Servant Life-Week 3 // Power of a Servant // Pastor Kate Murphy

Dear Church,

I read an article in Relevant magazine revealing that in 2019, all but one of the most popular 20 Facebook pages for American Christians were actually created by overseas bot farms in order to spread misinformation and steal personal data.  The groups had nostalgic and sentimental names like ‘smile and shine,’ ‘be happy and enjoy life,’ ‘blessing,’ and ‘light a candle for lost loved ones.’

What this reveals to me is not a problem with an internet platform, but a problem with the Church. When we believe we’re called to build our life in Christ around privilege and pleasure, we make ourselves ripe for exploitation and abuse.  The folks building those fake platforms know us better than we know ourselves–they knew just what to promise to make us click ‘follow.’

I didn’t see any fake platforms named ‘Dying to Self,’ ‘How to Serve with Humility and Grace,’ or ‘finding the strength to bless & serve our enemies.’  But that’s what the gospel story is about–Jesus didn’t come to be blessed and served–he came to seek and save and serve the lost and wounded.  That is the narrow way Jesus opens to us, and it is still the only path to abundant life and salvation.

I hope you’ll join me for worship on Sunday as we look at the beautiful and astonishing story of those who served the Aramean general Naaman.  Here we find the rare story of sons and daughters of Israel who understood and embodied God’s covenant with Abraham, especially one little girl whose name is unknown to us who prefigures Christ himself.  Come to be inspired, come to be challenged, come to behold the awe-ful way we are called to serve one another as Jesus serves us.


Pastor Kate

Servant Life-Week 2 // Wisdom of a Servant // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture:  Matthew 25:14-30 (?)

Dear Church,

Before leaving on a long journey, a man left work for three of his servants.  In his absence, two of the servants labored as requested, but the third servant did nothing.  When their Lord returned, he was pleased with the obedient servants and angry with the one who did nothing.  The ones who were faithful were rewarded, the one who was not faced consequences.

Usually when we think about this story (Matthew 25:14-30), we focus on the servant who did not follow instructions.  We question his motives; we evaluate his excuses, and we resolve to be nothing like him.

But this month we are focusing on a less popular aspect of Jesus’ identity–his servanthood.  So, instead of wondering what was wrong with the third guy, we’re going to focus on what was right with the first two.  Where did they find the energy, courage and wisdom that their fellow servant lacked?  What did they know and how did it empower them to live differently?  Most importantly, how did their approach to serving mirror Jesus’ own?

I hope you’ll join me as we reveal the wisdom of a servant that leads to abundant life.


Pastor Kate

Servant Life-Week 1 // Holiness of a Servant // Pastor Kate Murphy

Dear Church,

If I asked everyone reading this letter to complete the sentence ‘Jesus is ________,’ we’d all probably fill in that blank differently:  

Lord, Savior, Son of God, Friend, Brother, Shepherd, King, Way-maker, miracle worker, promise-keeper, light in the darkness, God-with-us, Name above all names, Wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Merciful, Grace, Hope, Love, Life, God…

There are a million different glorious truth-filled ways to fill in that blank–and I hope you have first-hand knowledge of many of them.

But there is a word that belongs with all the others that we often overlook.  And really, it’s the key to understanding how and why Jesus is all those other things.  But we ignore it because it doesn’t seem glorious or holy like the rest.   It doesn’t seem like something God could be–or should be.  

That word is servant.  Jesus was and is a servant.  Jesus is the One who serves.  This is an unexpected thing for the One who is all those other things to be–it almost feels shameful.  It is hard to understand how the one who is everything on that list could also be a servant.  And really, it’s even more strange than we imagine.  Jesus isn’t just anyone’s servant.  Jesus serves us.  

The fact that we struggle to accept this shows that we deeply misunderstand both Jesus and the sacredness of serving.

So for the next month we are going to lean in and seek understanding in a new worship series called, ‘The Life of a Servant’. Because friends, if Jesus is a servant, then we who claim to follow him are servants also.  If you are too good to be a servant–then you are too good for the narrow way of Jesus (Philippians 2:1-11).  I hope you’ll join me as we deepen our understanding of the holiness of this servant life we share with Christ. 

Pastor Kate

Remember Your Spirit-Week 4 // How is Your Soul? // Nicole Thompson

Whether you join us masked-up in the sanctuary or from the livestream–we’ll rejoice in the house of the Lord, bound together by shared worship.  Worship is our gift to God–but as we give it away, we nourish and strengthen our spirits.

And in the House of the Lord we find wisdom for these days.  Jesus spoke words of peace and revelation to his first disciples–who also lived in turbulent and uncertain times.  When their spirits were overwhelmed by fear and anxiety, he did not shame or scold them.  He taught them to look around to find peace:

Consider the birds of the air–consider the Lilles of the field…neither can care for themselves but notice how extravagantly God cares for them.  Remember God cares for you even more deeply.

Look around–notice the tender intimate faithfulness of God in nature and let it bear witness to you.  

I hope you’ll be rejoicing in worship with me on Sunday as Nicole brings us a message of courage and consolation!


Pastor Kate

Remember Your Spirit-Week 3 // Can These Bones Live? // Pastor Kate Murphy

Son of man, can these bones live?

In the 37th chapter of the book of Ezekiel, God takes the prophet to a valley covered in mounds of dry bones.  He takes Ezekiel by the hand ‘back and forth among them,’ so he can see the magnitude of the death and decay up close, over and over.  And only then does God ask the question.  Can these–even these, all of these–bones live?

In this season, it’s not our bones but our spirits that feel dried out and full of death.  We’ve been living with the fear and rage of this pandemic for so long. Our hearts break for the suffering of lives devastated by fires, floods, earthquakes and wars.  Our hope is crushed by the power and pervasiveness of systemic racism and the feebleness and futility of our attempts at healing and reconciliation.  

Can the bones in that valley–after all that time dessicated by death–live again?
Can our spirits in this season–crushed by sin, despair, fear and death–be full of holy life again?

Our prophet brother Ezekiel knew that this is not a question for us humans.  His answer was really a question. ‘Sovereign God, you alone know.’

The God who re-membered those bones is the same God who re-members our spirits.  Listen and hear why we, especially now, have reason to hope.


Pastor Kate

Remember Your Spirit-Week 2 // What is Unseen is Eternal // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture:  2 Corinthians 4:7-18 (NIV)

In the midst of life, we are in death…

That’s the first line of an ancient Gregorian chant believers used to sing each week in worship.  It’s a song modern hearts refuse to sing.  It may be a true statement, but most of us would prefer not to be reminded of it.  We build our worship services around the truths of our faith that inspire and encourage us.  

And that may be our mistake.

This month, we remember our spirits, and seek courage and wisdom and hope for these difficult days.  And our problem isn’t that we don’t know Jesus or love him enough.  I think our greatest spiritual challenge is wrong expectations.

Our expectations of life with Jesus here on earth are wrong.  Somehow, we’ve gotten the idea that if we love Jesus and Jesus loves us, we will be supernaturally shielded and protected from all pain and suffering.  But this is not what Jesus promised us.  Our ancestors knew that–which is for them that song was a source of encouragement and strength.  They expected trouble and sorrow on earth–and so they sought the Lord in it.

Maybe they learned these right expectations from Paul.  In his second letter to the Corinthians, he testifies:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.

Part of the burden of these days is not just the pain and fear–but the nagging thought that it wasn’t supposed to be this way, that something’s gone horribly wrong.

But scripture and faith teach us to expect seasons of pain and loss.  Jesus promises not to save us from these days–but to bring abundant salvation life into those days.  The good news isn’t God is good when life is good–but that God is good even when life isn’t good.  Because, on this side of eternity, often it isn’t.

That song the monks chanted is true–in the midst of life we are in death.  But in Christ, the reverse is also true.  Because of Jesus, even when we are in the midst of death, we have life.  Come and see…

Remember Your Spirit-Week 1 // Empathy // Pastor Kate Murphy

The Bible talks a lot about faint-heartedness and that used to seem like an antiquated phrase–but now, I understand.  And I know I’m not the only one.  There is nothing cute or inspiring about resilience anymore.  

Covid, Haiti, Afghanistan, the storms, the fires–we are drenched in death and despair; we can no longer power through. And we don’t have to.  Because our God doesn’t demand that we try harder or adjust our attitudes or perform gratitude.  We can, as the psalms teach us, take our faint hearts to ‘the rock that is higher’ than we are.  We can acknowledge, unashamedly, that we need spiritual renewal to face the days that lie ahead. 

Our September worship series is called ‘Remember Your Spirit,’ and together we will seek God’s provision, wisdom, strength, and solace for our weary souls. Because beloved ones, even if our worst fears are true, even if this is the very worst it’s ever been, even if it’s not getting better any time soon…

Even if…God is still enough. Especially when everything is not okay, our spirit can be renewed in the Lord.  God’s promises are for such a time as this.

This Sunday we look at the very earliest picture of life in the church in Acts 2:42-47 and discover how those saints, who knew a bit about rapid disorienting change, received abundant joyful life in Christ through foundational spiritual practices.  Together we’ll learn that, while this season is unique in its challenges, the path to joy and peace and growth is unchanged and deceptively familiar.

Mind of Christ-Week 5 // The Repentant Sinner // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture: Luke 18:9-14 (NIV) – The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

What if a lot of what you’ve learned about God isn’t right?
What if the gap between what scripture says and what we’ve been told it means is bigger than we imagined?
What if what Jesus said doesn’t mean what we tell ourselves it means?

That’s why we are spending August considering the mind of Christ and opening our spirits up to the terrifying liberating truth of Jesus.  Because (spoiler alert) Jesus thinks differently than we do.  That’s why he taught in parables–to expose the gulf between our expectations and God’s truth.  This Sunday we are considering the church through the lens of the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, where the one who was confident in himself remained far from God and the one who despaired was saved by grace.  Like the Pharisee, too many of us Christ followers come to worship full of ourselves.  We seek out the faith communities that will justify us.  We want churches to exalt our righteousness and condemn the sins of our neighbors.

But salvation comes not to the (self) righteous, but the repentant sinner.   Our church shouldn’t confirm our suspicion that we are righteous, it should lead us to repentance.  

Mind of Christ – Week 4 // Prayer, Persistence, Justice // Pastor Cedric Lundy

This Sunday we are excited to welcome our friend Pastor Cedric Lundy into the pulpit to share the next installment of our worship series on the ‘Mind of Christ.’  Cedric is a native of Ann Arbor, MI, who moved to Charlotte, NC, after completing his ministry degree to begin a career in pastoral ministry. He has served as a youth pastor, a pastor of justice, and he owns a coffee roasting business. He currently serves as a Street Leader Director for Urban Promise. He is also the co-host of the podcast, Token Confessions where he and Sanchez Fair share stories of life as men of color living in predominantly white spaces.  You can read more about Cedric’s story and passion for Jesus in this recent feature from ‘The Faces of Charlotte.’  Cedric’s sermon on the parable of the persistent widow will explore the intersection of prayer and persistence and justice.


Pastor Kate

Mind of Christ-Week 3 // The Vine & The Branches // Shardae Henry

This Sunday is a big deal in the life of our congregation.  Our friend and sister Shardae Henry will be preaching her first sermon from our pulpit.  During her time at the Grove, the Lord has called Shardae to ordained ministry and she begins her formal seminary studies this fall at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte.  And like I said–this is a big deal for ALL of us.

Because one sign of a vital life-giving church is people ‘coming alive’ and discovering previously unimaginable callings to serve Jesus in extraordinary ways.  ‘Behold–I do a new thing in your midst!’ God declares through the prophet Isaiah.  That is true for us as a community–and it is also true for us individually.  God’s call to ministry was a surprise to Shardae–but those of us who have grown to know and love her over the years saw it coming and celebrated its arrival. 

So this is a big beautiful moment.  Shardae will share how Jesus’ words ‘I am the vine and you are the branches’ in John 15 reveals the mind of Christ for ministry.  And the act of stepping into the pulpit will itself be a revelation for those of us with eyes to see.  Because we think we know ourselves, our limits, and our capabilities well.  But Jesus knows us better–and Jesus calls us into life beyond our wildest imagination (and equips those he calls).

So I hope you will join us this week.  I am coming ready to be filled–because I know that Jesus will use our Shardae to challenge, inspire and stretch us in the same way he has filled, challenged, inspired, and stretched her.  May we respond as faithfully!


Pastor Kate

Scripture Reading: John 15:1-8 (NIV)