Nehemiah: Rebuild & Restore // A Shared Calling // Kate Murphy

We are spending this month learning about rebuilding and renewal from the book of Nehemiah, an ancient autobiography that sits right in the center of scripture. 

Last week we met Nehemiah and learned that he rebuilt the city of Jerusalem, but not because he had superior engineering skills, relevant experience, or exceptional spiritual gifting.  It’s really much simpler and more challenging than any of that. 

God used Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem because when Nehemiah heard the city was in desperate need of renewal, he chose to go and let God use him. 

For most of us, when we hear something tragic, is not to go but to wait–to wait for a perfect leader to follow, to wait for a gilded invitation, to wait for a sign from the Lord.  But Nehemiah knew he wanted to be part of God’s good work.  He was an ordinary guy who understood that God uses ordinary people.  He knew it wasn’t his call to wait–he knew it was his call to go.

And this Sunday we are looking at the next chunk of Nehemiah’s story and marveling at the next remarkable thing about Nehemiah.  Nehemiah knew it was his call to be part of the rebuilding.  But he also knew it wasn’t only his call.  

So often when we are brave and foolish enough to believe that God has called us to be part of something–we make the mistake of believing that God has only called us.  Nehemiah avoided that trap.  He began his work by inviting others in.  We must do the same.

I hope you will listen in as we learn from Nehemiah that the first step of living out our calling is sharing it with others.

Nehemiah: Rebuild & Restore // An Opportune Time // Kate Murphy

This Sunday we begin a new worship series on the book of Nehemiah.  Buried in the middle of the Old Testament, it is a record of the struggle to rebuild the city of Jerusalem after a long period of forced absence.  For more than a generation, tragedy separated God’s people from their sacred city.  For more than a generation, the people had been praying and crying and dreaming of returning.  When the time to return finally came–it was bittersweet and unexpectedly difficult.  Is it possible for scripture to be too relevant?

As we begin to prepare to return to our campus–to one another, to the sacred space we love and the rituals we have missed so terribly–we too will have the work of rebuilding and repair to do.  And like our ancestors, we will discover that while we can come back to the place, we can not return to who we were before we left.  We can learn so much for Nehemiah about the challenges we will face and how to walk with great hope, vibrant faith, and the right expectations in this season.

Practices: The Things We Do to Grow Our Faith // Co-Creating Communities // Kate Murphy

We are made in the image of God–and our God is a creator. 
So we were made to create.
When we think of God creating, our thoughts spring to galaxies and mountains, ecosystems, and cellular systems.
But that kind of creation was complete after the 6th day (and God said it was good).   

After that, God’s creative force took a different direction. God began creating a people–a peculiar people who can be ‘salt-seasoning to bring out the God flavors of the world’ and ‘light bringing out the God-colors of the world.’ A people who are known by their love–for God, for one another, for the least, the lost and the enemy. A people who already live on earth as they will in heaven. A people who are alive together in Christ.

That’s our final communal spiritual practice–creating a community with God, in the image of God.  It’s not something we get or find or buy–it’s something we make together with God. And our part is so simple, so practical, so spiritual–that if you aren’t careful, you can be so busy ‘doing ministry’ you miss it altogether.

I hope you will listen-in as we learn the very unlikely way we co-create community with God.  

Practices: The Things We Do to Grow Our Faith // Holding Healthy Boundaries // Kate Murphy

When Jesus gathered for the last supper with his friends he gave them–and us–a new commandment.  After washing their feet, he told them to ‘love one another as I have loved you.’

So…that looks good on a coffee mug but—how do we DO that? How do you love someone like Jesus loved you when they are gossiping about you? How do you love someone like Jesus loved you when their behavior is harming you? It’s hard enough to try and love Jesus the way Jesus loves us—but loving each other the way Jesus loves us feels dangerous, and that’s on the days it doesn’t feel impossible.  

Many of us were taught that loving someone means being willing to sacrifice anything to keep them comfortable and happy at all costs.  But—did Jesus do that? Sacrifice—yes.  Make people happy and comfortable all the time—HECK no!

If loving one another can’t be measured by how people feel—how can we know when we are being loving in a faithful way? I’ve got a one word answer for you:


I hope you’ll listen in—we’ll learn about setting, articulating and respecting boundaries.  It’s the communal Christian practice that will make our church a lot more uncomfortable—and a LOT more healthy and loving. 

Practices: The Things We Do to Grow Our Faith // Trusting God to Show Up // Kate Murphy

Christ is Risen! 

Now what?  

The days after Easter can be filled with glory and…disappointment.  That’s certainly what Thomas felt.  All of his friends were together in the upper room when Jesus appeared in his resurrection body, filled them with his Spirit and released them for a new era of ministry.  

And Thomas missed it.  He wasn’t there. 

So while his friends’ fear and grief was transformed into joy and hope, his heart was still full of pain.  If anything, his spiritual burden was even heavier because he bore it alone.  Whatever had happened to his friends, hadn’t happened to him.  Whatever Jesus had given to them, Thomas hadn’t received. 

There is no loneliness like the loneliness we experience inside our faith communities.  

This month we are beginning a new worship series called practices–about the habits, customs and traditions that can form us in healthy and holy ways.  On Wednesday of each week, you can look for a short video created by one of our church members about an individual spiritual practice that is giving them life and drawing them closer to the Lord.  On Sundays during the preaching moment, we are going to consider the actions we can participate in together to create a healthy and holy church culture.  We find the first communal practice modeled in Thomas’ story–in the way his community allowed him to tell the truth and belong before he believed.  His friends, who had themselves only recently learned how fully they could trust Jesus, had the courage to trust Jesus to meet Thomas in his doubts.  

As people who love and follow a savior who defeated sin and death for love’s sake, we can trust Jesus with our lives and with the lives of those we love. We aren’t called to believe for one another, resolve one another’s doubts or fill one another’s empty spaces.  We can trust God to be God in one another’s lives.  That’s what Thomas’ friends did–and the story of their faithfulness blesses us still.

Easter // A Story That Defines Us // Kate Murphy

We are formed by our stories; the stories we tell ourselves about the world; the stories the world tells us about ourselves.  We become the stories we believe.

This week is full of our most sacred stories.  The story of the Holy and Innocent one–betrayed, abandoned, denied, falsely accused, unjustly convicted, tortured, sentenced to death, and executed.  It is a story our flesh knows too well.  

But this tragically familiar story is interrupted.  God–author of all our stories–intervenes and creates a new ending, which becomes our new beginning.  Out of sin comes forgiveness; out of violence comes healing, out of death comes life. 

And if it only happened in the life of Jesus, this story would be worth remembering and celebrating.  But the extraordinary twist is that Jesus gives us his Spirit and it becomes our story too.  Our sin can also be forgiven, our lives can also be transformed, we too can live fearlessly–unafraid of suffering or death.

So the question is–what story will we allow to form us?  Will Easter just be a day we celebrate–or a story that defines us?

Grudge // Forgiveness Has a Fragrance // Kate Murphy

This Sunday we begin Holy Week–our second during this pandemic.  Things are beginning to shift and change (more on our timeline to return to on-campus worship below), but still–it will be another Holy Week without some of our most cherished traditions.  Instead of gathering around one long table in a beautiful room to live out the Maundy Thursday story together–we’ll be zoom-linked at separate tables.  Instead of gathering in a beautiful darkened sanctuary to bear witness to the death of Jesus together on Good Friday–we’ll gather wherever we are to share a video of testimonies of our members–linked by our faith, not our location.  We will be able to gather–separately but in person–on our beautiful campus to walk the stations of the cross set up in our labyrinth on Holy Saturday. We will be able to flower the cross separately and have that edited into a video we can share on Easter Sunday.  It will be closer–but still so far from where we want it to be.

It’s okay to be sad and sick of it and honest about those feelings.

And–it’s good to let the Spirit remind us that all of these cherished traditions we won’t have this year–as beautiful and meaning-filled as they are, they are not our faith. We enjoy them, but they are not our faith.  They are gifts from God, but they are not God.  They are the outward signs of what Jesus has done for us, but they are not the gift of grace. 

We don’t have new life and hope in Christ because we flower the cross or sharing a beautiful meal or have joyful engaging in-person worship services.  All these things are good and of God and the Holy Spirit uses them–but they are not the gift.  They are only the signs of the gift.  Just as when Jesus healed the blind or multiplied loaves or stilled the storms–those acts weren’t the gift–they were signs of the gift.  They were startling acts of beauty and goodness meant to point us to the power, tenderness, mercy, and abundance of the Kingdom of God we have access to through Jesus.  We don’t worship the signs–we worship the God they reveal to us.

Everything we’ll miss this year (and pray God, only this year) is good–but they were never the things we came to worship.  The Resurrection of Jesus–the power and love of God’s heart towards us, this is real.  This will not be missing or altered.  This is the reason we sing–even now.  especially now.

I hope you’ll listen in as we think about how to participate Holy Week together–even when we’re apart.  I know that if we come to this week asking, seeking, knocking–seeking abundant life in Christ and a fresh anointing–the Lord will be faithful to give it to us.

Grudge // Forgiveness Is the Only Way // Kate Murphy

On Monday afternoon a Christian man drove around the city of Atlanta hunting down and murdering Asian women. On Sunday we will gather to worship our Lord and Savior and continue to recommit our lives to the way of Jesus, which is the way of forgiveness and grace.  And honestly, I thought about canceling–not worship, but the forgiveness part. 

How can we talk about forgiveness in light of what has happened this week?
And yet…how can we not?

Because if the Jesus way of forgiveness and grace is inappropriate this week, then it is irrelevant every other week.  If it is not appropriate to worship and dedicate ourselves to the self-giving forgiving love of Jesus because of the murderous destructive rage of the shooter, then that means we believe that hate is more powerful than love.

And we don’t believe that.

Because Jesus didn’t believe that–and he laid down his life to show us we could trust him, even in the presence of violence, sin, and hate. And after he triumphed over sin and death, he filled us with his Spirit–and then he commanded us to forgive.
Forgiveness isn’t a part of the gospel–it IS the gospel.

I hope you’ll listen in to this message as we seek to understand and worship Jesus and the way of forgiveness, on this week of all weeks.

Grudge // Forgiveness Is A Choice // Kate Murphy

Do you want to be made well?

That’s the question that Jesus asked a man who had been laying by a pool waiting to be healed in it’s holy water for 38 years. For 38 years the man had been lying there sick, unable to get himself to the water. For 38 years, no one helped him take his turn.  And then Jesus showed up and asked him if he wanted to be made well. When the man said yes, Jesus helped him.

This month we are leaning into God’s heart for forgiveness and reconciliation by laying down our grudges. Last week, we saw how the righteousness of God is not expressed in the punishment and destruction of the unworthy. No–that’s human self-righteousness. The righteousness of God is revealed when undeserving people receive what they do not deserve from God–forgiveness, healing, and new life. And we are given the righteousness of Jesus. For those of us who have been born again in Christ, forgiveness is our birthright. It is a spiritual gift meant to be shared.

But many of us…can’t seem to do it. We feel unable to forgive those who have hurt us.  We’ve tried and tried and tried, maybe even longer than 38 years–but we seemingly cannot forgive. We cannot make ourselves well. We can not get to the place of healing.

And so Jesus asks us that same question. Do you want to be made well? Do you want to be able to forgive?

If the answer is “yes”–or even if it’s a struggled “no”–I hope you’ll listen in.  We’ll be learning a practical 3 step 21-day spiritual process to seek the healing of Jesus in our unforgiving hearts.  

Grudge // Forgiveness Is Our Grace // Kate Murphy

In her book Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts On Faith, Anne Lamott writes that she used to joke that she wasn’t very big on forgiveness.

 “I went around for a long time saying I was not one of those Christians who is heavily into forgiveness…I am one of the other kind. But even though it was funny, and actually true, it started to be too painful to stay this way. They say we are not punished for the sin but by the sin, and I began to feel punished by my unwillingness to forgive.”

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts On Faith (Anne Lamott)

Many of us are “the other kind”.

We have trauma, we have fear, we have boundaries, we have our principles — but more than anything else, we have excuses. And somehow along the way we picked up the idea that forgiveness was only required for super saints.  

But forgiveness isn’t a requirement for anyone. It’s a manifestation of grace. Lamott admits she suffered because of her own unforgiveness. Without understanding forgiveness we can’t really understand grace — or what it means to follow Jesus.

There’s only one kind of Christian–the forgiving kind.  

I hope you’ll listen in as we discover how that’s not a threat, but God’s promise to us fulfilled by Jesus.