This Is Us // Inviting All // Kate Murphy

January at The Grove is a time for remembering who God has called us to be and recommitting ourselves to our mission: Inviting All to Serve and Come Alive in Christ. This week, I’ve been studying and praying about the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman in preparation for a message on what it looks like to be a community that invites all to belong.

And then Wednesday happenedinsurrection at the United States Capitol Building.  And, like everyone else, I was glued to my screens watching the events unfold. Like everyone else, I was trying to understand what was happening—trying to process, trying to hold space for the pain and fear and rage of those around me, trying to pray, trying to hold steady to Jesus, trying to trust and yield to what the Spirit is doing here and now with this brokenness.

It seemed like tone-deaf myopic foolishness to move forward with the worship service we planned. How can we recommit to inviting all with images of riots and armed insurrection on our screens?

But if not now, when?

If we are divided from our mission and one another in life-and-death moments of crisis like this, we never had holy purpose or vision. If our only unity lies in swallowing our pain and looking away and finding shallow common ground, then what we are doing here isn’t real and isn’t of God.

So, yes, this week—especially this week—we will speak of inviting all as we explore the passage where Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a holy well. Jesus and the Samaritan Woman were two strangers from two warring ethnicities, born into a multi-generational cycle of enmity. Their foundational myths and sacred stories demonized one another and, yet, Jesus offered her living water. He invited her to leave her current worldview behind and to step into a radically new story. It was the same invitation he made to every person he met. The only difference—she was one of the few who accepted this invitation.

So, maybe we can all start there.

A Defiant Advent // Defiant Light // Kate Murphy

This Sunday, we gather for the first time in this new year to celebrate Epiphany. I am as eager as anyone to leave 2020 behind. But, I wonder if the Epiphany story of the mysterious, foreign strangers might challenge us to think differently about the year we’ve had.

The Magi—we don’t exactly know who they were, we only know they weren’t kings and they weren’t Jewish. They followed stars, not the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. They appear to practice divination and other spiritual rituals that we might label occult and that our scriptures label cursed. And, yet, God was present and active in their lives and caused a star to shine forth—a star that led them to worship the savior of the world.

Our God is omnipresent—always present, always near. God is especially present in the places and situations when we expect or feel his absence. God’s grace is sufficient even when we are certain sin and brokenness is just too much. As we look back on a year drenched in loss and pain and sin, we must be a people who seek stars—a people who search the seemingly overwhelming darkness for the steady, brilliant light of God’s presence. And, we must be a people who follow that light.

This last year can’t be undone. The losses and wounds are real. But, so are the stars and so are the gifts. Listen in as we uncover them as together.

A Defiant Advent // Defiant Presence // Kate Murphy

This week includes a day for rejoicing—because the Lord has come to live with and for us! This is a day for rejoicing, because God has kept all his promises!

This is a day for rejoicing, because the one born in weakness is strong to save us. And we need saving. This beautiful, broken world cries out for a savior and—good news—Jesus wasn’t just born for those with joyful hearts and vibrant faith. 

The coming of Christ is especially for you if your heart is broken this Christmas, if your life has been shattered by violence or injustice.  

This Sunday, we’ll ponder this part of the Christmas story that we usually skip. I promise, it’s not because I want to steal your joy. It’s because there is no part of our reality that the miracle of incarnation doesn’t redeem.

This tragedy belongs in the Christmas story because tragedy is a part of reality on this side of eternity, and we who trust Jesus don’t have to pretend otherwise. 

I hope you will listen in to this hard but really necessary message, because Christmas is only beginning and it’s better than we’ve dared to imagine.

A Defiant Advent // Defiant Love // Kate Murphy

Tucked away in the very middle of the book of Psalms, you’ll find my very favorite verse of scripture. Psalm 85 describes what it will be like when God’s salvation reigns on the new earth. The tenth verse says that in those days, ‘”love and justice meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other.”

Sometimes it feels like we have to choose, doesn’t it? Between peace and righteousness, between love and justice. But that is only because we’ve become accustomed to watered-down, inauthentic versions—peace-keeping instead of peace-making, vengeance instead of justice, comfort instead of love, self-righteousness instead of God’s righteousness. In the Kingdom of God, love, justice, righteousness, and peace need no reconciliation.

And the dawn of salvation, of course, is the story we are so eagerly anticipating in this season—the birth of Christ. The coming of our savior is a story of mercy, of forgiveness, of love, and of righteousness. And, it is also, always, a story of justice. That’s why when Mary is ready to rejoice, she sings a song of the coming of holy justice. Her magnificat  celebrates that with the birth of her son, God is establishing a kingdom where righteousness and peace kiss—where all are fed, all are healed, all are reconciled in God’s great love.

One of the things Mary knew is that God’s love looks like justice and God’s justice feels like love. I hope you will listen in to this message as we let Mary teach us the true meaning of Christmas.

A Defiant Advent // Defiant Joy // Kate Murphy

Years ago, on the third Sunday of Advent when we lit the joy candle, I had a terrible experience leading worship. I was newly ordained and it was one of the first times I served communion. When I went to break the loaf of bread, I discovered one of the elders had unintentionally bought a thickly buttered loaf of garlic bread.

Instantly, this sacred moment that I had anticipated for years turned into an embarrassing disaster. The people in the congregation understood, some even found it humorous. But, for me, it was anything but joyful.

All these years later, though, it’s become a defining moment of my ministry, and an experience that I treasure. That loaf of garlic bread helped me to learn that what we do on Sunday mornings isn’t a performance. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be real. Our unavoidable human failures can never empty God’s sacred gifts of their power. All these years later, this story does bring me joy.

Friends, the truth is that no matter how many years pass, much of the very real suffering and loss of this pandemic will never bring us joy. And, there is no real comparison to my story of garlic bread and what we are all enduring now. But, still I wonder—will some of the things that most challenge and disturb us now come to be memories we’ll someday treasure? Will some of the pain we feel now birth a wisdom and maturity that we might come to rejoice over in time?

Maybe this is the year we receive sacred joy—a defiant joy that springs up, even as we grieve and are afraid. Maybe this is the year we find the joy that Mary found when she discovered the astonishing truth that God was with her and that no word of God would ever fail.

I hope, especially if you are overwhelmed and angry and mourning and scared, that you’ll listen in to this message about joy. Even on your own you can light a candle for joy—together, we’ll discover that what God is doing is greater and stronger than anything that threatens us in these hard days.

A Defiant Advent // Defiant Peace // Kate Murphy

This Sunday we light the candle of peace and rejoice that our savior is the Prince of Peace. But like everything else about Jesus, this peace doesn’t look the way we expect it to look. Jesus’ approach to peace is gloriously different than our own.

When we start thinking about peace, it doesn’t take long before we are cursing our enemies. After all, our peacelessness is their fault. If only the world were full of people like us, we would already have peace. We wouldn’t even need a savior.

The world, of course, is filled with people exactly like us, and so we desperately need a savior. 

And the glory of God comes down to show us a new way to peace, one that doesn’t require the participation or destruction of our enemies. It’s the path that John the baptist blazed through the wild spaces, far from the temple in Jerusalem—the word that drew all those seeking for more out into the desert. That word, that path, is repentance.

We hope you’ll listen in as we discover how the prophet’s call to our ancestors is for us as well. The way to peace still begins with repentance. This is the road that leads to new life in Christ.

A Defiant Advent // Defiant Hope // Kate Murphy

For us, it’s not beginning to look a lot like Christmas. For us, it is the holy season of Advent—and it has never been more important, more healing, to understand the difference.

Of course, we are tired and scared and overwhelmed, which makes it seem like exactly the time to string lights, drink hot chocolate, watch predictable Christmas movies, and buy things for those we love. And there is nothing evil or wrong about any of these things—but they won’t bring us the healing, hope, and peace that our souls are starved for.

We need Advent—these weeks of looking at the world as it is, all creation groaning as if in labor. We need these weeks to name and grieve what is broken. A season, not for shutting out the world and making wishes but, for the Spirit to call us to open our eyes and look soberly at reality—a reality that can’t be fixed with candy canes or even Congress itself.

We hope you’ll join us by listening in to this Advent series. But don’t come expecting choirs of angels singing—come expecting apocalypse. Because, before we can rejoice in what is coming, we first have to see what is. Only then— when we wake up and see how devastatingly complete the Fall is—can we find real hope. The kind of defiant hope that watches and waits for our Savior who has overcome the world and is making all things—ALL THINGS—new.

Journey With Jesus // Learning Compassion // Stuart Dugan

Have you ever noticed that life’s not fair?

Of course you have, we all do. Usually, we notice it when we come out on the short end of the stick. God’s not fair, either. Because God is compassionate and generous, we get not what we deserve, but what we need.

Yes, life isn’t fair. But, the good news is that, with God, we get more than we deserve. And yet, the good news doesn’t end there. The wild and amazing part about all of this is that as we journey with Jesus, we, too, become more compassionate and generous.

We hope that you’ll listen in as Rev. Dr. Stuart Dugan invites us to ponder the mystery of this good news, and what it means for our collective journey with Jesus.

Journey With Jesus // Embracing Humanity // Cedric Lundy

This week we Journey with Jesus on his forty-day fast in the wilderness where he faced temptation to reject his own humanity and the limitations that came with it. In some ways it’s an odd story.

  • Why would Jesus pursue solitude in the wilderness, rather than pursuing acclaim following his baptismal coming-out party?
  • What is the significance of Jesus rejecting the shortcuts to food, security, and power that the devil offered?
  • How can this story help us answer the question of how we are called to embrace our own humanity?

We hope that you’ll listen in as we welcome our friend Rev. Cedric Lundy to the pulpit and lean into the life and journey of Jesus, in all his humanity.

Journey With Jesus // Facing Fear // Eulando Henton

This Sunday, we begin a new series to explore our Journey With Jesus. And, this week, we’re talking about one thing we all face on the journey of faith…


Throughout the Bible, God says do not be afraid. It’s one of the most frequent commands in the Bible. And, though we’ve heard this word—time and time again—day in and day, we still find ourselves entangled in fear.

The problem with fear is that what we fear, we follow. And what we fear, we obey. 

So, how do we live as truly free people? How do we live unafraid in the midst of raging storms? How do we journey with Jesus, hearing and following and trusting the voice of our good shepherd and true savior? 

Listen in and hear this good word from our dear friend, Pastor Eulando Henton.