This service has been filmed during the period we are worshipping online only while our building undergoes repairs needed following storm damage. During this period and due to equipment limitations, we are unable to hold a complete worship service.


Free to Be

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer, and may you see fit to use me as a vessel from which you pour out your Divine Word.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Blessed are those who are poor at being spiritual,

For the kingdom of heaven is well-suited for ordinary people.

Blessed are the depressed who mourn and grieve,

For they create space to encounter comfort from another.

Blessed are the gentle and trusting, who are not grasping and clutching,

For God will personally guarantee their share as heaven comes to earth.

Blessed are those who ache for the world to be made right,

For them the government of God is a dream come true.

Blessed are the depressed who mourn and grieve,

For they create space to encounter comfort from another.

Blessed are those who give mercy,

For they will get it back when they need it most.

Blessed are those who have a clean window in their soul,

For they will perceive God when and where others don’t.

Blessed are the bridge-builders in a war-torn world,

For they are God’s children working in the family business.

Blessed are those who are maligned and mistreated for the right reasons,

For the kingdom of heaven comes to earth amidst much persecution.

That was the Beatitudes reinterpreted by Brian Zahnd relevant to the times we’re living in. Remember that the Beatitudes are not “instructions,” but blessings … the way things are living in the kingdom of heaven.

Whether you read the Beatitudes according to Matthew or Zahnd, there is no promise of being free from care, from trouble, from struggle. There is simply blessing upon blessing for those who do care, who face trouble, who struggle. Still, we struggle to accept and live into those blessings.

Stephen Matson has an idea about why we do that. He recently wrote, “Despite the fact that the Bible documents Jesus only presenting a few public sermons, much of our faith tradition has become structured around the attendance of a weekly sermon presented by a church leader.

Although a large percentage of our Christian existence is made up listening to teachings, Jesus only had one talk that was labeled a sermon: the Sermon on the Mount. It’s within the middle of this Sermon on the Mount that Jesus declares “. . . whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

The great irony of our modern Christian practices is that we spend a significant amount of our time participating in the discipline of listening to sermons, upon which we learn that Jesus spent a significant amount of his time facilitating acts of social justice.

We’ve transformed Christianity into a set of beliefs rather than a state of being. Discipleship has become a matter of theological indoctrination, denominational certification, and philosophical training rather than a way of loving our neighbors.”

There’s one belief we’ve held for a very long time … the promise of salvation through Christ’s suffering and death on the cross and through his resurrection. We’ve counted on that promise, clung so desperately to that belief for literally nearly two millennia with such intensity that we’ve continuously and consistently forgotten or even ignored Christ’s Gospel … the Good News that we were supposed to carry out to all the nations: “Turn around, change your ways, for the kingdom of heaven is near. The kingdom of heaven is within you.”

He gave us everything we needed to know to live in the kingdom … the kingdom that was at hand … the kingdom that was within us … he told us to share that Good News, and at some point … for some reason … the people of the church began to focus almost exclusively on “salvation” and “eternal life” … “after life.” As the centuries passed, we moved further and further from Christ’s Good News, from his gospel, from the Way he taught us.

Christ’s Way required cooperation, collaboration, community. As we moved away from it, we became more and more individualistic. No longer focused on neighbor, we began the quest for earthly riches and earthly powers, secure that no matter what, we were assured of the “purchase” Jesus made for us on the cross. Once saved, always saved. We just have to survive until we die … whatever it takes and at any expense including our neighbors.

But what if the church got this whole salvation thing wrong?

Chris Kratzer wrote… “The word translated as “salvation” in the Bible is the word “sozo” in Greek. It means “wholeness.” Wholeness of mind, body, and spirit. Wholeness of humanity. Wholeness of creation. Wholeness universally. Wholeness…period.

To the frustration of the religious, salvation is not getting out of hell into heaven, becoming “holy,” or being set above or apart from anyone or anything. It is not a repentance of individual sin nor a profession of personal faith.

Instead, it is an awakening to the already all-inclusive and inseparable wholeness of all with [the] All, and the recalibration of all life to that eternal reality. 

For Jesus did not come to bring about salvation–it always was and forever has been. All are whole, holy, and in full union and communion with the Divine from the beginning. Instead, He announced it, demonstrated it, and sought to awaken us to its potential manifestation on earth.

Therefore, there is no “salvation” that is not connected with the salvation of all; the wholeness of everyone and everything, interconnected into wholeness.

In fact, any faith that sets itself apart or above, teaches human separateness from the Divine, sows division, marginalizes the different, or envisions an eternal separation of people from anyone or anything is not a faith of “salvation.” We can never be whole until all are whole and all is whole. That’s the heart, essence, and reality of “salvation.”

Therefore, salvation cannot and does not come while racism exists. It does not come when sexism still breathes life.

It cannot and does not come while the poor are still poor. It does not come while shame and condemnation are tools of the religious.

It cannot and does not come while the earth is pillaged. It does not come while violence, oppression, and sin among the religious is spiritually justified.

It cannot and does not come while greed and privilege rule a society. It does not come while the vulnerable are exploited.

For those who claim “salvation” yet do not acknowledge and celebrate the true wholeness of all, with all, and in All, and do not seek its manifestation on earth, are still not whole nor “saved” themselves. Instead, many become the wolves in sheep’s clothing, the white-washed tombs, the blind guides, the hypocrites. They see and seek for themselves what they deny in others and deny for others.

Yet, to their fiery frustration and demise, Jesus is not interested in their individual salvation, it does not even exist. But rather His way is in the wholeness/renewal of all things; mind, body, spirit, humanity, community, earth, and the universe; all together.

For Jesus, social justice is salvation.

Racial justice is salvation.

Equality is salvation.

Universal healthcare is salvation.

Living wages is salvation.

For Jesus, the death of toxic Christianity is salvation.

The death of patriarchy is salvation.

The death of war is salvation.

The death of religious elitism is salvation.

The death of political greed and oppression is salvation.

In fact, there can be no salvation without them.

All else is but a gospel that is no Gospel at all.

Wholeness for all, with all, in All. That’s good news.

May what already is become what is.

Because of love.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Today, much of Christ’s body has reverted to the ways of the scribes and Pharisees, to legalism, to issuing judgment, declaring worthiness, and … sadly … to negotiating deals with the Empire, even doing whatever it takes to gain power within the Empire. Maybe they find safety in that. If you’re only worried about yourself and you’re able to convince the Empire to make it impossible for anyone to do or say or believe any differently than you, your safety is never threatened.

And, although “Safe” is a good thing, something we spend a lot of time and money on and that occupies our thinking quite a lot, it never seems to be on Jesus’ list of things to worry about. He has a list, don’t get me wrong. OK, maybe it isn’t a worry list – after all he did say, “Don’t worry.” Call it a list of things to be concerned about. A list of things to pay attention to. And it is a long and involved list, full of significant and powerful ideas and moments and people. But nowhere does safety enter into it. If anything, he seems to be a risk-taking kind of leader. “Get on out there,” he says. Go and do. Or perhaps, go and be.

“You are salt,” he says. You are light. No one lighting a lamp, hides it. Admit it, you are singing that song, aren’t you? “Hide it under a bushel, NO! I’m gonna let it shine.” Or if you aren’t, then you should be. Let it shine. That’s what Jesus says. Not, you notice, make it shine. Not shine it, but let it shine.

Through the Beatitudes, we are reminded even though we often try to turn them into imperatives – get out there and be peacemakers, be meek, be hungry and thirsty for righteousness – we are reminded that Jesus doesn’t present them that way. He presents them as indicatives. He is describing, not commanding.

Likewise in these verses that follow those first twelve in the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus doesn’t say, “Get salty!” He doesn’t say “Light up!” He says, almost as a matter of fact, “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.”

If you’re like me, you can’t help but wonder, “When did that happen?” When did I become salt for the earth? When did I become light for the world? I’m just me. Just doing my best. Just watching out for me. Just trying not to get trampled underfoot. Jesus wants me to shine, to give light to the whole house.”

There comes that individualism again … and that’s the thing about light; it doesn’t exist for its own sake. It isn’t about getting folks to look at the light. When we try to become the focus of attention, when we take center stage, we aren’t being the light. The light is there to help folks find their way. It is about shining on the path, about revealing the hazards along the way, about getting where we need to be with a minimum of detours.

And salt, salt on its own, for its own sake is not really a good thing. But as an enhancer, as a preservative, it is invaluable. In Jesus’ day, it was a common practice for farmers to salt their fields to add in the right mix of minerals to help crops to grow. The word that we translate as earth is literally ground or dirt. You are the salt of the ground, the salt of the dirt. Not a fun job, perhaps, but one that helps things to grow. That’s our job: Not to be the center of attention, but that which helps things grow.

Yeah, it’s risky. No question about it. It is a loud and noisy world out there, and we might be safer just keeping our heads down. But we can’t. Jesus tells us that too. “A city built on a hill cannot be hid.” He tosses that one in, even though it doesn’t fit as well. It is a reminder that we are exposed. We are the representatives of the faith whether we want to be or not. So, we might as well be good ones. We are the manifestation of Christ in the world today, whether we claim it or not. So, why not claim it? Why not live as though Christ were alive in us?

That is what he is saying here, “You are the salt of the earth, why not help things grow? You are the light of the world, why not help folks find their way? Why not mentor, why not lead, why not be what you are, a sign of Christ’s presence in the world today?”

“Get out there,” Jesus says, out there in the world, the noisy, wonderful, scary, glorious world and let your light shine. Don’t worry about being trampled underfoot; that only happens when you stop being who you are called and created to be. You are light. Let it shine.

Change things. Repent … change direction … get back to the Way we’re supposed to be following. Bring about heaven on earth. When we follow Christ’s ways, do those things he taught us, live the way he told us we need to live, when we bring him to the least, the lost, the lonely, the outcast by being his hands and feet, then he is here with us. I think that is the Second Coming. When we collectively emulate Jesus as he was – not as we would like him to be but as … he … was and is … then we’ve brought him to the nations.

It requires courage, it requires sacrifice, it requires all the strength and commitment we can muster, but most importantly, it requires faith. Faith in a God that is infinite, bigger than any box we or those who are perpetrating harm in God’s name could ever try to put God in. Faith in His faithfulness to those who love Him. And God told us what to expect.

For you know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11.  For we know God works for the good of those who love Him. Romans 8:28. And in that, I find great hope. Let me explain with the lyrics to a new song – a Winter Song for the season when we’re in more darkness than light – by Katie Oberger of My Anchor Holds.

Seasons change and good things are coming,

Leaves may die but deep roots are growing,

The soil is dry but clean snow is falling.

Wait with hope.

Times are hard but good days are coming,

The night is long but soon will come morning,

The ground ain’t dead, it’s slowly transforming.

Wait with hope.

Our darkest days and deepest grays,

Despair won’t last forever,

Let’s hold this space,


And hope for fairer weather.

The sun hangs low, too soon ends the day.

Our spirits are weary, but we’ll be okay.

Spring is coming, no more decay.

Wait with hope.

 Our darkest days and deepest grays,

Despair won’t last forever,

Let’s hold this space,


And hope for fairer weather.

Our darkest days and deepest grays,

Despair won’t last forever,

Let’s hold this space,


And hope for fairer weather.


Times are hard, but good things are comin’.

Wait with hope.

Let’s pray:

Gracious and Faithful God, giver of all that we’ve ever needed, we recognize that we have been led astray, pulled off the Way your son gave us and that we have denied the blessings promised us in his message on that mountain. Gift us with courage and strength, fortify us to make the commitment and sacrifices needed, and fill us with your Spirit so that our faith does not fail us as we continue to work to bring your kingdom on earth as it is in heaven and to return to sharing the Good News of Christ’s gospel to all the nations. We are waiting with hope, Lord, in this season of darkness. Help us to be salt and light.

In Jesus name, amen.


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