who creates out of love. Humans in the Babylonian story are born in violence, by violence, and for violence. But the Biblical story is creation is good; the deepest truth about our humanity is we are born in love, by love, and for love. Yet we also have the freedom not to love. Justice is how love is distributed; I can love others by seeking justice for them. Society is born in, by, and for justice – so we need to call it back to its original design and purpose. Which creation story do you believe in? Most movies in our dominant culture follow the Babylonian line: good characters use superior force to wipe out the bad ones, and then we all cheer. Which creation story determines the way we live our lives? Trust in force or trust in love? These are choices we need to make every day. There is one immoveable “still” point: God is Love. God cannot be anything other than loving. If scripture conflicts with this still point, I can learn from it but must not imitate it. Watch the clip.

9. God’s Partners.  Genesis 11 ends in barrenness. Genesis 12 is like a new start with Abraham and Sarah. God is looking for partnership with us – that is the way the world is healed. God not only wants to come to us but also through us. Watch the clip.

10. Ama’s Story: Growing Community. Ama is with the West End Community Garden Project whose mission is to “grow food and grow community”. Food is fundamental, and a garden is a source of inspiration, a gathering place, a beautiful place to be. This garden plants seeds of hope for the community. Watch the clip.

11. The Pyramid. God has called us into authentic partnership. God has chosen to need us, to be dependent on us to fulfill the dream of mending our world. When we choose not to love, society takes on a structure of domination. People begin to think of themselves as “big deals”, standing on top of others. In the book of Exodus, we find a leader (Pharaoh) who is fearful of people and forgetful of God – and he designs a structure of domination. A fear-full leader is a love-less leader. A leader who forgets God wants to be treated as a god, worshipped like God, who thinks they are god. An oppressive system rests on exploited people at the bottom. Religion often ordains this system and the military protects it. Using the example of a pyramid, if you own a car, a computer, a house with an indoor bathroom, you are in the top 5 or 10% of the pyramid of the world. If you eat 3 meals a day, it means you are wealthy. We need to realize where we are on this pyramid in relation to the world. If we want to journey anywhere, we need to first know where we are. We need to be honest about where we are on the economic pyramid. Salvation, liberation, redemption is not “good news” for everyone. If slaves go free, what will Pharaoh think of that? The status quo is skewed on behalf of the privileged. So proclamation of good news for the poor, release to the captives, and manna and mercy for all, is not good news for those who have a stake in this pyramid. Sin (love-lessness, justice-lessness, no gentleness, …) is never private. Sin is personal but always has public or political ramifications because it impacts the way society is structured. Because sin has a social impact, there is no such thing as personal, private salvation. We cannot privatize God’s word. Every decision we make impacts on everybody. Watch the clip.

12. The Wilderness School. Salvation is not good news to those who are addicted to the status quo. God is in partnership with the outcasts and marginalized. God has “big ears” to hear the cry of the marginalized. God works behind enemy lines using the daughter of Pharaoh. We, like Moses, carry the identity of both oppressed and oppressor within us. Moses becomes a murderer but God calls him anyway – God believes all people can change. God uses people that society would never choose. God wants to come through Moses to the Hebrew people. Moses invites Pharaoh to change but he refuses. The consequences impact the environment and ultimately impact us – our corruption corrupts the earth. You can’t move from the land of oppression to the land of promise without having to go through the wilderness in between. Is the number 40 a symbol of new birth? God is birthing a new people in the 40 years in the wilderness. You have to un-learn the Egyptian way. The first lesson is to learn to share – God has provided enough and we need to be sure everyone has enough – the opposite of the Egyptian way. For society to flourish, you must share. Watch the clip.

13. Law as Gift.  A liberated people has to decide how we are going to live. We want to make rules and laws so we don’t go back into the previous oppression. The 10 Commandments served as a Bill of Rights for the new constitution. The first command is really a reminder that God has set us free so these “commandments” are lived in response to that gift of grace/liberation. We don’t keep commandments to make us free or to make God love us – we keep them in response to God’s love. The Sabbath is a time to enjoy being enjoyed (by God). Sabbath means rest and remember. It is not just a day but a principle we should remember every day. All creation (the environment) needs a Sabbath as well to be rejuvenated. Every 50 years (Jubilee Year) we need to redistribute wealth/land so there isn’t such a large gap between those who have more and those with less. Jesus longs for this economy to be realized. When you forget this Sabbath principle, you re-enter bondage – this time Babylon rather than Egypt; you self-destruct. Watch the clip.

14. Not Everything Biblical is Christ-Like.  “God is Love” is confirmed by the teachings, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. What are we to do with some of the scriptures that suggest God is telling people to kill, to go to war? There is a progression of understanding in scriptures from a principle of unlimited vengeance (70x7), to limited vengeance, to limited forgiveness, to unlimited forgiveness (70x7 again). Jesus says “let your forgiveness be unlimited.” We are not called to follow the Bible; we are called to study the Bible and follow Jesus. Jesus says love and forgiveness is the true revelation of God’s nature and character which we should imitate. Watch the clip.

15. Jesus’ Third Way. Jesus' command to turn the other cheek, give one’s underclothes when sued, or carry the load an extra mile were actually clever ways of subverting a system of domination and humiliation. Jesus teaches a way which lovingly reveals injustice to our adversaries. Creative protest can resist evil without imitating it. Watch the clip.

16. Suffering and God’s Will. What is the cause of suffering? Jesus tells us that God is love, truth, compassion, … We know the cause of much suffering is due to human actions. But when an explanation escapes us, we might be led to say “it is God’s will”. God is never the cause of suffering. God doesn’t “punish” us for our disobedience but rather weeps. We aren’t punished for our sins by rather by it. Watch the clip.

17. Hell. Some of us have been raised with a terribly violent concept of hell. Jesus tells us to love our enemies but then why shouldn’t God have to love God’s “enemies” as well? The Bible uses metaphors to describe the reality we call “hell”. What kind of God would do to people what hell is described as if we take those descriptions literally? Not the kind of God we’d want to worship! There can be a “hell” that doesn’t betray the love of God. God’s love continues in this life and the next. Watch the clip.

18. Favoritism and Division. Israel started to become what they had left behind in Egypt: they wanted a king. God doesn’t want them to go down this path but does help them chose a king through Samuel. An oppressive hierarchy results. Favoritism can be a strong form of oppression – it creates doubt about whether you are worthy or loved. Apartheid was a system which favored one group over another. Love unites and transforms instead of dividing. Prophets see the present in light of God’s promised future and they name that promised future in the present. God is not into religion but rather relationships. Watch the clip.

19. Prophets. Prophets are like architects who look at an open lot and can envision new homes or buildings in that space – something grand and beautiful. They are hoping you will “buy into” that vision/plan. Prophets are architects who are calling us to buy into God’s dream of the future now.  Watch the clip.

20. God Hates Sodomy. The church has often used the story of Lot and his angelic visitors to say men shouldn’t have sex with men. But that is not what the Bible defines as sodomy. Ezekiel defines sodomy as the refusal to share what you have. Gang rape has nothing to do with loving sexual relations – it is about greed, shaming people, xenophobia, and treating visitors in such a way so they won’t return. Sodomy is the sin of the wealthy refusing to share. Watch the clip.

21. José’s Story: Undocumented and Unafraid. José Perez was born in Mexico City but his dad lived in Alabama. He describes crossing the Rio Grande because there was no “right way” for him to come to America to join his father. He grew up thinking “I’m an American” but as he grew older he felt the stigma of being labeled “undocumented immigrant”. A school teacher told him, “You can be whatever you want” but Alabama’s Governor recently signed a restrictive law which “destroyed [immigrant] families” and their hopes and dreams. However José saw other immigrants model hope for him and now he calls on us to “look at us with your heart and not [just] your eyes.”  Watch the clip.

22. An Unbiblical Marriage.  After exile, the Hebrew people are coming back to Jerusalem from Babylon, Assyria, Persia. Ezra and Nehemiah are trying to rebuild the city and the Temple. Samaritans were people of mixed origin and Hebrews were taught that they were “impure”. They were told they couldn’t help in the rebuilding because of the narrow form of nationalism that was fostered in the formerly oppressed Hebrew people. They were encouraged to think “we are not just equal, we’re better – we’re ‘chosen people’.” It is difficult to hold up the truth that God loves everybody just after we’ve gotten a bloody nose (beaten-down, oppressed, attacked) like Americans felt after the 9/11 attacks. We start thinking that God’s love and mercy is restricted to just us. Ezra and Nehemiah used the book of Deuteronomy to “weed out” those they claimed were “impure”. But the Bible also contains the story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz to counter that restrictive code. Boaz takes Ruth as his wife despite that she is a Moabite and their son becomes an ancestor for both King David and Jesus. Boaz goes against the Deuteronomic scripture yet God honors him for a love which moves beyond borders. God continues to bring God’s son into the world wherever people honor that type of love.  Watch the clip.

23. Barry’s Story: Exclusion and Acceptance in Church. As a young child, Barry loved church songs and sang with his mother. As a teen, he felt called to take a leadership role in church yet at the same time he began to realize he was gay and was told by church people he was “wrong, a god-hater, a rebel”. He felt scripture was used to “beat him over his head”. He tried to make himself “straight” but came to realize maybe God had other ideas. He was “closeted” at church and didn’t pursue ordination out of fear of being “outed” by others. So he fled to another church where he found acceptance for who he was. As a marginalized person, Barry now finds it easier to hear the stories of others who have been marginalized: blacks, women, and people who are “just a little bit different”.  Watch the clip.

24. Where is Your Nineveh? In a time of narrow nationalism, one response to remind people that God’s mercy is for all was to tell love stories like Ruth and Boaz. Another method was cartooning or satire. Look at the book of Jonah as satire. Jonah (meaning “good and faithful servant”) is told to go to Nineveh which is described as an evil place, barbaric, the capital city of Assyria, the ancient enemy of the Hebrew people. Jonah doesn’t want to be an instrument of God’s mercy to these people so he goes in the opposite direction. Narrow nationalism will take us to the depths of evil, symbolized by the bottom of the ocean. After Jonah finally goes to Nineveh, he preaches the world’s worst sermon, but God uses it anyway not just for individuals but an entire society. We see the satire of the story when even the King and the cattle don sackcloth and ashes as a sign of repentance. Jonah hopes for a Sodom and Gomorrah moment where God will “nuke ‘em”. When we read the story of Jonah literally, we miss the challenge to us that we are to go to our “Nineveh” with mercy. If we want to be good and faithful, we need to share mercy with our enemies. The context of this story is coming out of exile when we need to remember God’s love is so great that it includes our enemies. Where/who is our Nineveh – the person, people we don’t want to extend mercy to, the person/people we’d rejoice if they were no more? Watch the clip.

25. Jesus’ Context. Context gives meaning. Jesus lived during the time of the Roman Empire which governed through puppet rulers. The religious rulers of his time included the Essenes who withdrew into the wilderness; the Sadducees who were comfortable with the authorities (don’t interfere with our lives and we won’t interfere in yours); and the Pharisees who were a little more radical but would collaborate when it was beneficial to them. But the overwhelming majority of the people were peasants. Jesus came from a peasant background. Some of them were “sell-outs” like the tax collectors. Underneath all of them were those thought to be the “God-forsaken”: blind, lame, orphaned, widowed, divorced, sick – those considered “unclean, defiled” by the religious society. People often thought they deserved their suffering – God was punishing you if you were suffering or sick. If God sees fit to punish you, why should we intervene? Jesus spends much of his time with them showing there is no such thing as “God-forsaken.” People were taught you became “defiled” if you touched them. But Jesus associates and engages with all the various classes of his society. To associate with the lowly was to break the law and threathen the people in power. We need to be mindful of who Jesus is speaking to and where they fit into the structure of society. Watch the clip.

26. The Virgin Birth. Mary was considered one of the outcasts. Her “betrothal” to Joseph was a negotiated arrangement between their families. It was much more than an “engagement” as defined today. When Mary got pregnant, Joseph probably thinks she’s either been unfaithful or she has been violated – and now she’s carrying the child of that rape. He decides to divorce her quietly to avoid shaming her. But Joseph is forgiving despite the injunction of Deuteronomy 22 which calls for the death penalty or a huge fine if the betrothed is impregnated. Mary’s life is at threat if other people react “biblically.” But Mary trusts that God wants that life within her to live – she is incredibly brave! All of us are “virgins” when it comes to birthing the divine – none of us can do it without the Holy Spirit. Sometimes when we “birth Jesus” the greatest enemies are those who have made the Bible their God. Watch the clip.

27. Mary’s Song. Mary sings a song about a reversal in society. Mary declares the “future” has already taken place and her song invites us to live out that reality. What is God’s promised future? How much of our time is spent invested in that promised future? We are called to be God’s holy partners so why do we spend so much of our time that is not in line with that promised future?  Watch the clip.

28. The Construction Worker. Construction work on highways “re-routes” us, and we are often only appreciative after the work is completed. We are called to be construction workers: our job is to transform the routes of death that our society is traveling on and instead direct them toward life. Watch the clip.

29. The Life of the Faithful Disciple. John the Baptizer comes out of the Wilderness School. His message is that we need to turn around – go in a new direction. He reads Isaiah and tries to embody that message. He speaks out against those in power; he ends up in prison and is beheaded at the request of a family member who doesn’t like John’s “meddling.” When we live to please others, somewhere along that line someone is going to lose their head. John knows his role is to be faithful, truthful regardless of the consequences. Herod later says Jesus is “John the Baptizer come back to life.” When we are faithful and live out that word – even in the face of the Powers, when we “lose our head” for truth, justice, love – the promise is that Jesus will come after us and resurrect our life and ministry in the very presence of those who have taken it. Before God wants us to be happy, God wants us to be faithful. And when we are faithful, we are given true joy. For many of us, happiness has become our God – but we are called to be faithful as John the Baptist was.  Watch the clip.

30. Wilderness Temptations. After baptism, Jesus goes to the wilderness to wrestle with which path he will take: the Babylonian way of trust in force – or the Biblical way of trust in truth, gentleness, love. He has 3 temptations but 2 of them are questions of identity: “If you are the Son of God, …” The temptation beneath the temptation is to get Jesus to question his identity. Remember, we are born in love, by love, and for love. At the root of every temptation is to question who we really are or what reality is really about. If we question that God is love, we might put our trust in an alternative power. This alternative sounds practical, logical, and makes sense to the dominant culture. The temptations are not about evil ends but rather the means through which that can happen. We are tempted to question our true identity. We don’t remember it so we seek approval, power, control, affirmation, survival. Safety has become our God. Money becomes the ticket for that longing for security, for control, for a sense of autonomy. So making money becomes our goal; our trust is in money and what it can buy.  Watch the clip.

31. Eternal Life. When people get married, they do so for the present – rather than just to have someone to take care of them in future old age. That’s why we should follow Jesus – we don’t do it to get into heaven but because without following Jesus, our present life is not as meaningful. Following Jesus draws us into God’s dream for this world. We move from being in the image of God to becoming a likeness of God. Eternal life is new life now – something death cannot take away. It is life lived in gentleness, truth, and justice. To be “born again” is to live life in a loving way. We often become addicted to a way of life that is killing us – we are addicted to our sin. Jesus wants to give us life in all its fullness. The question isn’t “are you saved?” but rather how will you live as one who is already saved? The conversion moment isn’t achieving anything but rather accepting. Can we accept the reality of God’s love and grace for all peoples, the world? Death in the Bible is not whether we have a pulse or not but rather are we living life lovingly? When we do that, we are “born again.”  Watch the clip.

32. Mercy for All. Jesus spoke about mercy for all and that got on the nerves of the religious establishment. God’s mercy is a gift for everyone. So much religion stresses who deserves it and who doesn’t, who is in and who is out. Religious fundamentalists often try to determine who God has “blessed” and who God punishes and think only what they believe is right. “Evangelism” sometimes tries to get everyone to think the same way. Do we want others to do that to us? Didn’t Jesus teach us “to do unto others what we would have them do unto us?” Religious fundamentalism is often the oil on the fires of so much conflict around the globe. Fundamentalism reduces discipleship to just believing certain things. Jesus tells us that God loves every single person regardless of what we believe. To commit my life to Jesus is to allow Jesus to determine and shape my understanding of God. God loves to forgive everyone and have them become holy partners with God to mend this world. Jesus is explicit that we are to love our enemies because God’s mercy is so broad; God wants even our enemies to be God’s partners. To believe means to give our hearts to that expansive and inclusive mercy. Watch the clip.

33. Manna For All - I. Jesus not only talked about mercy for everyone but also manna for everyone – which was threatening to the establishment, those in power. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says, “give us our daily bread.” Jesus is quoting Proverbs 30:7-9. I don’t want poverty; I don’t need riches. Riches threaten our relationship with God more than anything else. You can’t serve two masters. When a rich farmer has a bumper crop and wants to build a bigger barn, God calls him a fool. What we often hold up as “success”, Jesus calls foolishness. In a worship service the offertory is to remind us that money is not our God. We are called to offer our money in service to God. Giving to God is not giving to a church but rather to the “least of these”, the poor, the marginalized. The Zacchaeus story is one of mercy and manna coming together. Jesus’ message of mercy so overwhelmed Zacchaeus that his gratitude overflowed into generosity. Mercy touches us and we begin to share our manna with others. Salvation comes to a manna and mercy house. Watch the clip.

34. Manna For All - II. Jesus is clear that the role of his disciples is to make sure people have enough to eat. A boy decides to share his five loaves and two fish after Jesus instructs his disciples to feed a crowd of 5,000. We will never have “enough” to share but when we share a little, it becomes a lot. It enables others to share as well. When we are in smaller communities (rather than massive crowds), we can see the needs; they become personal. The other person has a name, a family. Our worldview often begins with scarcity; there is not enough, so we begin to hoard what we have. A Biblical worldview says there is more than enough – if we take only what we need, not according to our greed. The Biblical view of abundance is the true reality. At the Last Supper, Jesus tells us to “do this” (share) in his memory (Holy Communion). Psalm 24 tells us that “everything belongs to God” – it is our responsibility to see that everyone has a fair share. If some hoard resources, others will go without. Memory can enable generosity: when we remember others' generosity to us, we can do it ourselves. Holy Communion is the most radical economic policy and the most necessary one. The sharing of communion goes beyond bread and wine, it includes equal access to education, healthcare, and other human needs. Watch the clip.

35. Why Did Jesus Die? Jesus’ message of manna and mercy for all is threatening to the establishment. Jesus saw mercy being limited and people exploited at the Temple (church) and that made him angry. The “industry” of sacrifices was a mainstay of the Jerusalem economy and Jesus’ message and example threatened the entire status quo. It is important to recognize that the historical reasons Jesus died are different than theological explanations for it. “Atonement theory” proponents must ask the question: “What does it say about the character of God if God sent Jesus to die?” God is love – God can’t plan God’s own son’s death. God sent Jesus to love. Jesus loved loving more than anything else. The worst thing we can do to Jesus (crucifixion) does not change who he is. We can’t stop Jesus from loving us. On the cross, Jesus forgives the sin of the world – yesterday’s, today’s, and forever. Every person has been forgiven and we can share that good news! Watch the clip.

36. Tom’s Story: Father, Forgive Them. Tom Dooley tells of his experience as part of a prison ministry team in Alabama which included men on death row. Billy, a prisoner facing his imminent execution asks to pray with and for the warden who is about to serve as his executioner. Watch the clip.

37. Is Jesus the Only Way? What are we to do about John 14:6? (“I am the way, the truth and the life…”) Are all forgiven but only some can come to God? This passage has been used (abused) to bring a huge heartache to many. The context of this passage is the night before Jesus’ betrayal; he just washed the feet of his disciples. Peter asks where Jesus is going and Jesus tells Peter that he will betray him – but Peter should take heart because Jesus is going to prepare a (wonderful) place for him (despite his betrayal). Jesus’ disciples were afraid. He is telling them to stick to his way, the way of love and gentleness, and that he is coming back for them (and all of us). Jesus wasn’t speaking at an interfaith conference; he was speaking as a lover using the hyperbolic language of a lover. Jesus is answering the question, “how will we continue when you are not with us?” The way of Jesus is what we are called to follow. Watch the clip.

38. Love Breaks Open. On Good Friday, we voted “no”. On Easter Sunday, God voted “yes”. Despite our no, Friday was a victory for Jesus in that he remained faithful in his loving. The “prize” of his victory was the resurrection. The resurrection shows that the world is really the way Jesus said it is: love, gentleness, justice are the most powerful forces – and that means evil has already been defeated. The world’s “no” has been overcome by God’s “yes”. We are to trust in the victory of God’s dream: shalom. Evil looks stronger (to us) than it really is. Resurrection reverses our understanding of idealism versus realism. People who thought apartheid, communism, … would last forever were the idealists; those who went against those systems of oppression were the realists. When we go up against what appears to be monolithic evil, we are called to trust that God in Jesus has already defeated it. Jesus’ opponents tried to break his love with the cross – but instead, love broke open and spread in such a way that it couldn’t be contained. When we live the manna and mercy life, we will (not if, but when) be crucified. God will take that crucifixion and resurrect us and our witness to new life.   Watch the clip.

39. Journey Through Acts - I. At the beginning of Acts the disciples are instructed to stay in Jerusalem, their place of struggle and failure; that’s where the Holy Spirit of God’s love comes to wash over them. The apostles’ first action is to pray together; it is through prayer that we experience the washing of God’s love over us. Some in their community were given the gift of tongues – particularly those who were frightened and powerless. Others were given the ears to hear. A “Pentecost community” is one where power dynamics are transformed: the powerless are given tongues to speak truth, and the powerful are given ears to hear.  South Africa experienced such a Pentecost moment during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, when those who were oppressed were given tongues to speak, and the powerful and privileged were forced to listen. How is your church Pentecostal? Watch the clip.

40. Journey Through Acts - II. Pentecost confronts the pyramid of power that God’s people studied in the Wilderness School. By the end of Acts 2, we see communities living out Wilderness School lessons as they generously share out of their gratitude for being washed by God’s Spirit of love. Manna and mercy is unfolding in the life of the early church. In chapters 3 and 4, a crippled beggar is recognized to be more than his label, and when his humanity is engaged, healing happens – not just private healing that enables him to walk, but public healing that helps him “claim space” to march into the temple – a place that has previously been “out of bounds”  – to stand before the authorities.  In chapter 5 we understand that when we, like Ananias and Sapphira, pretend to be more generous than we are, we’re as good as dead.  In chapters 6-8, we see that Stephen is called, quickly arrested, and then stoned to death. To welcome the Holy Spirit’s activity in our lives may get us in trouble.  What laws exist today that might cause us to stand before the authorities and be arrested? Watch the clip.

41. Journey Through Acts - III. In Acts, chapter 8, Stephen dies saying "Lord, don’t hold this sin against them," giving us a glimpse of how we might not only live like Jesus, but also die like Jesus, loving our enemies. Then we’re introduced to Saul, who was not only part of Stephen’s stoning, but persecuting followers of Jesus far and wide. Saul is first convicted by God and prevented from carrying out his mission of death, and then is converted by Ananias, who seeks out this persecutor in order to lay hands on him; God’s grace, forgiveness and mercy washes over Saul as his enemy reaches out to him. Barnabas goes even further, bringing the enemy to the underground church, and helps Saul-now-Paul experience the consequences of his sin that continued long after he had been forgiven, and begins work to heal the damage that Saul had done.  In Acts 11 we learn that it is in Antioch – a  community that welcomed in the enemy – where these people first became known as Christians. Watch the clip.

42. Journey Through Acts -  IV. In the early church, we see the formation of a wilderness community where there is the sharing of manna for all. Everything belongs to God; our responsibility is to see that everyone has enough. This is a major theme of the early church: when the Spirit comes, the limits of our love are always expanding.  This concept invades one of the major debates of the day – the apartheid that existed between Jew and Gentile, and the question of whether Gentiles have to become Jews before they become Christians. The story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 suggests that sometimes it might be someone outside of our religious formation who may be more in tune with the divine than we are. Peter, driven by the Holy Spirit to break religious law and enter the house of a Gentile, eventually recognizes God in Cornelius’ life. This is reflective of the early church – breaking down apartheid and embracing enemies. Today, if we’re going to be a Pentecostal community, we too need to break down modern-day barriers of segregation, whether it be racism, sexism, classism or discrimination based on sexual orientation. Pentecostal communities are driven by the all-embracing Spirit of God. Watch the clip.

43. Journey Through Acts  - V. In order to live manna and mercy lives, we need a new identity, a new sense of all of humanity being one family. If we’re to end the violence in this world, we need to understand that God is the parent of both the murdered and the murderer. When we take a life, it is taking the life of a sister or brother. We learn this from Jesus, who chose not to take life, but instead taught us that the one who kills is really the one who is dead, and the one who loves is the one who is fully alive.  Offer a challenge right now to your own loved ones: that if you were to die due to a violent act, your loved ones would promise not to use your death to call for the death of another, but instead would welcome the violator into the family and bring them back to life again. Watch the clip.

44. The Train. Look at the world as a military/market-driven train moving in the wrong direction, going from life to death.  In the face of this speeding train of death, we need pastors who are not so much cheerleaders (who might help us travel in First Class on the train) or chaplains (who try to help “put us back together” as we ride this deathly journey), but pastors who are conspirators.  Conspirators first alert us that the train is moving toward death, help us start walking in the other direction so we experience the deathliness of the train, and finally with the help of the whole conspiring church start figuring out how to change the direction of the train.  Jesus conspired in this way, and gives us the confidence to do the same.  Watch the clip.

45. The Church. The Church is struggling to survive and in need of medication. Like the rich man coming to Jesus, we ask “What must we do for life? We’ve already done a lot of what you’ve commanded us.” Jesus says, “you lack just one thing, Church. You’re too rich. Give all you have away. Make the poor your focus. That’s how you’ll follow me.” But like the rich man, we walk away, ignoring Jesus’ medication. And the rest of the world notices this. No wonder we struggle to bring people to Jesus when we’re not willing to put into practice his advice. Watch the clip.