Batman, San Francisco, and Jesus

PHOTO BY RAPHAEL KLUZNIOK/THE CHRONICLE

If you live in San Francisco you know about five year old Miles Scott who transferred all of San Francisco into Gotham City for a day.  After I watched the day unfold I was absolutely struck with the level of community involvement and pure meaning behind it all.

To give some quick context, Miles Scott is a five year old boy who has been battling leukemia for the past three years.  During his treatments Miles and his parents started watching the old Batman TV Show and quickly Batman became his favorite superhero.  Miles got connected with the Make a Wish Foundation and after finishing his latest treatment, he made the request to become BatKid for a day. Batkid as Batmans sidekick got to literally arrest the Riddler, save a kidnapped Giants Mascot Lou the Seal, and even get the Mayor of San Francisco Ed Lee to give him the key to the city. Through it all, thousands of San Franciscans came to watch Batkid fight crime and save Gotham.

After taking a moment to reflect on a suffering child’s only wish to become BatKid, I began to think Batman, San Francisco, and Jesus have more in common than you would expect.  Superheroes have always captured the attention of movie goers and comic book readers, but San Francisco took the idea to a whole other level.

When I mesh Batman, San Francisco and Jesus together it seems ridiculous.  But I think a couple real meaningful truths can connect them if you look deep enough.

Every City Needs Hope:

SF is known as a city of activism, and compels people who believe in values like justice and truth to get involved.  One of the things that lies beneath activism is the idea of needed change. There is a sense that something is desperately wrong, and it must be put right again.

If you look at the storyline of the comic character Batman, the belief of change flows throughout.  In the more recent Batman movies, I remember a line the character Bruce Wayne says early on before his becomes a superhero.

“I’m going to show the people of Gotham that the city doesn’t belong to the criminals and the corrupt…People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy. And I cannot do this as Bruce Wayne. A man is just flesh and blood, and can be ignored or destroyed. But a symbol….as a symbol I can be incorruptible, everlasting..” -Bruce Wayne

Batman is that symbol of hope that Gotham needs.  Batman seeks to save the people from all the wrongs of the city, and because Bruce Wayne hides his identity, Batman can always live on. 

San Francisco like every real world city needs that same type of hope.  The city is a great place to live and enjoy.  But beneath it all we cannot escape the corruptness of the city.  San Francisco is a place of violence, rape, murder, and ultimately brokenness.  No one in this city is immune to the injustices of the city, and that’s why we need hope.

For a moment, while Miles Scott traveled all over the city we as San Franciscans got to cheer him on in his effort.  We were rooting for Batkid because he was a perfect example of a living hope.  Batkid represented the hope we have to change the evil of the city, but also more importantly Batkid gave hope to Miles Scott who got to take a moment from fighting against cancer.  

Real Courage and Strength Is Within:

By all accounts, Miles Scott was not really Batkid.  He wasn’t actually fighting criminals, but he was just as courageous and strong as anyone.

Miles has not spent most of his life enjoying the goodness of health and childhood.  But instead, phyiscal pain, isolation, and I’m guessing a lack of understanding of what is really going on.

It makes sense that all Miles wants to be is BatKid and it makes sense why San Franciscans want to get behind him. The only thing Miles has is the courage and strength to go on. He has displayed it longer then anyone of us for the most part.

If you look at the character of Batman you see his different from a lot of superheroes.  Batman was not born from another planet, he was not given special physical powers.  Batman is a regular guy who goes through adversity to become something greater then he is. Batman transcends the world to become a symbol that will always live on no matter what happens to him.

I’m guessing that Miles in a way knows that.  I’m guessing Miles admires Batman for what he has become, and deep down he knows no matter what happens to him physically, he can transcend this world by staying strong and courageous.

San Francisco admires Miles for his perseverance.  Most of us have not lived through anything as serious as cancer and deep down I think we wonder what would be revealed in ourselves if we had to live through the same thing.

We want to believe we can find strength and courage in ourselves like Batkid.

Jesus Is The Better Batman:

Hope for change with strength and courage is everything that San Francisco admires.   But are we going to have an actual Batman in this city?  Do we have any hope of a real life superhero to come and save us?  The answer is yes and no.

The next connection that I’ve never been more serious to write  Jesus Is The Better Batman. Jesus is not a superhero but He is far greater than Batman.  We don’t have to wait for Batman because Jesus has already come.

I don’t know what Miles Scott and his family believe, but here’s what I’d tell them if I had the opportunity:

Batman is a symbol of hope for Gotham:  Jesus is a living hope for your life now and the life to come. (1 Peter 1:3) 

Batman defeats the enemies of Gotham:  Jesus defeated the greatest enemy of all; evil, sin, and death. (Col. 1:13)

Batman has overcome obstacles:  Jesus has overcome death (1 Cor. 15:55-57)

Batman will risk his life to save you:  Jesus gave his life for you to be saved (John 3:16)

 I pray that San Francisco would see the true hope that Jesus offers, and the strength and courage He gives in the midst of this broken city.

Blog Series: My San Francisco | Hayes Valley

MEGHAN / SEPTEMBER 17TH, 2013

 

I MOVED…

Fifteen months ago, I arrived in San Francisco for a frantic forty-eight hours to find an apartment.  After hiking up steep streets and viewing every studio on craigslist, I resigned myself to viewing the studio with orange shag carpet.  Much to my surprise, there was a beautiful studio apartment…with hardwood floors and no shag carpet.  It was located smack dab in the middle of the city…in a neighborhood called Hayes Valley.  And I knew that I was home.

I first fell in love with San Francisco when I was in high school on a family vacation.  During a foggy cold lovely June day, while hanging out of a cable car, I vowed that one day I would move here.  Twelve years later, I was offered my dream job, in my dream city…San Francisco.

SOMETHING I’VE LEARNED…

San Francisco is a lonely city.  Most people, especially in my neighborhood, live alone in studio apartments.  The majority of people living in San Francisco moved from other states or countries.  Most of them moved here to escape something.  Escape being judged.

Escape their family.  Escape being hurt.  People move here to be free to be themselves…but they bring their baggage along.  Many San Franciscans have been hurt by the church, by Christians.  They have not been shown the love or grace of God and they have little interest in going to church.  Atheism is worn as a badge with pride.  The city is full of beautiful empty dusty churches.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT HAYES VALLEY…

Hayes Valley is the center of the world. Wait! Let me explain… It has been said that all change, all culture, comes from the cities of the world.  There are just a few cities that are the most progressive and modern where culture and change begins.  It then spreads to other major cities.  From there it moves to the suburbs and at last reaching to rural remote corners of the world.  These cities include Amsterdam, New York, Paris, Seattle, and San Francisco.  San Francisco has been and continues to be the forefront of American change.  Whether it be flower power, bra burning, and protests in the 60’s…to the recent Prop 8, DOMA, and technology companies (Google, Facebook, Apple), San Francisco defines culture for the United States and the world.  At the heart of the city sits Hayes Valley, which is around the corner from City Hall where many of the important decisions and protests of San Francisco occur.

Hayes Valley is a neighborhood best defined by earthquakes.  The great earthquake of 1906 destroyed most of the city.  Out of the rubble as a symbol to the city, the current City Hall was erected.  The neighborhood when Hayes Valley now sits became a haven to crack addicts, prostitutes, and gangs until 1989 when the next great earthquake hit.  Highway 101 collapsed and the decision was made not to rebuild the highway, but instead to create a new neighborhood.  And Hayes Valley was born.

Now Hayes Valley is a unique community.  Public housing sits next to multi-million dollar homes.  The executive sits next to the homeless.  All shops, bars, stores, restaurants are local companies…no chains allowed. People here value justice and equality…many dedicating their lives to this.  It’s a neighborhood of passion and rebirth.

MY VISION AND PRAYER…

My prayer is that disciples would be made in San Francisco.  I pray that one by one relationships would be formed in coffee shops, wine bars, parks, museums, and yes churches. My hope is that we would become friends with our neighbors, walk beside them during the good and the bad times, not shy away from the messy details, and through our relationships they would see their identity in Christ.  I pray that God’s love would cut through the baggage and old hurt, and eyes would be opened.  My vision is that the work God does in Hayes Valley, in San Francisco, would create change that would trickle to other cities, the suburbs, and the corners of the world.

 

New Building Update

Hey Everyone

We are excited to update you on the progress of the renovation.  Below Pastor Justin gives a video update of the work to be done in the future meeting space of Redemption San Francisco.

We are having a short work morning this upcoming SATURDAY AT 8AM.  Come help us with some small projects, we are praying that we would be able to move into this new space by late October.

Saturday Sept. 14th:  8am work morning

Address: 1660 McAllister Street San Francisco, CA

Blog Series: My San Francisco | Cole Valley

MAZ AND COURTNEY AMELI / AUGUST 22ND, 2013

 

WE MOVED…

Our move to San Francisco was originally supposed to be a move to anywhere except San Francisco. Maz is from the East Bay originally, so after we got married in LA last year and began talking about the possibility of leaving Southern California, we initially wrote San Francisco off, as it was our assumption to an extent that we’d likely someday end up in SF. Maz works as a Web product designer, though, and finding great job opportunities in cities where we wanted to live that weren’t San Francisco was proving difficult.

Of course, we had been praying fervently about our move during this time, and God gradually began making it clear that we were being called to the city by the bay. In fact, over brunch at Coral Tree Cafe in Brentwood one morning, we had a simultaneous revelation that we wanted to start looking for jobs only in SF. Within one month, Maz had an awesome job offer, and after one afternoon visiting only two apartments, we had a great place secured in beautiful Cole Valley.

 

SOMETHING WE’VE LEARNED…

Even though God quickly brought us to Redemption Church, we found in the first few months of being in San Francisco that we needed to relearn how to open up to people, pursue new friendships, and allow ourselves to be vulnerable with these new friends in order to let those relationships deepen. This all sounds so obvious, but we have very close friendships with people we love deeply in LA, and it was tremendously hard for us to accept the truth that God would be faithful once again in providing us with the mercy and grace of deep, meaningful, Christian friendships with new, different people. What we’ve really learned is how faithful God is.

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT COLE VALLEY…

It’s easy to list off lots of the superficial things that make Cole Valley so fun — it’s across from Golden Gate Park, there are lots of great restaurants nearby, it’s close (but not too close) to Haight St., the N Judah is right there — but what we really love about Cole Valley is Cole Hardware. No, seriously though, what’s actually great about Cole Valley is what a tight little community it is, and how our neighbors really look out for each other. Also, Padrecito is amazing.

OUR VISION AND PRAYER…

We have a strong calling to reach out to our neighbors, to connect with Christians from other churches who live in our neighborhood, and to have lots of people over for dinner. We envision our home as a lighthouse on our block, and deeply desire to gather people in our home to minister to them and with them. San Francisco can be an isolating place, so we want to help people feel known, and that they have a place at a dinner table, surrounded by friends who care for them deeply and genuinely.

Blog Series: My San Francisco | The Richmond

ANTHONY LAM / JULY 30TH, 2013

I MOVED…

I moved to the Inner Richmond four years ago as a missionary with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ). The Richmond neighborhood has always been for me a sort of ‘home away from home’. My paternal grandparents, now survived by my grandmother, have lived here for as long as I can remember.

Reflecting on the neighborhood today evokes two notable memories. The first is being stuck in 19th Avenue traffic in the family’s Volvo station wagon. The second is the countless hours spent watching Star Wars and The Goonies on repeat whilst awaiting grandma’s home-cooked meal. Their wonderful, wall-mounted rotary telephone is worth mentioning too. Regular visits to the city did little to prepare me for my transition here as an adult.

 

SOMETHING I’VE LEARNED…

Something I’ve learned is to appreciate as with every urban space (though the Richmond’s urban-ness is relatively mild) the odd juxtaposition of culture and color.  San francisco is so rich with eclectic beauty.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THE RICHMOND…

What I love about the Richmond is the diversity of ethnicity, culture and affluence among the storefronts and their respective patrons. Some might say it has an identity crisis. The many Chinese groceries and fish markets run by proprietors who [seemingly] don’t speak a lick of English are a staple of the Inner Richmond. On the same or adjacent block, one finds a nightclub and lounge for the younger nightlife crowd, hipster boutiques specializing in overly-priced vintage paraphernalia, twill, canvas, denim and the venerable Green Apple Bookstore. A hole-in-the-wall take-out restaurant nests a stone’s throw away from a Michelin Bib Gourmand listed French establishment. Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish and Russian are spoken here as frequently as English. Affluent families live in the north towards the Presidio, while many ethnic families live on the south and west.

All in all, the Richmond is a grand and alluring mess that somehow works together in surprising harmony. For the open-minded, life here elicits a deeper appreciation and empathy for the people and traditions of the world. I love it.

 

MY VISION AND PRAYER FOR THE RICHMOND…

My vision and prayer for the Richmond is that the church at large would honor the diversity of the neighborhood as it advances the Gospel. My hope is that the church would be both sensitive and uncompromising in how it approaches the plurality of cultural worldviews as it points to the work of Christ. By sensitive, I primarily mean understanding that there are nuanced differences between Western and Eastern presentations of the Gospel narrative.

Finally, I pray that local churches with ministries in the Richmond would engage mission to their communities in spiritual unity. There are so many local congregations (many of them ethnic) serving the Richmond neighborhood that have roots here. It would be a tremendous blessing to mutually affirm their ministries, pray for them, receive their prayers, and come alongside them as the Lord wills.

Blog Series: My San Francisco | Pacific Heights

JON AND COURTNEY LEMMON / JULY 12TH, 2013

WE MOVED… 

We moved in May 2012 from Chicago to Charleston, SC, immediately after we got married.  We knew we weren’t in the jobs or city that was right for us, so we lived out of one suitcase, waiting for our next steps. Unexpectedly, Jon was offered a job in a city we dreamed of living in, San Francisco. We packed our car and headed west.

We lived on the Peninsula with Courtney’s cousins, which provided time for us to figure out where to live in the area. Drawn to cities, we knew early on that we’d end up in the city, even though we both work on the Peninsula. During this time, Courtney would drop Jon off at work, and drive around San Francisco in search of an apartment. After dealing with sticker shock, 25+ open houses, and everyone trying to convince us that “my neighborhood’s the best!” we felt even more confused about where to land. We quickly realized that with the differences in the neighborhoods, the bottom line was that San Franciscan’s love their city, and even more so, they love their neighborhood. Although a stressful process that brought us as far as Bernal Heights to the Dogpatch to Pacific Heights, we were confident that once we found our neighborhood, we’d fall in love with it.

Turns out, we were right.

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT PACIFIC HEIGHTS…

What we love about pacific heights after living in different cities is the diversity of the neighborhood.   We have felt a contrast with the “rent-control” here and how that shapes the city and our neighborhood. Rather than yearly leases turning over renters to search for better deals in better areas, San Franciscans sink their roots into their tiny apartments, and stay for good. Our building is full of folks who have lived there for 20+ years. Our next door neighbor has lived there since ’87, and loves to tell us about the changes our neighborhood has seen.

We love the Jazz history of Fillmore Street, the nearby Kabuki theater in Japantown, and the quick walk “over the hill” to the water. We love our nearby park, Atla Plaza, with views that stretch out over the city and atop the bay. On Fridays, we park our car after work, and leave it there til Monday morning; wandering the city on foot or catching a bus to run an errand. We love the gritty side of Divisadero street, where our favorite burrito place sits a few blocks from our token Banh Mi sandwich shop on Fillmore. We’ve loved exploring the hidden trails throughout the Presidio, and are amazed at how quickly you forget you’re in the middle of the city.

SOMETHING WE’VE LEARNED…

Something we’ve learned in this city is the value of being stretched, uncomfortable, and challenged. Those times are hard, but they have grown our dependance on Christ and our faith in the Gospel. Our first year of marriage has taught us to hold lightly to our plans and tightly to the Gospel.

In our neighborhood we have learned that income, demographic and social class don’t dictate our happiness and the fulfillment we feel in life. This has reminded us that we are ALL hopelessly lost without Christ, regardless of how it appears.

Most importantly, we have learned that people here are a bunch of wimps when it comes to “cold” weather in this city!

OUR VISION AND PRAYER FOR PACIFIC HEIGHTS..

Our vision and prayer for Pacific Heights is that those who live here will not be forgotten by the church.   The gospel reminds us that we are all hurting and broken, in need of grace.  It’s been interesting to get looks or comments when we mention we live in Pacific Heights. We have felt the need to explain our way out of the stereotype that comes with our neighborhood or to argue that we don’t live in “that” part. To do this would only add to the “us” and “them” divide that already exists in this city. We pray that the gospel would continue to bring unity in our neighborhood and that God would build his church in this community.

More broadly, we pray that the Redemption family can be neighbors in our city and not just consumers. We pray that neighborhood lines are blurred, and the name of Jesus would be proclaimed for God’s glory and for the good of our city.

 

 

SF Culture: Pride Parade

This past Sunday, San Francisco showcased two communities of people celebrating different stories of victory, love, and liberation. One of these groups celebrated on a popular downtown street amidst decorations of rainbow flags, colorful streamers, and an assortment of interesting people. The other gathered in a small room centered on remembrance, worship, broken bread and juice. I got to experience both of them.

My wife and I moved to San Francisco from St. Louis about five weeks ago for the purpose of helping Redemption Church share the story of Jesus. We were excited to learn how to do so while engaging the rough religious climate of the city–which includes a deeply-rooted homosexual pride. We viewed this past weekend’s LGBT Pride Festival and Parade as an opportunity to learn and grow, so we traveled downtown to engage in the action.

 

We experienced a massive celebration of almost epic proportions. An estimated 1.5 million people stood scattered down Market Street engaging in laughter, music, dancing, decoration, food, and, what appeared to be, sheer joy. The celebration included people from all neighborhoods throughout San Francisco, representing citizens from multiple countries all over the world, and several major organizations. The parade, with over 200 marching groups, included high influencers and celebrities from Mark Zuckerberg, to Chaz Bono to Santa Claus. We stood on a tightly-packed street corner, pressed up against a metal guard rail and watched the parade unfold. The roaring cheers and blasting music intrigued and overwhelmed both of so, that we just stood in silence and watched for hours.

Floats passed by, motorcycled revved their engines, and we saw naked people. Politicians spoke with passionate words of rally, while street evangelists spoke of fire and brimstone. We ate awesome food, talked with nice people, and took the #5 bus home. It was an experience we will never forget, and the memories have captured our thoughts and conversations for the past week– and likely will for weeks to come.

After taking a couple of days to reflect on the things we saw downtown on Sunday, my wife and I have concluded that the experience has done nothing but grow our love for San Francisco and the people in it. Some Christians would ridicule other believers for being at the Pride Parade, but frankly, I was proud to be a member of Redemption Church and be present among what was happening. For good or ill, the Pride Parade shows a reflection of what is San Francisco. As a member of Redemption Church and a follower of Christ, I love San Francisco as it is–because that is what Christ did and does–he takes us where we are and loves us. We then love because He first loved us.

If there is one thing that I know about Redemption Church, after being here for such a short time, it is that Redemption is a place to belong and a place to be loved. Jesus was in the business of welcoming and loving–and Redemption Church is a place to experience just that, no matter where you live or what you believe in. Reflecting on the Parade, the one thing that I want each person to know is that there is another community who loves them and a God who loves them even more and wants them to belong in him.

Looking forward, I am genuinely excited for the future of Redemption Church and the role it will play in showing San Francisco the love of Christ. Our city is beautiful, inside and out. And if youlove San Francisco, even a hint of how much my wife and I have fallen in love with it, you can imagine the infinitely more-massive amount of love that God has for it and every person within it.

 JOE SLAVICH / / JULY 10TH, 2013

James Study Guide: Doers of the Word (Wednesday Devotional)

Wednesday Devotional

James 1:21

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with

meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

Humility is at the core of Christianity. Our sinful nature rebels against rules, regulations, and commands. We want to do what we want to do, and we don’t want anyone interfering with our wants and needs. However, James calls us to submit to the authority of scripture, which calls us to much greater desires. Today, evaluate what it means to have filthiness and rampant wickedness in your life—do you let the world seep in you and out of you? Pray that the Lord root in your heart his word and his commands.

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