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The Spirit of Jesus, Then and Now

“Super” Jesus Seminar on the Road

November 2–4, 2017
Auburn, California

Westar Institute and First Congregational Church of Auburn UCC are partnering to launch the first ever “Super” Jesus Seminar on the Road.

Ancient Christ communities did not ask, what would Jesus do? They asked, how can I live in the spirit of Jesus? The emphasis on the spirit of Jesus placed importance on practice. How can an individual or community emulate the spirit of Jesus while living in the Roman Empire then or the American Empire now? How can the historical Jesus be in our place and in the spirit of our time? This conference examines the many aspects of this vital question.

Photo of Susan M Elli Elliott

Susan (Elli) Elliott (Ph.D., Loyola University Chicago) is a writer, workshop leader, and environmental activist based in Red Lodge, Montana. She is the author of Cutting Too Close for Comfort: Paul’s Letter to the Galatians in its Anatolian Cultic Context (2008) and Family Empires: The Roman Family Empire and Early Christian Responses (forthcoming).

Robin R. Meyers (Ph.D., University of Oklahoma) is senior minister of Mayflower United Church of Christ in Oklahoma City and Distinguished Professor of Social Justice at Oklahoma City University. He has written numerous books, most recently Spiritual Defiance: Building a Beloved Community of Resistance (2015).

Photo of Jeffrey Robbins

Jeffrey W. Robbins (Ph.D., Syracuse University) is Chair and Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Lebanon Valley College, where he also serves as the director of the American Studies program and the Undergraduate Research Symposium. Robbins is the author or editor of eight books, most recently Radical Theology: A Theological Method for Change (2016).

Stephen Tickner (M.Div., Union Theological Seminary) is the Senior Pastor of Central Christian Church in Danbury, Connecticut, where he is also the chaplain at Wooster School. Tickner is a founding member of the Westar Institute’s Praxis Forum, currently serving as vice-chair. Originally from Oklahoma, he now resides in New York City.

Program Details

Jesus the Subversive, Then and Now

Robin Meyers

The only passage to have received all red votes from the Jesus Seminar is the one-line parable of the leaven, suggesting that it may be one of the oldest and most authentic utterances of Jesus. Robin Meyers will explore the differences between the subversive Galilean sage who told this story and the risen Christ who was recruited and domesticated by the Roman Empire. Will recovering a subversive Jesus help the church recover its own subversive roots?
Thursday evening, 7–8:30 pm

Parables and Households, Then and Now

Susan (Elli) Elliott

Many of Jesus’ parables are set in Greco-Roman “Strict Father” households.  Jesus’ early followers may have opened discussions using these parables as they grappled with the penetration of the Roman “family” empire into their lives.  Yet dominant interpretations soon assumed the Strict Father household as the model for God’s empire.  How can we come to grips with the legacy of these parables?
Friday, 9:30–10:30 am

Jesus and Poverty in America

Stephen Tickner

Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry form part of a collection of books that does something rare: they not only affirm but also empower “the poor.” In a modern-day empire where economic disparities are at an all-time high, and where public narratives of “the poor” seek to denigrate and render them invisible, can this historical Nazarene serve as a valuable resource in the fight against poverty?
Friday, 11 am – noon

The Post-Secular and the Politics of Jesus

Jeffrey Robbins

The claim by the evangelical Right that it represents the “moral majority” has been a key ingredient of the Republican Party’s strategy for 40+ years. But unbeknownst to many, a profound progressive shift is underway: increasingly political candidates are expected to use the language of values to explain preferences in public policy and political convictions. The so-called politics of Jesus is no longer automatically expected to support a conservative agenda
Friday, 1:30–2:30 pm

Breakout Sessions

Participants will engage in Q&A and discussion with presenters about the program topics.
Friday, 3–4 pm

Jesus the Resister, Then and Now

Robin Meyers

The Bible is a grand narrative of resistance: Moses against Pharaoh, the Prophets against Fake Religion, and the Jesus People against Rome. That was then, but this is now. The Western church today not only requires no resistance, it often draws the fiercest defenders of a nostalgic, not to mention brutal, status quo. Using the powerfully subversive poetry of Anna Kamienska, Meyers will focus on three areas that demand opposition: ego, orthodoxy, and Empire.
Friday, 7–8:30 pm

The Spirit of Jesus and the Gospel of Insurrection

Jeffrey Robbins

Despite variations in portraits of the historical Jesus, indisputably Jesus was executed as an enemy of the state. Doing justice to his counter-imperial religious message requires taking into account his political context and the ramifications of his message. How might a better understanding of the historical Jesus apply to our current political situation? What would it mean for us to take Jesus seriously as a political revolutionary?
Saturday, 9:30–10:30 am

The Spirit of Jesus, Then and Now

Susan (Elli) Elliott

When the earliest Christians worshipped Jesus as an alternative emperor to the Roman one, could they have imagined that they were creating a more virulent imperialism that would later glorify European colonization as a divine mission? How do Christian beliefs and practices perpetuate that divine imperialism today?  What can we learn more from other Romanera resistance and from early Christians labeled heretics?
Saturday, 11 am – noon

The Spirit of Jesus in the Fight for Justice

Stephen Tickner

From John Brown to Jerry Falwell, Martin Luther King, Jr. to Tony Perkins, many have fought contrasting fights for justice under the name of Jesus. How can the spirit of the historical Jesus coupled with the spirit portrayed in the gospel accounts make any difference? How is our understanding of justice colored by context?
Saturday, 1:30–2:30 pm

Panel Discussion

Elliott, Robbins, and Tickner will share their closing thoughts in response to the overall weekend program, followed by Q&A with the audience.
Saturday, 3–4 pm


First Congregational Church of Auburn UCC

Local Contact and Information

All events at:

First Congregational Church of Auburn UCC
710 Auburn Ravine Rd.
Auburn, CA 95603

For local information, contact:

Barbara Grandstaff
[email protected]


All Sessions

  • Individual Rate $100
  • Additional Family Members $100

Single Sessions

  • Thursday Evening, 7:30–9 pm (Meyers) $20
  • Friday Morning, 9:30 am to noon (Elliott/Tickner)  $30
  • Friday Afternoon, 1:30 to 4 pm (Robbins et al.) $30
  • Friday Evening, 7:30–9 pm (Meyers) $20
  • Saturday Morning, 9:30 am to noon (Robbins/Elliott) $30
  • Saturday Afternoon, 1:30 to 4 pm (Tickner et al.) $30

Refunds are available until two weeks before the event if requested in writing, minus a $10 administrative fee. No refunds will be given after that date.

Hotel Information

These hotels in Auburn are all near the church:

Holiday Inn Auburn**
120 Grass Valley Hwy
Auburn, CA 95603
(530) 887-8787

**A discounted rate of $119 for Thursday night and $129 for Friday night is available until 10/19/17.  To receive this discount you can register online using this direct link or register by phone and mention Super Jesus Seminar on the Road (Group code: SJS and IATA#: 99801505).

Best Western Golden Key
13450 Lincoln Way
Auburn, CA 95603-3238
Phone: 530/885-8611

Red Lion Inn & Suites
1875 Auburn Ravine Rd
Auburn, CA 95603
Phone: (530) 885-1800

Quality Inn Gold Country
13490 Lincoln Way
Auburn, CA 95603
Phone: (530) 885-7025

Super 8 Motel
140 E. Hillcrest
Auburn, CA 95603
Phone: (530) 888-8088

Motel 6
1819 Auburn Ravine Rd.
Auburn, CA 95603
Phone: (530) 888-7829