Dec. 11 Gathering: Have Yourself A Subversive Little Christmas

Mary and Joseph with the child Jesus in the Manger of the crib at Christmas

Mary and Joseph with the child Jesus in the Manger of the crib at Christmas

Ah, Christmas. Hymns and caroling, cocoa and candlelight. Baby Jesus lying in a manger. Angels singing. It’s the most wonderful night of the year.

In many church buildings around the world, people will gather in poinsettia-filled sanctuaries and nostalgia-filled pews with friends and families to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We’ll sing songs like “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and “Joy to the World!” We’ll light candles and sing “Silent Night.”

But how many of us will tell the real story of Christmas? Not the one with the pastoral imagery of white-washed Nativities, but the one about the unlikely delivery of a child to an unwed couple in a filthy stable in a backwater town in a two-bit corner of the Roman empire? The one where shepherds–the nobodies who nobody would believe–are the first to hear the news? The one that upset static notions of who God favored and set in motion a revolution that is still changing the world more than 2 millennia later?

The Christmas story–the real Christmas story–is one of the most subversive stories ever told. So why have we wiped it clean of its rawness and messiness and replaced it with a cheap, sanitary imitation?

This week at New Wineskins, we’ll discuss the birth narratives from the gospels of Matthew and Luke, and try to rediscover a story that can still change the world.

Please join us Sunday, Dec. 11, in the 167 Side Room of the Marietta Brewing Company as we seek to uncover a better way to live out the Christmas story!

Happy Half-Hour: 6:30pm

Conversation Begins: 7:00pm


Oct. 16 Gathering: “The Dreams You Encourage Them to Have”

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.

–Jer. 29:4-9 NIV

In the midst of the most contentious political season in recent memory, it’s often hard to live out Jesus’ call to peace and forgiveness. We’re so wrapped up in our fear of what might happen if this candidate or that one gets elected, it’s hard to have any sense of objectivity.

To make matters worse, our social media is often an echo chamber where we only engage with people who agree with us, and we unfollow or unfriend those with contrary opinions. We suddenly find ourselves thinking we don’t really know people we thought we knew well because they support a candidate we despise.

Then there’s the national media, which seems intent on stirring our discontent in the interest of creating controversy to boost ratings. And even though the election will be over in just a few weeks, few of us expect that the vitriol will die down. It’s hard to imagine a way forward.

But there’s a little passage from the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah that might prove helpful. Writing to expatriate Jews during their exile to Babylon, Jeremiah urges the people to make peace with their enemies. He even goes so far as to suggest that they will prosper as their captors prosper. And he has a warning for those who might try to benefit from sewing strife.

What might it look like for us to seek the best for our political opponents? How can we imagine prospering under leadership we so deeply disrespect? And what about the dreams we encourage the “prophets and diviners” of our day to have?

Join us this Sunday, Oct. 16, in the 167 Side Room of the Marietta Brewing Company for a deeper look into Jeremiah’s 2,500-year-old prophesy and how it might help us navigate the difficult political waters of 2016.

Happy Half-Hour: 6:30pm

Conversation Begins: 7:00pm


May 15 Gathering: Pentecost

We talk a lot in Christianity about the Trinity, the three-in-one nature of God that includes Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in some sort of mysterious dynamic interplay. Each is believed to be unique, and yet each is an integral part of the whole of who God is.

There can be little doubt that the least understood of the three persons of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. Just mentioning the words conjures images of charismatic church services where people speak in tongues, run through the aisles, and prostrate themselves uncontrollably.

And yet, our theology tells us that each of us “receives” the Holy Spirit when we choose to trust in Jesus. But what does that mean? Why don’t we all have the same experience as the first Christians who experienced something clearly tangible and identifiable on that first Pentecost recorded in the book of Acts?

How do we know the Spirit is with us? How can we be sure that the Spirit is acting? Is it just a feeling, like a gut instinct that something other than ourselves is in control? Or is it something else altogether?

Join us this Sunday, May 15, at the Marietta Brewing Company as we celebrate Pentecost Sunday together and discuss the work of the Holy Spirit, how we perceive it, and how we can have confidence that God really is at work among us through the third person of the Trinity.

Happy Half-Hour: 6:30pm

Conversation Begins: 7:00pm

March 13 Gathering: Open Forum / Q&A

Background of questions

Lots of people have lots of questions about the Bible.

It’s only natural. Despite the claims of some fundamentalists, the Bible is anything but clear in regard to any number of issues. Not only do we bring our own perspectives and experiences to our reading of scripture, but there are also historical and contextual issues associated with these ancient texts.

This Sunday at New Wineskins, we’ll hold an Open Forum/Q&A night where you the participants will steer the conversation. We’ll open the floor to whatever questions you might have about the topics and passages you find difficult, and we’ll discuss our various points of view.

For this gathering, we’ll steer clear of the so-called “clobber passages” regarding homosexuality. While there is certainly much to be discussed along those lines, we’ve largely covered that ground before and, for now at least, wish to focus on other issues of equal importance which may not get as much attention.

Join us this Sunday, March 13, at the Marietta Brewing Company with the hard questions you want to discuss. We may not have any answers, but we’ll certainly come away with deeper understandings!

Happy Half-Hour: 6:30pm

Conversation Begins: 7:00pm

Dec. 6 Gathering: Reading the Bible through the lens of oppression

It’s a familiar story. A beaten man writhes alongside a well-traveled road. Robbed. Naked. Unclean.

The first two passersby choose religious piousness over service. Their law demands purity.

The third, however, is different. He stops. He helps. He commits.

But this man is a Samaritan. Hated. Reviled. Unclean.

Who is the neighbor? How do we read this story?

Our instinct, as 21st Century Americans, is to choose one of the passersby with which to identify. Of course, we all want to be like the third man, the marginalized Samaritan, the one who stops and helps.

As Dr. Mark Powell challenges us in the video above, what if we identified instead with the man on the road? The beaten, robbed, naked victim of a violent, unfeeling culture that steals not only materially, but spiritually?

The first people to hear the narratives of the Bible were likely more likely to have identified with this man than the other three. Because the Bible was written primarily by, to, and for the oppressed.

So how does our privileged 21st Century American culture  read these stories? And what might we be missing? Do we identify more with the heroes of the biblical narratives, or the victims? What are the implications?

This Sunday, we’ll explore some Bible stories that challenge us to view the world, the gospel, and God through the lens of the oppressed. Along the way, we’ll also examine the implications related to viewing these stories through the eyes of the oppressors.

Don’t miss this fascinating discussion! Join us this Sunday, Dec. 6, in the 167 Side Room of the Marietta Brewing Company and join us for this week’s dialogue.

Happy Half-Hour: 6:30pm

Conversation Begins: 7:00pm

July 26 Gathering: What are we afraid of?

“Do not be afraid.” “Fear not.”

It’s one of the most common phrases in scripture (although, despite popular internet memes, it doesn’t show up anywhere near 365 times–once for each day of the year). Whenever you see puny humans being approached by the living God, the command is clear: “Do not be afraid.”

In fact, it is fear, not hate, that the apostle John posits as the opposite of love:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. (1 John 4:18)

So why is it that modern-day Christians seem to be not only consumed by fear, but thoroughly driven by it? How has fear gone from something explicitly commanded against to our primary motivation for our words and actions? How does a fear-based theology fit with the inbreaking kingdom of heaven?

This Sunday at New Wineskins we’ll talk about some of what’s at the root of our fears, how it drives our behavior, and how we can try to live beyond fear.

Join us in the 167 Side Room of the Marietta Brewing Company this Sunday, July 26, and be part of the conversation!

Happy Half-Hour: 6:30pm

Conversation Begins: 7:00pm


June 14 Gathering: “Way, Truth, Life”


This Week we visit The Greenhouse of St. Marys, WV!*

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

— John 14:6 (NIV)

Are these words from Jesus, as many claim, a formula for guaranteeing an afterlife in Heaven? Is it a claim over against all other religious and/or non-religious belief systems?

Or are these words spoken to the disciple Thomas filled with more meaning than we give them credit for? Could the specific context of the disciples lend insight? Why would Jesus choose these specific words in the run-up to his crucifixion?

This Sunday at New Wineskins we’ll dig a little deeper into this famous quote from John’s gospel and probe its more holistic nature. Far from a claim for Christian exclusivism, we’ll examine it as a call for those who follow Jesus to live a particular kind of life.

*As a special treat, this week’s gathering will be held at The Greenhouse of St. Marys, WV! Bring a lawn chair and the beverage of your choice (adult or otherwise) and enjoy some tasty treats from the Greenhouse’s renowned grill masters. Click here for directions.

We’ll gather under the majestic trees of Historic Abicht’s Landing for drinks & snacks at 6:30pm. Conversation begins at 7:00. Invite your friends and join us for this week’s gathering!