Reimagining Faith with the Pastors Jackson

The Pastors Jackson

Nichole and Zack Jackson are the pastors of Open Table UCC in Pottstown, PA. We left our separate churches in May of 2022 to plant a new faith community that is theologically progressive, Pottstown focused, with Jesus at the center. We want to unpack what all that means while also giving you an inside-look into the messiness of starting a new church. We’re going to talk to some incredible difference-makers while taking a deep dive into matters of justice, equality, and the revolutionary stories within the Christian scriptures. You can support this work on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/reimaginingfaith

Where is Jesus When Everything Sucks?
Jun 2 2022
Where is Jesus When Everything Sucks?
Episode 3 Last week, there was a terrible home explosion in Pottstown that claimed the life of at least five people, four of whom were children. A dozen church leaders from the borough held a prayer vigil for healing for the community, and as it was wrapping up, someone was fatally shot a few blocks away. All this on the heels of the shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. Even as I write these show notes, there was a shooting in a Tulsa hospital that left 5 people dead. Around the country and across the globe, it all just feels too heavy to hold right now. Where is Jesus in the midst of these endless tragedies? What is our role in the aftermath? Can rediscovering the historical Jesus provide new insights into God's overall plan for humanity? Heads up, there are no easy answers in this episode, but there are a lot of honest questions.   If you'd like to help the injured and displaced in Pottstown, two funds have been set up to help those victims. One is through the TriCounty Network. Donations to build on that may be made online at www.tcnetwork.org/donate-pottstown-explosion-fund. Checks may be mailed to TriCounty Community Network’s office at 724 N. Adams Street, No. 203, Pottstown, PA 19464, with Pottstown Explosion Support Fund in the memo line. The other is through the Foundation for Pottstown Education and will go directly to the families. If you wish to contribute, go to and in the notes section, you can indicate your support for families affected by writing  “Pottstown 526 Emergency Fund.”   ---------------   Please consider supporting this work financially as well and get a number of great perks in the process at...   Transcript  This transcript was automatically generated by www.otter.ai, and as such contains errors (especially when multiple people are talking). As the AI learns our voices, the transcripts will improve. We hope it is helpful even with the errors.   Zack Jackson 00:00 Welcome to the reimagining faith podcast with the pastor's Jackson. This is a podcast for seekers, dreamers and fellow sojourners who are trying to figure out what it means to be followers of Jesus in the 21st century. We want to thank all of you who have been with us so far on this journey, those of you who listened to the first two episodes of the podcast, those you who shared the first two episodes, those of you who left comments and give us suggestions of people, we could talk to a special thank you to all of the those of you who support this podcast on Patreon, if you are interested, as well, in supporting this work, you can find us at patreon.com/reimagining Faith, where you will find all kinds of fun perks as well as opportunities for connecting with us and with the larger community. I also want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has showed up in Pottstown, the past couple of days, those of you who may not be aware who may not be following us on social media, there was a awful traumatic home explosion on last Thursday, that left at least five people dead and two more injured, just destroyed an entire family and rocked the whole neighborhood. And we're going to talk a lot more about that today about that specific trauma. And as well as a lot of the national and international trauma that the world seems to be facing. Right now. We want to get into a little bit about how Jesus is there through that, and what that even means and how we can say that with any kind of authenticity, knowing the true horrors of the world and wondering where God is in the midst of all of that. So we hope to get into some of that, and maybe, you know, answer the problem of evil that's been around since Babylon. In the next 45 minutes or so.   Nichole Jackson 02:03 Or maybe just prayerfully consider them. I don't want to know we have answers prayerfully   Zack Jackson 02:09 consider them. Yeah, so Nicole, you want to tell us a little bit more about what's been going on?   Nichole Jackson 02:16 Yeah. So as Zack mentioned, there was a horrific house explosion in Pottstown, a couple blocks up from the high school that completely destroyed two homes, terribly damaged others, and just sent shockwaves through an entire community of people who, who are left with a lot more questions and there are answers and who are trying to grapple with collective grief. And that not only happened this past week, but it feels like it was in this like series have on ending trauma. I don't even want to mention all of them. Because honestly, it's quite possible we could leave something out. So but just last week, is when we heard about this horrendous school shooting another one that took the lives of children and the adults who are caring for them. Again, a lot more questions than there are answers. But that happened early in the week. And then this happened on Thursday evening and left a lot of us trying to grapple with what to do next. And so there were all kinds of folks who showed up to help. I mean, definitely the first responders there were people who showed up to this scene that was just traumatizing. I would imagine. I earned a new respect for our first responders in the work that they show up to do when things are just chaotic and awful and terrible. And still show up and still do an amazing job. There were faith leaders, there were neighbors, adult volunteers, student volunteers, I think the question on everybody's mind was how can we help? What can we do like and that was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. Our favorite saint Fred Rogers said that when he talked to his mom about the bad things that were happening in the world, she said, look for the helpers. Look for the people who who show up and go to them. Look, look to them for for hope, and for help, and even just their hope. And so that happened within you know, an hour. People were on the scene. A couple of faith leaders came together on Saturday. and said what it what do we do? How can we support this community? We know we can't fix this. We know we can't even assign meaning or purpose to it. But what do we what do we do in these times we gather, and we pray. And so we couldn't we put a call out 24 hours before the planned event. And I would say, What do you think like 300 people at least 300, at least 300 people showed up, there were multiple news sources, there were folks who showed up to sing folks who showed up to pray folks who showed up to honor the names of the deceased and lots of clergy who showed up to offer support, it was a tough half hour, it felt like a lot longer than a half hour, but we gathered for a half hour and held each other and we cried. And we prayed. And we held each other. It was a powerful scene, after days of horrible scenes, but it felt like, okay, like we can, we can breathe our grief a little bit. And when we do that together, it's a little, a little, I don't wanna say easier to hold, but it's more possible. So, yeah, so thank you. First of all, if you have been one of those people who physically showed up, if you have been one of those folks who have been holding Pottstown, in prayer, thank you, thank you for your questions about how to help and how to show up. And if you would, please continue to keep Pottstown in your prayers in the midst of all of the other horrible, horrible things that that seem to just keep happening, we would greatly appreciate that.   Zack Jackson 06:48 Yeah, and thank you for the couple dozen of you or so who showed up on the live stream, as well. If if you wanted to watch any of those, any of that live stream, you can go to the OpenTable UCC Facebook page, where it is now I think you can pray along at any point in time as well. Because this is going to be a long process, we'll have links in the show notes for ways that you can help if you'd like to give money, if there's things that you can give time you can give, we will have all of that down below. So make sure you check that out. You know, one of the things that that I've been struggling with, that really hit me during that time. I don't think we mentioned this before, that four of the five people who died or children between the ages of I think seven and 15. And the other fatality was their grandmother, and their parents were in critical condition in the hospital. And everything that they have as lost and their children. And when when there's tragedy that happens to some of us, it can be so easy to then be like, well, you know, God is going to teach you a lesson through this right God is going to use this to make you better. I've heard that this existence is a veil of soul making is some long dead Christian once said that this is this is we suffer so that we might grow. But how do you possibly make sense of the senseless death of children? You can't? This is literally the plot of The Brothers Karamazov. And so when we were singing some of the songs at this vigil, especially his eyes on the sparrow, I sing because I'm happy I sang because I'm free. His eyes on the sparrow and I know he watches over me. And I thought I'm not happy. Sure as hell don't feel free. And was God so busy birdwatching that he wasn't looking out for these children. How? How on earth can I affirm this beautiful song that made everyone cry? While at the same time acknowledging the reality. There was one of the one of the prayers I think it may have been one of the closing prayers or it was the Reverend Justin Valentine. Oh, no, it   Nichole Jackson 09:30 was the opening opening prayer. Okay. Where is he the pastor of he's pastor at kingdom life. Church   Zack Jackson 09:35 Kingdom left church. Yeah. So he said, and this I'm taking from the article that was in the Pottstown mercury. He said, Lord, we come to you asking that you could provide hope. We ask that you provide healing. Do what you said you do best. Send your Holy Spirit, because your Holy Spirit will comfort those who mourn. So every broken heart, every grieving heart, every heart that mourns every heart that is heavy laden and burdened down today, and all these young people here, pray that they know that there is real hope and real healing in you. I pray that this community that has seen better days, begins to realize that its greatest days are yet ahead. And that new things are springing forth, and great things are to come. And the next line in the article is what hit me in which the journalist Evan Brandt wrote, but it may be a while before residents of the chicken Hill neighborhood are ready to accept Valentine's words on faith. He said in that one sentence, this feeling in my gut that I have had this whole time. It may be a while before the residents are ready to accept Valentine's words on faith. I don't think I'm ready to accept those words on faith. I don't know if I have the the rock solid, steadfast faith to say, Glory to God in this awful tragedy, tragic time. There's definitely a reason for everything. And all things come together for good. I, I want to, but I don't know if I can.   Nichole Jackson 11:14 I had a conversation with a priest once in which I was having a really hard time doing, quote, the right thing, believing that you know, God was going to come through and that I could still do the right thing. And you may even do it with my heart because I was like, Well, I can forgive this person, but I don't know that I can actually forgive them. And so is it just lip service. And he said, sometimes you don't have to, quote, do the right thing right away. Like you keep praying that God will help you to do the right thing. And you'll keep, like, sometimes the prayer doesn't start with God, we trust you. Like sometimes the prayer starts at God, I really want to try, like, I really want to trust you, I think I need your help to even get to the point where I can. And so when I hear songs, like his eyes on the sparrow, or, you know, hit Justin's prayers, I mean, they were, it was beautiful, and it was moving and and I felt, I felt them deep within me. Because even if I'm struggling with them, I can lean on his hope until I get there. So I feel like a lot of the things that we do as faith communities is praying for the thing that can't quite be here yet. But like, we want to get there like it as well is one of those beloved hymns by so many people and I have such a hard time singing it because we sing it when it's not well, like we sing hit when our hearts are breaking, and we're crushed. And, and so I often feel like we sing those songs, we say the words we pray the words that we most hope for, even when we're not there yet. Yeah, I think for me, I really want to lean on on his prayer. I want to be there. I want to get to the point where I can see that good days are ahead. But yeah, I think a lot of people I think I think what Mr. Brandt wrote in his article is, is valid and maybe speaking what a lot of us are probably feeling how do we get to there? How do we get to the point where I can believe that better days are ahead.   Zack Jackson 13:43 Yeah, what I what I'm hearing, you saying reminds me of one of maybe the hardest books I've ever read in seminary, just from a density standpoint, as well as from a subject matter standpoint, a book called Christ and horrors by Marilyn McCord, Adams horrors, H O R R O R S, which is just an awful word to say horrors. Basically, she defines a horror as something that is so bad, that it diminishes our ability to make meaning out of something. So suffering is one thing, right? You, you stubbed your toe, you lost your job, you did whatever you know, and you can learn from it and you can make meaning out of it. And then you have now just redeemed that suffering. By making something good out of it. You did that yourself. Congratulations, humans are really good at this. But then there are some things like the death of children or torture, atrocities that are so bad, they break us and there's no way to make meaning out of them anymore. And that to her was the main problem of how God can be good and still have these things exist. And so for her, there were three stages of God's victory over that. So the first stage is making meaning out of these horrors. And for most people who experienced something like that, that meaning can only be made in the next life or in some kind of recreated world, there's, you kind of need to have a hope of heaven in some way, shape, or form in order to have that thing be overcome. The second stage is that God needs to be able to suffer with us needs to Chaplain us, in the midst of it, because if God has overcome it in stage one, but we're still living in the effects of it, now, there needs to be something. And so God can't understand suffering, because suffering is all about a lack of control, it's about losing your control. Because if you, if you have control over your suffering, then it's just tourism, or it's a horror movie. You know, it's not real suffering. And so that is where Jesus comes in for her. And then the third stage is ultimately recreating a world in which horrors are not possible. And we are fundamentally remade, so we are not vulnerable to that anymore. And that's a her is the Christian faith, right there. And that's how God overcomes horrors, by by giving us meaning in this life or the next by suffering alongside us in this life and the now, and then by recreating us and the world in such a way that we are no longer vulnerable to that. And, I mean, that's, she says it in a whole lot more words than that.   Nichole Jackson 16:50 But maybe can put a link to that book in the show notes   Zack Jackson 16:54 for anyone who was interested enough to read through this book. But I did want to latch on a little bit to step two, if I can. Yeah, because we are planting a church that we say is, Has Jesus at the center of everything that we do. And a part of this podcast is unpacking some of our convictions. And our conviction about who Jesus is, matters. Because Jesus is kind of like a has been kind of a green screen for so many people that you just kind of you put whatever you are on that you can just change Jesus to mean 10,000 things Jesus votes for whoever you vote for, hates whoever you hates, and he's a good moral teacher. He's a social revolutionary, he's, he's whatever you want him to be. But above all of that, before he was anything else, he was just a guy. Just a guy born into a very specific time. And so I want to take a second and tell you a story about that time, if that's okay.   Nichole Jackson 17:58 Just the guy who is also God, but like, again, I mean, we can impact that too. But   Zack Jackson 18:05 I don't know how high your Christology is. Yeah, apparently mine is fairly low. So I don't want to start with Jesus. I want to tell you a story about Jesus, His great great grandfather, by the name a man by the name of Lea czar, at least that's how that's what Matthew tells us. Jesus had many great, great grandfather's I would imagine, but le A's are lived in Judea. So the southern parts you think of Jerusalem Jericho, down south, the main part, that's where he was from. And he lived in a very unique time, he got to see a free and independent Judea. For the first time and 500 years, the prophets had been had been praying for this time prophesying this time, in which the kingdom of Judah would be made free, again from foreign occupation from these empires that were just draining them dry, that the Messiah would come and would free them and would reestablish the kingdom in Jerusalem. And he got to see it happen. And under under the rulers at that time, the Hasmoneans, who had forcibly taken their country back from the latest empire that was oppressing them, they expanded the territory, up through Samaria and Galilee. So think Judas at the south, Judea, Samaria, Galilee galleys on the very top. And for the first time in 1000 years, they had reestablished the original boundaries under King Solomon, who is at this point is basically a mythical king. And he has seen this amazing time of growth and God's faithfulness of, of underdog victories and the sorts of things that legends are made out of. This was the time of the Messiah and the rule her in his day gave three options to the residents of Samaria and Galilee. He said to them, you can leave, you can die, or you can convert, which by the way, the only time ever, that a Jewish leader has forced people to convert that is not in their history. So after that there's all of this land was open land, this new territory, and they want to solidify a Jewish presence in these places. And so he pays all of these people to leave Judea take their families North to Galilee, and to plant farms to make homesteads that land up there had not been lived on for hundreds and hundreds of years, because that's like the first place that the the wandering armies from the Empires enter into. And so if there's ever a city or town there, it gets ransacked and burned down first. And so it's mostly just been laid fallow land that has so fertile and ready for farmlands. It was the promised land. And so the rulers paid these families to move up there, and to start their own farms, their own little heaven up there. So LEA is our took his his his wife and his children, and they marched up there that week long journey. And they built a little house, a little homestead for them and their their descendants. And they farmed a little plot of land that became a little bit bigger and a little bit bigger and LA's RS children, they built homes on that land. And then eventually you had a little town, a little town springing up where before, there was nothing but now there was promised and prosperity and people living by their own hands. People were creating the future that they wanted a place where their hopes and dreams could grow from the very soil, a free independent and self sufficient people of God. And Lea czars children grew old and passed the land on to their children as well. But then something happened, something changed. The husband and family that had freed Judea from the grip of exploitative Empires was falling apart, due to their own infighting and greed and the Roman Empire stepped in as it is all too willing to do in those days and annexed all of Judea, Samaria and Galilee, ending the dream of a new golden independent era, and the hopes of the Messiah being dashed along with it. Can you imagine, had disappointed Jesus's grandparents must have been like to see God's promises of a new kingdom come to fruition in their lifetime, and then just to have it snatched away so quickly, by yet another empire. And under Rome, things started to change, things were worse than they had been under any empire under Rome, Rome appointed an intermediate man named Herod to become king of the Jews. And it domion Not even a Jew, not even a proper Jew is now the king of the Jews. And Herod starts handing out land rights left and right to his friends all throughout Galilee. And those farms that he gave to them were massive tracts of land. And they were farmed, not by families, but they were farmed by slaves brought in from across the Empire. And they were given special tax breaks, because they're buddies with Herod. And so these little farms, these little homesteads from the settlers three generations earlier, they can't compete anymore. And they start to close down, they get bought out by the rich neighbors, or they get their land seized, you know, Dad might get conveniently arrested for something he didn't do, and then their property taken from them and their families left destitute. This happened over the course of a generation or two. And left and right, these family homesteads were were just disappearing. And under Herod, the wealthiest 2% of the population ended up owning every single square acre in Galilee. And once he owned your farm, if you were lucky enough to continue to live in the house that your great great grandfather built, well, then you needed to rent the land back from Herot. You had to pay exorbitant taxes on everything that you put in the soil. And if there was a drought one year, and you didn't really get much more than now you're in debt for next year. Same thing with fisherman, right? Oh, my goodness. Herod in the law literally owned all of the fish in the sea of Galilee. Like that's in the law. He owns the fish. He also owns the boats and he owns the water itself. And so if you wanted to fish, then you needed to buy a fishing permit. You needed to rent a boat, and then you needed to go out there while the tax electors were in boats out there checking your permits. And then after you caught your fish, you came back and you gave it right away to the tax collector on the beach, who weighed it took what belonged to Herod and gave you a little bit back. And so if you didn't catch fish one day, like we read about the Gospels, like you did, it's not just that maybe you don't eat that night. It's that you now Oh, you're in debt, you're in debt. Yeah, the whole process is created to hold people down. And so Herod and his son that aptly named an easy to remember, Herod Herod Antipas, as you might see Him in the Bible, same as it ever was same as it ever was. They just created this system in which 2% of people owned everything, and the poverty rate was close to 90%. So men like Lea Tsar's great grandson Joseph would have been forced off to the family farm. And he would have found work anywhere he can, like in one of Herod's newly constructed cities, looking for construction work, spending his days doing heavy labor building the opulent palaces of men who robbed their family's land. Forget what you think you know about Joseph and his, his his woodworking career. The fact that we think of Joseph and Jesus as carpenters, and that meaning somebody who you know, was cutting wood and building tables and stuff is pretty anachronistic. There's not a whole lot of trees in Galilee. That's something that Europeans read into the text. You know, a couple 100 years later, most of them had never been to Galilee. More than likely, Joseph is a day laborer, tradesmen, he's a tradesman, maybe he's laying stone when he can, he's fixing rooms when he can. He's going into the city with groups of men and waiting for some construction manager to pick him out of a crowd, throw him in the back of a pickup truck and bring him off to earn his day's wages pickup chariot, pickup chariot and the pickup wagon. Yeah, but by the time that Joseph and his fiancee marry, well, by the time Mary was pregnant, galleys poverty rate was about 90%. So there was no middle class, there was no comfortable living, you were either obscenely wealthy, or you are close to starvation. So within two generations Galilee went from a place of promise and family and opportunity to a blighted hellscape, in which 2% of the population sucked the people and the land dry for riches that they couldn't possibly ever spend in their lifetimes. And this was the land that Jesus was born into poor, exploited and hopeless, having just been promised something great, a time of a messiah a two generations prior, and now, nothing. And even probably within his own community was ostracized, for being born out of wedlock. Right. And when Jesus was six years old, Rome tightened its grip once again, and ordered a census of the land, which Luke gets wrong, and puts at the time of Jesus's birth. Right. The census when Quirinius was governor of Syria that we read about in the Christmas story actually took place in about three ad. So when Jesus was about six years old, and the point of that was, so they could tax you more, so that they would have a better count of how many people were there, so that they could somehow extract more wealth from the people who are already dying of starvation. You know, like, charging overage fees on overdrafting a an account, right? Now you owe more because you don't have anything. It's basically what it was. And so at when Jesus was six years old, and this happened, a man named Judas of Galilee, not Judas Iscariot, this is one of Jesus's followers. Jesus as a kid at this point, creates this terrorist organization that we later know is the Zealots who roams the countryside and, and promises to burn down anyone's house who complies with the census. They ambush and kill Roman soldiers and tax collectors and even priests and anyone who complies with Rome. They are threatening to murder and kill their whole families to terrorize the both the Romans and the Jews into I don't know, making it so costly for the Romans to be there that they'll back off, I guess,   Nichole Jackson 29:40 meaning violence of violence. Yeah. We think that works.   Zack Jackson 29:45 Right. At later we learned that one of Jesus's 12 disciples is identified as a zealot. Right, Simon the Zealot. So it makes sense, because Jesus was teaching a pretty radical message that would have really appealed to people like the zealots. I think about the fact that Jesus's ministry was almost entirely done in the margins. He was just among his fellow peasants, he traveled into towns like Nazareth that maybe had 300 people in it. On a good day. All the wealth and power in Galilee was centralized in the cities of Tiberius, and sephorus. But the Gospels don't have him going there at all. Not one time, that's where the money is, the power is the government is the people who make a difference. That's where that is. But Jesus doesn't step foot in Tiberius, or sephorus. fact, the only place of power where Jesus seems to show up is Jerusalem. That's at the end. And that's right, that's at the end. And that's only because that's where the temple is where the religious center is, he has to go to Jerusalem. And when he does go there, well, what does he do he, he literally braids a leather whip, and assaulted bankers and businessmen around the temple whose transaction fees were further burdening the poor. And then he got killed for it. Yeah. I mean, simply put, Jesus did not just advocate for the poor, the hurting, the broken, he was the poor, the hurting, and the broken. And I think that has to be intentional. Because what if Jesus was born in in the palace, or Jesus was born into a royal family, or Jesus was even born into a priestly family Jesus was born the right way. And he grew up with any sort of privilege, then how does he truly understand suffering? Yeah, he doesn't, in order for if one of the purposes of Jesus's birth life death incarnation, the whole deal was to be able to Chaplain people through the suffering of their lives. He had to experience it for himself. He had to take that suffering back with him into the Godhead. So the God of all the Creator, the Sustainer, the one who is untouched by by suffering, had to feel that powerlessness and suffering in order to then suffer with us in a way that is authentic and true. So we can rejoice that one day, God will save us and make things better. But what about in the meantime, what about now? What about the senseless tragedies that we keep experiencing? Like how could a God who was always in control ever comfort people who are suffering that God can't? And that's why Jesus is particularity matters so much, at least, at least to me.   Nichole Jackson 32:50 I think that brings the scripture passage and Matthew 25 that talks about how when we feed and we give drink, and we visit those in prison, and we do these things, we're doing it as if to Jesus, right, like Matthew 2534. Starting at 34, reigns, Then the King will say to those that his right hand come you that are blessed when my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, For I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me. Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when was it? That we saw you hungry and gave you food or thirsty and gave you drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcome to you are naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you? The King will answer them. Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. Every time you come alongside folks in pain, you're coming alongside me. I came to this earth, to accompany you, to to be you, to save you and to love you.   Zack Jackson 34:18 So what I love about that passage, by the way, is that so many of us in our religious traditions have been taught all of these really specific things that will get you into heaven, when you're supposed to believe and the things you're supposed to do, and especially the things you're not supposed to do. Right. Right. And what are Jesus's criteria? For for the right judgment at the end? How will you be judged? You'll be judged almost entirely on how you treated people on the margins. Yeah, people who are vulnerable. He doesn't say you need to uh, show up and have a proper understanding of this trinity. Or, you know, did you have sex before marriage or something like that? He says, What did you do with your life? And if you did not, you know, advocate for and take care of these people, then it's very clear that you never knew me in the first place. Because God has a preference for the poor for the hurting for the broken, a strong preference. I mean, you cannot read Scripture and see otherwise. Yeah, it is throughout the Hebrew Bible throughout the Christian Bible, that God has a very strong preference for the underdog for the broken for the one who does not belong in the way society has been made. And if you can't see that, and if you don't live your life in such a way that also accentuates that, then that just means you didn't know Jesus.   Nichole Jackson 35:56 You created him in your own image. Right. Well, Anne Lamott,   Zack Jackson 35:59 I love that, that she says you can safely assume you've created God in your own image when he hates the same people as you.   Nichole Jackson 36:06 Yeah, yeah.   Zack Jackson 36:08 So when, when they're suffering, when there's there's tragedy, when there's things that we can avoid, when people keep dying unnecessarily, and we keep letting them die. Because, you know, bad excuses, or our own selfishness or our own greed, or our own love of assault weapons, as it were. And we prioritize our own freedoms over literally the lives of the most vulnerable people than we show ourselves to have not known Jesus. And even those who claim to know Jesus who attend church every single week, who are the most faithful people who have Jesus bumper stickers on their car will show up in the pearly gates. And Jesus will say, you never knew me. And that's terrifying. Right?   Nichole Jackson 37:08 So our friend, Johnny Rasheed pastor Johnny Rasheed. We're recording this on on May 31, which is the day that his book is being released. It's a book called Jesus takes the side,   Zack Jackson 37:23 embracing the political demands of the gospel is the subtitle of that.   Nichole Jackson 37:27 Yeah. And I, I, I said to Zack several times while I read this, like, I wish he wasn't right, I wish that the demands were not so high that, that I'm responsible, not only for the things that I say and do, but the things that I don't say the things that I don't do, even for trying to find some kind of non existent third way.   Zack Jackson 37:53 Yeah, as if we're like creating a timetable, in that is acceptable to those who are in power enough that it would liberate those who are not. Yeah, we are taking some kind of middle third way reconciliatory stance that will hopefully bring both sides together. But in all of those, it the timetable is always set by the most resistant person in power, and not by the person who is suffering. And so we're asking the person who is being oppressed, to just stay oppressed for a little bit longer. We don't want to upset these other while we sort out the details in a way that that is easy on those people who have privilege, as if their lives haven't been made easy by privilege. And so what we're doing is perpetuating the suffering of the suffering in order to prioritize the comfort of the comfortable.   Nichole Jackson 38:49 Also, side note, we're gonna be interviewing pastor Johnny Rashid. Joe just so you can hear from the man himself, his convictions and where he's coming from, but I it's not an easy read. And I have in the notes like, guilty, guilty, guilty. So this is his book is not something that is meant to lift up the holy people and shame everybody else. It's like, he just wants us all to know that there is responsibility here and, and it comes from Jesus. It doesn't come from some follower of Jesus, like no, this is this is who Jesus was. This is how he taught. These were his convictions. And this is how he showed up in the world. And he told everybody you follow them. This is required of you. If you're not stirring up trouble something's you're not doing it right. Like it's gonna make a stir. Yeah.   Zack Jackson 39:51 You think about like, the times in in the stories of Jesus where he breaks the Sabbath, where at one point he Allah As his hungry disciples to pick some, some wheat, and another time he heals a person's withered hand on the Sabbath, and the religious leaders come to him and shame. How dare you? Yeah, right. And to us, that seems silly. That seems like okay, he's breaking religious law, he's basically you know, he's wearing jeans to church or something like that. But there is no difference between civil and religious law in first century Judea. what Jesus has done is civil disobedience, he has broken the law in order to expose the hypocrisy of those who should know better. So Jesus at this point is basically performing a sit in, he's blocking a bridge, he is doing something that is intentionally meant to draw attention to the fact that the people who are supposed to be caring for the well being of everyone are not, you know, when he when he points out, that the opulent Pharisees give all this money into the temple, and then a widow puts in her last might. And he tells his disciples that she has given more than any of them. there supposed to be a, a provision for widows, taken from the money given to the temple that is required, in the laws of Moses, that the widows be taken care of, by the ties to the temple, not the temple, then, but you know what I mean. And the the religious leaders who had totally bought in to the Roman rule, because they were then a part of that 2%, who made all the money, they were instead robbing the widow is blind. And so that that story is not one of like, Wow, she's so faithful, God's gonna give her riches and make her better. likely she goes home and starves to death, is how that story ends. And you're supposed to read that and then feel like disgusted by the Pharisees, by the religious leaders who should know better, who should do better. We should be the first ones out there. When there's tragedy, we should be the first ones lobbying for the rights of those people who don't have rights, we need to be the first ones. They're not the people who are in bed with power, and drunk on money. That's when that's why the church is dying across the West, because the church has been in bed with power for too long. And the gospel doesn't work. We're in positions of power. There's such cognitive dissonance you cannot read the words of Jesus, there's radical words of care and of equality, and of tearing down making the mountains lows, the valleys can be lifted up this radical equality and the Gospel, you cannot read that. And then also be an oppressive power. You have to do so many, backflips in order to twist the gospel to work. And it only works for so long before people realize that this is BS. And so the churches dying because the church has basically just been American exceptionalism with Jesus on the front of it, or it's been white supremacy with Jesus on the front of it. It has not been Jesus centered.   Nichole Jackson 43:33 So what does this have to do with all of the storm is raging in our world right now. Especially for those of us who are looking for signs of hope, who are looking to even figure out what to do or how to show up I think a lot of us are feeling helpless and angry. Furious.   Zack Jackson 44:05 Do you want me to answer that?   Nichole Jackson 44:08 Yes. No, I mean, I think who Jesus was, when he came, how he came, has everything to do with it. I God who loved us so much that he took on skin as a person on the margins, to save us, to walk with us and to show us how to do better to show us what it looks like to love our neighbor as ourselves, even when it hurts to know that even in the darkest days, which, frankly, here we find our feet. We're not alone. And he inspires us to to do the same.   Zack Jackson 44:59 I think there's two things As I find comfort in Christianity began as an apocalyptic religion in which they believe that Jesus was returning, you know, next Thursday, and would come and would make everything better. And so the first generation of Christians kind of didn't feel like they had to change the systems, they didn't have to change the world, because Jesus was going to come back and do all the heavy lifting. But then he didn't. So the second generation of Christians had to then figure out what it means to be a people who are reforming this world from within. And generations afterwards have, have struggled with that. And many of the church have failed and have given right into power. But there's always been a remnant, always been a reforming remnant within the church out there doing the work of Christ. And the fact that Jesus has not returned, tells me that God still has faith in us, like God still trust that we are capable of doing more than we think we are. And so there is work out there for all of us to do. And as we do that, as we try to listen, and we try to do it faithfully, because man, I'll tell you, this book with Gianni really has convicted me a lot of ways because I think of myself as somebody who tries. And I read a book like that, and I realized all the places I've still fallen short, even though I try. And I say that not from like, oh, woe is me, I'm such a word, a horrible person, but like, all right, I still have work to do, I'll probably have work to do my whole life. And that's great. That's good. Yeah, that means more is being uncovered. This is there's more to explore more, to do more to more to know more people to connect to more stories, to to understand. But in the meantime, you know, we'll fight for the rights of, of immigrants of of children who are being killed in schools of LGBTQ people who are being and how many anti trans legislations have come before state representative bodies in the past year, that's like 250 Already this year. Right. So the battle needs to continue for human dignity, you know, situations with with lead, drinking water, in places where government would rather not pour money. You know, all of the places where there are toxic waste facilities where there are factories polluting the air, these are all places in poor communities, our children are being poisoned in places because it is, it is cheaper to do that for these companies. And they know that they're not going to litigate. And so we need to be in that fight, you need to be in that battle. But in the meantime, when there is tragedy, when that strikes, I wanted to read some of the words from one of the pastors from the from the vigil, who said that we are not here to solve anything. We are not here to fix this because we can't, we're here to do two things that you do in the face of chaos, gather together to support one another, and to pray. That was no call who said that? By the way, and I thought that was brilliant. That was the best way to start. The vigil was that today is not a day for fixing things. This is not a day for pointing fingers for immediately saying whose fault this is. Today is a day to gather together to hold each other. This is the day we recognize that Christ suffered too. And Christ suffers with us as somebody who understands our suffering. And Tomorrow's the day, when we get up and we demand change. And we did you do actionable change in the midst of suffering however, we suffer together. I thought that was brilliant. Thank you for, for saying that.   Nichole Jackson 48:58 Well, friends, I think that's a good place to stop. We'd said that we wanted to shed some light on wonderings. And I hope that this gave you some good things to think about and to consider. But again, we don't have the easy answers. I really wish we did. But we don't. And so let's keep listening to God together and try to show up. One of the ways that we are wanting to do that is by offering some time to gather to pray. We also recognize that this community extends beyond Pottstown even if it is located in Pottstown. And so we are going to begin having morning prayer together at 6:30am. We know that's early, but we also recognize that a lot of people go to work early to drop their kids off early. We just want to offer in some space to just start the day All right. So we're gonna be meeting on zoom at 6:30am Eastern Standard Time, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we're going to be utilizing a resource that has meant a lot to me over the years, called Common Prayer liturgy for from ordinary radical liturgy for ordinary radicals. And it's a resource that takes you through Scripture and and song and just some prayer really offers some some prompts for prayer. So, half hour, at most 45 minutes, we're wanting to keep it to half an hour. And we invite you to join us. So the link to the the zoom, the Zoom link is will be in the show notes. It's also on our Facebook page. And everyone is welcome to join us.   Zack Jackson 51:00 That Facebook page by the way is facebook.com/opentablePottstown.   Nichole Jackson 51:07 Yes. So hope you can join us. It's not something that if you show up once, or you don't show up at the first one, you can't show up for the second one. It's it's a daily entry every single day. That every day is different. So hope you can join us for that.
Dreaming Big with David Charles
May 26 2022
Dreaming Big with David Charles
Episode 2 In this episode, Zack sat down with David Charles on the bleachers of the Pottstown Middle School football stadium. David is the founder of the STRIVE Initiative and through its “Made for Greatness” mentorship program, is a constant force for good in the middle school and community at large. Make sure you listen to the end to hear his incredible vision for the middle school, the borough’s churches, and anyone willing to believe that God is up to something good in our midst.        Please consider supporting this work financially as well and get a number of great perks in the process at...   Transcript  This transcript was automatically generated by www.otter.ai, and as such contains errors (especially when multiple people are talking). As the AI learns our voices, the transcripts will improve. We hope it is helpful even with the errors.     Zack Jackson 00:00 Welcome to the reimagining faith podcast with the Pastors Jackson. This is a podcast for seekers, dreamers and fellow sojourners who are trying to figure out what it means to be followers of Jesus in the 21st century. Before we get into today's episode, I wanted to give you a quick update on Open Table UCC and clarify a few questions I've gotten about it. After a whole lot of very complicated paperwork that I'm pretty sure I did, right. Open Table is officially registered with the state and federal governments. We've been approved by the your scientists Association of the United Church of Christ, and added into the main database of UCC churches, hurray, we now have a bank account. And within a few days after we received some grant money, we will set up a website with an online giving portal for anyone who's interested in supporting the church, or sharing the sorts of work that we're that we're hoping to be doing. During these first two years of church planting. While we're still building the foundation of this thing, Nicole and I are only taking part time salaries until the church can afford to support us. So we're both looking for part time work to support our family while we get this church off the ground. If you'd like to support us personally, during this time, you can become a patron of this podcast at patreon.com/reimagining faith. This podcast is not officially a part of the church, but kind of runs parallel to it. And any support that we can raise through the podcast will go directly to supplementing our income. So we can devote more time to the church plant and all of this wonderful content that we're hoping to create. I hope that helps to clarify a few of the questions I've received. Within a week or two, you'll be able to donate directly to the church if you'd like to. But if you want to help support our family and give us some more flexibility to provide good content for you, then you can support us on Patreon, where there are some pretty sweet perks to our planting team is meeting every other week on Sunday mornings throughout the summer. And we're hoping to begin regular worship services at the end of August or early September. If you are local and you want to help us dream this church into existence, let us know. Otherwise be on the lookout for announcements about our opening date. Now, onto the episode. In this episode, I sat down with David Charles on the bleachers of the Pottstown middle school football stadium, hence the wind and lawn mowers in the background. David is the founder of the strive initiative and through its made for greatness Mentorship Program is a constant force for good in the middle school and the community at large. I'll let him explain to you a little bit more about what he does and why he does it. But make sure you listen to the end to hear his incredible vision for the middle school, the borough's churches and for anyone willing to believe that God is up to something good in our midst. So we're here on the bleachers of a stadium at the Pottstown middle school talking with David Charles and maybe you could just start us off and tell us who you are and what you do here.   David Charles 03:25 My name is David Charles. I am born and raised here in Pottstown, Pennsylvania Pottstown School District. I'm an alumni of Pottstown. We're sitting here at the stadium, football Grig Memorial Field, many memories but currently I run a program called created for greatness at the Pottstown Middle School in Pottstown. We've been in the middle school since 2018. And it's a community based on site mentoring program. We bring in community adults from Pottstown and surrounding areas to connect with students once a week for about 45 minutes. Each time they connect. And it's usually during lunch. We have for lunch zones fifth through eighth and as a morning mentoring block 7:50am to 8:30am where we have mentors, community adults also come in and connect with students. And and we are mentors also connect with teachers and are in some of the classrooms and we just support students and administration.   Zack Jackson 04:49 What are they doing with these these adults when they come in? Are they giving lectures are they like talking one on one with   David Charles 04:56 they're usually one on one with students we match them mostly by interest, or, you know, I do a lot of interviewing with the mentors and the students. And we do a survey with both an interest survey with the students, and an application and a survey with the adults. And we do a little matching that way. It's not always perfect, but because I connect with the adult and the student, I just, you know, sort of use some wisdom and lots of communicating with the students to match adults with them.   Zack Jackson 05:31 So you got to know like everyone then in the city, right, yeah,   David Charles 05:35 I know, everyone. I know, pretty much I know. Yeah. There's a lot. Yeah. I'm thankful for   Zack Jackson 05:43 that. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it sounds like it. If you've got like students that come in, and you ask them what their interests are. And your brain then immediately goes to like, oh, well, I got to connect you with this person, I got to connect with that person. And   David Charles 05:55 yeah, in some way, but it's also through that survey and application from the mentor that I got to look at both, you know, and it's always it's not always matched by interest, it's more little wisdom and thinking through what could be helpful for a student. And the adult is, well, you know what I mean, I just get started. Um, actually, I saw some negative press on social media, about Pottstown middle school students, and some vandalism happening as students were walking home. And I didn't like it. I just didn't like sort of the tone of some of the adults that were commenting. And it kind of made me feel like, if they were talking about middle school students in this tone, it was almost like they were talking about me. Because I was a middle school student here. And I just that touched me, I'm like, oh, what can you do to get involved? Because that that was something that was meaningful for me, I needed people to actually step in and not point a finger. But actually do something I reached out to Mr. Steven Rodriguez, the superintendent, I said, I'm seeing all this press. I want to come in and, and do some assemblies around respect and respecting yourself and others, building trust, and I want to bring some community adults in to connect with students that are sort of pointing the finger. Let's go in. Oh, that's got an act. Okay.   Zack Jackson 07:38 Yeah. So like the thinking that the the adults who are out there talking trash, like get them in here. And it's harder to talk trash about somebody that you know and care about, right? You have a vested interest,   David Charles 07:50 vested interest, and you start to learn. Oh, yeah, there may be some things that are, you know, that are that are there some vandalism and some, some respect and behaviors that do need to change? But you got to put yourself in the mix. And you can help become part of the change? Yeah, right. Yeah, that's one on one. You know, that's, that's enough. Yeah.   Zack Jackson 08:17 I mean, I think I'm only 35. So it wasn't that long ago that I was in school. Sure. And even even that amount of time, I feel like the world has changed so much, that the sorts of things I dealt with, like the types of bullying I dealt with the types of pressures I dealt with, are just totally foreign to what's going on now. Right? Like, we got AOL Instant Messenger when I was in like ninth grade. I can't imagine if I was texting in second or third grade, or if you've got all these pressures on Instagram, and tick tock and whatnot. What's it like here? What are these kids dealing with?   David Charles 08:56 I think a lot of the students are dealing with aces, adverse childhood experiences, things in there. I would say family life trauma, all those things, and I would, I would know that from personal experience, being in Pottstown, coming from sort of a broken home, and you know, it's not all the students, but there's just the poverty level here. It's I don't know the percentage, but there is a poverty level. And, you know, it's, it's some things that students are dealing with parents are dealing with, that are not easy, and it's, you know, it's, I know it because I dealt with it. And I see it, I can feel it. I can sympathize with it. But I also there's a part of me pulling myself up and others helping me to pull myself up to go on another road and trajectory. to better my life. Yeah. So and you know, it's students are dealing with things, but these students are resilient. Yeah. And they're, they're wonderful. Like when you actually get to know them, and you invest your time, and they see you show up. The respect level changes. You know, it does change now. Now. I don't, I wouldn't say it always changes for teachers, which it needs to, right, because teachers here, this is a calling. This is not just the job. I know that it's a calling when you get up to do this every day for possibly 30 years. You got to be called to be with young people on a consistent basis. Yeah. You know what I mean? It's it's and teachers, they don't get paid? Well, they're not getting paid well, like so. So to come every day, you know, it's just and that's why I'm here. You know, it's like a dedication, like supporting students, supporting teachers, and, you know, but it is, it is the most diverse place in Pottstown.   Zack Jackson 11:17 Yeah, the middle school,   David Charles 11:18 this district, okay. It's one of the most diverse I mean, when you go in that lunch room, you will see the rainbow. It's beautiful, right? And I am constantly telling the students up like, this is the training ground. This is the place you want to be, let us help you navigate in this space. Because it's, you might not get it again.   Zack Jackson 11:49 Yeah, no, that's true.   David Charles 11:51 You might not get this Yeah. But if you look around, don't take it for granted. You know, let's work on what you see, and how to navigate and how to understand yourself to understand others as well.   Zack Jackson 12:05 What brings you hope, but these kids,   David Charles 12:08 I would say, having conversations with them, hearing some of their goals and some of their dreams. The students, you know, we did a survey like to end of 2019 going into 2020, about the career interest, over 600 survey responses. And these, most of the students now are in the high school, there's a there's some in eighth grade, but the students actually want they desire to become someone, you know, nurses, plumbers, and all kinds of things they want it, you know, they just need sort of a roadmap, and they need the community to get involved. Give them the extra unfavoured We believe in you. Even if someone at home doesn't show you at the moment or what you need. Because sometimes students are desiring parents to show up and say, I love you. I'm here. And sometimes parents don't I don't know how to give that, you know, I know from personal experience than me, my mom didn't love me, you know, but she didn't know how to love. You know, she did. She just wasn't taught that, you know, she was looking for love. Just because, you know, she was on her own since 14. And there's things that I'm sure students are dealing with, that people have no idea. Oh, absolutely. You know, that they're coming from situations where, you know, they just, they gotta continue to have adults show up. To one day, they say, I'm going to show up with you, Mr. Charles, I'm going to show up with you.   Zack Jackson 14:05 I wonder if there's that generational break. Sometimes when you think about the way that, like youth are perceived today, where I hear it all the time, especially in older populations, like you know, the kids have no respect for authority, no respect for their elders. And it was like, for a time for a long time. If you had held a position that it was assumed you had a certain amount of respect because you had that position right like well, there's the there's the the pastor, so we're always going to call them reverend. Yeah, public, you know, and we're not going to curse in front of them. Or, you know, this is the teacher and we talked to teachers in a certain way. But I got I'm, I'm just kind of put on my anthropology hat and sociology hat and just assume that like sometimes 60s and 70s, and that we just authority He failed so profoundly to from, you know, Nixon on down, that just lost all respect for people in authority. And it's, it's that you have to earn the respect now. It's not just granted to you like it was before. Yeah. And so you get people who walk in and assume that because of their position or because of their age, or because of whatever, that they should be spoken to, in a certain way, and children should, should assume certain things about them when, when this generation, probably generation prior to it's like, you start with them being skeptical about you, and you have to earn their trust, but when you earn it, you're there. Right? Yes, it's it's, it's deeper than it would have been when it was just assumed and given to you because you've earned it. And I kind of love that more. And maybe this is like my, my Philadelphia sports fan mind coming through, because I feel like that's how we are with our sports teams where like, you've come here and you need to work your butt off. Yeah, earn our respect. And once you do, you can you'll never buy a drink he facts. Yeah. But I love that. I love that you they are skeptical of authority, because man authority suck sometimes. And you really need to be skeptical of people out there. But you if I think if more people realized that it is on them to earn respect from other people that aren't maybe we'd be in a better   David Charles 16:43 place. We would I think you nailed it. i You nailed this generation, especially in the middle school. Yeah. And what I'm seeing with some of the respect and disrespect, you know what I mean? I it's something that now it does need to be earned. You know, and it's not the same. When I was growing up. At this age, I walked into the community center, the Rickett center, I mean, hat off, how you doing? Didn't want to get kicked out? No. Swearing, none of that. Totally different today. Totally different. It's a respect thing. Now it has to be earned. And you know, there's no assuming it's, it's like, the ground is neutral. And people are walking in the room, students, teachers. And there's a level of learning that curve, even for adults, to learn. How, how do we do this now, because the culture has changed. And has changed. So it's not like, well, I need that respect now on demand, no, no, no, we need to, as adults actually work together and have conversations, how do we do it?   Zack Jackson 18:07 Well, if we grew up in a world where it was assumed that you would have respect for people based on their position, or age or whatever, then maybe we didn't learn how to earn respect. Maybe we just assumed that it would be given to us when we were older, no matter what kind of person we are, and didn't learn that character matters. And now maybe adults need to learn that.   David Charles 18:31 That's exactly what I was saying. It's it's sort of a relearning sort of unprogrammed thing of what we thought with authority and respect and age. And I think it's just a time right now to also as adults go within, collectively, you know, together though, you know, and individually like, but to go within and think about some of the past where we are today. But it's it is about unifying. You know, it is truly it's, that's important. Yeah. As adults, you know, especially, I would say in this building. And in teaching period, it's, it's, you have to be on a unified front as adults in this building. When you're dealing with these students   Zack Jackson 19:32 as a dad, I appreciate that.   David Charles 19:35 Yeah, yeah. Yeah, right. Even parenting. Oh, Lord, if you are not on a unified front, those children will get into whatever they can tell they're smart. My mom said this. Well, Dad said that, well, this No, no. We stand together. Yeah, I'm gonna hold you accountable students You're not gonna go to one teacher, it's not going to happen, we're not going to give you this. No, you're going to be held accountable. We love you, we care about you. And this is what you have, you have to learn these these principles, respect, discipline, accountability, and allowing others to hold you accountable. Oh, like, like, do some help with that. Let's talk about those as our four mantras, learn that within yourself.   Zack Jackson 20:36 So when you were creating this program, and trying to sell it to people who would help to fund it was that did you find that to be tougher? Were people just on on board?   David Charles 20:51 I mean, some people were on board. But it was this was like, really strategic. And creating this, and, and, you know, connecting with Mr. Rodriguez, and his support of really understanding and being on board with the community getting more involved. And like being a part of the school and, if possible, the school day, and, and really to see what's happening. It's for me, it's been strategic, because it's been around building meaningful relationships. And that's, that gains attraction when it's meaningful. Yeah. You know, and I think some of the funders that I've connected with, through strive, and just personally, by volunteering on board, the foundation for pasta and education, that really wasn't strategic. That was, you know, we had a gentleman by the name of Mr. Jim Coram African American gentleman taught in the school district passed away, unfortunately, I think a year or so ago, he said, David, as a young black man, you need to be more involved in education in this in this district. You got to be a part. You got to understand what's happening. You got to show up. And I tell you, I wasn't really interested in sitting on any boards. But his encouragement guidance I did, I sat on foundation for pastan Education Board for six or seven years, which supports programs here at the district. And I started to learn what are the needs? How can I serve? Where am I needed? And that snowballed into relationships and building trust. And showing up and and here we are today? Yeah, right. So it's building meaningful relationships that really, I would say put us in this situation, because that's what we do with created for greatness.   Zack Jackson 23:13 Yeah. Right. Yeah. That that's what you have to do if   David Charles 23:17 the health and wellness Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation has been like, just so supportive. Yeah, yes. And the Boston School District I've been like, just has been supportive. First, Presbyterian, we've gotten grants from First Presbyterian right here in Pottstown. Church here, I mean, the donations from people. I'm floored I, I'm still like, wow.   Zack Jackson 23:50 Like people can trust you. You're You're, you're a pillar, you've been here your whole life. If your family's been here, their whole lives, you have been your generations you are connected, you're on boards you're on, you are not going to, you know, hightail it out to the mainline at some point in the near future. And when you strike it rich or something like you are committed here so people are people know that you can be trusted. That's so important. Yeah,   David Charles 24:15 it is it is important. It is important. Yeah.   Zack Jackson 24:19 I mean, when we when Nicole and I were contemplating church planting, one of the things that was suggested to us was that we go find a, an area where there's no United Church of Christ congregations, because that way, there's no competition, which is a topic for a whole other episode. But so we looked, we drove down, you know, Westchester, and that whole area where there's not really any UCC churches, and we looked around and we thought about it, we dreamed about it, but it really just felt colonial to show up in a place where we have zero buy in Zero connections, and then start something new that that addresses a need that we think exists with no buy in from the community and then just assume that they're going to accept us there with with open arms, and we're gonna thrive there. And that just felt so wrong. Yeah. Right. And, you know, Nicola has as a lot more clout and connections here than I do yet, which I'm sure I will over the next couple of years. But so we felt really strongly that like, this is where her heart is, this is where her connections are, this is where she's already poured herself into the community. And we have so many people here, people like you who understand the needs of the community, we're we're not going to show up here and create some program that we that what we think is what everyone needs. And just assume everyone is going to come running to us. We want to partner with people who are already doing things, right. Because like, I'm now coming into this community, and I'm not from Pottstown. And I've never worked in Pottstown. I've never lived in Pottstown. I'm from Jersey. And so like, I'm feeling like, I need to come here into this city with a servant's mindset. Yep. And not as a leader. But as somebody who will show up and do the work when the people who are here, tell me what it is that needs to be done. Sure. until like, I've earned people's respect, and I can understand better the needs and the things of the community. And that's a really humbling experience. Especially, especially for someone like me, you right, I a middle class, straight white, hetero Christian, male, right, I think I check every box of like, the, if society could hand you just a little bit of privilege, they handed me just about every little piece of it. And so like unpacking that, and being like, yeah, no, I, I, I have so much unlearning to do. And so much like, unknowing that I needed to do before I can be of any use to anyone in this area. So I'm, I'm really grateful for people like you who are out here doing this stuff, you know, and I can just, I can sit back and learn from for a while. Absolutely,   David Charles 27:16 man. And it is all about, you know, just how we had a conversation before about you know, it's an uncomfortable face to Yeah. And that's, that's, you know, that I think that's important. We sort of need to go after those spaces, especially when you think of, I would just say Christ, like, uncomfortable. You know, I mean, you know, I lived in LA for five years lived in Germany off and on for three, I lived in Manhattan for three lives in Atlanta. I'm back in Pottstown with two new killer towers here, so And like, I love the beach. And I love nice weather. But I am cold here. You know, so is not as terrible as people think. Yeah, some people are like, oh, man, it's like, no, it's like, and as I age, I'm also I'm not always wanting to be out more like I'm, I'm actually learning and just going within a little more. It's not about me being out. I know everyone Yeah, but it's like, I'm just trying to serve and whatever way I can. And just stay focus with that. You know, and just live simple. You know, I just want to be simple. Yeah, I need my life to be simple, you know,   Zack Jackson 28:52 some lives simply, it was it was that a Gandhi saying that? To live simply so others can simply live? I don't know. That might not be Gandhi. That might be   David Charles 29:03 somebody but I get that. Yeah. Because simplicity is. Yeah, it is. It is it for me, you know, unless and I can go in and out of that at times. But that's where I found the most peace in my life to actually let go of everything that the world is like told me I need and you got to become this. It's like, because like, no. You don't have to be you don't have to do any of those things. If you trust that, if you trust what I'm saying. Who thin space,   Zack Jackson 29:39 then spaces. That's right. We were just talking about that before I hit record. Those places where heaven and earth are just goofy. Just a little piece of cellophane and between the two meet Yeah, yeah. So you've been overseas, you've lived in both coasts, on beautiful places and in all over the place, but you came back here. What? What what is happening here in Pottstown? Now that's got us, like really excited that that you're just rejoicing over what's going on?   David Charles 30:13 Well, I mean, I think the community college is doing more to like, sort of get on board with like, integrating with the community, Montgomery County Community College because the Pottstown campus there, I sit on a, an advisory council there for the Pottstown campus. And they're doing more, you know, they've been here for almost 2526 years. And they're doing more to be more a part of the community and which is good. I would say, I think the business community's doing better. Pre COVID really started to blossom. You know, I think the business community is doing better, I think it will do better. What else what I say? I also think some of the commitment of the community members showing up to different, you know, events and sort of just wearing, you know, the Pottstown proud armor and like feeling like, hey, we don't have to be like another town. You know, we are who we are, we have a grip of our own. You know, we are Pottstown it's like, which is important. You know, it's like really owning who you are. And, you know, we're, we're sitting in the stadium, I'm a Trojan, right? You know, it's like, yes, that's where we are where the trucks I think I think I'm hoping that sports change in this district a little bit, I think there's going to be some sport camps that happen, I think, I feel like some new things could spark some more cohesion with the community and the school district and sports becoming more of, you know, the family comes out. That's, that's how it was when I was young. Yeah, you know, we won a state championship here at Pottstown. And let me tell you, when you talking about a community, that was like, rolling, it was rolling as as, as one community, you know, and I think we can get back there. But there, there are still some layers that have to be peeled back, even when sports brings us together. You know, there's still some things, you know, there was some class differences here. And Pottstown for years north end or, you know, Coventry, and Eastern and, you know, it's like, we're Pottstown Hmm, that's what we need to remember. Yes. You know, it's like, let's just remember that we are Pottstown. Wood, and you are on claim your set, which is Pottstown. Yeah, you know,   Zack Jackson 33:12 yeah, I love that grit. That that that is something that has made me feel at home. Since the time that I've been in the orbit of Pottstown has been like, this is a really familiar grit that I'm feeling. This is like growing up in South Jersey, being around Philly, like that kind of blue collar grit, where it's like, we're going to work and we're going to get it done. We are who we are, and we love it. And flaws in all this is who we are and we're going to work to to protect it. I love it. Yeah, I love it. I can I can totally relate to that. Yeah. No pretension.   David Charles 33:49 No, no, no. No. And I think yeah, I think the business community also surrounded surrounding Pottstown as well. I'm really hoping to reach out to more people, CEOs, managers, directors, whatever, whatever it may be. The pharma industry, the Dana Corporation, just just more involvement in the school. More conversations, more allowing students to know what is available, right in your backyard, how to get prepared, you know, how do we help young people live simple, you know, like, like, encouraging that what does that look like so, so so, you know, Pottstown also can be that place, that people aren't graduating and just moving away? Yes. But they're, they're here, and now they're going to college at MINECO because it's it's you have dual enrollment here at Pottstown. You know, in your you can go to MINECO, Bluebell and you can get your Masters, you know, by now, it's like, we have we have Have a framework that we just have to know exist and have a map. And I think have a contentment about being here, living here, playing here, serving here and loving each other, you know,   Zack Jackson 35:21 our dream for this church plant is that it would be primarily a community space. And, um, that the model for church for a long time has been a gathering of Christians who also goes out and does things. We want to be a community group, like a doing things group that also has a church, right. And so we had Nicole and I had had had dreamed up like a coffee shop kind of setup where people can come and, and be and, and organize and meet and be a part of the community that we're finding more and more, the more we talk with folks who are local, and they're like, I don't know, if we need one, we might not need that a coffee shop. So let's talk about these other sorts of third gathering spaces. But the that's a work in progress. But we do definitely want to, to have some kind of storefront space, some kind of space, that that can be a community gathering place where folks can get to know each other. And when, when we brought these ideas to people, like the big response we got was, nah, not another church, not another nonprofit, can somebody please pay taxes? Yes. And so we are we are committed that when we do create whatever business this is that it is not going to be like, the church, and then the business is under the umbrella so that the business then is a nonprofit, sure, whatever, that we are very intentional, we are not going to try to massage the laws to get around paying property taxes, because we've got people on the school board or a part of the church and people on council that are part of the church, and they are all very committed to the fact that like, if you are in like a for profit business, restaurants and retail out here, like you're contributing to the community, through your tax dollars, and and your presence in the community and like places like the school, they get funded partially by, like, those businesses that are popping up. And so yeah, like, I've never been the person who's excited to pay taxes, but I kind of am like, I kind of want to start making money. In my local taxes.   David Charles 37:39 Absolutely. It's important. There's a level of respect for that. That comes, you know, because unfortunately, we're talking about property taxes. And, you know, with our district in this community, it's like, we're not like, spring for an area that has, you know, farm on all kinds of big businesses out there. And but you know, anybody's hearing this, come on, bring your business here, there you go. Bring your big business here, so we can, so we can, like, you know, change some of that those taxes here with the school district and just, you know, make it better for everybody buying houses or having businesses I mean, that's, you know, it's important. You know, we have the space that back near to college. So yeah, you know that we need it. It's important.   Zack Jackson 38:24 Yeah. Oh, there's the money of great spaces here in Palm Desert. Yeah, beautiful city, really is wonderful. Got a little bit of everything. I'm excited to bring my kids up here. That'd be great. Yeah, that'd be great. See, I mean, other thoughts about, about this beautiful city, about the work that you're doing about anything at all that we've talked about anything, you want to make sure that people take home with them and the anything that they remember?   David Charles 38:51 Again, when we talk about simplicity, as adults and students and like even myself, we just have to learn how to get back. We're not I wouldn't just say get back to that. But there is an unlearn there are so many things that we have learned. And we have we have been bombarded with us around the world and things we need and stuff and, and, and you know, even as a church or just as a church is people and, and people coming together, it's like sharing things, and having things like in common that that thought of sharing, growing, keeping things simple. So we all can live and take care of each other. And like be in a city where i is what I always imagined. You live in near North and you can walk down the high street. You can participate. You can patronize you can go out at rivet with my my buddy harradine spot there, you can eat at the blue elephant, you can eat at the Avenue, and then you can feel safe, walking back up to your home, maybe in North End, or down in Eastern or over in Coventry, or west or whatever. But it's like, it's just, we just got to, I think this simplicity man, having all things in common, you know, not needing so much learning to live and be content is I just, that's, that's something I am. I want to continue to live and go after. So it's upon me and, you know, you think of Christ, it's like, he was he talked to the disciples, like, don't take anything. It's like, it's like, are we going to listen to though don't think, rely on each other rely on the spirit rely with, with what's inside of you and others? And like, I that's what I want to see. I also want to see, you know, you say, I want to see the church also be the church man. Let the spirit and each body of the body be activated. Yeah. That will change a city.   Zack Jackson 41:28 Yeah, yes. 100%. mean, that's my you're speaking my love.   David Charles 41:34 Yeah. That will change a city.   Zack Jackson 41:38 If Christians are little Christ's as the word Christian means, then our entire world would be different.   David Charles 41:47 I'll leave you with one last thing that goes into that. And you're right, it would be different. We were at a it's called nexor meeting with a church for the church leaders. And that's our meeting. And we had a couple, there was 30 passengers. There it was, myself. These are heavily from Operation 143. There was Brian Hostetler, from the possum Middle School was the principal that was Carrie Brooks, who's a pastor at connections. She's been a mentor. And I think I don't know if Laura was there. But we were all in this room. And they were praying about the Middle School and the store, school district and the church. And Pastor Kerry said, she saw a vision. She said I saw in the paper Pottstown Middle School, save Pottstown. And the vision that God has given me with the middle school is that, of course the community, all the community. But the body all the churches in the whole area and beyond. And the community which the churches or community would go into that building and serve and connect with the students connect with a teacher and be present. And before you know it and you look up you got 1000 plus or more body, the members the church in that building, loving on students and the heading and we've talked about this the heading of Pottstown middle schools say as Pottstown I know because God gave me the vision he said this is how the church actually unifies and a place works together. It's not it's not one church. It's the body is in the building. And what happens you look up your you got people from all over, you know, you got First Presbyterian Yeah,   Zack Jackson 44:10 connection, but they're not wearing their church nametag. So it doesn't matter where they're from, you got   David Charles 44:15 OpenTable UCC, you got you got everybody what they're focused on the people. Yeah. And that creates the love that is needed to change that space. And I believe in our school district. We have over 3200 students almost 33 You focus on this district. You can create change, because you got parents, you got students, you got ministration and these students are going they're gonna graduate. And what are they gonna do? Are they gonna pour back into here? Are they gonna leave? Are they gonna drop out? Are they gonna what's what are We're gonna do to actually make sure that we unify and come together. Yeah. Yeah, Pottstown Middle School saves Pottstown. And that reminds me and tells me, it's the body, you know that it's like, and you know, you don't have to be in the church to be here. And you don't have to do any of that, like, you just you got to be available.   Zack Jackson 45:30 Yeah. And I don't want to be too critical of the, of, you know, the million churches and million Christians that are in the area as well. When I think about the things that they aren't doing, and that we aren't doing and that we aren't being because I think that so many Christians are living in a mentality of scarcity. It's not that they don't love, it's not that they don't want to help. It's not that they don't feel the call the pool to make the world a better place. It's that they are the disciples walking up to Jesus with a handful of fish and bread and they go, this is all we got. Right giving is down, people are down, we're just trying to scrape by We got nothing. We can barely make it for ourselves for a Sunday morning with our 10 people in this service trying to pay for this big building, we got nothing. How can we then dream about these big dreams, because they're there in that place? And they're allowing the scarcity to cloud their, their their dreams? I mean, if if Christians are people who worship the god of impossible things, and the God of impossible things, does impossible things that's kind of in the name. And so I just feel like what we need are examples of people who are who believe that Jesus is still multiplying bread and fish to feed the multitudes. That's it. All you need is some a couple of examples of people who don't have the great resources, the giant mega churches, and yet are still loving greatly with the simple presence that they have, and the difference that's being made. And then you get an outpouring of the spirit amongst these churches and these people and you will see the world changed when people and Christians start to believe that the God of impossible things is still here. And still working. I get it. I'm there for that dream.   David Charles 47:26 There you go. I'm here. I'm going right back in that building, brother. You go.   Zack Jackson 47:35 Wow, this is good. Yeah, your time. Thank you for your time. To come here. I love this beautiful, gorgeous. Oh, listener it is 72 degrees and sunny, not a cloud in the sky.   David Charles 47:48 And Amazing. Amazing. So I'm   Zack Jackson 47:51 sure we'll be hearing more from you in the future. Thank you today for talking with us. Yep.   David Charles 47:55 Thank you. All right.   Zack Jackson 47:58 Thank you for listening to the reimagining faith podcast. This podcast is made possible by our incredible patrons over at Patreon. In particular, I want to say a special thank you today to Deb Schwartz, as well as Steve and Gerri Jackson. You can check out all the available perks at patreon.com/reimagining Faith. Nicola and I are so grateful to be on this journey with all of you. May the God of impossible things fill you with hope for a better tomorrow. And May you go forth to make it so
Let’s Plant a Church
May 19 2022
Let’s Plant a Church
Episode 1 In our first episode, we wanted to give you all an inside look into the heart and soul of our new church plant, Open Table UCC. We are a theologically progressive, Pottstown-focused church with Jesus at the center of everything we do. Come along as we unpack some of what that means through storytelling, scripture, humor, and our own lives. Please share this episode with your friends on social media and follow us as well. It will help us to spread the word about the work that we are doing.    Please consider supporting this work financially as well and get a number of great perks in the process at...   Transcript  This transcript was automatically generated by www.otter.ai, and as such contains errors (especially when multiple people are talking). As the AI learns our voices, the transcripts will improve. We hope it is helpful even with the errors.     Zack Jackson 00:00 Welcome to the reimagining faith podcast with the pastor's Jackson. This is a podcast for seekers, dreamers and fellow sojourners, who are trying to figure out what it means to be followers of Jesus in the 21st century. I'm Zack, and I'm Nicole. And this entire thing has just been one big ploy to get Nicole to start a podcast with me. We are planting a church in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, we left our comfortable, wonderful church jobs. And we are doing this crazy new thing entirely because I wanted to start a podcast with Nicole. And she never would, until this very moment. So people at home, this is a big deal. Hello, everyone. When we decided not to do this as a video, I think that was a mistake. Because I think everyone needs to see your face right now.   Nichole Jackson 01:14 Welcome, welcome, welcome.   Zack Jackson 01:17 So this podcast is somewhat of an extension of our church planting work, but it is also something that stands separate from it. So maybe like parallel to our church planting work. What we want to do in this podcast over the next however many weeks or months, or years or decades that we decide to do it is to unpack a lot of our core convictions that undergird what we're doing with this new church plant, as well as to interview really interesting people, difference makers, the sorts of people who are out there making our community a better place, who are asking really difficult questions, and who are just people that we think that you would really like to know. So we should probably we've mentioned a church plant a few times share the name, but probably we should probably stop calling it the church plant   Nichole Jackson 02:19 that church plant the church plant. Yeah. The name of our church plant is Open Table United Church of Christ. And we have at the center of what we're doing to the word Open Table, because that is what we believe. The church is really meant to be a place where you a place a spirit of invitation of hospitality of openness and invitation, where everyone is welcome. Everyone is invited and valued and honored at that table. And that table is one that is designed to be spacious enough that anyone can sit at it. I guess we can maybe share a bit about our core values.   Zack Jackson 03:16 Yeah, yeah. So at our core, we are striving to be a theologically progressive, Pottstown focused church with Jesus at the center of everything that we do. Now, that combination of things, I just haven't found much of out there, which I think there is this niche, this group of people looking for what a friend of mine called this convergence of ideologies, people who are theologically progressive, which I mean, I'll unpack that in just a second, but also very much committed to where they happen to be in this moment, which for us, I mean, technically right now is in Reading, but we are sitting at our dining room table right now, with moving boxes behind me, all of us getting ready to set forward on this new journey and with Jesus at the center. Because my experience has been that a lot of times when you are a very progressive church, we get a little scared of offending people, I think and in the name of Jesus has been used. My goodness, what since Constantine, to, you know, murder people and do awful, terrible, horrible things. And so, so many in the progressive church have just become so apologetic, I think or maybe just afraid to offend people that we stop using the name of Jesus. There have been times where I've been in progressive circles. Listen, I've quoted the Bible and been like, it's another guy with the Bible trying to, like, it doesn't compute for me, because my progressive theology comes from the Bible. Like, I was a super conservative Christian before I read the Bible seriously. And when I started studying the Bible seriously, in my super conservative school, it made me progressive. Like, I don't know how you can get that close to the teachings of Jesus and not come away with some progressive ideals.   Nichole Jackson 05:40 But what do you mean by progressive? I'm so   Zack Jackson 05:43 glad you asked. I've been thinking about this a lot, because I don't think that the dichotomies are super helpful in being like, you know, this group bad, this group, good, because that's, that's how you win elections. But that's not how you build a church or movement or friends or people. And so what I think it comes down to is where do you think the ultimate truth lies? Does it lie in something behind? Is it a golden age? Is it a revelation that has been made perfect in the past? Is it a set of ideals? Is it an unchanging book or dogma or doctrine? Is it something that has been that we need to reach backwards to recover? Or is it something that has yet to be fully revealed in the future that we are working towards uncovering now? If you answered affirmative in the first one, you probably are more conservative, hence the name conserve, you're trying to recover, conserve the past. If you think that, you know, truth is being revealed progressively, as we move forward, then you might be more of a progressive thinker. And that's at the heart, I think of what it is that I don't believe that there is a golden age, or, you know, a faith that we need to recover, or, you know, absolute truths that are held about how to live our lives and interact with God, that are contained within the scriptures, and then they are unchanging forever. I think that God is always unfolding, always, always allowing us to reimagine scripture, our our Jewish friends always say that the scriptures are like, a multifaceted gem that you turn, and then every time you turn it, it shines in the light a little bit differently. And it's one of my rabbi friends once told me that the Torah is an infinite gift from an infinite God. And so how could we ever assume to have a finite understanding of it? Is that the kind of lies at the heart of what I mean, by theologically progressive? Do you have a different way of thinking about that?   08:01 No, that's pretty good.   Zack Jackson 08:02 Oh, thank you. Good, thank you. I mean, then what comes out of that, like, what? If that's at the core of what it means to be theologically progressive, then what does that look like in practice? If you take those truths, those those foundational truths? How does it work itself out in practice? For me, one of my biggest convictions is that science is real. I am one of the hosts of the down the wormhole podcast, which has been podcasting for nearly three years, on topics of science and religion. And, you know, we just keep on having more content, because there's so much more to explore in the ways the relationship between between science and faith when you take them both seriously. And you let them, you know, exist together, that there are always new things to discover and to talk about and insights that they provide to each other. And, you know, historically speaking, the church has not always done that, then sometimes the church has been like, Well, the Bible says that there's a firmament above us, and that the sun moves in the Earth's standstill that's in the Bible. So then that's the truth as it was revealed to us in the past. And so we can't accept the new stuff coming from Galileo and Copernicus and all them and so we got to murder them, because that's what we do. We're Christians, we murder people. That's sarcasm. We don't murder people on this podcast. We do not affirm murdering people on this podcast to not let that be known. But that's one of the examples of how that works itself out in my life. How about it? How about in yours?   Nichole Jackson 09:46 Well, I think that Jesus was quite a radical lover like, he loved the people that that his his colleagues didn't love or disregarded or rejected. And he was always kind of pushing the envelope on who was welcome at that table. And so I think, I think that's, that's kind of the way that the church is supposed to be doing things to. So it doesn't, I think love your neighbor as yourself is not necessarily a progressive ideal. But if you take it seriously, that means that we love people who love differently than us who identify differently, then, maybe how each and every one of us identify so. So one of the progressive ideals that's really important to me is that, that our theology would be good news for, for the LGBTQIA community that it would be good news for my black and brown brothers and sisters and siblings that, that the Jesus that I know would be open, accessible, and an invitational to people who look and love and in play, and live their life like me, but also people who do that differently, that the table was never meant to be an exclusionary place. But that when you come to take the sacrament of Holy Communion, or the Lord's Supper, or however you call that special sacred meal, where Jesus sat around the table with friends, broke bread, drank wine, that is a table that is open for everyone, that there's nothing, there's nothing that you could do or have done in the past, or maybe even will in the future, that will make you exempt from that table. And so I think for me, if it's not good news, for those who are on the margins, it's not good news for those who are often rejected. If it's not good news, for me, as a white, straight female, that is not good news. That looks very different. For wherever you find your feet, where we find your heart. But I think, for me, that's what progressive theology means that that it's expansive, and much less limited than what historically Christianity has been.   Zack Jackson 12:40 So something you said reminded me of one of the most important stories to me in in the New Testament comes from Acts chapter 10, in which Peter who, you know, Jesus said, You are the rock on which I will build my church he is in historically, you know, the first pope, he's kind of a big deal in the in the early days, and he's up on his roof is having a just having a day. And then he finds himself wrapped up in this mystical vision that doesn't make a whole lot of sense to him. But he sees coming down from the heavens, a big ol sheet, filled with all kinds of unclean animals, like ritually unclean animals, the sorts of animals that the hit the scriptures very specifically say, do not eat these animals, and in many cases, don't even touch them. Don't be around them. These are unclean. You don't, don't, don't don't big acts. And the voice from the heavens that brings the sheet down, says, Hey, go ahead and make yourself a sandwich. And Peter is like, well, this is a trick, obviously, because I am a super religious dude. And I hung out with Jesus for years, who was also super religious. And like, I get it. This is a test of my faith. And so he goes, haha, gotcha, God, I'm not gonna touch that. I went to school. I know, I'm not supposed to do that. And the voice says, Do not call unclean what I have made clean, Take and eat. And he's awoken from his vision by these, these these. These messengers who had come from Cornelius, his house was a Roman centurion, which just do you want to talk about somebody who Peter should not be interacting with a Gentile first of all, and not just like your garden variety Gentile, but he's a Roman. He's the oppressor. He's the people who are destroying or killing your people who killed Jesus. He's a Centurion. So he's a military leader. So he would have been the sort of people who was commanding people to murder Jesus. Cornelius had a vision. And God said, Hey, go find my my guy, Peter. And he's got a word for it. You. So he goes to Cornelius this house. And he gets there. And he talks to him about Jesus, right. And so he's going there against his better judgment, but he's like, alright, God's up to something. I don't know what it is. And the text says, The Holy Spirit descended on the family, and they were speaking in tongues, and they were doing all these wackadoodle things. That was basically like Pentecost, part two, Gentile, Bugaloo. And Peter, just in that moment, he's like, Well, I don't get it. But who am I to stand in the way of the Holy Spirit. And then he goes to the Jerusalem Council, the big wigs, and he's like, Y'all are not gonna believe what happened to me. And then he explains the whole thing, and they've got the same concerns. But he says, Look, I was there, the Holy Spirit was doing this thing. And it did not line up with literally the words of the Bible, and the truth and the literal law. Like, this wasn't just religious law, this is law, handed down to us for 1000s of years. But look, God did a thing. And I don't know what to do with that. What do we do with that? And the Jerusalem Council was like, you know, wisely. Yeah, that's nuts. But let's go with it. Because, you know, Jesus died, but then he wasn't dead. And then there was fire on our heads, and we were talking different languages. And none of this makes any sense anymore. So why not? Why not just rewrite the whole thing? And I don't, I don't know how we go from that story, to then saying, what the Bible says it. So obviously, this is the way it is. Right? Right. This is coming from me who at one point, I dated a girl whose mother was a Lutheran pastor. And I told her that your mother does not understand the scriptures properly. Because First Timothy clearly says A woman should not be in authority over a man. And she should be quiet in church. And it's hard to be a pastor if you're quiet in church, and she is sinning and not a real pastor, because the Bible said it. And now look at me, I'm hosting a podcast with my pastor wife. I'm glad to get church with my pastor wife. So obviously, what was what was good for Timothy's church in the first century, was probably just good for Timothy's church in the first century. Ephesus probably just was dealing with its own things. And the God's truth is being made manifest as we work it out in real time. But then, right, and I can already hear all of you wonderful people at home. And you're saying to yourselves, where does that end? What we can we just can we just say that God told me anything? Because because you know that I've got a lot of stuff I want to do. And it'd be great if I could have God's justification for it. So like, how do we work out what God is actually saying? And how do we figure out what we just want God to be saying? How do we hold on to an ancient truth, while reapplying the wisdom behind it in new ways without intentionally or unintentionally? Just shifting God's truth to fit what we believe in the moment?   Nichole Jackson 18:41 Jesus is a good, a good place to start.   Zack Jackson 18:47 Let's call him up on the Batphone.   Nichole Jackson 18:48 Yeah, yeah, I think those are really good questions and ones that I, I feel like I'm always asking, like, what, what is the foundation for this belief? What is the foundation for? Yeah, for the way that I live the way that I move in in the world, and whether that feels like it is faithful, or something that is like, out of my own brain? is a really scary place anyway.   19:20 Your brain? Yes, yes. Brain. It's great.   Nichole Jackson 19:25 It works. Most days. And I think, you know, I think back to Jesus's teachings, and I think back to the teachings that didn't necessarily have words, showing up and feeding 5000 People with like, meager resources and compassion and love. And that kind of generosity seems like something we should do to, like, seems like that, like he didn't go around and like check people's like, you know, moral checklists to find out if they deserved food like he just said, go go feed them all. Take, take what you started with and just go give it away. You know, when he showed up at the well and and talk to with this woman at the well, which was kind of like scandalous anyway. He didn't like, scold her he didn't, you know, he, he knew her. And he mentioned the things that he knew about her. But he saw her, as opposed to you know what she needed from him. I think there's something really beautiful in that, then you're you're welcome before you've like, gotten your act together. Or you, you know, the woman who was caught in adultery, like, that story is really irritating. Because, like, what about the guy like,   Zack Jackson 21:08 she wasn't just by herself? Yeah, like,   Nichole Jackson 21:11 she was committing adultery with someone. So there should be like, a man caught in adultery too. But whatever. Like, he didn't cast stones at her. He didn't tell her that she was a wretched soul and, you know, damned to hell. But she looked at everybody else and said, like, Wait, so who, who of you has the right to start throwing stones and like, protected her? Even though the thing that that they were calling out and her was was something he, you know, was part of his tradition, like, don't commit adultery, he, you talked about that. But he saw her first and saw these people who were willing to just, you know, destroy her life, because of this thing. And I think is Brian Bryan Stevenson, the, the person who wrote Just Mercy just kind of kept coming back to this theme of like, we're more than the worst thing we've done. And I think that is like, exactly who Jesus is. That's exactly, you know. And so that's where I start. Like, if, if, if, if Jesus were here, how would he be responding? Like, I know that WW, JD bracelets are no longer a thing, but I really wish they were because, like, What would Jesus do is like, if that's like, we have to start there, like, not what a book says, not what in that book is good book. It's, it's a great book. And I do believe that it was inspired, like, you know, it's inspired by God. But, you know, like, Jesus was was who were as who were following. And so, if I can say, well, what would Jesus do? Would, would he kick out somebody who was, you know, not living according to this book? Or would he like, look at that person, see who they are and like, get you're okay, you're enough. Like, just come be with me. That's what we mean by Jesus at the center. Like this stuff isn't just stuff we're like, coming up with out of our brain like, comes from a place of asking these questions like, What would Jesus do? What would Jesus call us to do? Maybe that would be a better, what would Jesus call us to? That's a big bracelet. It's a big bracelet. But that's what we mean by Jesus at the center like it's, there is a litmus test. There is something to   Zack Jackson 23:51 Yeah, it does seem that a lot of Christianity is like, the teachings of Paul and the Creed's at the center, and the stories of Jesus for the children. Yeah, but like, No, right, like, you need to know and, and maybe this is our fault partially and the corporate our as Christian leaders, as pastors, that we haven't more rigorously taught the Bible. Right, the stories of Jesus that we just rely on the same 12 stories, and we don't get into the nitty gritty of, you know, the implications of the things that he said and did and the Radek callosity of the things he said and did and what he was up against. And I mean, you start to look at even the historical backing of the the times that Jesus was in and you start to see him in a totally different light, which I cannot wait to get into This is something I'm super interested in huge Bible nerd over here. And second temple, Jewish history nerd, very specific. It is. I mean, it's such an interesting time period. But we're not going to get off on that tangent today. I promise you, we're not going to get off on that tangent today. But one of the other things I think about as a safeguard, and maybe this is something that is radical in the American Christianity, but is not anywhere else. Is that when we say that we're working out the truth as God is revealing it? We don't mean that we're doing that in our own private prayer life. Yeah, like, I'm not Reading the Bible, and then doing a little bit of research and hitting up Wikipedia, and then going, well, this is the new truth. This is the way it is because this is how it makes sense to me. We're doing it in community. Yeah. And, like, I think of American Christians are like, we think of ourselves like telescopes, like, we get the light from the heavens. And we look at the picture inside, when in reality, we're like a Satellite Array. There's this wonderful one out in the deserts of New Mexico, I think, right? That's the Very Large Array, I think is what it's called, it's what's in contact the movie with Jodi. Jodi Foster? Thank you. I've written by Carl Sagan, great movie, we did an episode on it on down the wormhole. But that's a whole different wormhole. We're like that we are all receiving bits. And so if one of those satellites gets some really weird Reading, what what do you do? Do you just say that? That's obviously true, because the satellite picked it up. No, of course, you wouldn't do that if you're a scientist out there, and one of the satellites gets a weird Reading, you would then verify it with all the other satellites around it, have them point at the thing, and see if they see it, too. And if they do, and it's some new discovery, then that's great. If it rewrites what we had previously thought about the universe, that's great. Scientists love to be wrong. It's the best thing in the world when we're wrong, when we discover something new, that helps to get us closer to some semblance of truth. But more often than not, it's just an anomaly. It's just some bird poop on the satellite or something, and you clean it off, and you keep going. You know, most of the things that people come up with, that's some progressive new truth thing. Probably aren't great. But we work it out together. And we have to work it out together, we check each other in community, why it's so important for this church community that we're creating, that we are not creating a cult of personality from, you know, the sage on the stage, who has all the wisdom and passes it down, but as a community of people around one big open table, who are willing to listen to each other, and learn from each other and be open to each other. And that beautiful alchemy only works if everyone is in it. It is so easy to destroy that kind of balance when you get one domineering presence, who is not open and accepting and this is, but maybe we take a second here and say that one of the one of the paradoxes of being open and being accepting is that you cannot be accepting of closed mindedness. Be it doesn't work. Because the closed minded people will then close everything down. You can only accept those who are accepting. And that seems hypocritical,   Nichole Jackson 29:02 to be accepting, because there you go, I think it's, it's really important to say to, to say like we all are on a journey, and like, I'm gonna mess up, you're gonna mess up. But there is something to be said to messing up and being willing to learn and to have those tough conversations where, you know, someone can call us out and we can say, oh, my gosh, you're right. I'm going to be thinking about that. And, you know, take that to God and prayer and ask, like, is there something in me that I need need to change and there's something different in that and then and just completely saying, going on the defense, and, you know, it's not my problem. It's your problem.   Zack Jackson 29:53 Anyway, yeah. But if you if you have a heart of openness, even if you are somewhat closed minded, If you want to want to be to be more open, then that's probably enough to get you to the table. Yeah, and you might need some correcting as you go. But like we   Nichole Jackson 30:13 might need, we do need correcting. As we go along.   Zack Jackson 30:19 Yeah, I've learned this in the past, in in starting a group that I thought would be a, like, really open sandbox environment is how I described it, because like, we'd be able to be safe to play with these new ideas, and then leave them in the sandbox. So if you say something that is potentially heretical, nobody is going to kick you out of the church, nobody is going to talk you down and make you feel like you are not a good Christian. If you say, Hey, I don't know if I believe in the virgin birth, or something like that, you know that it was going to be a safe place to play with these ideas. So that we can kind of grow together. And I wanted it to be so open, that I allowed people who were not open to express their non openness. And so for example, somebody maybe got up the courage to say, just don't know if the virgin birth is necessary. I think it's probably fine. If Jesus was just a guy that was like, God poured out God's Spirit onto that guy. And it didn't have to be this virgin birth experience, and this super Gods sort of thing. And then somebody else in the table around that room said, no, no, it's in the creed, and it's in the Bible. So if you're going to deny that, then you might as well deny the whole thing. And then that person who got up the guts to finally share that thing in church, just shut up. Yeah. And then they stopped coming. Because why would they come back. And then over time, because I had given equal space to those who are open and those who were closed. By the end, it was only people who were closed. And then so all of our sessions then just became Bible studies. Here. We're going to read the text, and what does it say? What is the one meaning that it has, and then we go home. And I learned that you need to protect openness.   Nichole Jackson 32:26 Safety doesn't just come naturally, because you want it to come? Yes, safety is something that you have to protect, you have to preserve, you have to   32:36 work for,   Zack Jackson 32:37 like vulnerable people, but also vulnerable places within ourselves. Vulnerable actions and vulnerable stances. We need to protect those. And that means sometimes seeming like the bad guy.   Nichole Jackson 32:59 Yeah, yeah, I keep thinking about the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. And I think it really, it takes a village to understand the movement of the Holy Spirit. Like it it. It takes a group of people who are following Jesus to listen together to move together to discern together and to fight together and to disagree and still show up. I think that's what we're hoping to create. Together.   Zack Jackson 33:40 Yeah, absolutely. So like, we haven't done that totally yet. Our church exists on paper. It exists in the hard drives of the State Department, and of the United Church of Christ data hub. It exists in our hearts. And it to some extent, you know, our group of church planters, as we're recording this right now on May 15. At 10:40pm is about 12. Right about 12 people who have committed to this work and who have gathered for what, three or four times around a table in Pottstown, literally around an open table in Pottstown. And we're still working out what that looks like. And I don't have any delusions that it's going to be easy to be vulnerable and to protect a vulnerable stance. In the long term. I think maybe we could do it with 12 pretty easily around that table.   Nichole Jackson 34:49 I don't know. No,   Zack Jackson 34:51 you don't even think we could 12 Jesus had   Nichole Jackson 34:53 12 Ah, he were he right like, and they were like all stars. They just missed this, this   Zack Jackson 35:01 just the one? No. All right. So what if around that table Jesus had just put the female disciples, things probably would have ended up better, they probably still would have ended up better, right? Yeah. I mean,   Nichole Jackson 35:19 they were there. They were there. They were the ones who showed up first, they were the ones who believed first.   Zack Jackson 35:25 They were the ones who stuck around the whole time, who weren't to shame.   Nichole Jackson 35:29 They must be telling idle tales.   Zack Jackson 35:32 Yeah, the first evangelists? Yes. The people who showed up to the tomb, or the men couldn't be bothered. Yeah, well, you wouldn't have seen any of the 12. Mary's abandoning Jesus.   Nichole Jackson 35:43 So this Open Table anyway, we're creating, that we have began to meet around that the will continue to grow as we need to create more space. It's right in Pottstown. It's right, right in the community in which we're planting. And we want it to be very, very, very clear that this is a Pottstown focused community. I said earlier that if it's not good news for folks on the margins, and it's not good news, if it's not good news for folks in Pottstown, it's not good news. And so, ministry takes takes place in a place in a time and in a in a location. And I've been a pastor in Pottstown, for about four years. And the village of Pottstown. And I call it a village, certainly a borough, it's certainly, you know, a certain amount of miles a certain amount of, you know, population, but it's, it's a village Pottstown is very, very committed village to making it a good place to live, making good place to learn, making it a good place to have relationships and to a commitment to making it a better place. And I think that so often, the church, the capital C church, is very invested in wordly. Where they're, they're, you know, invested in their programs and their buildings and their, their traditions and ways of being. And so then getting outside of those doors can be a really big challenge. And I don't think you know, any one churches specifically good or bad about this, it's a, it's a tendency to, to take care of yours. Which, you know, we're limited beings, we only have capacity to do so much. And so, Jesus, like when he went into the buildings, like things got crazy.   Zack Jackson 38:02 He assaulted people,   Nichole Jackson 38:04 he assaulted people, he threw over their tables. He was like, you, you're the worst, like, stopping bad. Like, he didn't go in and be like, Oh, my goodness, what a wonderful, wonderful thing you're doing here. He's like, No, I have some things   38:18 to say. Or like, Hey, can we could we talk about this afterwards? Like, it's a little problematic, right? Oh,   Zack Jackson 38:25 he's like, I'm abrade some cores and I'm a whip, some bankers   Nichole Jackson 38:29 get get out. Like, that is what happens when, you know, he came into institutions that, you know, and, and I, you know, the institution was important to him. Like, when he was 12 years old, he like, totally ran away from his mom and dad and was like, Yo, I gotta go hang out with God in his building, and they're like, you, child, like, what are you doing? She's was a very, he was a teenager, and he was totally a teenager. That was not angelic. But like, his ministry was on the road, like he was on the way on the way to so and so on the way to so and so he stayed at so and so's house. He healed out in the field. Like he fed a bunch of people in the countryside, like he, he went to where the people were, and I think, I think that's like, that's where we need to be like, we we don't want to have a traditional church building. We want to have a place that is a gathering place, a hub of sorts to where we can gather to worship, gather, to study gathered, gathered to pray, gather to protest, gather to have folks tell us about what's going on in the community and invite us to participate in the healing and restoration of things that that are broken. And and that needs to be rectified. So we're doing that in Pottstown. And we want to be very, very intentional about that, that, that what we do isn't just inside of the four walls of whatever gathering space we're in. But that we are doing that in a community with a village, and for the betterment of the village, with Jesus at the center of it, like we're not just out to be do gooders, like, following Jesus helps us, like, creates us to be good doers. And so.   Zack Jackson 40:39 So what about all those wonderful people joining us at home, who just so happened to not be Pottstown residents?   Nichole Jackson 40:46 As very good question. Thank you. I think that it is really, really important for us in Pottstown, for those of us who are gathering at Open Table UCC physically, in real time, in real space, that we be dedicated to Pottstown. Because that's where our feet are, that's where our bodies are. And that's where we live, that's where we eat. That is where we go to school where we work. But the idea isn't just isn't only limited to Pottstown. Like, if you live in New Jersey, serve Jesus in New Jersey, like your faith should be connected to where you find your feet. If you find your feet in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. serve Jesus faithfully there. Find your people find your village, find your community and and be invested there.   Zack Jackson 41:50 Yeah, that makes sense to me. Like, please, you good folks at home. Don't hit unsubscribe. But feel free to join us. Virtually. Join us in prayer. Take what you can take what you want from the content that we create, both in this podcast and through the church. I'm sure that we'll be doing tons of online stuff, because that's just the person I am. And post COVID I mean, what I'm post COVID What does that even mean? But anyway, post the beginning of COVID. Where   Nichole Jackson 42:22 do we find our feet? We find our feet and a time?   Zack Jackson 42:25 Yeah, but we're virtual. Yeah, we're virtual too. So like, if you are joining us right now, from the middle of Saudi Arabia, like, please join us virtually, but also serve where you are? Yes, yes. I love it. Find your people where you are. But also join us. Yes, that's great. We can be your extended family. But it is so important to be where you are, especially in this day and age where we don't know what that even means anymore. If you want to move to Pottstown it's a wonderful place. It's so wonderful. And it's growing, and it's booming. And eventually, in the next couple of years, there will be this like really cool new church business happening. That I mean, our dream and has been our dream since we met in the seminary is to open a a church that is a coffee shop first. And a church a worshiping church body second. So like most churches are the opposite, right? It's a worshiping church body, who is a church family who does the worship thing. And then they also go out and do things we want to be a do things body that also worships. And so if our focus is on that we want to create a, a place in the community where people gather where people can be met and known and loved and served, where people can organize for protests where they can rent out space to work where they can, you know, meet people in the community and they can, there can be local art that is hung and music and poetry and there can be a podcast studio for high school kids. People can record their mixtapes, like there's a million different things we want to do out in the community. And that that has been our dream for ever really. And I think that in many ways, getting the church out of the four walls and out into the community to create a space where the community can gather again, is really important. And that was our dream. And we are forming the church the worshiping body first and listening to the needs of the community now. And when you're trying shooting, right trying to die to our own own ideas if we need to, or to at least hold our dreams loosely, recognizing that because we love coffee shops, maybe that's not what the community needs. I mean, maybe it is, and maybe we will do exactly what we plan to do.   Nichole Jackson 45:15 I mean, we're pastors, of course, coffee isn't needed. But, you know, what if there's an area that has very little access to a laundromat, so what if we were like coffee house laundromat, that's like one of the newest, great ideas that have come out of our church planting group is to have a coffee shop, laundromat, stay tuned. Hopefully in like, a year or two, we'll be able to say what it's become.   Zack Jackson 45:45 Yeah. Who knows, maybe it'll be a coffee shop, cafe, laundromat, bookstore, daycare, we don't know. It's what the community needs, and what the space opens and what the Spirit is doing. And so, we are learning to dream. But then not to cling to those dreams to hold the dreams loosely. Yes, just as we hold our beloved theologies loosely, and our beloved self identity loosely. And we allow ourselves to assume a posture of gracious acceptance of what God is trying to teach us now.   Nichole Jackson 46:29 And let me tell you, it is very, very easy to do this. Like,   Zack Jackson 46:33 I mean, for us it is it's for normal people. It's not but we are first, like challenge spiritual   Nichole Jackson 46:40 changes so easy. And holding ideals loosely. It's very, very easy. Yeah, I hope you are picking up on the tone, because it is not at all true. And that we're working it out as we go along as   46:56 well. Speak for yourself.   Nichole Jackson 47:00 I can speak for both of us   Zack Jackson 47:05 that I was talking about. So then, the future of this podcast, what are we going to do with this podcast with this, a little bit less than an hour time that we have together, hopefully, on a weekly basis that we're holding all things loosely, is for the next couple of weeks, at least. We want to take time each week to intentionally unpack some of the things that we have just briefly touched on. Now we have talked about a lot of things today. And that was kind of the point. And so we want to take just an intentional time to look at the deeply into the things that we hold dear, that are at the core of this new church community. And we want to we want to talk about our history with these ideas. We want to talk about the scriptures behind these ideas. We want to bring you into where Jesus is, and where we think the spirit is moving with these ideas and convictions. Those are matters of LGBTQ inclusion. These are matters of anti racism, of environmental work of science, of community building of Pottstown, of economics, of politics of the church at large, the problematic parts of our church, we want to have conversations with local, local leaders, we want to have conversations with activists, with authors with all of these people that are going to help us to intentionally and systematically unpack what these convictions actually mean, in a way that you can share. And that hopefully, you will also be able to grow along with us. And so these conversations will certainly be conversations, but I think they'll probably be a little bit more guided from here on out. Yeah. Which I think makes Nicole a lot happier. Very much. So just playing fast and loose. No, no, not really your cup of tea. It's not my spiritual gift. No. So that's all what you can expect coming down the pike. So if you want to support the work that we are doing through this podcast through this church plant, and just help Nicole and I to faithfully focus on this work that we feel called to do, I would invite you to contemplate whether or not you want to become a regular giver to this work. You can find us at patreon.com/ Should reimagining faith patreon.com/reimagining Faith, there'll be a link in the description as well. And for those of you who are unfamiliar with Patreon, it is a website that allows you to give a certain amount every month. And depending on the tier of giving that you're on, there are different perks available for you. And this is a way this goes directly to us into the creators. Patreon is a wonderful, wonderful website that was made a couple of years ago for this exact sort of a thing. So if you give a certain amount every month, you might get some perks, like you can vote on what the next episodes are going to be. There'll be exclusive content for people at certain levels, like guided meditations there, there'll be monthly video chats where you can talk with us, you can ask us questions, and we have to answer you, we are beholden to you to answer all of your questions. I mean, if you're at $50 a month, that is if you give less than $50 a month, I don't have to say a word to you. I'm just I'm just kidding. Please don't take me seriously. For Hire ones. I mean, we've got the handmade gifts we've got like we will promote your causes on the podcast as well. We've I, you should just go on there. And you should look and see where you feel called to. To contribute in that way. That would be a huge help to us as we are in transition and just trying to find some stability in our lives. By the way, I am so deeply honored and blessed and blown away by the fact that before we have even launched this one episode, this first episode when we had but a trailer for this podcast up on line that there were already 11 people who signed up to support this podcast 11 people who already decided to give monthly to something that had not yet been created. We love each and every one of you 11 people. And thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. So we look forward to exploring these topics with you. Hearing your questions, your feedback, where you want us to go and talk about we have no idea where the Spirit is going to take all of this work, but we know that we will go where we are meant to go. Do you have anything you want to add? No. Amen and Amen.