The Bible Doesn’t Say That // Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game // Kate Murphy

Smetimes the things we think—about God, about ourselves, about the way the world works—harm us and cause us to harm others. But the reverse of this is also true: right thinking can leads to righteous action. Renewed minds heal wounded hearts. 

This month we’ll be walking through a new “The Bible Doesn’t Say That” worship series to help us expose some of the lies that we believe which ultimately prevent us from living the abundant life Jesus has offers us. This week, we kick off the series with this saying—don’t hate the player, hate the game.

I know this is not a saying that many of us would say in church or during a bible study. But—we tend to believe it, don’t we? We tend to believe that God understands and forgives us of the fact that, sometimes, we gotta do what we gotta do. After all, we’re not the powerful people who make the rules, right? We’re not the ones setting up the systems—though we do get to benefit from those systems.

We say this as a joke, as a way of excusing serious choices.  Until Jesus invites himself in to call us out—like he did Zacchaeus, a man who found a way to live a very successful life in a very corrupt system. For Zacchaeus, meeting with Jesus for a meal did more than change his heart, it changed his life. And this new birth caused Zacchaeus to quit playing games and to get serious about justice.

Finding Joy: a letter to Philippi // Rejoicing Is an Act of Faith // Kate Murphy

We know that we — those of us worshiping at The Grove, those in our extended communities, our neighbors across the nation, and our brothers and sisters in the Church worldwide — are facing hard times.

But Paul reminds us in his letter to the church gathered in Philippi that even in hard times, we can still rejoice. We rejoice not because of anything we have done or because of things that are happening to us, but in faith because we know that God is continually at work in us.

When we discover that we are more sinful than we ever could have imagined and that the sin in our systems is deeper than we ever understood, we can still rejoice.

We can rejoice because God is good and God is for us. We are not doing great things for God. God is working out a great act of salvation in our world and us. And where we are right now is not the end of the story.

Despite everything going on in the world and how little control we have, God is living and is at work . We can be a testament to the fact the way things are is not the way they are supposed to be and is not the way they are going to be.

Listen in as we learn together — not that sin is rampant. We already knew that. But that we continue to bear witness — not to the evil that is passing away but to the goodness of God that is made manifest in Jesus Christ.

Finding Joy: a Letter to Philippi // Rejoicing Is an Act of Resistance // Kate Murphy

This month we are gathering around Paul’s letter to the church he planted in Philippi. Like us, they were separated from one another. They had no idea when, or if, they would ever be able to see one another again. Paul wrote to his friends from prison, with no guarantee he’d ever be released or that the church would survive his extended absence. Things were—grim.

And yet Paul continually encouraged them to rejoice—in the midst of the uncertainty, in the relationships they enjoyed, even in their suffering. Paul wasn’t telling them to cheer up. He wasn’t guilting them into expressing gratitude. He wasn’t encouraging them to close their eyes and play pretend. He was clearly acknowledging reality and teaching the church why, and how, to rejoice—anyway.

Rejoicing is an act of resistance. Joy is subversive. The powers and principalities of the false culture that is passing violently away would have us believe that joy is a scarce and limited commodity—available only to a select few at great price.  

But we know otherwise. 

Listen in and hear how the good news of the gospel makes it possible for us to authentically rejoice at all times.

Finding Joy: a Letter to Philippi // Love Is a Powerful Motivator // Kate Murphy

This Sunday, we launch a new worship series at The Grove on the book of Philippians. Back in January, we chose one theme to trace throughout this letter from Paul to the church: Joy.

Now, in this season of loss, anxiety, suffering, and violence, joy doesn’t just seem elusive—it seems offensive. But, maybe that’s just because we’ve never understood joy in the first place. Our current situation may seem like nothing we’ve ever known, but it’s not altogether dissimilar to Paul’s conditions when he wrote this joy-soaked letter.

Plagues were common, war was omnipresent, the state sanctioned violence as the most expedient way to achieve control, and Paul himself was writing from prison awaiting his execution. Yet, he wrote about joy. Not joy he expected to feel someday, as a reward, but the joy he knew—even in the midst of pain and threats.

Never have we ever needed the joy of the Lord more than we need it now. Thanks be to God that, through the scriptures, Paul bears witness to a joy we can tap into, not merely when it is most likely—but when we need it most.

Pentecost // Breaking the Silence // Kate Murphy

This Sunday is Pentecost, the day Christians remember and rejoice that Jesus kept his promise to us, pouring out his spirit—the Holy Spirit—on all of his people.

When the Spirit was unleashed, the gospel of Jesus began to spread beyond the small group of his disciples. When the Spirit came, cowering Peter became a mighty evangelist. When the Spirit came, miracles and acts of power came with it. When the Spirit came, the church was born. And for centuries, churches have remembered and celebrated this moment in history with passion and joy and loud shouts of praise.

But not this year. This year, our church building will be empty. Our sanctuary won’t be filled with our voices lifted in songs and shouts of praise. We won’t laugh and launch kites or gather around pot-luck tables, taking and rejoicing in the unity we’ve found in him.  

This year, in our building, we’ll have a silent Pentecost.

And, uncomfortable and disappointing as that will be, maybe it’s right. Maybe all of our shouting and celebrations have been the wrong kind. Maybe it’s prophetic. Maybe this year’s silent Pentecost is a judgment against our silent churches. Maybe God can’t hear our pentecost shouting because our silence is deafening—silence in the face of injustice, silence in the relentless cycle of blood shed, silence in accepting the racist systems which kill our brothers and sisters.

But here’s the thing—our God is full of loving grace. Grace was never meant to free us from judgment; grace was always meant to free us for judgment, so that—in spite of our fear and weakness—we might be filled with His spirit of powerful redeeming, repenting, transforming love.

So, friends, this Sunday is different. It won’t feel the same; it won’t be the same. But we shouldn’t be the same. We will remember and rejoice in the promised gift of our savior that was given to change us, change everything. Together—even while apart—we will pray for the Spirit that fills us and resurrects us—and we will pray and pray, until there is something to shout about.

Parables of Jesus // Wedding Guests: Rethinking Who Is Beyond Reaching // Kate Murphy

This week we gather together in worship centered around another one of Jesus’ more troubling parables. It’s the story of a beautiful party and all the reasons most of the guests missed it. They didn’t miss it because they were busy sinning, committing crimes, or hurting people. They missed it because they were prosperous and responsible and because they put their families first.

As we begin to move from Phase 1 into Phase 2 of lifting COVID-19 restrictions, we have to decide what parts of our lives we will pick back up again. This parable reminds us that the choices our culture celebrates are the very choices Jesus warns against in this story. So…how should we live now?  

I hope you’ll listen in as we allow the words of Jesus to shape the next steps of our journey.

Parables of Jesus // Unjust Tenants: Receiving What Is Beyond Rejection // Kate Murphy

I have terrible eyesight, but I mostly refused to wear glasses until I was in my twenties just because I didn’t like to wear them. And then, when I was 24, I got contacts. I wore them all the time. For the first time in my life, I could see. 

The parables are like that—like spiritual contacts. These stories sit on top of our souls and become the lens through which we see reality clearly for the first time–if we are willing. Without them, we see Jesus and his Kingdom, but not clearly. We can get by, but not very well. We squint and miss connections and, sometimes, crash catastrophically. But when we let these stories correct our sight, we see clearly how to live. Things we thought were familiar to us, like grace, are revealed to be something more.

This Sunday, we use the parable of the unjust tenants to help us see how we are called to live as followers of Jesus. Fair warning, sometimes clear sight terrifies before it clarifies. But all truth is God’s truth—and when we receive the grace to walk in truth, it will set us free.

Parables of Jesus // New Wineskins: Restoring What Is Beyond Repair // Kate Murphy

Many of us are carrying bruised hearts into worship this Sunday. Some of us have already watched loved ones get buried. Some of us are wondering how much longer we can hold on financially. Some of us are overwhelmed by the mental, relational, and spiritual challenge of continued isolation.

Some of us are raw from the trauma of the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery.

Again and again, through the prophet Isaiah, God consoles, comforts, and warns: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old, behold I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it, for behold I am creating new heavens and a new earth and the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.” These promises were sealed in Jesus’ words from the throne in Revelation: “Behold, I am making all things new.”

In a whirlwind of pain and suffering, we cling to these words. We cling to all of these words—especially the all—because Jesus entered into time and space to usher in complete and total redemption.

This is always good news, but it is especially good news in a week like this one when we see how trapped we are in cycles of sin, violence, hate, and destruction. God really is making A-L-L things new. Every last bit of reality. But, we can’t embrace and participate in the new if we are clinging to parts of the old. Jesus warns us that the holy new can’t be patched onto the broken old; that, when we try to fit the new reality into the old forms, destruction ensues.

We are called to follow Jesus whole-heartedly into the new realm of God. Among other things, that means telling the truth about the brokenness of the old. That means embracing what is strange and unfamiliar in its uncompromising righteousness. That means trusting God and longing for redemption enough to let go of customs and beliefs that are familiar and seem harmless and benign. It means embracing the same kind of rejection and suffering our Lord endured when he spoke truth and lived among us—all for the offer of new life with and throng him.

So, friends—please listen in as we face the lies we have been freed to rise against.

Parables of Jesus // Firm Foundations: Walking Out What We Already Understand // Kate Murphy

Many of us have heard the parable that Jesus told about the man who built his house on a rock and the man who built his house on the sand. But, before he told this story, he asked a question.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

Why, indeed.

Because, this is what we do, isn’t it? We call him Lord, but we do not do what he says. And—newsflash. It’s not because we don’t understand him, it’s because we can.

Last month, we celebrated the upside down Kingdom of God. This month, we are exploring the parables of Jesus as we learn how to live in his upside down Kingdom.

Upside Down Kingdom // Unsatisfying // Kate Murphy

Some of us are surprised, and a little ashamed, to admit how difficult just staying home with my family can be. We cycle through feelings of boredom, worry, panic, and frustration. As followers of Jesus, we thought this would be our time to shine with hope and wisdom and courage. We had hoped that this would be a season of great spiritual growth and deepened relationships and creativity and abounding love I thought it might be the beginning of a glorious renewal. Honestly? For many of us, including me, it hasn’t been. And that can be disappointing.

But—Jesus shows up for disappointed people

If you haven’t been the person you’d hoped to be in this extraordinary season, or—more devastatingly—if God hasn’t been active in the ways you hoped, this Sunday’s worship service is especially for you. Sometimes, the Upside Down Kingdom of God is so extra-ordinary we can’t miss it, even when we are in the midst of it. I hope you will listen in with us for some real. good. news.