Introducing Anchors & Propellers

This Sunday, we launch a new teaching series!

Anchors & Propellers Texts that Ground us, Move us, and Leave us Undone

This series will focus on passages from the Bible that have been particularly formative for our community and explore how we understand God's story as we read the Bible.

Written in multiple languages by more than forty people, compiled over at least a millennium or two, read by people around the world in thousands of languages, the Bible has inspired incredible acts of charity and been used to justify horrific acts of destruction.

The Bible is messy. The Bible is confusing. The Bible is beautiful. The Bible is a gift.

Open Door is a Jesus-following, Bible-informed community. We see the Bible as authoritative and worthy of our attention; The Bible is helpful, trustworthy and true as we navigate life in the way of Jesus (II Tim 3).

God’s unfolding story is best understood by looking at the life and work of Jesus and considering how Jesus interacted with the Bible. Again and again, we see Jesus framing and interpreting and interacting and playing with the Scriptures (anytime Jesus says “you’ve heard it said...” or “it’s been written…”) in order to understand and teach beautiful truth about the world and work of God and to invite us into life to the full (John 10).

As we read the Bible from the vantage point of a 21st century Jesus community in the East Bay, we see certain texts rise up. These texts have played a significant role in the unfolding story of Open Door and continue to shape our life together moving forward. These texts are our anchors and propellers.

A&P_webbanner Like anchors, these texts ground us. They stabilize us in God’s story for us and for our place. They root us in God’s extravagant love made real in Jesus.

Like propellers, these texts move us. They lift us up and push us forward towards life in the way of Jesus as we dream about heaven and earth being woven together.

Functioning as both anchors and propellers, these texts leave us undone. They are both gathering and scattering, planting and pushing, rooting and extending, stabilizing and sending. They call us into question, setting our hearts on fire (Luke 24), while amplifying Jesus’ invitation ever-deeper into ‘life to the full.’

This first iteration of Anchors & Propellers will last five weeks, but we'll revisit this series again and again in the future as we continue to be shaped by the Scriptures as we follow Jesus together.

Let's talk about this!

  • What texts come to mind as you think back on the trajectory of Open Door?
  • How does this language (Anchors/Propellers) help us understand how the Bible functions in the life of our community?
  • How has the Bible served as an anchor and propeller in your story of following Jesus?

Babylon Transcript

Once upon a time, God began to author an epic narrative about Himself.  Because it pleased Him, he spoke existence into being…His creating crescendo’d all the way to the pinnacle of His work: humanity.  As He painstakingly crafted the shape of the human beings, He included His very image within…and then He exhaled…and the inanimate became animate…they woke up into a Story that was already in process.  A Story that wasn’t about them. In that moment, they knew that everything that they were, and would become, everything that they would ever need would come from the One who had just exhaled into them….but then that didn’t work for them anymore.   They wanted to become the Main Characters so they dropped His plot, and drafted their own fantasy.  They convinced themselves that their fantasy was better than the Creator’s Story…and then they chased it.  As soon as they did, they realized that their Fantasy couldn’t produce what it promised.  Rather than finding themselves as the Main characters, they found themselves isolated, hiding, pointing their fingers and blaming.  They heard themselves fabricating tragic stories about God, themselves, and each other.  All the while, God kept asking “Where are you?”  The relationship between the human and the divine was broken.

And God hated it.  But what He saw didn’t cause Him to put His pencil down.

The story would continue…Grace was marbled into the experience of life as the blood of animals was shed to cover the shame of their sin.

As time went by, the community of humanity became progressively intolerant of the Story being about One other then themselves.  Their intolerance resulted in a calcified resolve to draft and then to chase their own fantasies.  Dissatisfied with the Author and Creator as their God, they crafted gods in their own image…gods that they could control…because it made them feel better.  Idolatry of the carved image gave way to idolatry of the carver…the human being.  They worshipped themselves while God continued to ask, “Where are you?”

Eventually, pluralistic, polytheistic Abraham answered, “Here am I!”…and because He did, the Author decided to establish a blood-covenant with him.

God said: “I’ll give you a land.  I’ll give you a people.  And your people will bless the whole world…IF…you allow Me to be your God…IF...you listen well and live what you hear.”

That was it.  A Promise with no road map.  The Author neither specified how nor when He would make good on His Promise.  But that was okay with Abraham.

Three animals, each cut in two…their blood filled a freshly dug trench.  The covenant ritual was set to occur: 2 representatives were to walk the blood path, committing to their promise at the cost of their own life.  “If I break my end of the deal…I die.”

But God did a remarkable, unconventional, unheard of thing: He passed through the blood path twice.

“If I break my end of the deal, I die.”

“If you break your end of the deal, I die.”

God began to make good on His promise.  Abraham had some sons who had some sons who had some sons.  His family, re-named Israel (Wrestles with God) eventually found themselves intertwined with and then enslaved by the Empire: Egypt.  Generation of slavery gave way to generation after generation of slavery…no end was in sight.

But generation after generation after generation, a story was passed down.  A story about the God who had chosen and named their people.  A story about that God’s promise to father Abraham…A story about a God who heard the cries of His people and who entered in to creation to make wrong things right…A story about a God and His Promise that meant that an exodus was coming…A story about a God who sealed His Promise in Blood.

And then, the moment of exodus came.  God had heard their cry and had come down to do something about it.  Israel was already dressed for a journey, their stomachs were full, their imaginations were piqued from hearing the story of the Promise again…and there was blood on their doorposts…blood of an innocent lamb.  That night, whoever was covered in the blood of the lamb would live.  Israel lived and tasted freedom for the first time in 400 years

Generations of slavery meant that the people lived an oppression narrative: no one knew what it meant to live free.  Pain, suffering, oppression, and despair had been their constant companions as, day after day after week after month after year after decade after generation they suffered at the hands of the powerful.

God was going to have to teach His people how to live.  He began by identifying Himself by what He had just done: “I am God the Liberator, Redeemer, Freedom-giver…understand this, and you understand everything…miss this and you miss everything.”  Their humanity was directly linked to their ability to remember their liberation.  If they forgot God, they would forget their own story.  If they forgot their story, they would forget that they were once slaves.  If they forgot that they were slaves, they would find themselves once again enslaved.

Living free, therefore, depended on Israel’s understanding of whom the Author was and whom the Story was about.  If they lived as faithful, free participants in His Story, then the whole world would discover the truth about who He is.

Living as faithful, free participants meant that they were to live lives of worship of the One true God by loving others, practicing justice, mercy, and compassion, especially for the widow and orphan, and by forgiving the other.  They were to remember their oppression so that they would never become the oppressor.  They were to have faith that the God who had redeemed them would finish the work He had started.  And when they lost their way by chasing foreign fantasies…when relationship was fractured by sin…they were to shed the blood of an innocent animal.  The dripping blood would remind them that sin deserves death.  The sight and sound of dripping blood not their own was the sight and sound of grace.

Very quickly, His Way didn’t work for His people anymore.  Just as in Eden, they wanted to become the Main Characters so they dropped His plot, and drafted their own fantasy...and chased it.  They insisted on a king that looked like them, a king who would become a tyrant.  They built large armies to provide the safety that God had previously promised and provided.  They built cities with towering walls…walls that were built with the blood equity of slaves.  The oppressed had become the oppressor…they convinced themselves that they didn’t need God anymore.

…and God hated it.

…but they built a really nice house for Him, a house that He neither wanted nor needed.  As soon as the house was built, the God it intended to house was forgotten.  God was replaced by a land, a building, and a religion.  He was replaced by the accomplishments of the people.    Idolatry of the self with its practices of self-sufficiency, individualism, consumerism, injustice, and oppression stained the people with the blood of others.  They had turned their back on God and had become the embodiment of everything God was against.  God got a bad name because His people had become indifferent to the work of blessing the world… therefore, the blood of the sacrifices that was intended to wash them clean didn’t work anymore.

Catastrophe was on its way…and thus, the warnings of the prophets began.

The role of the prophet was truth telling…they were to bring an unsparing message of judgment and a call to repentance to Israel.  Like master physicians, they were to expose the wounds of corruption that characterized the people so that they could be cleansed, bound up, and healed.  They had powerful voices that both called Israel to embrace her destiny as a blessing to the world and that warned of the inevitable consequences of Israel’s infidelity.

Amos exposed Israel’s economic injustice: some people were being neglected while others stockpiled resources in their reserves (Amos 3:1, 9-10).  He called people who oppressed the poor and crushed the needy “cows of Bashan”: likening them to a specific set of cows who grazed gluttonously while others starved.  In so doing, he exposed the sin of selfish mismanagement of resources: when eating, drinking, and owning came at the expense of other’s having their basic needs met.

“If it doesn’t change,” cried Amos, “Jerusalem will be destroyed!” (Amos 3:15)

Isaiah exposed Israel’s military-industrial complex: God saw their military bases, chariots, and warhorses for what they were—unacceptable costs of empire.  “We have blood on our hands!” cried Isaiah (Isaiah 1:15).  “And because we do, God hides his eyes from us.”

But Isaiah reserved his harshest critique for Israel’s idolatry of a religious system that looked deceptively like faithfulness.  To the shock of the prideful pious, Isaiah exposed that God hated their religion with all of His being. (Isaiah 1:13-14)

Why?  Because it was nothing more than a religion that enabled self-sufficiency, legitimized indifference, tolerated injustice, and inspired indulgence.

The most passionate rants of Amos were also focused at Israel’s religion.  “God hates it! Your songs are noise-pollution to Him.  Stop the music and start the justice!”  (Amos 5:23; 8:4, 6)

But Israel didn’t listen.  So, out of pity, God kept sending them the prophets (2 Chronicles 36:15).  He wanted to dance the divine dance with them again.  He wanted to liberate the entire world through them…but they weren’t interested.

And so Amos, a simple shepherd turned prophet, stood in front of the king and offered this crushing blow: “You will be among the first to go into exile.  Your days of lounging and feasting will end.  The empire is over.” (Amos 6:7)  But the king mocked Amos…and kicked him out of the palace.  The people ignored Isaiah, laughed at Hosea, and beat up Jeremiah.  They didn’t repent.  They didn’t remember.  In their comfort, abundance, and privilege, they had forgotten their God, their story, and their slavery.  They no longer heard the cries of the oppressed…so the oppressed, again, they became.

Just like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Amos had said, the Babylonians came to town.  And when they did, they massacred everyone they saw, looted Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and crumbled the city walls.  Those who survived were chained together, death-marched to the north, and enslaved in Babylon for 70 years (2 Chronicles 36:17-20)…

They used to be on top.  Now, they found themselves in chains…again.  They had it all going for them, wealth, influence, peace, blessing, but they forgot their God, their story, and their slavery.  They neglected the widow, orphan, and refugee, and everything fell apart.

Their Freedom led to Idolatry…that led to Injustice…that led to Slavery…they were in chains again.

And in slavery, they cried out…just like they had in Egypt.  They cried out to the God Who had redeemed them once to redeem them again.  In exile, they remembered who the Author and Main Character was.  In exile, they remembered that the Story was not about them.  In exile, they remembered the story about a Promise of a God who walked the blood path twice.

Freedom led to Idolatry that led to Injustice that led to Slavery that led to Remembering that led to Cries.  And their cries kick-started redemption.

Again, the prophets rose up in the midst of captive Israel’s despair: their message proclaimed the beginning of something new…

A new exodus was coming.  It had to because the first exodus wasn’t big enough.   “Look at us!” the people cried… “we’re in chains again!”

It was in the hearing of their own cries that the people understood, for, perhaps the first time, the link to what went wrong in Eden.  Even in their external freedom, they were enslaved to sin, violence, and death.  It was in Babylon where the people first understood that the chains around their wrists were nothing compared to the deeper, more insidious kind of chains that had warped their heart.

A new exodus was necessary…a new, once-and-for all freedom from powerful chains unseen…a new freedom that would allow them to embrace their vocation as God’s ambassadors to the whole world. (Isaiah 66:18).  The new exodus would have to be about something more than the people returning to Israel; it would have to be a holistic return of all humanity to the way things were created to be.  The new exodus would be a return to the divine dance of Eden.

But a new exodus would require a new Moses.  Isaiah prophesied that the new Moses would be born shrouded in scandal and obscurity.  This new Moses would use power to bless and empower the poor and oppressed.  He would reject violence…He would reject palace-building with slaves…He would be called “The Prince of Peace” and would reign on King David’s throne forever (Isaiah 9:6-7).  He would be a powerful leader who Isaiah paradoxically called a “servant” (Isaiah 42).  The spirit of God would be on Him and He would “break the chains of prisoners” and “proclaim good news to the poor” (Isaiah 61:1).

In the streets of Babylon, the prophets spoke of a new exodus led by this new Moses, a son of David, whose blood would liberate humanity once and for all.

And as they did, the exiles remembered a Story about a God and a Promise with no road map.  They remembered a Story about a God who walked the blood-path twice…and they began to envision a grace so big that it would repair the fractured relationship between the human and divine.


Eden Transcript

In the beginning, God was.  God was perfectly content in the Divine Community, but because it pleased Him, He began to author an epic narrative: a Story about Himself.  The Author began speaking existence into being: things like light, dark, water, land, fruits, vegetables, animals.  Creator God created because it pleased Him to do so.  Everything He created was perfect and the Divine Community delighted in it. Creation crescendoed all the way to God's Best work: humanity.

Artisan God wanted to create something that He could exist in a reciprocal relationship with so He did something unlike He had ever done before: God got on His hands and knees and started to play in the dirt.  As He played, the dirt took the form of a human being: there was the Creator and there was the dirt-man.  The Creator exhaled His breath into the dirt-manthe exhale of God inhabited the dirt-man and it changed everything about him.  The exhale of God brought life and the dirt-man became a human being.

The human woke up to God and in that first awakening, the human being knew that everything that he was, everything that he was to become, and everything that He needed would come from the One who had just exhaled into Him. He knew that he had been created to be in relationship with the Creator. As he looked around, he also knew that he was waking up into a Story that was already in progress: a Story that wasn't about him.

Created in the image of the Creator, the human being was invited to steward, name, and co-create.  This he did for sometime until God put him to sleep.  When he woke up the second time, he woke up to the pinnacle of God's creative work: woman.  Together, they ruled, stewarded, and co-created as participants in a Story that included them but that wasn't about them.  Their existence was defined by The One who had created them, chose them, and danced with them. Intimacy defined their relationship.  The community of God and the community of humanity danced together in a garden called Eden. It was the way it was supposed to be and it was very good.

Over time, dancing to the rhythms of the Creator didn't work for the humans anymore.  They developed a fantasy for living that they convinced themselves was better than the Way of the Creator.  They chased their fantasy and broke through the only boundary God had established for them: they took and ate from an off-limits tree.

Why, when things were so good, did we chase a faulty fantasy?

Because rather than seeing a boundary as an act of love, it caused us to perceive God as holding back from us. We made God tragic.

We grew progressively dissatisfied with the Story not being about us: we were no longer content in our support roles.  The best way forward, we thought, was the way of independence, self-sufficiency, disobedience.  The best way forward, we thought, was to replace God with ourselves. We deceived ourselves into believing that sin would make the Story about us.

As the created chose themselves over the Creator, Shalom between God and humanity was shattered.  The humans knew the Creator to abhor sin and, therefore, expected cataclysmic destruction - the end of a short story - so they hid, awaiting their sure-to-come extinction.  They hid from themselves.  They hid from each other.  And they hid from the One whom they had rejected.

The great surprise, however, was that He didn't end the Story with the apple.  The surprise is that God allowed sin to enter the world and it wasn't the end.  Rather, grace saturated creation, as the Creator made His way through Eden, calling out, "Where are you?"  While God hated their rebellion, He was crazy about them - The Story would continue.

"Where are you?" It's an odd question for the Creator to ask of creation.  It was a rhetorical question with a specific intent: to enable the humans to identify that their fantasy chasing meant that things were no longer as they were intended to be.  Rather than finding themselves in the warmth of His embrace, they found themselves isolated, ashamed, hiding, and afraid.

and God hated it.

Where once, the exhale of God and the rhythmic sound of His heart moved them in His Way, now, Shame, Fear & Isolation, never before in the experience or vocabulary of creation, fueled their motion.

and God hated it.

God asked, "Where are you?" and the human answered, "Neither where I'm supposed to be nor where I could be. We're east of You.  We're east of Your best for us."

"How did you get there?" God asked.

The man answered with a two-fingered blame: "this woman that YOU gave me!"

And blame became marbled in to the experience of being human.

and God hated it.

As the man sought his own preservation at the expense of the woman, their interpersonal relationship went terminal.  As he lived for himself, individualism was born - community began to die.

and God hated it.

God turned to the woman asked, "Is this true?"  To which the woman pointed her finger at the snake and says, "The devil made me do it!"

Once upon a time, the community of God and the community of humanity danced a divine dance that was set to the rhythms of God.  Once upon a time, we weren't but now, we're ashamed, afraid, isolated & pointing our fingers at each saying "It's your fault!"

In a place called Eden, a place where everything was in its right place and where the favor and peace of God rested, one conversation and one decision fractured everything.  In one moment, humanity went from intimate unity expressed in nudity to fig-leaf wearing, isolated, blaming individuals fabricating tragic stories about God and each other.

and God hated it.

but sin didn't cause the Author to put His pencil down.

Grace, not destruction, would be His Way forward.

The Creator did 2 things:

First (Gen. 3:21), He made garments of skin for the humans. The Master Tailor tailored clothes of animal skin and leather for what was still the pinnacle of His creative work.

Naturally, before garments of leather could be made, animals had to die.  Sin meant that Blood had to be spilt.  Something had to die so that the shame of their sin could be covered.

and God hated that too.

Second (Gen. 3:23-24), He drove them east of Eden - east of where they were created to be - east of where things were as they were meant to be - east of the divine dance. He drove them east to work in the very stuff that they were made from: the dirt.

It was east of Eden where the human beings conceived and gave birth.  Two sons were born: the older was a farmer and the younger was a shepherd.

To survive, the farmer chose the best plot of land and, over time, cultivated it such that crops emerged.  The farmer's survival required being settled.

The shepherd's existence was nomadic: he went wherever he could find food for his flocks.  He was a wanderer with no real sense of boundaries but with an eye for potential.

The Story continues with two brothers, living east of Eden.  One settled and the other wandered.  The Settler knew and protected what was his.  The Wanderer saw it all is his and, therefore, had no need to protect anything.  The lives of these two brothers were certain to collide, and when they collided, the blood of the Wanderer was spilt: the Settler killed the Wanderer (Gen. 4:8).  The self-preservation that began with the parents accelerated until the first co-created human being killed the second.

Brokenness, Anger, Self-Serving defensiveness, oppressive power relations and petty jealousy meant that the Settler had the blood of his brother on his hands.

The God who chose not to end The Story with the apple knew that It would get worse before it got better.

It did and God hated it.

But sin didn't cause the Author to put His pencil down.

Grace and not destruction would be His Way forward.

God asked a question, a second rhetorical one: "Where's your little brother?" (Gen. 4:9)

Rather than the blame-game of his father, the Settler lied and shirked any kind of responsibility for the other. I don't know." he said. "I'm not his keeper! (Gen. 4:9)

That's when God asked a question, however, this one wasn't rhetorical: "What have you done?  The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground." (Gen 4:10)

What? The Wanderer's blood has a voice and that voice cries out to God?  God can hear the voice of the Wanderer's blood?

God cursed the Settler. Now, you will be the wanderer. (Gen. 4:16) And his wandering took him east of East of Eden.

As our story pauses here for the night, we find ourselves east of Eden.  We are east of where we were created to be.  We are east of the divine dance.  Something is not right.  We are hiding, isolated, blaming, lying, and fabricating tragic stories about God, ourselves and each other.  We're driven by independence and self-sufficiency.  To the death, we protect what we think is our own.  In so doing, we've become efficient at shirking responsibility for the other.  We have no peace.  Our Blood is on our hands and we're powerless to do anything about it.  A divine kind of washing is necessary.

Origin of Baptism

In Mark's Gospel, we discover the New Testament’s first mention of baptism.  There, we find John the Baptizer in the wilderness baptizing people who were a part of the Covenant Community (Hebrews), most of whom had been physically marked with the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant (circumcision) and had considered themselves as the “in-with-God” people. Jesus, both the Covenant-giver and member of the Covenant Community, approached John to be baptized.  Once baptized, Mark wrote that the heavens were opened, the Spirit descended, and the Father’s voice sounded: “You are My beloved Son.  With You I am well pleased!”  Holy Spirit empowerment, clarity in identity and affirmation in value are offered Jesus before His ministry even began.

Before Jesus’ baptism, John the Baptizer referred to Jesus as the One who will baptize with Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11).  After Jesus’ baptism, we learn that He never baptized anyone with water but that His disciples did (John 4:2), and that part of our vocation as followers of Jesus is to disciple-make by baptizing and teaching (Matthew 28).  The New Testament continues with frequent mention of the practice of baptism.

 Baptism seems to be a central practice of the Jesus Community but what is its origin?

 In the beginning…

Our Story begins with the Creator speaking existence into being.  The poetry of Genesis 1 portrays the Artisan God inviting creation to rise up from the depths.  New Life emerged thru water on the prompting of the Creator.

In the home of a desperate Hebrew slave…

Our Story continues with the surprisingly reproductive Covenant Community enslaved in the brick kilns of Egypt.  The Pharaoh enacted genocide through the drowning of any newborn Hebrew boy.  One mother would not let anyone else throw her beloved son into the Nile…eventually, though, she had to do it herself.  She placed her baby boy in a basket and placed him in the waters of the Nile, only to be rescued by the Dictator’s own daughter.  Rescue came thru water.

In between walls of water…

The boy, named Moses, grew up and was invited by God to participate in the liberation of the Covenant Community from Egypt.  Their route to freedom seemed to dead-end at the Red Sea.  However, God parted the Red Sea and they walked through the water to their freedom.  Freedom came thru water.

Into the Promsied Land…

After a 40-year wilderness wander, Moses’ predecessor, Joshua, led the Covenant Community to the brink of the Promised Land.  All they had to do was cross the Jordan River and they would be there.  Again, God parted the waters and they walked through to receive God’s Promise.  God’s Promise came thru water.

In our Story, new life, rescue, freedom, and God’s Promises all came thru water.

Back to Mark 1…

John the Baptizer came to prepare the way for the One who would make all things new by bringing rescue and freedom to the community of humanity as the very embodiment of God’s Promise.  Thus, borrowing from his own Story, the ritual that John the Baptizer chose to prepare the people involved bringing them thru water.

The baptism of repentance that John offered the Covenant Community, therefore, required a radical act of individual commitment to belong to God's Community.

Why so radical?

Because those being baptized (the already-circumcised, in-with-God people) had to admit that being born a Jew guaranteed them nothing.  Because they had to acknowledge that what counted was not who their parents were, but whom they lived for.  Because in order to be baptized by John, they had to renounce their dependency on ethnic Jewishness and rely wholly on the mercy of God.