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.

BLOG – Easter Art Explained – The Many-Splendored Wisdom of God

On Easter Sunday, we party.

Why? Because Easter is the greatest day in history. All of history, its purpose and its climax are reveled in Jesus’ Resurrection. Death does not win. History is going somewhere. Pain and brokenness are not final. Sin is forgiven. Jesus is Lord.           

             Every Easter we do an art project together as a church to learn with our hands what Andrew is trying to preach with his words – that God makes beauty from ashes, artwork from shattered hearts, glory from dust. So, the art must use RECLAIMED and REDEEMED materials that we transform into something extraordinarily beautiful. As we do this, we find that often the very brokenness of the thing makes it more beautiful and/or perfectly fit for art work. This reminds us that our brokenness will not just be healed back to original, it will be the very things that make us useful in God’s hands. Rather than brokenness or imperfection inhibiting God’s ability to use us, they actually augment our usefulness. That’s why the Apostle Paul can write, “Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off—evidence of his endless patience—to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever” (1 Tim 1:15-16). Nearly 1900 years later another man whose life had been transformed by the teachings of Jesus wrote it this way, “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them” (9th Step Promises of AA).

           This year we used hundreds and hundreds of broken crayons to make extraordinary art. They were perfect for something colorful or “multi-splendored” as the Bible likes to say. In all our diversity, we’re a lot like these different colors. Moreover, each of us is broken in some way, some of us discarded, but Jesus does not throw us away, destroy us, or give up on us, instead he starts to transform us. In a creativity and artistry beyond all human aesthetic dreams, God crafts something that is more glorious than it could have been if it was never broken. That is why Ephesians 3:10 describes the church as God’s public, colorful art exposition. Paul says, “God’s intent was that now, through the church, the manifold, many-splendored, multi-faceted wisdom of God should be displayed.”

            It may not feel like it now, but God is in the process of taking all your hurts and flaws, and using them to make you into a masterpiece. God is preparing the shards of your broken heart for resurrection of love and purpose. Nothing in your past will be wasted, even the worst parts will yield their usefulness in God’s masterful hands.

            “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Tim 1:17)

Nothing is Wasted – Our Easter Pallet Cross Wall

On Easter Sunday, we make art from used, broken stuff. Last year we made a 12' paper mosaic. This year we made a 4.5'x6' Cross Wall out of Pallet Lumber, and it turned out beautiful. This art is a tangible reminder that God can and will make the seemingly damaged, used, broken pieces of our lives into something useful, beautiful, and saving.

Nothing is Wasted Slide cropped

Next to our cross, there is the following Explanation:

Each of us comes to Jesus just like one of these boards. We come with our own raw beauty, the grains he put in our soul, the unique qualities God invested in us when he knit us together in our mother’s womb, but we also come with our own scars and rough spots, our own weaknesses, failures, and wounds. We come to Jesus with wounds other people inflicted upon us and with our own defects that have harmed others. We come “distressed,” not in pristine, brand-new condition.
Jesus does not reject our imperfections, rather Jesus takes us with all our knots, scrapes, splinters, scars, cracks, and nails and he reworks us into something more beautiful precisely because it was broken and now redeemed. He is so good and so committed that he is able to make beauty from brokenness, beauty from ashes, life from dust, and saints from sinners. Jesus doesn’t find us holy, he makes us holy.
In Jesus’ death on the cross, we see the worst of human sin, but in the resurrection, we see how God could use even that to redeem us. That’s why we call the day, “GOOD Friday,” because what was the worst day in history, God made the greatest. We, and even Jesus, still bare the scars, but somehow God gets more glory and we get more joy as we see just how beautifully God transforms our pain and weaknesses into testimonies of his goodness and faithfulness and artistry. Thank Jesus, that he accepts, redeems, and remakes used lumber like me and you, and makes us into his masterpieces.
In Jesus, we are    Reclaimed     |     Redeemed    |    Remade

As I designed and built our Easter Project this year, these three songs really moved me to gratitude and wonder at Jesus' incredible love.

Elevation Worship – Nothing is Wasted

Jason Gray – Nothing is Wasted

Chris McClarney – Beauty for Ashes