Florence Congregational Church
Monday, May 28, 2018
A Place to Connect

Pastor’s Corner - April 2016

 

     I write today following the pain and joy of our Lenten journey and Easter. Some of us have creatively      gathered for a Lenten journey with Jasmine Myers, an actress and founder of the Still Small Theatre      Troupe. She has facilitated and taught us a lot about various components of theatre performance      including digging deep into the character traits of a person one hopes to portray on stage. Working hard      at these tasks and other secret clues to real acting tricks has prepared us to step on stage the evening      of Good Friday to share a short play about Jesus’ disciples, in particular their intense pain, suffering and      confusion experienced when Jesus was crucified. It was a great journey that flipped our perspectives,      feelings and understanding of the day between Jesus’ death and resurrection.
 
     This allows me to segway into a short introduction to a book I have read during Lent, titled, Flipped:      The Provocative Truth That Changes Everything We know About God, by Doug Pagitt (Random House,      2015). Drawing from his words, Flipped is a different way to understand Jesus, and beyond that, it leads      to a different way to understand the world because of Jesus’ words. Pagitt accomplishes his goal which      was to express his belief that “Jesus’ message has the power to bring about healing of the human spirit,      foster life in community, and give us a vision and path for living harmoniously with God and with                                                                                one another.” I would hope we all believe this to a certain degree.
 
Pagitt writes, “I have wondered how the provocative, powerful, beautiful message of Jesus ended up producing the kind of religious life I see in the world.” He notes that he believes Jesus was in a similar situation in his day. “He wasn’t concerned about saying what people wanted to hear. He had no interest in maintaining the status quo. Just the opposite, really. When Jesus spoke, he would deliberately remind people of the officially approved interpretation of Holy Writ. Sometimes he would remind people of the Law plus various rules and traditions that guided how people were living.” Then..... wait for it. Wait for it. “Then he would switch things up in a way that set the hearers’ minds spinning. Just when they thought they knew where he was headed with his message, he spun them around, turned them upside down, and ‘Flipped’ them over.”
 
Think about it. How often did Jesus say, “You have heard it said...”, only to respond by flipping it upside down with the words, “but, I say to you”? The themes of change and growth are threaded through the book with the focus on Jesus’ attempt to change the way people viewed and understood God. Jesus, Paul, Peter, John and many others constantly challenged the “fundamental” beliefs and interpretations attempting to change lives and the world. Pagitt invites you to look at familiar ideas and stories from a new perspective. It certainly pushed me to stretch, rethink some of my own beliefs and evaluate my own theological understanding of Jesus’ words, actions and ministry. But, that was the point of my Lenten reading. It’s almost impossible to hear, see and do anything differently if we remain committed to familiar patterns. “Flipped helps you step outside routine ways of thinking long enough to take a completely new look at the meaning of Jesus’ words.... It’s an invitation to all the goodness and care of God...”
 
You certainly won’t agree with everything Pagitt has to say; you will be forced to think more deeply about what you believe and, if your honest with yourself, why you believe the way you do. Are you a person who is happy to remain with the status quo, or are you one who dares to think outside the box? Maybe you are like me and wonder as much as I do what else Jesus had to say. What is the rest of the story? What was not written down? Jesus is known for his moments of frustration, especially when those of the status quo abused the law purposefully misinterpreting the meaning of law for their own agenda and benefit.
 
Do you remember Jesus’ moment in the Temple when he “flipped” the money changer’s tables upside down driving them out of the temple? Jesus was anything but a supporter of the status quo. Are you? Perhaps it’s time to flip somethings upside down? Change some things up... Plant some seeds and watch the kingdom of God grow....

 

Blessings, Pastor Irv
 

Florence Congregational Church • 130 Pine Street, Florence, Massachusetts 01062 • 413.584.1325