It's All About Connection

Everything is Us

Leper, Outcast, Unclean!

Peter kept having this vision: eat the unclean food. This goes back to the law of Moses, when the Israelites were told that they needed to be clean to live in camp. Unclean people were removed from society, living outside the camp until their sickness or impurity has expired.

This came from the belief that being ceremonially unclean was highly contagious… whether it came from sinful behavior, contact with animals or eating certain foods, or even a skin disorder or a woman’s monthly period.

This understanding of clean vs. unclean people shaped how they saw the world, their role in it, and the role of others.

So what is God saying to Jesus’ follower Peter, when he tells him to eat unclean food? And what is he saying to us about who is part of our community? View this video we watched together:

And then listen to Leah’s message below, or check her sermon notes for more. 

Connecting: No Bad News

Autumn graduates

My friend Charles is a pastor in Manhattan, and he was born in Korea. He came over to America as a young man... and started becoming a student of American culture. And Charles noted two messages from American pop culture that he kept hearing over and over, saying:

“Everywhere I look in American culture, I see two messages. And the first is to be a good person and make the right choices. The second is to be a successful person, to succeed in whatever you do. Be a superhero! Fight for justice and be powerful.”

That means you go to the best school, be the top of your class, get a promotion. Find the perfect life partner, have a successful life that allows you to buy a house and a nice car—and then send your kids to another successful college…

We believe that great things will happen if you are successful and good. So it’s very tempting us to live in pursuit of these things, thinking that then, I’ll be happy, I’ll be satisfied, life will go well.

But there are downsides to these paths. Like when you try to be good and follow all the rules— and yet you get bested by the folks who don’t play by the rules.

Or you pursue success—and then it comes up short when you actually get it. You get the new job... and it gets old so fast. The big wedding day is awesome, but is marriage just happily ever after? Or the baby we were supposed to want won’t sleep through the night. The money will buy us stuff we like—but it doesn’t take away the feelings of dissatisfaction we have in the world. So perhaps morality and success aren’t the path to joy…

So what’s the solution? How can we restore connection to God and others? Listen below, or read Leah’s notes for more.


Connecting Beyond Categories


"When Jesus brings up the marriage of the [Samaritan woman], he’s bringing up her story. And her story is a very sensitive one.

Yet it may not be for the reason the church has often suggested—that this woman has loose morals, that she’s a sexual sinner...

Instead, there may be cultural and circumstantial factors at play. In recent years, we’ve started to have conversations between cultures, where we come together and read the Bible, and say “oh my gosh, we’re reading this differently.”

And this has happened recently with this story, where westerners are reading this alongside women from Africa. And these African women are saying, “oh... ...this woman’s infertile.”

And that may be a wise interpretation. We know the culture of the day. Women in this time had no capacity to initiate divorce... She didn’t have the power to choose her husband. She’s essentially the property of the husband, who acquires her to bear his children.

So either, she’s lost five husbands to death, or she’s been rejected multiple times…"

This week we talk about making connections by crossing boundaries, as Jesus does when he talks to a lone woman from an opposing tribe. Whether it’s the fierce boundaries between Jews and Samaritans, or the categories that divide us from our fellow humans today, there are ways to move toward connection. Listen below or read Leah’s notes for more: 

Connecting Through Song


"I remember the first time I experienced contemporary worship—people singing songs to Jesus in an intimate way. I was in college as a freshman, and had met this guy who was saying, “I’m starting a group for theater people who want to talk about God.”

And I thought, ehh, I’ll show up.

This group of people were in a small room in the basement of the arts dorm, and somebody pulls out a guitar and starts playing these simple love songs, "Jesus, your name is like honey on my lips."

And I was struck by how weird it was… These folks are singing these love songs to God..."

So it can take a while to get into worship. But some people really get into worship—like King David, dancing in the streets. Check out Leah’s notes or listen in for more about connecting with each other and with God through song: 

Connected: with Tim Otto

"When I was in my early 20s, I felt pretty lost. I had grown up in a conservative Baptist church. And conservative isn’t just an adjective—it was the actual name they called themselves!

And I also realized I was gay, and everything I had been taught told me that this was the part of myself that I needed to excise and kill. So I tried very hard to do that. I went to Exodus ministry and prayed and fasted on Sundays to not be gay anymore.

And it didn’t work.

So I was really struggling with life and faith, and a lot of self-loathing.

And I had some friends who were forming this little community in San Francisco. And when I was 24 I showed up, and said,

“You know, I’m a deeply committed Christian and I’m also gay. I have no idea how those two go together, but I’d like to try and figure it out with you all.”

And afterwards, this guy who was the conservative Baptist regional area director for missions—he was very, very conservative, kind of like the ideological watchdog—he comes up to me and says this:

“Tim, I don’t know what all I think about homosexuality. But I know that you are a gift. And I wonder if it isn’t a gift to you.”

And that was just a revolution in my whole thinking…"

Opening gifts

We were honored with Tim Otto’s giving of his time to talk with us today. If you'd like to hear more about the gift of community, tune in below, or find our podcasts on iTunes under “Haven Berkeley”!

Connecting to Your True Self

CC license: Image by Juli Shannon

When we're new to a community, it's easy to want to blend in and be interesting, funny, and attractive by other people's standards. There's no shame in this--many mammals do this!

And yet, to have a life filled with meaning and joy, it's important to get connected to who we really are. This week, Leah explores the story of Gideon, a man who's hiding out in a desperate situation when God sends him a message... and how does he respond?

To find out what happened to Gideon--and get a sense of where and what journey you may be on--listen in below or read Leahs's outline

At the end of the talk, we got to hear Bryan Stevenson speak about his journey in working for prison justice. Watch the whole thing (or just from 22:50 on) for a powerful reminder of the connection that's possible when we continue on our journeys, even when the going gets hard!

It's All About Connection

Sometimes it feels like our world is flying apart...especially with a crazy election season magnifying the real tensions that threaten our communal life. But as brain scientists in the last 20 years have shown us, our brains are hard-wired for connection with human beings. This recent scientific evidence only reinforces the ancient wisdom that many of our cultural traditions have held for centuries: that people do better when connected to others in significant ways.

Listen below, or review Leah's outline, as she begins our fall series pondering the power of connection (to one another, to ourselves, and to God), and the problems that arise when we're disconnected. Also check out this video from the end of the teaching, that reminds us of the possibilities that can open up when we choose to open ourselves to another and choose connection.