A lot of people think revelation means hitting the pause button on the natural ordinary functioning of things as a miraculous event appearing out of nowhere like a godly pop-up ad. BUT what if revelation was a surprising, life-changing uncovering of a pattern, purpose, perhaps even personality hiding from our everyday anxious ways of looking at the ordinary? Revelation then becomes a lens showing the ordinary for what it really is: always potentially a benevolent trojan horse for the extraordinary. Listen as we continue to examine the religious way of knowing what's true and what matters: revelation. Neil reveals the ultimate truth about revelation with reference to the alt-right and Holy Laughter. Readings: Genesis 18:1-15
Neil Ellingson - What's Left When Things Leave - August 7, 2016
Root and Branch Church
Neil talks about the reality of loss and how some strange words and ideas from Jesus might help us think about what God has given us.From "Vulnerability" by David WhiteTo have a temporary, isolated sense of power over all events and circumstances, is one of the privileges and the prime conceits of being human and especially of being youthfully human, but a privilege that must be surrendered with that same youth, with ill health, with accident, with the loss of loved ones who do not share our untouchable powers; powers eventually and most emphatically given up, as we approach our last breath. The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant, and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.Luke 12:32-40 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.39 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
Neil Ellingson - Make Some Joyful Noise - July 3, 2016
Root and Branch Church
What do we all want, deep deep down? Love? Meaning? Purpose? The answer is already implied in the question: if we WANT anything, it's the fulfillment of want, of desire. The word for this is joy.It's different from happiness.You've probably experienced it, even if you don't remember.None of the central theological concepts in Christianity make sense without an understanding of joy.It's not selfish to want to be joyful, in fact, it's selfish to want anything less.The source of true joy is beyond this world, but joy can be experienced here and now.Neil is a co-founder of Root and Branch Church.
Neil Ellingson - Doubt Be Not Proud - April 3, 2016
Root and Branch Church
Co-pastor Neil kicks of a sermon series on doubt. Listen, cuz its interesting. Doubt Month:At Root and Branch, we like to talk a big game about how we’re a safe religious space to question even the most central tenets of religion. And simply because we’re trying to put down roots of commitment and to branch out with faith, doesn’t mean we won’t have moments or months where we feel like we’re treading water, and the waves are choppy, and was that a shark fin are you f-ing serious right now?But is there a point where doubt itself must be put into question? Is there a fruitful kind of doubting and one that is just plain destructive and unhelpful? What’s the difference between intellectual doubt—say about the truth or falsehood of Biblical claims—and existential doubt—say in our own worthiness, or the basic trustworthiness of life, other people, and the God who gives reality to all of the above? Must they be connected at all?Join us for our sermon series in April, International Doubt Month, and help us dig into doubt.Doubt, thou shalt be doubted.
Neil Ellingson - Sticks and Stones - August 2, 2015
Root and Branch Church
Co-pastor Neil Ellingson concludes our sermon mini-series on healing by reflecting on the power of words to harm and heal, the lessons we learn from kids who say whatever, and trite street art. Readings:Matthew 8:5-17:When he came into Kfar Nahum (Capernaum), a centurion, a Roman officer, came near, beseeching him. “Sir, my servant boy is lying paralyzed in my house, and in terrible pain.” And he said to the centurion, I will come to heal him. The centurion answered, “Sir, I don’t deserve to have you under my roof. Only say a word and my son will be healed. I am also a man under orders, with soldiers under me, and I say to this man, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” Hearing him, Jesus was amazed and said to his followers, Yes, I tell you, in all of Israel I have found no one with such deep faith, and I tell you, many from the east and west will come and lie down beside the table to eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the skies. And other sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the far outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Jesus said to the centurion, Go back to your home. Since you have had faith, let the event take place for you. And his son was healed in that hour.Then Jesus went into the house of Peter, whose mother-in-law he saw lying in bed with a fever, and he touched her hand and the fever left her. She got up and served him. That same evening they brought him many who were afflicted with demons. With a word he cast out the spirits and he healed all their sicknesses. He was fulfilling the words of the prophet Isaiah: He attended our sicknesses and removed our diseases.Second Reading:Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.
Neil Ellingson - Learning a New Language - Feb 8th, 2015
Root and Branch Church
Co-pastor Neil Ellingson talks about how the old and strange vocabulary of Christianity can still teach us something about stuff today. Two video clips were used in this recording that are you can't hear. They are clips from the Simpsons (where Bart goes to live in France and after a terrible time of being mistreated realized in a fit of anguish that he can speak fluent French) and Ghost Dog (a scene where two characters who are best friends talk to each other despite not speaking the other person's language).
The second in our "How-To-Be-More-Grateful" sermon series. Neil shares his thoughts on the practical practice of giving thanks.Readings:Genesis 18: 1-15The Lord appeared to Abraham[a] by the oaks[b] of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. 3 He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5 Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures[c] of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” 7 Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. 8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.9 They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10 Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”Accidents of Birth by William MeredithSpared by a car or airplane crash orcured of malignancy, people lookaround with new eyes at a newlypraiseworthy world, blinking eyes like these.For I’ve been brought back again from thefine silt, the mud where our atoms liedown for long naps. And I’ve also beenpardoned miraculously for yearsby the lava of chance which runs downthe world’s gullies, silting us back.Here I am, brought back, set up, not yethappened away. But it’s not this randomlife only, throwing its sensualastonishments upside down onthe bloody membranes behind my eyeballs,not just me being here again, oldneeder, looking for someone to need,but you, up from the clay yourself,as luck would have it, and inchingover the same little segment of earth-ball, in the same little eon, tomeet in a room, alive in our skins,and the whole galaxy gaping thereand the centuries whining like gnats—you, to teach me to see it, to seeit with you, and to offer somebodyuncomprehending, impudent thanks.Blessed Their Hearts by Richard NewmanAt Steak ‘n Shake I learned that if you add“Bless their hearts” after their names, you can saywhatever you want about them and it’s OK.My son, bless his heart, is an idiot,she said. He rents storage space for his kids’toys—they’re only one and three years old!I said, my father, bless his heart, has turnedinto a sentimental old fool. He getsweepy when he hears my daughter’s greetingon our voice mail. Before our Steakburgers camesomeone else blessed her office mate’s heart,then, as an afterthought, the jealous heartsof the entire anthropology department.We bestowed blessings on many a heartthat day. I even blessed my ex-wife’s heart.Our waiter, bless his heart, would not be gettingmuch tip, for which, no doubt, he’d bless our hearts.In a week it would be Thanksgiving,and we would each sit with our respectivefamilies, counting our blessings and blessingthe hearts of family members as only familydoes best. Oh, bless us all, yes, bless us, pleasebless us and bless our crummy little hearts.
Part of a sermon series on how to be more grateful, the How-to-be-Grateful series if you will, co-pastor Neil talks about how you can't force it, how he broke his arm, and so much more. Reading:Philippians 4:4-94 Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.