“We Make the Road by Walking” Lectionary Readings ~ Sunday, Oct. 26

October 21st, 2014

Chapter 9: Exodus 1:1-14, 3:1-15; Psalm 9:9-20; Galatians 5:1, 13-15; John 8:1-11
This week we begin to look at the story of the Exodus – the journey of human liberation – that is carried through the remainder of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Today, more than 30 million people are held in the bondage of slavery, experiencing all the horrors that entails. How does God call us to respond to that reality? People and peoples who are not actual slaves are still often enslaved in many ways. How do you see this in your own life and in the world? What does it mean to live in God’s freedom?

This Week’s Message

October 21st, 2014

On Sunday we saw how ever-present family rivalries are in the book of Genesis – the story of the beginnings of human society. Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Sarah and Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Rachael and Leah, Joseph and his brothers, and that’s not all! We also saw how God is forever showing us a path toward reconciliation. But we must choose which road we’ll take. Will we live by rivalry, competition, division and conflict? Or will we live by mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation – even if others have already gone a good way down the road of rivalry? We do, indeed, make the road by walking. Thankfully, as Joseph told his brothers, even when we intend harm God intends to bring good from it. Now that’s mercy!

Sermon: Rivalry or Reconciliation?

October 19th, 2014

Dorothy Whiston – Rivalry or Reconciliation?

This Week’s Message

October 14th, 2014

We had a wonderful celebration of Coming Out / Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists on Sunday! Thanks to Brent Westphal for his courageous witness and to theologian James Alison for helping us understand the story of Peter’s visit to the Roman Centurion Cornelius in Acts 10 – the moment when the early Jesus Movement truly became the Church Universal. One of Alison’s greatest insights is that the Church is always built on the Cornerstone of the rejected and victimized Christ so there’s really no question about “inclusion” of LGBTQ people in the true church. Only the self-exclusion of those for whom the Cornerstone has become a stumbling block in their resistance to the universality of God’s love – and church. Thank you, First Baptist, for standing as an open doorway and inviting everyone into the presence of the one true God who loves and welcomes us all equally!

Testimony of Brent Westphal

October 12th, 2014

Pastor Dorothy has been trying to get me to give witness for quite some time now. I have been quite reluctant. But this AWAB Sunday seemed to fall into my life and schedule quite perfectly. First of all, I’ve never thought I was a good public speaker, nor did I feel I had anything worthwhile to say. But to be completely honest, I was most hesitant to do so because to tell of my faith journey, and where I am today, I have to talk openly and honestly about my sexuality. Something I don’t often talk about, nor something I necessarily enjoy doing. And I made a promise of sorts with myself that before I would publically give witness here at FBC, which would address my faith and sexuality among other things, I needed to be open and honest with my parents. Something I’d been dreading and putting off for years. I just recently came out to them, a few weeks back in fact. Their response was loving, respectful, tearful, mature, honest, and inquisitive. They truly blew me away with their love, but I digress…

I don’t want this Witness to be about me being a “gay Christian”. I don’t want this aspect of my life to define me, or how my church community perceives me, or anyone for that matter. It is what it is, I’m gay Always have been, always will be. But to accurately describe and explain my faith journey, my struggle to understand and reconcile my sexuality with my faith cannot be ignored or glossed over.

I grew up in a pretty conservative Christian home and church. Regardless of the theology, I was raised in a wonderfully loving and supportive and blessed family. I am beyond grateful for my parents and how they raised me. I think they did a pretty terrific job. But from an early age, I was taught that the words printed in my NIV Bible were the truth, and the only truth. I was taught to believe the world was cut and dry, black and white, right and wrong. Everything supposedly had an easy answer, found in the pages of my trusty Bible. But I grew up struggling to believe this way. My God‐given inquisitive and logical mind made me question many biblical stories and teachings from a very young age. Not to simply be rebellious or stubborn, but some things I was being taught just didn’t make sense with the God I knew and what God’s love was about. Teachings and stories such as, Creation and other Old Testament tales, a women’s role in the Church, Homosexuality, Divorce, the End Times, Heaven, and Hell, among other things really irked me. And growing up, I was under the impression and belief that doubt and questioning was a sign of weak faith, a sinful endeavor. It took a long time to break this mindset, and one I will probably always have to deal with. But I am so very grateful to God for giving me this inquisitive, investigatory, logical mind. If I didn’t have the push and drive to seek further what God was saying or revealing to me, my life would look a lot different and I cant imagine I’d be in the good place I am right now.

Like I said earlier, my sexuality isn’t something I want to define me, but this was a major issue that I had to reconcile in order to have a healthy relationship with my God, myself, and now my family. I struggled throughout Middle and high School to understand this thorn in my side. It took going off to college and being in a new environment to begin to explore and expose myself to knew understandings and ideas of scripture and God. I was blown away by what if found on the topic of human sexuality and the Bile alone. This time in my life was definitely the tipping point where I knew I had to re‐evaluate my understanding of God, the Bible, and my spirituality. It wasn’t easy or quick, but God led me where I needed to go, and I ended up here in Iowa City immediately after graduating about two and a half years ago. It took me a few months to find FBC, but I am so thankful I did.

It was here in Iowa City and in the pews of FBC and in Dorothy’s office talking (and crying) that I came to accept and embrace the mysteries of God and God’s goodness and God’s plan. I learned to accept the gray… The Bible and God and life in general were most definitely not black and white. This new perspective on my faith has allowed me to open myself to new understandings of things I once thought as set in stone and static. It has allowed me to re‐evaluate the Old Testament in new and exciting ways, finding meaning in stories I would otherwise gloss over. It has given me new light into how humanity fits into my understanding of God’s love and Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection here on earth. Words I once thought I knew for certain are being redefined and re‐examined to reveal deeper and fuller understanding of God’s love and goodness. Words like Atonement, Sacrifice, Salvation, Sin, Eternity, Heaven, Hell… I’m not going to pretend to have a complete grasp on these and other loaded spiritual words, nor do I feel I fully ever will or need to. I am just glad that I can be comfortable with the mystery of God and this life.

Testimony of Brent Westphal

October 12th, 2014

Testimony of Brent Westphal

Sermon: It’s Never Too Late, It’s Never Too Soon

October 12th, 2014

Dorothy Whiston – It’s Never Too Late, It’s Never Too Soon

This Week’s Message

October 7th, 2014

On Sunday we heard God call us to be a “great nation” – a fully human species – which we do by taking on the same kind of other-oriented life that God lives for, in and through us. When Abraham and Sarah were called by God they knew a lot more about what they were leaving behind – family, friends, wealth and privilege – than about where they were going or what they would find there. Still, they trusted in God’s goodness more than they feared losing the security of life as usual. Their obedience to God was another step in God’s evolutionary “undoing” of the original sin (mistake) of our earliest ancestors. The mistake of claiming the right to judge good and evil and so who to include and exclude, reward and punish, which has plagued human civilization ever since. Are we ready to let go and let God direct our lives, which essentially means recognizing and responding to God’s presence in everyone and everything?

Sermon: Blessed to Be a Blessing

October 5th, 2014

Dorothy Whiston – Blessed to Be a Blessing

Lectionary Readings Sunday, October 5

October 1st, 2014

Genesis 12:1-9; Psalm 105:1-10; Galatians 3:6-9; Mark 11:15-19
What does is mean for God’s “chosen” or “called” people to be blessed in order to be a blessing to others rather than to be blessed just, or even primarily for themselves? How well does the church (those “called out” by God to spread the good news of Jesus) pass on God’s blessings today? How might we become a greater blessing to the world?


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