A beautiful garden and “The Offense” of the Gospel…

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. – Hebrews 4:12-13

Sunday morning I enjoyed – once again – my routine “contemplative walk” through the church garden before worship.

The wonderful thing about gardens is how much they change. It’s been two weeks since my last set of pictures (“late-May”) and this time it’s all “mid-June.”

Larry and his team of volunteers pour such love and care into the church campus, love that is absorbed into the soil before returning as roses, vegetables, and meditative spaces that draw people in and give all that love and care back to their souls.

It is a truly remarkable equation.

This first set of photos comes from the Church Garden, yesterday morning…

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Worship with an edge:

DSC_0831
a difficult message

Then, in the church sanctuary, Rebekah, John, and Katherine invited people into a worship experience that was also challenging. Rebekah’s recent series of sermons, responding to the cultural moment we are in, have been provocative in terms of inviting ourselves to take things seriously – things that we’d rather “leave well enough alone.”

However, if we are going to move forward into a future where we not only talk about equality but live it, then it is imperative that our observations and our interventions are incisive (incisive means “accurate and sharply focused” – a lot like surgery). It is an impossible-to-ignore-any-longer fact that our culture is loaded with symbolism that seems to honor mechanisms of racism and segregation.

To that end, I agree that the Confederate Flag, for example, has no place on the street but belongs in a museum, carefully remembered through the eyes of history and with thorough interpretive annotation. I also feel that controversial statuary should not be torn down my protestors but should be relocated to the museum.

Again, a museum offers history and context, whereas a monument on a street seems more a message of honor.

Offense?

Rebekah’s sermon made it abundantly clear that God’s invitation is for us to live in such a way that it is evident and obvious that the Jesus we follow brings good news, mercy, grace, light, and reconciliation – abundant life for absolutely everyone without regard to race, ethnicity, gender, politics, wealth, poverty, standing, L, B, G, T, Q, I, or any other obstacle we so readily place in the way of acceptance or opportunity.

She probably offended more than a few listeners. But throughout the New Testament the Gospel is referred as “offensive” exactly because it is incisive and challenging. There is a sense – and I don’t mean to appear flippant, that if a minister hasn’t upset somebody then she (or he) probably isn’t preaching.

Check out Rebekah’s message if you’re curious (it starts around the 19-minute mark and runs around 23-minutes). And enjoy this set of photos from worship yesterday.

In love, and because (eventually) love always wins – DEREK

 

commentary culture Current News faith garden leadership message photography The Church

derekmaul View All →

Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.

Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.

Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.

3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Hi Derek, you can tell Rebekah I said, “Amen preacher!” That was a great sermon. That last verse wrapped it up nicely, “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”” Matthew‬ ‭11:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬. We need to change something to get off this ever recurring cycle.

    Liked by 1 person

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