citizens’ upRISEing no. 10: RISE.

When I saw the Slinkies outside the door, I was instantly reminded of that Jim Carrey movie Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and the scene where he lets the slinky travel down all those stairs, yelling “It’s gotta be some kind of record!” and singing the Slinky theme song. If you remember, the Slinky stops just before the last step. Ace throws his hands in the air and shouts, “Oh, man! Can you believe it?! It was RIGHT THERE!” Ugh… all that excitement and anticipation and then… a last minute fail. Little did I know how relevant that movie scene would be to the sermon that day at RISE.

RISE is a Methodist church housed in the Court Square Theater. What a super venue: comfy seats, great acoustics, all sorts of audio/visual capabilities, and CONCESSIONS. (!) If you haven’t been, here’s a glimpse of what to expect.

When we attended one Sunday last month, we were met with a large, friendly crowd. Worshipers of all ages, infant to elderly, mingled in the lobby like long-time friends; people casually chatted while sipping coffee and nibbling muffins… it smacked of a family reunion. Yet another thing I love about this town.
Upon entering the theater with a shameful amount of goodies clutched in my arms, we heard Brent Levy and a six-piece band warming up the crowd with music lively enough to raise the dead (uh-oh, I feel a whole bunch of church jokes coming on. I apologize.). They have their own arsenal of songs, but they also play popular favorites from bands like the Avett Brothers, U2, Journey, and even The Muppets. And above the stage hung several large signs that said things like, “You can do it!” and “Yep… even THAT guy” and “It’s all good.” Wow–signs from God, right here this whole time. (Yuk, yuk, there I go again. Sorry. Okay, no more.) The signs were all part of a continuing series called “That’s What God Said.”
Pastor Amanda is absolutely darling–a powerhouse of heart and spirit with a cute haircut and a humble yet captivating demeanor. I loved watching her retell well-known Biblical stories (David and Goliath, for example) with a new energy, peppered with funny and touching anecdotes from her own life.

The first thing she said to the congregation was, “You are a gift.” Well, I almost started crying right there. Instead I inserted another muffin and got a grip. The message of her sermon was that God gravitates toward ordinary people and says over and over, “You can do it!” She pointed out several instances in the Bible where this occurs. Sometimes people think God has forgotten them because they’re “small, ordinary” people. They forget they deserve grace just as much as anyone. And she asked this question: “Why do we expect ‘wow’ to be something we can’t reach?” God thinks we’re ‘wow’ just how we are. Perhaps we could try looking through a similar lens. She demonstrated this idea with a story about her Senior Prom. The theme was Carousel of Dreams, and it might have been the ugliest prom in history. It was one event in her life that had a great deal of build up, then turned out to be ordinary, followed by a nasty bout of disappointment. But, there’s beauty in ordinary, too. Sometimes we’re Slinkies that don’t make it all the way down the stairs.

Then I spaced out for a bit while I remembered my own prom. I realized I don’t remember much of it. I don’t remember a theme. Here’s what I do remember:
1. Instead of going out to eat, my parents cooked us dinner at my house and served it to us in courses. While wearing aprons. CUTE.
2. The DJ played the senior class song, “I’m Goin’ Straight to Hell” by Drivin’ and Cryin’.
3. My date and I didn’t stay long. (Sorry, Mom.)
Here are some things Amanda said that stayed with me:
~”When we say we’re not enough, we’re also saying God is not enough.” Think about that one.

~ “Life is messy. Stop saying you’re sorry for being human.”

~ “We focus on who we’re not”–because we live in a society that commodifies and measures everything, imho.

At one point Amanda projected a picture of Jesus and laughingly called Him the Swedish Jesus with Highlights. I audibly guffawed at that remark–I mean, we’ve all seen that portrait of Jesus, right? And it reminded me of a time when my daughter was three and she saw a similar picture and asked me, “Mom, was Jesus a surfer?” Because of His hair, not the whole walk-on-water thing. So thank you, Amanda, for reminding us that Jesus was not from Scandinavia. Or California.

You can attend RISE every Sunday at exactly 10-ish at the Court Square Theater. You can get a free cup, tee shirt, and yes–a Slinky. Receive love, give love, repeat.

3 thoughts on “citizens’ upRISEing no. 10: RISE.

  1. What a beautiful post about RISE! As a member there and maybe future leader there, that is such a blessing to hear. I’m can’t wait to read your other posts now too! As a JMU student who has fallen in love with the Friendly City and works here in to summer to I think this blog is SO neat! I’ll be recommending it to more of the students who don’t ever escape the “bubble”. Thank you so much for your kind words!

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