Tag Archives: Theology

Gospel Portraits of Jesus

April 7 begins our first in a series of five Adult Education Classes based on our new curriculum, “Gospel Portraits of Jesus.” “Gospel Portraits of Jesus” is a 5-week class that will explore a number of the names and titles for Jesus that appear in the four Gospels, with some attention to relevant Old Testament passages. The sequence of the names and titles of Jesus for our course of study moves from the most familiar name, Jesus, to Jesus’ activities as teacher, to several common metaphors such as bread, to more abstract names like Messiah and Son of God, concluding with a focus on resurrection and life. We hope you will join Connie and Adam for this conversation about Jesus and the Gospels on Sunday mornings at 9am in the Fireside Room.

This class is structured around discussion guides that you should read prior to coming to that class on Sunday morning. This isn’t a strict requirement, but our conversations will be based on the material for that Sunday morning. In order to help cut down on the amount of copies that we make at the church, I’ve put electronic copies of the curriculum below for you to download on your home computer, or iPad, and then decide if you want to print it out. The dates match up with what topic will be discussed.

We look forward to this exploration into the different portrayals of Jesus found in the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

Week 1 (April 7) – Session 1: Jesus is the name given by the messenger of the Lord to the One who would be born of Mary by the Holy Spirit. Download curriculum here.

Week 2 (April 14) – Session 2: Jesus is called Rabbi, Teacher, and Master. Download curriculum here.

Week 3 (April 21) – Session 3: In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks of himself as Bread of Life, Light of the World, Good Shepherd, and True Vine. Download curriculum here.

Week 4 (April 28) – Session 4: Messiah or Christ is a title by which Jesus was identified by the writers of the Gospels and other writers of the New Testament. Download curriculum here.

Week 5 (May 5) – Session 6: “I am the Resurrection and the Life” and “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” are two more ways that Jesus spoke of himself in the Gospel of John. Download curriculum here.


Animate: Week 6

Bible | A Book Like No Other • Lauren Winner
Why read the Bible? This is Lauren Winner’s central question. For Lauren, an avid reader, there remains something odd about the way Christians read the Bible. Why do we keep turning to the same stories in search of some new revelation? What is it about the Bible that makes it worth repeated reading? What gets in our way as we read the Bible and try to make sense of it? These are issues the church has wrestled with for centuries and yet we keep at it. We keep coming back to this book and its strange narrative full of plagues and miracles and destruction and rebirth. So why do we do it?

Here’s just a brief video about Lauren Winner talking about Animate – this will be great that we can use some of these videos in church to talk about the Animate 2.0 Adult Ed that we’ll be doing, starting in January.

One thing that we didn’t get a chance to talk a ton about was from pages 92-93 in the Animate Journals: the Uses and Abuses of the Bible. I think that for many people, that’s one of the big problems with the Bible – the way that it’s been abused and misused by so many Christians throughout the history of Christianity. Check out this video below, which shares a story from Donald Miller’s book “Blue Like Jazz.” In that book, he tells a story about setting up a “Confession Booth” at an event at Reed College in Portland. However, this wasn’t like any other confession booth, it was a chance for people to come to the booth, and for Christians to confess the sins that Christians have been a part of over the years.

I think we have much we need to confess for, when it comes to how Christians have used and abused the Bible. What are some abuses of the Bible that you can think of now?

Lauren shares this quote from Thomas Merton in the video, in which Merton finally started reading the Bible and then had this to say:

“By reading the Scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, cooler blue, the trees, a deeper green. The whole earth is charged with the glory of God, and I feel fire and music under my feet.”

Have you seen this happen in your own life? What other questions remain for you about the Bible, its authority and how we interact with scripture in our daily lives?

Animate: Week 4

Salvation | Abundant Life Now • Shane Hipps
The cross of Christ stands as a symbol of God’s saving work. But what, exactly, does it mean to be saved? From what? For what? Is salvation a reward we claim at death or something meant to change our lives right now? For Shane Hipps, these are the questions we need to answer if we are to truly receive the release that comes with salvation in the here and now.

I’m grateful for all of you and our wonderful conversation this morning. In case you wanted to see the information about Hellbound?, you can find out more information on their website here, and you can watch the movie trailer below. I’m planning on taking the College Group to the showing on October 17th and staying for the Q&A afterwards.

It was wonderful to hear your thoughts on salvation this morning. It’s definitely something that can stir up a lot of thoughts (both good and bad) for people, and so I appreciated your willingness to share them.

I think for me, a lot of what Shane talked about in terms of salvation being in the HERE and NOW as opposed to being something we just think about for later or then…a lot of that plays in very nicely with this idea of being saved versus saved as a one-time decision.

And for many of us, we can probably relate to both of those two ideas co-existing in our own spiritual lives. For me, I can look back on a moment (or perhaps two) where I think I might have been able to say, I experienced “salvation” or “I was saved.” But it certainly wasn’t a one-time deal for me. There were continually moments, sign posts along the journey, where I’ve had more and more of those moments, where it really does become a process, a journey, of salvation.

One thing I like to do sometimes, is to do a Google search for a word, but look at the Image results. I just did that with “salvation” – there are about 69,200,000 images results: here are a few of the ones that came up in the top 30 results.

This is kind of a typical understanding of “salvation” I think. Probably one that many of us don’t really connect with. We’re on one side of a chasm, and the only way to get over to the other side and be “saved” is by accepting/receiving Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior…after that, everything is okay – because we’re on the “right side” of the chasm.

This one is for a kid’s curriculum, and is the “list of things” that need to happen for a child before they can be baptized…wow! That’s a lot of pressure for a child to have to have faith, believe, pray, repent and confess…all before they’re able to baptized…obviously, a much different understanding of baptism than we have in the Presbyterian church. So, I’m not sure if for these people you must get to “baptism” before they would say you’re fully “saved” or not, but…again, an interesting take on salvation.

This image connects with me a bit better – and seems to be more like what Shane was talking about, especially in terms of the idea of a rope becoming undone, or something inside us being “loosened.” I can imagine Shane doing this after his conversation and prayer with his father from his story. It appears that this person is ready to receive something…maybe that is salvation, putting ourselves in places and postures ready to receive God’s blessings and gifts?

I like this one the best. It really does portray to me the idea of the journey – of setting out on a quest…

Which image do you connect with? Do your own Google Search, and post a link to a photo that speaks to you or resonates with you when you think about salvation.

In the end, I wonder how we would all answer that question from the end of the video. If the 25,500 days are really the entree, and not the appetizer, if we can experience the kingdom of God and salvation in the here and now…and not wait for the afterlife (whatever that might be)…how does that change the way we live? How does that change the way we treat others? How does that change the way we look at our lives, the ways we encounter God? Does it?


Animate: Week 1

God | Faith is a Quest • Brian McLaren
“If you ask me, ‘Is God real?’ I first have to ask, ‘Which God are we talking about?’” With these words, Brian McLaren gives voice to a common struggle among people of faith—who exactly is this God we worship? Is God a mighty fortress, solid and unchanging? Is God a mystical, unknowable force that floats around us like a vapor? How can we speak of faith if we can’t even speak of God with any certainty? How can we chart a course through the often-murky waters of Christian tradition and find our way to God?

Well – we covered a lot yesterday morning. Sorry if it felt a bit rushed – we did have some introductions to do that I think were important. Next week (and all of the remaining 6 weeks), we’re going to be starting the video RIGHT at 9:05am, to make sure that we have a solid 30+ minutes after the video for discussion.

So, first off I’d just be interested to know what your overall thoughts were on this topic of God, apophatic vs kataphatic theology, fortress people vs cloud people, etc. What did you hold onto from this morning, and what lingering questions do you still have?

Continue reading