Sermon Series “It’s Up to You 2023”

Nine week summer series addressing questions from the KirkWood family.

Video MessageResources
Week 1:
So Why a Series Like This?
Monday Memo notes

Exploring More
– Here’s the On Being video (5 minutes long) on “living the questions”: Krista Tippett: Living the Questions
– Intrigued by the contrast between safe and unsafe people? Check out this summary drawn from Cloud and Townsend’s book: Inspired: Distinguishing between safe and unsafe people
– Or this short summary of unsafe people: Pneuma
– As a PCUSA church, we’re well positioned to a safe space for good questions, if we’re willing to live by some of our core principles: 1) our view that the church, its beliefs, and its practices are “reformed, and always reformed,” and 2) “God alone is Lord of the conscience.” We’ve talked about these before – you can explore these sermons and related resources on this page, scroll down to weeks 5 and 6: Sermon Series “Identity Check – KirkWood Presbyterian Church
– Here’s that free seminar from our Presbytery on the church being a vaccine for loneliness in American post-pandemic: Responding to the Pandemic
Week 2:
So Why Do Some Christians Baptize Infants and Others Don’t?
Monday Memo notes

More to Explore
The topic of baptism is vast, and we only touched on one very important aspect of it yesterday. These resources below will help you the subject even more widely; they are meant to not repeat what you heard on Sunday, 7/17: 
  – In this five minute video, New Testament scholar N. T. Wright shows how Christian baptism is tied to the Exodus story of the Old Testament: N. T. Wright on Baptism
 – A simple, straightforward overview of how Presbyterians view baptism, which includes a lot of short answers to very practical questions about it: What Presbyterians believe: the sacrament of baptism
  – Another five minute video from a Reformed scholar that shows we as Christians are Abraham’s children, and baptism signals our linkage to him and the promises made to him: Infant Baptism
  – A four minute video from one Anglican pastor in which he passes along how he explains infant baptism to his congregants, leaning on church history, Jesus’ own words, and the proclamation of Peter in Acts 2: Anglican Helps: Baptism of Infants
  – Interested in the significance of circumcision within Judaism, and why it’s done on the 8th day? Check out these two resources (and thanks to Steph Lee for pointing out the medical reason for this!): The Power of Circumcision – Jewish Theological Seminary and Why Wait Eight Days for the Circumcision?
  – We didn’t talk about the baptism conducted by John the Baptist, which Jesus Himself observed…it’s a tricky subject about which there is no consensus among New Testament scholars…check out how these events are described in Matthew’s gospel: Matthew 3 NRSVA
Week 3:
How can I reconcile having doubts with needing to have
childlike faith?
Monday Memo notes

Quotes to Ponder this Week

– A. W. Tozer:  Now, as always, God discloses Himself to those willing to be like children and hides Himself in thick darkness from the wise and the prudent. We must simplify our approach to Him…We must put away all effort to impress, and come with the guileless candor of childhood. If we do this, without doubt God will quickly respond.
– Brian McLaren on how to help others who doubt:  In short, instead of providing easy answers for doubts and questions, try to come alongside that person as a companion in the search for good things – truth, honesty, justice, and all the rest. And this is perhaps the most important step – try to help them keep praying through the process – because ultimately, faith isn’t just about answers or concepts. Faith is about admitting that many of life’s greatest truths are going to remain mysteries to us, due to the limitations of our tiny brains that weigh less than a cantaloupe. Faith is about reaching out to God to guide us, and asking for His help so we can be honest, good-hearted seekers…Faith is reaching out to Someone who knows more than we do.
– From the World Council of Churches: Why are we so easily frightened by the doubts that arise in our hearts? Truth be told, we envy those who say they have never doubted. We’d like to have such certainty, however much of a stubborn illusion it may be. But honestly, we see so much in our world that makes us question Your power and care, oh God.
It takes courage and trust to befriend doubt. We need to be prepared to journey. Apathy, inaction, complacency, and self-centeredness are the opposites of faith – not doubt. Help us continue to follow the way of Christ, for it is only in following that we find the answers, it is only in action that faith finds us.
Only by faith can we live the questions. We are all witnesses of the unpredictable breakthroughs that lie obscured from our view on the other side of doubt.
Uphold us in our perpetual fear, lift us from our crippling insecurities veiled as conviction, strengthen us in the face of adversity, and encourage our meager faith.
We praise You, oh God, for the reassurance of Jesus, who promised us that every time we reach out to Him, however timidly, we will discover Him right beside us, amen.
More to Explore
We’ve talked about doubt and childlike faith before – you can revisit those sermons and the resources recommended in their respective Monday Memo emails by following these links:  Weeks 3 and 4 of our “Come to Jesus” series, entitled “Doubting John” and “Faith Like a Child”: Sermon Series “Come to Jesus” – KirkWood Presbyterian Church
Week 4:
How do I reconcile violent the Old Testament God with Jesus and the New Testament?
Monday Memo notes

Explore More this Week
Big subject yesterday, you can pick what you’d like to drill down on this week: 
– Reread The Confession of 1967 and its wise guidance about how to understand and approach scripture (sections 9.27-9.30): confess67.pdf
– Curious about the groundbreaking morality of the Old Testament compared to its Ancient Near Eastern neighbors? Check out this 30 minute podcast from The Center for Hebraic Thought, an dialogue between a Jewish rabbinic scholar and Christian Old Testament scholar: Biblical Ethics in the Ancient Near East
 – Three short videos from a moderate evangelical Old Testament scholar on the violent passages in the Old Testament, i.e. the conquest under Joshua, and how we need to hear them in their cultural context (this link will take you to the first; the 2nd and 3rd links are on this page): Violence in the Old Testament (Part 1)
 – A wide-ranging 30 minute podcast on the violence in the Old Testament, like how there’s a big difference between justified force and wanton violence and how our violence affects creation (from The Center for Hebraic Thought): Understanding Violence in the Old Testament 
– Biblical scholar N.T. Wright describing the art of ancient history, the limitation of thinking of the biblical historical narratives as true or false, how that affects our understanding of biblical authority (4 min. video): N.T. Wright on the Authority of the Bible 7
 – What does it mean that the Bible is “inspired” if it’s also an ancient written by humans within a particular cultural setting and point of view? Listen to Old Testament scholar Peter Enns tackle that in a very down to earth way…while also playing with his cat Marmalade, no less. (16 min. video): “But How Can the Bible Be Inspired If…”
 – Two longer, more in depth resources on violence and the Old Testament for those interested – the first is the entry on that subject in The Oxford Research Encyclopedia and the second is from Yale O.T. scholar John J. Collins: Violence in the Old Testament and The Bible and the Legitimation of Violence
Week 5:
Why is the American Church Shrinking?How are we supposed to interpret the book of Revelation?
Monday Memo notes

Explore More This Week
– Interested in the biblical warnings about how a church can lose its spiritual witness and effectiveness? Try reading Revelation 2-3 this week, and pray special attention to how most of the churches mentioned might lose their witness, if they’re not careful or do no change: Rev 2-3 NRSVUE
 – Interested in learning about the American church’s reputational problem? Try this article – Openness to Jesus Isn’t the Problem—the Church Is
 – A 40 min. podcast on the great “dechurching” of America, drawing on research that will be published in October 2023 in book form: Michael Graham and Jim Davis: What ‘The Great Dechurching’ Means for Church Leaders
 – A good article on why people are leaving church – points 1-2 tie directly to lessons we can glean from the church of the global South: New Exodus? 4 Reasons Why People Are Leaving the Church (Including Christians)
 – A few good articles on the church of the global South: The Embodied Joy of the Global Church and Wesley Granberg-Michaelson: What global Christianity means for the church in America and How the Growing Global Church Can Encourage American Christians
Week 6:
How are we supposed to interpret Revelation?
Monday Memo notes

Explore More this Week
– Try reading some of Revelation this week, at the least read it as poetry and pay attention to how it affects your feelings and/or imagination (and if you pick up on some of the Old Testament symbols, all the better): Rev 1 NRSVUE
– Curious about other ancient apocalypses? Check out The Shepherd of Hermas, a non-biblical Christian apocalypse written between 100-150 AD (so only 50-60 years after the New Testament era)…it’s long, coming in over 100 pages, so just read a little to get a taste of it, if you like): Book-5-hermas-for-website.pdf
– Here are the two books now available in the KW library, which will reiterate and expand on what we presented yesterday but also help you read the heavily-symbolic Revelation in a more informed way: 
Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation: Gorman, Michael J.
Revelation for the Rest of Us: A Prophetic Call to Follow Jesus as a Dissident Disciple: McKnight, Scot, Matchett, Cody
– Here’s a short summary of the Michael Gorman book listed above, just to give you a sense of what’s in it: Gorman’s READING REVELATION RESPONSIBLY | Nijay Gupta
– A six minute video from biblical scholar N. T. Wright on how to read Revelation well…and not so well: N.T. Wright: The book of Revelation & what we get wrong
– An eight minute video interview with one of the world’s great scholars on Revelation, Dr. Richard Bauckham: The Book of Revelation with Richard Bauckham and Ben Witherington
– Here are two 40-60 minute interviews with the authors of the books recommended above, you’ll get a good sense of what the books cover by listening to these: 
Revelation for the Rest of Us: An Interview with Scot McKnight
Michael J. Gorman – Reading Revelation Responsibly
– Two critiques of the Left Behind series misreading of Revelation, the 1st focuses on the issue of the alleged “rapture,”, and the 2nd is a little more substantial from a Yale University publication, written by a Christian journalist: 
Ministry Matters™ | Why ‘Left Behind’ should be… left behind
Revelation’s Warning to Evangelicals: Left Behind May Be Hazardous to Our Health | Reflections
Week 7:
Why did Jesus call the Canaanite woman a “dog” in Matthew 15:21-28?
Monday Memo notes

Explore More this Week
1. Some scripture reading for you this week that ties into the story we studied yesterday: 
– Read Matt. 15.1-20, the tete a tete between Jesus and the Pharisees/scribes that is the contrast to what happens in 15.21-28: Matt 15.1-20 NRSVUE
  – The comparable antecedent story in Matthew’s gospel is about a Roman centurion who shown superlative faith in Jesus: Matt 8.5-13 NRSVUE
  – In a really neat literary tie-in that we didn’t mention yesterday (because there wasn’t time), Jesus predicts that non-Jewish lands, like Tyre and Sidon (the region in which Matt. 15.21-28 takes place), would respond to Him more positively had they been given the same chances that Israelite lands had: Matt 11.20-30 NRSVUE
  – Later passages in the New Testament reveal that the disciples didn’t grasp or commit to the lesson Jesus taught them in Matt. 15.21-28…for Peter, it took an alarming, but then transforming, visionary experience years later for him to “get it” finally: Acts 10.1-11.18 NRSVUE
2. To be human is to be biased, and often in ways we can’t see about ourselves. Learn more about that from these two TED resources:
– Prejudiced thoughts run through all our minds — the key is what we do with them and
The prejudice you don’t know you have | Havi Carel & Richard Pettigrew
3. Two Christian reflections on bias and prejudice from a leading United Methodist resource site:
A Prejudice I Didn’t Know I Had and 
Getting real with each other
4. A great devotional on the Roman centurion’s faith in Matthew 8, the prior parallel for the Canaanite woman’s faith in Matthew’s gospel: O Lord, I Am Not Worthy
Week 8:
Where do we go when we die?

Monday Memo notes

Quotes Worth Pondering
Four quotes worth mulling over and over this week, two from the sermon, two uncovered in the research for it…
(1) Frederick Buechner, in The Longing For Home: 
…No matter how much the world shatters us to pieces, we carry inside us a vision of wholeness that we sense is our true home and that beckons to us…The word “longing” comes from the same root as the word “long” in the sense of length in either time or space and also the word “belong,” so that in its full richness “to long” suggests to yearn for a long time for something that is a long way off and something that we feel we belong to and that belongs to us. The longing for home is so universal a form of longing that there is even a special word for it, which is of course “homesickness”…The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it.
(2) Hans Frei (professor of theology at Yale; 20th-century): 
The mystery to which the New Testament accounts testify…is the continuity of the identity of Jesus through the real, complete disruption of death. He is the same before and after death…Thus, it is Jesus Christ who remains capable of saving us in our mortal conditions…This message is far more important than any theories we may form about the nature of the resurrection.
(3) C. S. Lewis, in The Weight of Glory: 
It is a serious thing…to remember that the dullest, most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship…It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.
(4) Sophfionia Scott, in The Seeker and the Monk (from the last chapter on meeting death without fear): 
Sometimes I dream of a place I’ve never been, yet it seems so deeply familiar…There is something different about the place – it radiates a warm and gentle glow, like the golden hour of light in that precious time right before the sun begins to set…I know that I am not alone. The place feels spacious yet full all at once. And though I’m standing there, it feels like I’m being pulled there, as if it’s pulling me into safe harbor. My whole life feels like a course toward this place. It’s a joyous feeling, like I’m a child running on sandy shores. And I know that I will recognize this place when I arrive, even though it will be for the very first time.
Week 9:
Help me understand the psychology of getting older.