Constellation

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The stars in constellations are thousands of light years apart (well, some of them are). And some of these stars may even no longer exist. They are so far away that if they blew up, we wouldn’t know about it for a thousand years.

But because we are where we are, when we are, together they look like a cup. Or like a bull. Or a guy wearing a belt. They make sense to us, and may even help point us home if we were lost.

Orion is one of the best examples of what I’m talking about here.

Betelgeuse, the bright red star that is Orion’s left shoulder, it is about 640 light years from earth. Bellatrix, though, the other shoulder star, is only 200 light years from earth, three times closer. Mintaka, the rightmost star in the belt, is 1200 light years away from the earth. If you look at it tonight, the light that hits your retina left the star around 600 AD.

Orion only looks like a guy wearing a belt because we are, where we are, when we are. If we lived in a different part of the universe, he wouldn’t look like much of anything.

Constellations have helped people for a long time find their way home.

We are talking about constellations during Advent, the time of year when we remember the promised birth of Jesus, because there is a star that plays a prominent role in the Christmas story. It will help some people find their way home, find their way to Jesus. But it’s not at all what they think it is.

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Podcast 32: Constellation

We finished our yearlong project, but we still have stuff to say!

This 36 minute long podcast episode is about Constellation, our new sermon series. But before we even get to that, we talk about…

  • Christmas cookies and cards!
  • How Megan never buys herself anything!
  • How weird the lectionary and Advent are!
  • Megan’s bag smells a little like dog food!
  • So much more!

Podcast 31: Family

Here is Megan and Dave’s 31st episode of the Everything Jesus Taught Podcast!

In this 26 minute long podcast episode, we talk about Family and Divorce, Kids, Fidelity and Spiritual Family. We also chat about:

  • Whether kids should choose their own religion
  • We don’t really discuss that, because of course they shouldn’t.
  • They also shouldn’t get to choose whether or not to brush their teeth.

Spiritual Family and Thanksgiving

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Family is something everyone talks about this week, and keeps talking about as we get closer to Christmas. Many of us gathered around tables with family members and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving together and eat all. the. things.

People traveled to be with families. Social media feeds were full of family photos and Christmas cards start showing up in the mail. Movies and advertising are full of images of families gathered around tables and Christmas trees.  It seems like the idea of family is everywhere at this time of year. #family #blessed

Don’t get me wrong – family can be pretty awesome. Sometimes the people who have known you since you were tiny are the ones really are the best people in your life.  

But sometimes they are . . . not.

Family isn’t easy for everyone. Here’s how I know: Alongside of the images of happy families with perfect turkeys this week online were articles with titles like these:

  • 10 Tips for Surviving Thanksgiving with a Dysfunctional Family
  • How to Survive Thanksgiving Drama with this Smart Conflict-Management Strategy
  • How to Avoid a Family Disaster at Thanksgiving: Plan for a Holiday that is just “so-so”
  • Everyone at Thanksgiving Doing Chore to Get Away from Rest of Family

So being around a table with family isn’t easy for everyone. 

Families can be difficult. Disagreements and past hurts come up. Members of the family may not feel loved or accepted. Too much turkey (and in some cases too much wine) can fuel heated debates over pie.  If you heard those article titles and thought that might have been helpful to read, or realized you actually read one of them preparing for your Thanksgiving this year: take heart. Because today’s teaching might surprise you.

When we say we are going to talk about family in church, we often associate Christian teachings with perfect, happy, nuclear families. We think all the church has to say about family is a specific idea of what family looks like, and how wonderful that is. But it turns out, even Jesus had some family trouble of his own.

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Fidelity

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Adultery, infidelity, cheating, is wrong. It is sin. Full stop. Jesus tells us today that engaging in it means you are on the path to hell. And it starts long before it becomes obvious. That also means it starts long before it’s too late to turn back.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28

There’s something about lust that can never be satisfied.

“Lust is the craving for salt of a person who is dying of thirst.” – Frederick Buechner

This word for lust is the same word that was used for coveting in the 10th commandment that says “You shall not covet”. And we all know that coveting is not a desire that can really be satisfied is it? When you want, you can always want more. When you are discontent, you can never really be content.

It’s the same with lust. Jesus isn’t talking about healthy, normal sexual desire here. Jesus isn’t trying to neuter us of our God given desire. He’s using a particular word here. And Buechner unfolds it perfectly. It’s a craving that can never be satisfied, and one that will kill you if you try.

Jesus isn’t condemning sexual desire. That’s important to know. God made us as sexual beings. It isn’t the desire that’s the problem. It’s the direction of it, the object of the desire. Desire within a marriage is exactly where it is supposed to be.

But when the desire God gives us gets pointed in the wrong direction, it gets us in trouble.

Why? Why is Jesus so concerned with your desires, your thoughts?

What harm can this lust, cause when it is toward someone who is not your spouse if it’s only in your heads?

What is it about looking that messes people up so badly?

Because

Where you look is where you’ll go.

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Children

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When it comes to raising our kids, someone told me once that the days are long but the years are short.

Which is great advice. Very wise.

But they told me this when my boys were 1 and 3.

I love my boys. I adore them. But saying the days were long when they were little  is like saying the parent of a newborn is a little bit tired. It’s a bit of an understatement. Because preschool age kids are really busy. They are so full of life and energy and questions.

I can remember that day when they were 1 and 3, and hearing this advice I decided I would make every minute count. So when the kids woke up that morning, we read stories on the couch under a blanket. We jumped from one tile to the next across the living room. We built a pillow fort. We wrote alphabet letters in shaving cream. We had snacks shaped like animals. We made pretend food with play-do. We took a walk and noticed trees and bugs.  We did all of these things, and I flopped down on the floor, exhausted. Then I looked at the clock.

It was 8:15 in the morning.

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Divorce

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Is divorce wrong?

Of course it’s wrong.

Not in a moralistic, “I’m good and you’re bad” kind of way. Definitely not in a fault finding, you should be ashamed way.

It’s wrong because no one gets married hoping it ends up in divorce. It’s wrong because it’s painful. 

To say divorce isn’t wrong is to deny the pain and hurt of those who have to go through it.

To say divorce isn’t wrong minimizes the heartache and grief of two people who have to start over.

So yes, divorce is wrong, in the same way anything that breaks us and turns our lives upside down is wrong. 

Jesus said, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9

You’ve probably read that before, or heard it before. It can be a hard thing to hear. And if it stings you personally, or makes you feel guilty, please don’t let it. Stick with me, because we’re going to put Jesus’ teaching in context this morning. Continue reading “Divorce”

Podcast 30: What is Unity?

Here is Megan and Dave’s 30th episode of the Everything Jesus Taught Podcast!

In this 30 minute long podcast episode, we talk about Christian Unity and what that means in a polarizing world. We also chat about:

  • Dave breaking his Facebook silence one year later than he should have
  • How we can disagree with people while trying to maintain Christian unity
  • Trying to solve the world’s problems

Podcast 29: Taxes, Giving and Money

Here is Megan and Dave’s 29th episode of the Everything Jesus Taught Podcast!

In this 22 minute long podcast episode, we talk about Taxes and Giving! We also chat about:

  • The incredible difference between a million and a billion, and why those words shouldn’t rhyme
  • a new word for billion that we’re hoping catches on: #Gurtschnark
  • Tax avoidance
  • Why non-profits exist
  • Hearts and Wallets
  • How tithing isn’t magic
  • The Good Place on NBC

Giving

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What would you do with million dollars?

(For the sake of this question, I don’t know exactly how you got this million dollars, but you got it legally and ethically. Let’s say it was an inheritance from a relative you didn’t know you had, so you’re not really sad about it. It’s just $1 million that fell into your lap!)

What would you do?

Well, the first thing you should do would be pay taxes on it. And if you don’t think you would, maybe you should read this real quick.

So you pay taxes on it. Now, what would you do with $600,000?

Would you take an amazing trip? Would you pay off your house? Pay off your student loans? 

Maybe you’d something really good with it?!  Maybe you’d tithe on it, or go above and beyond the tithe on it!

But the real, most-likely possibility of coming into a million dollars is that it would ruin your life. You would probably have no idea what to do with it, and it would hurt your relationships and cause a whole lot of resentment, and you’d end up wishing that you never got to begin with.

Maybe.

But guess what?

You will see a million dollars in your life, just not all at once probably, and it holds the same risk that it will ruin your life.

It’s a risk that is commensurate with how much money you make, or receive.

As the ethical philosopher Biggie Smalls famously said, “Mo’ money, Mo’ problems.”

And the real problem for Christians is that the more money you get, the more likely you are to rely on it, and to let it pull you away from your relationship with God.

In fact, most of Jesus’ teachings about money are precisely about that.

But it’s not all bad news. It never is with Jesus.

He has provided us with a solution. 

It’s giving. 

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