Go Fish // News Worth Sharing // Kate Murphy

What is the gospel?

My great friend and fellow pastor Eulando Henton (shameless plug for our podcast, click here) has a custom of opening meetings at his church by inviting everyone to answer that question.

That makes it awkward–but he’s not wrong.

If we are committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ–
if we’re putting our wholehearted trust and faith in the good news,
then we need to know what that good news is.
And if we are going to invite others to believe the good news with us–
then we need to be able to tell people what the good news is.

If you are anything like me–you can easily say what the gospel isn’t, but struggle to say what it is. (If you are anything like me, you especially struggle to say what it is without preaching a sermon!) We can passionately talk about what the gospel isn’t
but can we speak with equal passion about what the gospel is?

When we can’t–it’s a problem.
Because the church isn’t called to announce what God is against–the church exists to share, live, and celebrate what God is doing in creation. And what God is doing is unexpected (which makes it news) and wonderful (which makes it good).

We aren’t building a community around what we hate, what we mourn, or what we’re against. The Holy Spirit is building us into a community grounded in our shared commitment to what we are FOR–and that is the good news of Jesus Christ.

Which brings us back to the first question
What–exactly–is this good news we believe?

Listen in and think about it with us.

Go Fish // Being Interruptible // Kate Murphy

Last week we heard one of Jesus’ most famous stories about a Father who loved his son–in spite of the ways the son used and exploited their relationship.  And when the Father gets the chance to show love toward the son again–he runs towards that chance, welcoming his long lost boy home and throwing a lavish party for everyone in the neighborhood.  

And if this were a movie script–that’s when the music would swell and the credits would roll.  But this isn’t a movie, it’s truth.  And that joyful unexpected celebration isn’t a feel-good ending.

Because–as Jesus told us from the beginning–the Father had two sons.  And just at the moment the Father was finally able to rejoice with the child he’d been missing for so long, his other son–the child who never left home–went into crisis.  

What the Father does next is so simple its easy to overlook–but until we learn to do it as well, our attempt to join Jesus in his Kingdom mission will be in vain.  

I hope you will listen in. Together we’ll discover what the Father did next and learn how essential, powerful and possible it is for us to do it as well!

Go Fish // Welcome Home // Kate Murphy

The parable we call the prodigal son is one of the most beloved parts of scripture.  We turn to it, again and again, to be reminded of how we will never wander too far to return home to God’s love.

And while that’s a natural way to read the story and certainly true, that’s not what the parable is about.  The parable isn’t about us.  The parable is about God.

As we move deeper into our worship series on Evangelism, it’s time to read this familiar story with new eyes.  Instead of focusing on how we are like the prodigal son–let’s wonder how we can be more like his extraordinarily loving Father.  Now that we know ourselves to be ever-welcome at home, let’s learn how we can be about our Father’s business of running to meet, embracing and welcoming others on their way home.

I hope you’ll join us by listening in.   May we who find ourselves, unexpectedly and undeservedly, in God’s embrace find there the wisdom to recognize, welcome and celebrate others who are far from home.

Go Fish // Knowing Your Story // Kate Murphy

“One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

The call to evangelism terrifies and confuses many of us because we don’t know our own stories. In John 9:9, Jesus heals a man who was born blind, and the miracle causes huge controversy. After his sight is restored, the man doesn’t understand everything about Jesus. When he is hauled before the authorities and questioned, he doesn’t know that Jesus is the son of God. He doesn’t know how he was healed, he doesn’t know whether Jesus broke the law by healing him on the sabbath. He does know one thing, though.

He knows his own story. 

He knows that he used to be blind and now he can see. He knows that Jesus gave him sight. He doesn’t understand it, but he knows that for sure.

We think we should say nothing until we can say everything. We think we shouldn’t open our mouths until we are confident we can answer every question and understand fully the mysteries of God. But, really, all we need to know is our own story. All we need is a willingness to be vulnerable and tell it.  

And, yet, many of us believe that we don’t have a story to tell. Many of us believe that our lives are too small, too ordinary, and too messy to become a worthy story.  

That’s not true. God is alive and at work in your life. Your life is full of Jesus stories—stories worthy of telling. People seeking the Lord aren’t looking for religious experts or sophisticated theologians or moral role models. People are hungry for God stories in the lives of people that are just like them.

I hope you’ll listen in. Together, we’ll discover how knowing our own Jesus stories is the first step to sharing our faith and growing in God’s love.

Go Fish // An Invitation // Kate Murphy

This Sunday, we begin a new worship series called “Go Fish.” This is exactly what Jesus invited his first followers to do when they joined him on his mission. He said, “From now on you’ll be fishing for people.”

Seriously. What does that even mean?

Well, we find the first clue when we remember that when Jesus said this, he was talking to actual fishermen. He was telling them, as they stepped into a wholly new life with him, their old lives weren’t wasted. Jesus invited his first followers to give their whole selves to his holy mission, but Jesus was also telling them that anything and everything they had to offer would be relevant in the Kingdom.

You used to fish for fish, but now you’ll fish for people. From this moment on, you’ll find people where they are and catch them up into eternal life.

It’s the same for us, friends. The Holy Spirit is still on the loose, interrupting the lives of ordinary people just like us. The Holy Spirit is still inviting us to bring all of who we are into this new, wild, abundant life in the Kingdom. 

I hope you’ll listen in as we discover how Jesus is inviting us, exactly as we are, to become all that we were created to be.

This Is Us // To Come Alive in Christ // Kate Murphy

This Sunday, we explore the final part of our mission: Inviting All to Serve and Come Alive in Christ. But, this coming alive in Christ part, it’s the goal we equally long for and dread.

Because, for the most part, we can all see the value in having an open, welcoming community that invites all. And, the serving is something we understand—who doesn’t look at the world and hope to be a part of repairing its brokenness?

But, the coming alive in Christ part is altogether something different. It’s not something we do, it’s something that is done to us. And, if honest, most of us often wonder—do we really need it? Do we really need to come alive in Christ?

Sure, we have some bruises that need healing, some rough edges that might need sanding off, but aren’t we already alive? Aren’t we all good? Mostly?

No. Not at all. The ground at the cross—as the Saints say—is level. Meaning, that which we clearly see that others need, is exactly what we need ourselves. New hearts. New starts. New life—to come alive, again and again.

But hear the good news, Church—this isn’t a test or a challenge or a trap. Coming alive in Christ is a gift. I hope you’ll listen in to this message that unpacks more of why that gifts is the most important thing of all.

This Is Us // To Serve // Kate Murphy

It is time to recommit ourselves to what is unchangingour mission. Here at The Grove, that mission is: Inviting All to Serve & Come Alive in Christ. Last week, we did a deep dive into the first part: Inviting All. And, afterwards, a lot of you reached out to say, “Okay, I’m in but…H-O-W?”

So glad you asked. Because, the answer is right there in the second part of our mission. Serve.

We invite people in by doing what we doserving. We aren’t here to judge or to fix or to use, we are here to serve. Serving is the currency of the holy, beautiful wholly new Kingdom of God that Jesus is inaugurating in us. And because we are ridiculously in charge of how we live together at The Grove, we’re doing it Jesus’ way—the servant way.

Want to hear the best part? Turns out, serving is a party.

I hope you’ll listen in to this message as we discover how serving leads to celebration—celebrations full of abundance, joy, fullness, and life.

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.