Jan. 23 Gathering: A prophetic moment

In the 4th Chapter of Luke’s gospel, we hear a story about Jesus’ first sermon, given in his hometown of Nazareth. Quoting from the prophet Isaiah, Jesus says:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

In those few lines, Jesus summarizes his mission in the world. A mission of justice and liberation.

But if that’s Jesus’ mission, and the church is meant to be the body of Christ in the world, why has the church become so complicit with systems and structures that exploit and objectify?

And as the American church especially continues in decline, why does it view silence in the face of injustice as its key to survival?

Are we missing a prophetic moment?

This week at New Wineskins, we’ll discuss a video from The Work of the People featuring Dr. Barbara Holmes, who calls out the church’s tendency to “go along to get along,” and we’ll ask ourselves how we can rise to the prophetic opportunity before us.

Join us this Sunday, Jan. 23, in our New Wineskins Virtual Pub for a conversation about being prophetic in the face of of the fear and denial gripping the modern institutional church.

6:00pm EST: Happy Half-Hour (informal meet & greet time)
6:30pm EST: Presentation & conversation begin


NEW! Give now to support our community!

Want to invest in our community for Spiritual Exiles and our work to create and support online micro-communities focused on justice and liberation? New Wineskins has partnered with Affirm Fundraising to manage a new online giving platform to make it easy for you to support the work we do! Just click the link below to give. Recurring gifts support the community over the long-term…your assistance helps us grow and sustain the important work we’re doing together!

Jan. 16 Gathering: Water, Wine, and the Beloved Community

Monument to the Beloved Community, King Center, Atlanta, GA. Photo by Joe Webb.

The second chapter of the Gospel of John presents an interesting tension. The chapter opens with what the writer describes as Jesus’ first “sign,” the turning of water meant for ritual handwashing into wine meant to keep a party going.

Theologian and historian N.T. Wright notes that this scene plays off of the end of the previous chapter, where Jesus tells his new disciple Nathaniel that he will see angels descending from and ascending to the heavens. According to Wright, what the writer of John means to describe is the opening of the realm of the divine into the realm of humanity…the place where heaven and earth come together, located in this man Jesus of Nazareth.

Thus, turning water into fine wine is not just a magic trick meant to impress a bunch of wedding guests. It’s a way of showing what life can be like when the fullness of Divine Love is expressed in human relationships.

But the gospel immediately follows that celebratory scene with one in which Jesus confronts what author Diana Butler Bass calls “religious profiteers” in the Temple, a challenge which incites the authorities and gatekeepers of the time to eliminate Jesus and crush his movement. Writing in a recent post about the season of Epiphany, Butler Bass says:

…[T]here are powers and principalities that will press against Epiphany with fear and great violence. To see the deep structure, to follow the star, to hear the breaking of the ice encasing the earth is threatening to those who benefit from “normal,” the accepted veneer of “ordinary” injustices and oppressions and indignities that bedevil and deceive the human race.

Diana Butler Bass, “Epiphany Now”

As we approach our annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it’s a salient reminder that the pursuit of the Beloved Community will always face opposition from those who benefit from the status quo. Sadly, that often includes the institutional church.

Join us this Sunday, Jan. 16, on the eve of MLK Day as we continue our Epiphany conversation with a discussion about what it looks like for us as a community of spiritual exiles to keep turning water into wine and to keep upending the tables of the temples of injustice and oppression.

6:00pm EST: Happy Half-Hour (informal meet & greet time)
6:30pm EST: Presentation & conversation begin

Jan. 9 Gathering: An Epiphany for Spiritual Exiles

In the early part of the Gospel of John, there’s a story about Jesus’ encounter with Nathaniel, one of the first disciples. Nathaniel, after hearing about Jesus from Philip, goes to find out what all the fuss is about.

As the story goes, Jesus sees Nathaniel coming and proclaims him to be a “true Israelite, in whom there is no deceit” and then goes on to describe how he “saw”—without being present—Nathaniel sitting under a fig tree before Philip invited him to meet Jesus.

What the whole fig tree thing has to do with Nathaniel’s lack of deceit is certainly an interesting topic for speculation, but it’s the next bit in the story that holds particular fascination:

Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”

John 1:49-50, NRSV

It seems Nathaniel is immediately fascinated by Jesus’ clairvoyant vision. Apparently, for Nathaniel (at least as far as the writer of John is concerned), the primary qualification for messiahship is the ability to overcome the laws of nature.

When you think about it, it’s kind of ridiculous. In a time when Israel was desperate for God to intervene on its behalf against the Roman Empire, Nathaniel, “a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit,” seems to think a magic trick is all it takes to prove Jesus is indeed the long-awaited leader who will lead the nation out of its long-repeated cycle of exile.

But do we do the same thing? Is the primary reason to follow Jesus his ability to perform miracles?

Or is there something more? Are there “greater things than these” we should be paying attention to?

This week at New Wineskins, we’ll mark the traditional observance of Epiphany by discussing what it might mean for us to come to the realization that the miracles aren’t the point…that it’s not Jesus’ power over nature (including, of course, death) that makes him worth following, but the power of love itself to transform people’s lives.

Join us this Sunday, Jan. 9, in the New Wineskins Virtual Pub as we discuss the epiphanies we all have that enlighten and empower us to break through systems and structures of oppression with relational love borne out of Divine presence.

6:00pm EST: Happy Half-Hour (informal meet & greet time)
6:30pm EST: Presentation & conversation begin

Christmas for Spiritual Exiles

The miracle of Christmas is not so much that Jesus was born in a manger 2,000 years ago…it’s that the Christ continues to be born in each of us every time we perform acts of justice, mercy, and liberation and reject the systems and structures of Empire that oppress and marginalize people and exploit the planet.

This Christmas, we invite you to join not just in the celebration of Christmas, but the challenge.

(View our Christmas video now by clicking PLAY on the image above, or click here to open our Vimeo page in a new window/tab)


Upcoming Gathering Schedule:

Sunday, Dec. 26: No gathering (Happy Boxing Day!)

Sunday, Jan 2: Community Sabbath (no gathering)

Sunday, Jan. 9: Epiphany Sunday Celebration (regular weekly schedule resumes)

(r)Advent Week 4: Love

Let’s face it. Our idea of Love is often limited.

We tend to think of it in terms of an emotional exchange. At best, we see it as something we extend to those who we feel deserve it.

But the radical story of Jesus tells us something different. It tells us Love is bigger than that.

In fact, it tells us that Jesus shows us what unconditional love looks like when it’s lived out in human flesh and bones…and its ultimate expression is liberation for all.

This week at New Wineskins, we’ll end our (r)Advent journey with a discussion of how Love extended to those most oppressed and marginalized by our societal systems and structures is the heartbeat of reality and the key not only to their liberation, but our own.

Please join us this Sunday, Dec. 19, in our New Wineskins Virtual Theology Pub as we celebrate the 4th Sunday of (r)Advent with a conversation focused on the ways Love always gets the last word.

*Please note: This will be our final regular Sunday gathering of 2021. We will resume our regular schedule beginning Jan. 9, 2022. Please see the full schedule at the bottom of this post.


Week 4 Candle Lighting Liturgy:

I will light four candles
and I will be willing to light
every taper in my life,
for love asks for all that is needed
and then … for everything else,

for this is how incarnation happens,
how God comes.

We light four candles
or a hundred or a thousand more
whatever it takes
to remind ourselves to live in love.

As ordinary and gentle as the holy welcome
that turns the world upside down,
comes hope, peace, joy, and love
to illuminate our Advent.

I will light Candles this Christmas,
Candles of joy despite all the sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living,
Candles that will burn all year long. (Howard Thurman)

A Simple Advent Candle Lighting for Home or Church based on Howard Thurman’s “I will Light Candles this Christmas” and “This is Christmas” from The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations by Maren C. Tirabassi

6:00pm EST: Happy Half-Hour (informal meet & greet time)
6:30pm EST: Presentation & conversation begin


Christmas Schedule:

Friday, Dec. 24: Christmas Eve video: Christ was IS born (link will be provided prior to 12/24)

Sunday, Dec. 26: No gathering (Happy Boxing Day!)

Sunday, Jan 2: Community Sabbath (no gathering)

Sunday, Jan. 9: Epiphany Sunday Celebration (regular weekly schedule resumes)

(r)Advent Week 3: Joy

By the rivers of Babylon,
we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our harps.
For there our captors demanded songs
and our tormentors asked for joy:
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”
How can we sing a song of Adonai in a foreign land?

Psalm 137:1-4, Tree of Life Version

It can be hard to experience joy when so much hardship abounds in the world. When our political and economic systems and structures seem to be crumbling from the top down. When people continue to be marginalized because of their skin color, sexuality, gender, disability, or simply the place they happened to be born. When our religious institutions insist on fealty to doctrines rooted in power and control.

And yet, joy still seems to break through, often in the most unexpected ways and places.

This week at New Wineskins, we’ll continue our celebration of (r)Advent by exploring the theme of Joy, where we find it, and how we can share it through acts of justice and liberation.

Please join us this Sunday, Dec. 12, in our New Wineskins Virtual Theology Pub as we consider how simplicity and gratitude can fuel our quest for joy even as we experience the lament of exile.

Don’t forget to bring your (r)Advent candles to light as we continue the journey toward Love incarnate.

Week 3 Candle Lighting Liturgy:

I will light three candles
to sparkle with joy.
For God lights constellations
and the tips of angel wings
light years far away,
and light years as near as breath.

We light (and help to blow out)
ninety-five candles on a birthday cake,
the high circle of a Ferris wheel,
the smile of a pumpkin,
marshmallow of a ‘smore,
branches of a Christmas tree,

and the luminarias that say ­
this is a home/church that welcomes all,
every age, race, education,
ability, orientation, ethnic origin,
gender identity, job status,

old friend or stranger becoming new one,
those who claim their history
and their identity,
others who close their lips to listen
and feel the joy in their hearts.

We raise three candles,
and know we cannot do it by ourselves
for each of us have only two hands.

For ordinary, available, gentle, brave,
and with wide-open doors,
is the hope, peace and joy of Advent.

A Simple Advent Candle Lighting for Home or Church based on Howard Thurman’s “I will Light Candles this Christmas” and “This is Christmas” from The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations by Maren C. Tirabassi

6:00pm EST: Happy Half-Hour (informal meet & greet time)
6:30pm EST: Presentation & conversation begin

(r)Advent Week 2: Peace

Is peace really possible?

Not just in terms of ending interpersonal/intersocietal conflict, but in what the Hebrews called Shalom…mutual wellbeing based in the recognition of the worth and dignity of each human being and the whole of Creation.

And if it is possible, how are we ever supposed to get there? Are we too far gone to really bring about the Beloved Community?

This week at New Wineskins, we’ll continue our celebration of (r)Advent by exploring the theme of Peace, what it really looks like, and what communities like ours might do to achieve it. We’ll hear what author, scholar, and activist Lisa Sharon Harper and the late John Lewis have to say as they talk about what they believe to be God’s intent for the world and what it takes to turn it from pipe dream into reality.

Please join us this Sunday, Nov. 28, in our New Wineskins Virtual Theology Pub as we examine the hope inherent for all people when we actively pursue climate justice as a radical act of reorientation toward love incarnate.

Don’t forget to bring your (r)Advent candles to light as we continue the journey toward Love incarnate.

Week 2 Candle Lighting Liturgy:

I light two candles this week
to illuminate peace.
For as God lights both gentle dawn
and a slash of lightning strike,
we affirm all the ways we seek peace –

kind persuasion with eye contact,
and a justice march with big signs,
a silent vigil of prayer and fasting,
and the gift of food, toys, or dignity
for the most vulnerable,
our quiet visits to therapist or recovery group,
and loud demands to change gun laws.

We light two candles so we will listen
to the angel mandate of ‘Peace on Earth.’

For ordinary, available, gentle and brave,
are the hope and peace of Advent.

A Simple Advent Candle Lighting for Home or Church based on Howard Thurman’s “I will Light Candles this Christmas” and “This is Christmas” from The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations by Maren C. Tirabassi

6:00pm EST: Happy Half-Hour (informal meet & greet time)
6:30pm EST: Presentation & conversation begins

(r)Advent Week 1: Hope

What does hope look like in the context of liberationist communities? For one thing, it means examining our roles in combatting climate change and lifting up its effects on marginalized communities.

For our first Sunday in (r)Advent, we’ll take a look at how climate change disproportionately impacts poor communities and how climate justice is about more than just saving the earth, but about liberating people from the multi-layered, deeply entangled systems that inequitable climate policies foment.

Please join us this Sunday, Nov. 28, in our New Wineskins Virtual Theology Pub as we examine the hope inherent for all people when we actively pursue climate justice as a radical act of reorientation toward love incarnate.

Week 1 Candle Lighting Liturgy:

I light one candle here for hope
and it is like a small lamp,
lighting a bedside table with open book,
after a long day,
the glow of heart monitor in ICU,
a headlamp for a hiker on an unfamiliar trail,
or a miner down a shaft,
a toddler’s paw-patrol nightlight,
or early-morning oven in a bakery.

We light one candle so we will remember
to notice this week’s ordinary lights of hope.

For ordinary and available to all
is the hope of Advent.

A Simple Advent Candle Lighting for Home or Church based on Howard Thurman’s “I will Light Candles this Christmas” and “This is Christmas” from The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations by Maren C. Tirabassi

6:00pm EST: Happy Half-Hour (informal meet & greet time)
6:30pm EST: Presentation & conversation begins

Welcome to (r)Advent

“Radical” derives from the Latin “radicalus,” meaning “root.”

So when we speak of something as being “radical,” what we’re essentially saying is that we’re getting to its roots or origins.

While the word has lately come to be associated with extreme change or deviation from the norm, we might more accurately view it as breaking open norms in order to reform something in line with its original meaning or intent.

Applied to a faith community like New Wineskins, this view of “radical” means that we are committed to dismantling the unhelpful structures of institutional religion in order to rediscover a faith rooted in the way of Jesus of Nazareth. A way based in love and expressed through kindness, justice, compassion, empathy, mercy, hope, joy, and peace.

A way that is not just spiritual and ethereal, but embodied and incarnated in the flesh-and-bones experience of life on Planet Earth.

Thus, we look to ancient traditions, stripped down of their religious trappings, and deeply reoriented toward their origins while contextualizing them for our present times.

Welcome to (r)Advent.

This Advent season, we’ll engage with the traditional themes of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love and explore how they come to life in a justice-oriented community in a post-Christian world:

Nov. 28 – Hope: Examining our roles in combatting climate change and lifting up its effects on marginalized communities

 Dec. 5 – Peace: Seeking ways to interrupt cycles of violence and stand in solidarity with its victims

Dec. 12 – Joy: Finding and sharing joy from places of simplicity and gratitude rather than power/control narratives and materialism.

Dec. 19 – Love: Valuing those whom society has undervalued/marginalized

Dec. 24 – Christmas Eve: Enjoy a pre-recorded video message for our community

NOTE: Each Sunday, you will be invited to join in a short candle-lighting liturgy adapted from Maren C. Tirabassi’s A Simple Advent Candle Lighting for Home or Church based on Howard Thurman’s “I will Light Candles this Christmas” and “This is Christmas” from The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations

Please join every Sunday during Advent in our New Wineskins Virtual Theology Pub as we re-examine the Advent narrative and reorient ourselves as a community of liberating faith.

6:00pm EST: Happy Half-Hour (informal meet & greet time)
6:30pm EST: Presentation & conversation begins

Nov. 21 Gathering: “Stone Catchers”

The Feast Day of the Beloved Community/Reign of Christ Sunday

“We (the church) are judged by our witness in a world where there’s slavery and terrorism and segregation and mass incarceration. What we say in response to that is how we’re going to be judged.”

Bryan Stevenson, Author, Just Mercy

For far too long, much of the church has been either silent or outright complicit in the evils of segregation, oppression, and marginalization…often either implicitly or explicitly supporting the systems and structures that have and continue to perpetuate such injustices.

Is that what we’re called to? Is that in any way, shape, or form the way of Jesus?

This week at New Wineskins we begin a new tradition by ending the liturgical year on the Reign of Christ Sunday by celebrating what we’re calling The Feast Day of the Beloved Community. As we prepare ourselves for the coming season of Advent, we’ll reflect on where we are as a community of spiritual exiles seeking to confront and redeem the numerous injustices our political, economic, and—too often—religious systems imposed on marginalized people groups.

Together, we’ll view a video from The Work of the People featuring attorney, activist, and Just Mercy author Bryan Stephenson entitled “Stone Catchers,” where he talks about the need for faith communities to stand up to systemic injustices like racism, homophobia, ableism, misogyny, and mass incarceration. We’ll discuss the ways community like ours can catch the metaphorical stones that are constantly hurled by society at our marginalized neighbors and how our witness helps bring about the Beloved Community.

Join us this Sunday, Nov. 21, in our New Wineskins Virtual Theology Pub as we talk about what it means to be “Stone Catchers.”

6:00pm EST: Happy Half-Hour (informal meet & greet time)
6:30pm EST: Presentation & conversation begins


Get ready for (r)Advent!

Plan to join us during the upcoming Advent season as we reinterpret some of our routine rituals and deeply reorient them toward their origins while contextualizing them for our present times. We’ll engage with the traditional themes of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love and explore how they come to new life through a justice-oriented community in our post-Christian world.

We’re calling it (r)Advent.

Watch for details next week!