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Apr 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Guest Speaker – 04/21/2024



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion!  I’m so glad that we belong to each other… Grace and Peace to you!

Last Sunday I was talking about our maturing spiritual immunity against what doesn’t belong to us.  During the week someone from RefleXion reminded me that our immunity must be practiced.  We don’t just get booster shots, but we must have healthy practices every day to keep our immunity strong.  I think that spiritual practices, in general, are a resistance to the lie that we are separate, unknown, unloved.  One way to practice is what we might call the gift of “Hospitality,” or “Welcoming.” This week, a friend and I talked about how she was suffering with memory loss.  Another friend encouraged me in prayer.  I sat with someone in silence as they waited on the Spirit’s leading.  A friend from another faith tradition gave me courage.

All of this reminded me of the Ram Dass quote, “We’re all just walking each other home.”  Years ago, at CBC, we had a weekend dedicated to how people had experienced love from other people.  We had about 15 different people over four services share their experiences.  There were all kinds of stories:  an artist felt known and appreciated just because we were a church that hung art on the walls, someone experienced forgiveness for running into the other’s mailbox, another was invited to pour syrup into little cups every Sunday as a way of steady sobriety, and many stories of, well, just people listening to each other.  Conversations, especially those that are spirit to spirit–building up, stirring up, cheering up–are always uplifting.  And, much more, I believe that we are then participating in Christ’s reconciliation of all things, already in operation, but not yet complete.  We belong; we are known.  This is the triumph of love over division and hate. 

Here’s a quote from Parker J. Palmer:  Community is a place where the connections felt in our hearts make themselves known in the bonds between people, and where the tugging and pulling of those bonds keep opening our hearts.

Think you have nothing to offer?  There’s a blessing in each moment we have with each other.  Romans 12 reminds us:  For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,  so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.

Here’s an amazing quote:  “We all come into the world looking for someone looking for us.”  So, who’s looking for you?

Let’s pray:  Lord, we welcome you and each other this morning, and let that welcoming practice continue day after day until we meet you face to face.  Be made known to us in this morning’s message.  May the love that you have incarnated in us lead us this week.  Amen

Morning Talk: Sean Kappauf

Story of El Sal Prison
There’s something life giving when we choose to be a loving presence. Especially to those who
have been out-casted.
I’m addicted to it… but I’m not perfect at it.
I have a sneaky suspicion that after I share about this, I’ll be reminded of how great it is to be a
loving presence and then I’ll get into my truck outside and start driving…
Watch as that just sails away off into the pacific ocean when someone cuts me off
You feel me on that?
Wanting to be a loving presence but falling short in the process?
It’s not easy
So, how is it that we can be a living presence in our life so that in the waking moments of the
day to the end of the day… we are pursuing a path that loves no matter what… that loves even
our neighbor, that loves even the one who speaks badly about us, that loves even those who
hurt us? That loves the Trump-loving-“Christian nationalist,” that loves the democratic socialist
liberal universalist,
that looks above the labels, that transcends our judgments, and sees them as Christ does…
Lets look at Jesus

Luke 15:1-2 NRSV (Updated Edition) – SBL Study Bible

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the
Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and
eats with them.”

I love this passage
So much going on in here…
Tax collectors and sinners are the outliers. The ones on the fringes of society, the ones society
has deemed dirty, wrong, bad… in a dualistic worldview they are the “bad” ones and you see
them here coming near to Jesus.
And at the same time you have the “good guys” the “holy ones” the pharisees and scribes, the
ones who know the scripture, the ones who know their Bible and tell people what it says…
And you hear them grumbling… “This guy welcomes sinners… accepts them, eats with them”
(which is an intimate space that essentially says you’re good in my eyes)
The ones who culture has deemed Bad, Jesus pursues, to remind them that they are good.

What I love about the life of Jesus
Is that he shows us what it looks like to be human, to live a life
that is full of love, aliveness, that sees beyond the labels…
Some of the obstacles that Jesus encounters with others is with those who are certain that
how they read the scripture is clearly the right way to read it and therefore justify their poor
As you read the scripture you’ll see Jesus in these situations where he finds himself having out
with those sinful people like I just stated.
Jesus, in his masterful communication skills, speaks to those who are certain about the text, to
those who are closed off, by sharing stories…
It is often in sharing stories that get people who are closed off to see their perspective in a new
light. He does this not too make them feel dumb but rather to show them that there is a better
way to live our life than to put people in categories like “sinner” and “righteous”…
Because we do not live an “us vs them world,” rather we live in an “US” world… we are all
connected… its our myths that we create that can cause us to divide and in return we miss
out… but there is a way to overcome that way of seeing
We over come it by starting with Love, by choosing to love…
Jesus paints this beautiful picture of what that looks like…
Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them
said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the wealth that will belong to me.’ So he
divided his assets between them.
Luke 15:11-12
Lets stop here…
Jesus starts off the story with the younger son asking his dad for his inheritance while his dad
is still alive.
Now in a patriarchal middle eastern society, lack of respect for the father is just beyond
You would never ever do something like this.
By the son saying this, he is essentially telling his dad that he hates him and wishes he were dead.
So for Jesus to start off a story this way, is so bizarre for his listeners because this is just
something that should never happen, something so bad, so wrong, an incredible injustice.
Kind of like us hearing that Spirit Airlines is the nicest airline in the world… that can’t be right…
what? no way…
Nevertheless the Father grants his younger son the inheritance…

Jesus goes on with the story
A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant region, and
there he squandered his wealth in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a
severe famine took place throughout that region, and he began to be in need. So he
went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that region, who sent him to his fields
to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the pigs
were eating, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to his senses he said,
‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am
dying of hunger!
Luke 15:13-17
So the son goes away, spends all the money, crashes, hits rock bottom…
How many of us know what thats like? Right?
And he realizes man, the life I’m in right now is no good… I’d be better off being one of my
dad’s servants…
And what ends up happening is the son decides… I’m going home, look what happens:
I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against
heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one
of your hired hands.”
Luke 15:18-19
Again, what the younger son did was so atrocious, was so unthinkable in that culture, to go
back home, could be, probably would be, very very problematic for him and the family, but he’s
so desperate that, this is his best option…
So he begins to recite a speech that he is going to have with his dad.
Now, its subtle, but notice how the son views himself, notice the story that the son creates in
his mind about himself
In verse 19 he says,
I am no longer worthy to be called your son
Lets sit with that for a moment.
We each have a story that we are telling ourselves about our own worth.
We have a tape that plays in our head, we have a story, a narrative that we are telling ourselves
about our story.
We each do.
Sadly, its often negative.
That we are unworthy
That we are not smart
That we are not thin enough
That we are not strong enough
That we are not accomplished enough
That so-in-so is better
That so-in-so can work harder
That so-in-so has more energy
That so-in-so kids are better
That based upon what I’ve done I’m not worthy to be loved by anyone
Sometimes we are beating ourselves up because we have a narrative that speaks to us about
how unworthy we are…
The inner critic is loud within us…
Just like this son who hits rock bottom!

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him
and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.
Luke 15:20
Oh man… the beauty of the fathers love to his son is so life giving… here his son is thinking oh
man, my dad is gonna kill me… but instead the son receives true love… a love that isn’t based
upon any action, a pure love that always gives no matter what
A love that isn’t based off of obedience or rule following
This kind of love doesn’t make sense in a religious world.
Where in order for you to receive you have to do something good… Rather the father’s love is
freely given… no matter what
And this is what love does, gives life, and life in abundance… to anyone, to everyone
Some of us here today… that is what we need… a loving embrace… someone to tell us that
you are good, its ok, you at your very core, are deeply and dearly loved…
I have stories of how I’ve been personally attacked… my beliefs these days have caused certain
people to react to me in ways that haven’t been too great. As a result is they have caused me to
wonder if I’m bad or whether there is something wrong with me
But if so,
Why is that I feel so much joy, freedom, love, permission to see the world in a wider aperture,
to see love move across cultures, peoples
Yet some of the closest people with whom I’ve grown up are treating me this way

I was sharing this to my therapist and he said…
Sean stop
I want you to imagine, imagine that five year old Sean is sitting in the chair next to you
Five year old Sean is worried about what others are saying about him, sad that the neighborhood
bully has been calling him names
What would you tell your five year old self?
I sat there for a moment… and was shocked by the words that came out of my mouth…
I’d tell my five year old self…
That is going to be okay. That no matter what people say about you–that is not who you are, you
are safe, you are loved, and always will be loved.
Then the therapist looked at me and said… well?
What was this wizardry!
Sometimes what we need is to be reminded that we are good, even when religious bigots
confront us with their certainty trying to confine is their moralistic religious fascism.
Ook I had to get that off my chest
But in all seriousness… to remind ourselves, that we are worthy, worthy of love, worthy
because in God’s eyes he sees us with endless love.

Lets look at verse 21
Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am
no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly,
bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on
his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate, for this
son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to
Luke 15:21-24
Notice the father doesn’t say anything about the most atrocious thing a son could do to a
father… what his youngest son has done, does not even faze him… rather he says…
Get him a robe!
Giving a robe is a sign of sonship, that’s a sign that he belongs in the Father’s eyes
The father is saying, “This is my boy.”
Nothing he can do will change that truth.

So when the son returns home, his father has a different narrative about who he is

Now the son has a decision to make…
Do I trust my version of my story: I’m no longer worthy to be called your son
Or, Do I trust the Father’s version of my story which is: I am dearly loved son. That no matter
what I am deeply and dearly loved.
Does he trust, does he cling to the Father’s version of the story?
Or does he trust, his version of the story?
What would you do? What would you do if you were that father? What would you do if you
were that son?

Lets keep that in the back of our mind…
Now… remember there are two brothers…
The older brother observes all of this … and he is seriously bothered by it
He wants nothing to do with the party for his brother
Look at what happens:
“Now his elder son was in the field, and as he came and approached the house, he
heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going
on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf
because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to
go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father,
‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never
disobeyed your command, yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I
might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has
devoured your assets with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’
You can just feel the rage from the words that Jesus uses to describe the older brother…
The older brother basically makes his case, “I have been over here playing the good
I have been over here doing everything right, doing all these good things for you.
And yet you throw a massive party for “this son of yours”
For those of us who are parents, we’ve done this before… especially when our kid does
something bad and we look to our spouse and are like,
“Well this son of yours decided to take a sharpie and draw all over the walls!”

You’re gonna throw a massive party for this son of yours?
This son who has wronged you and me in so many ways?
What are you doing?!
Why are you doing this?!
In other words he’s asking… Why not me?
Remember the older brother said…
Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never
disobeyed your command

Think about that.
The older brother has a story that he is telling about himself as well!
See the younger brother’s story is: “I am no longer worthy” because of all that I’ve done
The older brother’s story is: “I am worthy because of all that I’ve done.”
We’ve seen this before huh?
I did it all right
I was moral
I didn’t do that and that and that… like everybody else did
I tithed 10% of my gross
I went to church every Sunday
I was generous with people
I serve at the local charity every month
I’ve been the good child
I’ve showed up at all the right times
I’ve checked all the right boxes.
Doesn’t that count, doesn’t that get me something?
See the older brother’s story is, “I am your son, your good son, because of all the
good things I’ve been doing for you.
I am worthy because of all that I’ve done.”
Yet the Father tells a different version of the older brothers story…

Look at what the Father says
Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is
yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead
and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’
Luke 15:31-32
See what the Father does, the Father’s version of the story was, “Yeah ok, all those years that
you stayed home and did all the good work and you were the good son and you were loyal…
that didn’t earn you the reward of being my son
You had that the whole time!
Cuz you are always with me and everything I have is yours.
In other words, “You don’t have to earn my love, my love has always been there and always
will be here for you!”

Isn’t that beautiful?
What an incredible response,
For both sons it is in losing that they discover what they have–who they really are
You are deeply and dearly loved. Not because of what you have done, rather you are simply
loved by God… even if you have a messy past and even if you’ve been doing great things.
So the question for all of us today is…
The question is for you and me… who’s version of the story will we trust?
Because the reality is,
The story that we’re telling ourselves, deeply shapes how we live in the world. Deeply
shapes how we interact within those around us.
If we believe at the deepest core that we are unworthy, we will tend to act in certain ways that
flow out of that.
If we believe that the world is a cold, dark, empty, nasty place where everyone is for
themselves…and we kick and we shout and we do whatever you can to crush others to get
ahead, that will shape how we act.
If we believe that there is a God, who responds with this endless love that has no favorites with
an undeserved self-giving love… we will begin to see the beauty, wonder, mystery, of life that is
all around us… and we will act in light of that and this love will propel within us and around
others we come in contact with
As we encounter this kind of life giving, others centered love and acceptance it changes us to
do the same to those around us
This reality frees us to be who we are
Thus giving us the capacity then to love those around us… as we love ourselves.

Now here a couple things to consider… a couple action steps so to speak…

The first step is to take no steps
Isn’t that great! Because you’re doing that already. You’re off to a good start.
Just Be
Be still. Stop. Breathe. Reflect on the great mystery of self-sacrificing love. A love that chooses.
A love that freely gives. A love that has no enemies. A love that never fails. A love that is
embracing you right now.

When we are able to just sit in that great love it moves within us, opening the door of
awareness and aliveness… a letting go of control, a letting go of our false self, and embracing
the truth that we are deeply and dearly loved.
In and with God, we are loving everything and everyone—even our enemies.
So in that state… take time to stop. We are always going. Take five minutes each morning to reflect
on the reality that you are loved, not because of something you’ve done, you are are human
being not a human doing…
Be open, Be Curious, Be present
When we are embraced and aware of the constant love God gives us it frees us to be open, to
be honest, to be present… because
We have nothing to prove, because we are already loved and everything He has is already
We stem from an abundance of love and acceptance,
show it, publicly and watch as those around you learn what it means to be human too.
Especially with those we have a hard time with, especially with those that we have
“othered” where we have seen them as the “bad guy” or the “sinner”…

I want to challenge us all today that if we have that type of person in our life to take time to sit
and think about that person… but instead of jumping to a conclusion about what we think of
take time to be curious
to be curious about them.
And when the time is right, reach out to them, with the sole purpose of being curious about
their life, what they are passionate about, what they enjoy doing.
Because everyone wants to be seen, known, heard, and understood, especially hurting people
who have detached. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them… people just want to have
someone to care that they are hurting and acknowledged that they understand without
No need to correct or try to win, just be curious and love them by listening.
I can’t count the number of times I thought a person who has said bad things about who I am
and then when I got to really know them, that everything in me changed for the better about
how I view them.
Often we jump to conclusions about someone without ever giving them the time of day.
This way of living is not easy, but its so worth it.

May you know today that you are deeply loved and that love isn’t based upon anything other
than that reality,
may you be embraced by this love
and may it propel you to move forward to be a constant loving presence to those around you, especially with those you may find it hard to love.
I’m going to close today with a prayer that I pray often:
Lets pray
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today, because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval, and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and God’s action within.

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