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.