ACORN Newsletter – February 2021

God is doing more than we know,
but here is what we know God is doing.

Download the whole Newsletter here!

as a taste, here is the cover letter from Pastor Andrew:

Dear Oakland Family,

I believe Jesus is behind every story. Every great story is great because it echoes the One Great Story. The Gospel of Jesus is truer than true and more beautiful than beauty. All goodness, truth, and beauty point to the beautiful, true, and good One.

            Most Friday during COVID, Claire, Jack, and I make a fire in our firepit, a Earl Corbett-custom. Then we put a TV on a wooden bench and watch a movie around the fire. It’s not high class, but its magical. We take turns picking movies based on the season or important dates. On Juneteenth, MLK Weekend, and after the murder of George Floyd, we introduced Jack to our country’s racist past by watching movies like Remember the Titans, Glory Road, and My Friend Martin. On Labor Day, we watched Newsies. At Christmas, we watched The Star and The Grinch. Claire and I love to show Jack our childhood favorites like Mary Poppins, Old Yeller, and The Love Bug.

            Last week, we watched Onward, a Disney-Pixar movie that debuted right when COVID shut down all the movie theaters in the land. Onward blew me away with a story about emotional longing, ethical criminality, unrecognized blessings, and a society that has traded magic for technology. We’ll save the personal longing and family dynamics for another article, because I was blown away first by the social commentary at the start of the movie.

The movie begins with images of wild Pegasus herds running free, mermaids frolicking in a lagoon, and pixies sprinkling laughter, while the narrator recounts, “Long ago, the world was full of wonder! It was adventurous. Exciting. And best of all, there was magic! And that magic, helped all in need.” We see a string of scenes in which, magicians perform a few epic feats to defeat evil and thousands lots of small tasks to alleviate practical needs like lighting cook fires and providing light inside homes. Then as the narrator continues, “But, [the magic] wasn’t easy to master,” we watch a magician apprentice attempt a simple task of creating a torch, fail and electrocute himself. The narrator continues, “And so the world found a simpler way to get by…” and we see a long string of scenes in which magic lamps are replaced by electric lightbulbs and conjured cook fires replaced by gas ranges and remote-controlled gas logs. Then the degeneration escalates quickly as we see a female centaur playing a video game called Prance Prance Revolution, a mermaid talking on a smartphone while lounging in a kiddie pool behind a cookie-cutter row house, an airplane full of winged creatures, a highway of cars filled with once fleet-footed creatures, and finally unicorns eating garbage out of overturned trash cans like modern raccoons. And the narrator sighs, “Over time…magic faded away.”

            Wow.

            It was shocking to see the glorious mythical creatures like unicorns, Pegasi, griffins, and minotaurs reduced to trash eating, technology junkies who’ve learned to wear pants, live in suburbs, and Facebook, but who’ve forgotten how to soar or gallop or frolic. My heart broke for them.

            But not just for them, more for us. In this myth like all myths, we see ourselves as in a mirror. The world God created and longs for is thick with Spirit and spiritual power and spiritual possibility. Trees dance, mountains shuffle, and rocks cry out in praise. Human beings are full of the same Spirit and Power that raised Jesus from the dead – they hear the voice of God and angels. This Spirit at work in them empowers them to address every practical need in the world from food, clothing, and shelter in seemingly mundane acts. Further the Spirit miraculously uses them to heal illnesses, cure conditions, and do justice. Still more, full of the light of Heaven, this army of saints defeats epic powers of darkness in demonic possession, demonic lies, and demonic oppression.

            But this life in the flow of God’s Spirit is not easy to master. It takes years of apprenticeship to Jesus via Jesus’ apprentices. It takes countless hours of disciplined practicing faith – disciplines like honesty, hospitality, intercessory prayer, listening prayer, meditation, fasting, simplicity, silence, community, confession, amends-making, celebration, feasting, generosity, and singing. It takes repeated failure and perseverance; courage and discomfort; joy and grit.

            But people wanted light-switch spirituality, cruise control Christianity, 5-minute meditations, and social media post piety. And so, the world thick with Spirit was inebriated by technology. Spiritual maturity was replaced by technical expertise. 

            In C. S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian, Lucy encounters a once noble creature so reduced, and she asks, “Wouldn’t it be dreadful if someday in our own world, at home, men start going wild inside, like the animals here, and still look like men, so that you’d never know which were which.”

            Horrifying isn’t it. Have we become unicorns scavenging in trash cans?

            Maybe we have, but God has not. Onward does not end in despair, because the Gospel does not end with condemnation but redemption. In Jesus, we see a life magically alive with the Spirit, and Jesus uses his Spirit-filled life, death, and resurrection to not only forgive our self-degradation but also to completely renovate us into homes of the Spirit at home in a Spirit-filled material world. And so once again, we’re invited to embrace the magic, even if it’s hard to master. If we do, we’ll relearn how to soar, to gallop, and to frolic, and how to be of help to all people while doing it.

Spiritual Gift Assessments

In Creole dialect, they have a word, lagniappe (pronounced LAN-yap), which means something extra beyond what you paid for. It’s usually a little extra soup in the pot or a little extra grain in the bag, but it is always gratuitous, gracious, extra.

Consider this blog a little lagniappe regarding the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, also known as Spiritual Gifts, or the Gifts of the Body or Gifts for Ministry, or Charismata in Greek. On Sunday, February 15, 2015, I preached a sermon entitled “The Way of Jesus - I am Called to Serve," because all of Jesus' followers are called to serve his Church. 

DSC_2970Oakland is awesome at serving. It is one of our collective, corporate strengths, and I celebrate it weekly. Still, I want every one of our servants to serve in ways that give them life, that fill them with joy, and that fulfill real needs in the Church and community. I want you to crave opportunities to use your gifts to bless people. You are called to serve not as a warm body in a bureaucracy, but as a gifted member of God’s family.

When I am operating within my primary gifts of Knowledge, Teaching, and Preaching, it feels like someone plugged me into the wall. It feels like I’m finally doing what I was made to do – to show people how every aspect of life is informed and reformed by Jesus. 

Like I said on Sunday, the chief of all charismata is “eternal life through Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:23). The Holy Spirit applies Christ’s finished, saving work on the Cross to each of us. In plain English that means the Holy Spirit gives us credit for everything Christ has, including a perfect life and a perfect relationship with God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit. As a tangible proof of this gift, the Holy Spirit gives individuals particular gifts. In that sermon, I spoke specifically about the gifts named in Romans 12:4-8, but there are plenty of other gifts named in the Bible, especially 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 and 12:28.

To give you an idea of what gifts are possible, and begin the process of serving with your gifts for your joy and the community’s benefit, I suggest a Spiritual Gift Assessment. There is no science to finding your gift, and a one-size-fits-all test is certainly not failproof, but Spiritual Gift Assessments provide great starting points for discovering your God-given gifts. They cause you to think about the things you do instinctively and joyfully. Our gifts often feel “natural” or like “the obvious right thing to do,” so we can take them for granted.

LIFEWAY SPIRITUAL GIFT ASSESSMENT (PDF)

For years, I have used this Spiritual Gift Assessment published by Lifeway. It is not perfect, but is a trustworthy tool to start discernment. It includes brief descriptions of each gift, and even suggestions for places to serve. It is a Self-Scored Survey in PDF format, so it is great for pencil-and-paper kind of folk.

SPIRITUALGIFTSTEST.COM ASSESSMENTS FOR YOUTH AND ADULTS

If you’re more of a “let the computer do the math” kind of person, then I recently discovered and tried out 2 other tests at SpiritualGiftsTest.com. As cheesy as the name sounds, they provide more than adequate descriptions of each gift, and the survey is full of refreshingly normal questions.

You are welcome to take and compare both tests. As you seek to find your gifts and seek to implement them in service, I’d love to chat personally. If you’d like some help, call the office to set up a chance to chat.

SERMON: The Way of Jesus (Part 6) – I am Called to SERVE

The Way of Jesus (Part 6): I am Called to SERVE
You don't volunteer at your church, any more than you babysit your own kids.

Pastor Andrew Ruth
February 15, 2015
Romans 12:4-8
Luke 22:24-30
AUDIO
There are dozens of Spiritual Gifts named in the Bible, but this sermon specifically discusses the following gifts named in Romans 12:4-8.

Prophecy

Serving

Teaching

Giving

Leadership

Mercy

"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet." — Frederick Buechner

So, NEXT STEPS:

1.) Start to identify your unique Spiritual Gifts.
Start by completing this simple assessment, and then find a time to talk to Pastor Andrew or a Spiritual Mentor.
2.) Research the needs around you - at Oakland and in Cleveland.
Your gift was given to meet real needs.
3.) START SERVING AT CHURCH LIKE YOU BABYSIT YOUR OWN KIDS.

 

Weekly Reading Plan

This sermon series includes a weekly Bible Reading Plan.  Each week we read in preparation for the sermon coming next week. Next week we will discuss The Way of Jesus - I am called to GIVE, so this week we will be reading about honor God with our money using this WEEK 7 READING PLAN. Tips and suggested questions available on the PDF.

 TheWayOfJesus-I am called to - Week 7 Reading Slide