River City Church - Smyrna, GA
Opening the Door to Otherness

Opening the Door to Otherness

September 27, 2020

Kara shares a message from Philippians, illustrating how humility and honor operate in the Kingdom of God. Paul writes to the church in Philippi speaking of the assurance that comes in and through Christ: encouragement, love, participation in the Spirit, affection, joy, unity, etc. And yet, we see often in the Church, a group of people who struggle to honor the differences among each other. Kara reminds us that in the example of Jesus -- who became a servant for all -- we have the proximity we need to find the humility to count others more significant than ourselves and the support we need to deal with the costs of denying ourselves. Philippians 2:1-13. 

The Generous Landowner

The Generous Landowner

September 20, 2020

Josh shares a message from Matthew 20 about Jesus' parable of the generous landowner. We see the landowner find people to help with his vineyard, and he selects people who may look the part and those who may feel unworthy of inclusion for the labor. And he pays them all the same day's wage. Unsurprisingly, some grumble at the apparent "unfairness" of the decision. But why can't we be happy for what someone else got when we've been provided for as well? Luke 24:32; Colossians 3:14-16; John 10:14-16; Matthew 20:1-16; Jonah 4:1-11. 

Josh shared a quote from Frederick Buechner: "Don't start looking in the Bible for the answers it gives. Start by listening for the questions it asks."

Forgiveness

Forgiveness

September 13, 2020

Josh shares from Matthew 18 and Jesus' teaching about forgiveness. Jesus is trying to explain to the disciples how crucial forgiveness is to the Kingdom. This is how Christian community is built. We have to understand what we have received from Jesus in the way of forgiveness and grace, and if we have that understanding, we will offer the same forgiveness to others. Matthew 18:21-35.

Josh shared three quotes about forgiveness: 

1) Anne Lamott (in Traveling Mercies): "Withholding forgiveness is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die."

2) Nora Gallagher: "Forgiveness is a way to unburden oneself from the constant pressure of rewriting the past."

3) Henri Nouwen: "Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly, and so we need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. Forgiveness is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family."

Handling Conflict

Handling Conflict

September 6, 2020

Josh shares from a passage in Matthew 18 part of which is commonly quoted without the context preceding it. We've all heard "where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them," but that comes at the end of Jesus' instructions regarding how to handle conflict. Jesus is being realistic with the disciples. You are going to have conflict. You are going to be hurt. This is a way to fight for healing. Matthew 18:15-20; Matthew 9:9; Luke 19:5-10.

The Rock of Testimony

The Rock of Testimony

August 23, 2020

Josh looks at a couple of passages from Isaiah 51 and Matthew 16. Both passages reference rocks and teach us important lessons. In one, we are reminded of what God has done for us and that we can trust Him even when circumstances may suggest otherwise. It's not worth going back to revive the things that are dead. In the other, we are reminded of the power of our testimony of who Jesus is, which also brings us to a place of remembering what we've experienced with Jesus and that we can trust Him in the midst of our wilderness. Isaiah 51:1-6; Matthew 16:13-20; Exodus 16:1-4. 

Josh also shared a quote from Debi Thomas: "I’m stunned by the answers that Peter must have lived into as time went on — answers he never could have articulated in the early years of discipleship.  “Who do you say that I am?”  You are the one who found me in a fishing boat and gave me a new vocation.  You’re the one who healed my mother-in-law.  You’re the one who said, “Yes, walk on water."  You’re the one who caught me before I drowned.  You’re the one who glowed on a mountaintop while I babbled nonsense.  You’re the one who washed my feet while I squirmed in shame.  You’re the one who told me — accurately — that I’d be a coward on the very night you needed me to be brave.  You’re the one I denied three times to save my skin.  You’re the one who looked into my eyes with pain and pity when the cock crowed.  You’re the one who fed me breakfast on a beach and spoke love and fresh purpose into my humiliation.  You’re the one who gave me the courage to preach to three thousand people on Pentecost.  You’re the one who taught me that I must not call unclean what you have pronounced clean.  You are the one who stayed by my side through insults, beatings, and imprisonments.  You are the one I followed into martyrdom.  You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

What does it mean to be blessed?

What does it mean to be blessed?

August 16, 2020

Josh shares a message based around Psalm 67, asking the questions: "What does it mean to be blessed?" We can be susceptible to viewing our circumstances through the lens of curse. But the language of blessing is important. We are blessed in the gathering -- however we can gather in the current environment. The blessing of God is always wrapped up in the community we are a part of. Psalm 67; Numbers 6:24-26. 

Jesus Walks on Water

Jesus Walks on Water

August 9, 2020

Kara shares from the story of Jesus walking on the water in Matthew 14. Often, we focus on Peter's response to Jesus walking on the water, but what do we learn about the character of Jesus in this story? How does Jesus respond to us when we are in the storm? When we are in a storm that Jesus compelled us to encounter? Matthew 14:22-33.

When Our Best Efforts Aren’t Enough

When Our Best Efforts Aren’t Enough

August 2, 2020

Josh shares a message from Matthew 14 and Jesus' miracle of feeding the 5000. The disciples come to Jesus filled with compassion for the people who have gathered to hear Jesus teach and are now hungry. They don't know how to handle the situation. We see Jesus' motivation for His ministry -- love and compassion. And we see what it is like to use one's gifts and calling for the right reasons. Matthew 14:13-21; Psalm 78:19; Matthew 4:2-4; Matthew 9:36.

Life Is Hard

Life Is Hard

July 26, 2020

Bill shares a message from Romans 8. Many in the midst of the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic are also dealing with a variety of life challenges and losses. The confluence of events only highlights that life is hard. Hopefully, in today's lectionary passage, we sense the depth of God's love for us in the reality of the Spirit groaning for us when we can't find the words to pray, and Jesus, in His humanity, experiencing the range of emotions we face in hard times and divinely staying with us to the end -- gloriously completing what He began. Romans 8:26-39; 1 Kings 3:5-12.

The Wheat and the Weeds

The Wheat and the Weeds

July 19, 2020

Josh shares from another parable in Matthew 13 today that can create a tension within us when we read it. Jesus is describing a sower who sows good seed in his field, and an enemy who comes in the night and sows weeds in that same field. We -- like the disciples, I imagine -- are tempted to get caught wondering whether we are the wheat or the weeds that grow in that field. Whether we should tear up the weeds right now. Why isn't our first response: "Thank you, Lord, that You are going to restore?" Jesus isn't in a hurry to separate what's in the field. There will be a time for that, and that isn't our responsibility. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. 

Josh shared a number of paradoxes that carry a similar tension and require us to pause to wrestle with them: 

1) God is One & Three. 

2) Jesus is God & human. 

3) The Bible is the Word of God & authored by flawed humans. 

4) Creation is good & broken.

5) To give is to receive. 

6) To die is to live. 

7) To pardon is to be pardoned. 

8) To be weak is to be strong. 

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