Redemption Songs // New Beginnings // Pastor Kate Murphy

Dear Church,

Ready or not, believe it or not–this Sunday is the first day of the new year.  For generations, Christians have marked time differently.  We mark the days not by the seasons or the calendar, but by the rhythm of telling and re-telling the story of Christ.  This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent–the season where we prepare for the coming of the messiah while remembering why he came and rejoicing in anticipation that he will come again.

So while the whole world will celebrate a new year in January, we keep time differently.  This Sunday, at the very end of the calendar year, we begin again.  For us, the ending is a new beginning–that is our sacred story.

And this year, in this Advent season, we will be learning new spiritual songs–Songs of Redemption.  Because, even though it doesn’t often seem like it, all of scripture is telling one story.  The story of God and creation.  And the essence of that story is one word: Redemption.  God formed all that is out of love–and though creation has been twisted and torn, God will not abandon or destroy–God will redeem God’s own.

It’s a truth so glorious it can only be told as a song.  
Through the prophet Isaiah, God sings to us
For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.
Be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating;
for I am about to create a new Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it or the cry of distress.

That’s a song of redemption, Church.  Liars will tell you that what God is doing is only for the beautiful innocent few–that it will happen somewhere else or someone else.  But God says otherwise–the beautiful new heaven and earth will be made from and for the old.  Jerusalem won’t be destroyed and forgotten, but remade and renewed.  Our relationship will be restored, not severed.

In time and truth, what looks like the end is actually the sacred beginning. 

I hope you’ll join me as we open our whole selves up to new life and new beginnings in Christ.


Pastor Kate

Giving Thanks // Remembering the Future // Edmond Johnson

Ezekiel 47:1,8-9  &  Revelation 21:1-5

For years, the prophet Ezekiel warned his people that God’s judgment was falling upon them.  Again and again, he implored them to repent and return to God or catastrophe would overwhelm them.  But everyone ignored his fiery sermons.  They knew there was room for improvement, but no one believed it could be as bad as crazy old Ezekiel made it out to be.   And they were right–until, suddenly, they weren’t.  Disaster was swift and absolute, and nobody could say they hadn’t been warned.  

Vindicated, the prophet opened his mouth to speak–but it wasn’t to say I told you so.  From the ruins Ezekiel began to show them their future–of a new way of life, a new way of knowing God, a new way of worshipping.  He described a new temple, built with a crack in the foundation–designed so that holy water would flow out to redeem the whole earth.  A sanctuary built to leak glory that would swell from a trickle into a river surrounded by trees with unfailing fruit which would nourish and heal the nations.

Sometimes, the only way to go on in the present is to remember the future and give thanks for what has not happened yet.  People of faith have always found courage and strength and hope by trusting that God’s promises are sure.  This week as we gather for worship, we will be giving thanks for the future revealed to us by the promises of God. 

Pastor Kate

Giving Thanks // Practice // Pastor Kate Murphy

Here’s something you probably don’t know about me.  I went to college to be an Opera Singer–on a scholarship, no less.  No, I won’t show you.  Long story short, it wasn’t my calling.  

My Opera career was doomed from the start for two, not entirely unrelated, reasons.  First, I don’t like Opera.  Second, I hated to practice and so I practiced as little as possible.  Having the capacity–the ability and the opportunity–to do something is essential.  But it is not sufficient.  You also have to have the commitment to practice.  This is true for Opera singing–and also for gratitude.

We all have the ability and opportunity to give thanks to God.  Most of us understand that we have an infinite number of reasons to be grateful.  We also understand that the act of giving thanks is generative and life-giving.  And yet–our knowledge and ability and opportunity amount to nothing until we (forgive me) just do it.

As a community, we are giving thanks this month.  I hope you’ll join us in our Thanks Giving Challenge and in worship.  We’ll be reading some of the Apostle Paul’s letters (Philippians 4:4-7, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) aboutthe necessity and power of giving thanks, especially in times of grief and loss.  But we aren’t gathering to learn more or think more.  We are gathering to practice.  Because the only way to become the joyful grateful people we already are in Christ is just to do the thing–to give thanks… so we will be.  I hope you’ll join us.


Pastor Kate

YouTube-Thanks Giving Challenge.

11/13/21 Update

Giving Thanks // Ebenezer Stones // Pastor Kate Murphy

1 Samuel 7:2b-12

Dear Church,

The people were gathered together in Mizpah–called by their prophet Samuel to repent of their faithlessness and return their hearts to God.  And just as they finished their prayers of confession, they looked up and saw their greatest enemy.  The Philistines were marching toward them, ready for battle.  The people were outnumbered, they were unprepared and–most terrifyingly–they were guilty.  They’d just acknowledged how they had sinned, how they’d abandoned the covenant and betrayed God–again. And now they needed help.  They needed God to save them–again.

And God’s response was thunder from Heaven.  Not against them, but for them.  Israel was saved, not by their plans or skill, but by God’s power.

And immediately after the battle-that-wasn’t, Samuel built an altar of stones and named it Ebenezer which means the Lord helped us here.  And every time the people saw that stone they would remember that time that God saved them from danger.  Not because they were good, but because God is good.  The people would see the stone and worship at the altar giving thanks–because the stone made them remember that God helped them.

This November, we are giving thanks in worship.  Because for people of faith, thanksgiving is not a holiday.  It is a spiritual practice.  It is a habit that grounds us in God’s goodness and trustworthiness.  And this month, we are inviting you to practice thanksgiving with us.  Because knowing and understanding is the booby prize of faith–transformation happens when what we know begins to shape how we live.  

So–give thanks with us.  Literally, grab a pen and paper and make a list of how God has helped you in the past.  Will it seem awkward and artificial and fake at first?  Maybe.  But if you struggle to believe that God loves you, if you struggle to trust that God is for you, if you worry that you’ve disappointed God one too many times and you can’t turn to him anymore until you get yourself together–well, giving thanks will pull you out of that shame cycle.  Giving thanks will ground your faith in who God is, not who you are.  Giving thanks will give you peace.

I hope you’ll join me in the practice of giving thanks–not just thinking about it, but actually doing it.  And then I hope you’ll take a picture and send an email to  Because giving thanks together will grow the Grove in beauty and maturity.  And, much less importantly, it will help me not lose a bet.

YouTube-Thanksgiving Challenge.


Pastor Kate