Into the Shadows-Week 4 // Mary’s Song // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture: Luke 1:26-38 & Luke 1:46-55

Dear Church,

Today (if you are reading this note on Friday) is the day the church celebrates the annunciation of the Lord–the moment that the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, a poor young girl and announced that Almighty God was inviting her to become the mother of the messiah, son of God, the long awaited savior who would break the curse of the fall and finally crush the head of the serpent.  The savior who would change everything, turn creation upside down to set it right again.  And Mary said yes:  

Here I am, the servant of the Lord.  Let it be with me according to your will.

This moment–the annunciation—is about the brilliant light of God shining in the darkness.  Usually people assume it is the angel Gabriel who brings that light, but for me, Mary’s answer is the light which pierces the darkness.  She is old enough to know how the world is, old enough to understand the price she will pay, the risk she is taking, the centuries of condemnation, shame & rage that will crash down on her young shoulders.  But she says yes–because she also understands that the world that is, isn’t the world that could be–or the world that will be.  She believes God is good and trusts God for salvation, so she offers her whole self to God to do God’s will–even when it is beyond her understanding.

The light of Mary’s yes pierces the shadows of Lent–her faith-filled yes testifies that while the past has surely malformed the present, it will not distort the future.  The kingdom of God has broken in and the revolution has begun–bringing new creation that centers the weak–not the strong, the poor–not the rich, the sick–not the healthy.  This Sunday, we look at how the Holy Spirit is calling us–like Mary–to say yes to the ways that God is breaking the power of the past as Jesus unleashes new creation.


Pastor Kate

Into the Shadows-Week 3 // Weakness and Vulnerability // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture: Matthew 16:13-26

Dear Church,

As we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us past what is bright and familiar into the shadows of our faith, we begin to see that many of our foundational assumptions about Jesus are unhelpful.  We rejoice that our savior is strong and powerful and unshakable–and he is.  But we overlook how Jesus uses his power and his strength.  We live in a world where the strong use their strength to please themselves.  We live in a world where the powerful wield their power against the weak.  We love to think and sing about the power of Jesus because we believe he will use it on our behalf, to give us the life we choose and protect us from all harm and distress.  Jesus does use his power for us–but to give us the life we need, not the life our broken hearts are set on.

We see the power and glory of God in Jesus most clearly, not when he works miracles or reveals supernatural knowledge, but when he surrenders to the will of God and embraces weakness, suffering and vulnerability.

Jesus promises to save us not by making us all-powerful and invulnerable–Jesus saves us in our weakness and through our wounds.

This isn’t the savior we want, but this is the savior we have.    A savior who cannot be followed in strength for power.  A savior we only find in our weakness and vulnerability.


Pastor Kate

Into the Shadows-Week 2 // That time Jesus left // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture: Luke 4:28-30, Luke 4:40-43, Luke 5:15-16

Dear Church,

In Luke chapter 5, a man with leprosy finds Jesus, falls on the ground before him and begs, ‘Lord, if you are willing, I know you can make me clean.’  We see God’s heart for those who suffer in Jesus’ answer.  ‘I am willing.  Be clean!’  Instantly, the man is healed.   And even though Jesus asks him to keep it quiet, word gets out.  Soon a huge crowd surrounded Jesus–seeking God, seeking wholeness, seeking healing. 

And Jesus…left.

He escaped to a quiet place to pray.  And Luke tells us Jesus did this often.  Slipped away from the crowds at Nazareth, at Capernaum, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Over and over, people seeking food, seeking healing, seeking forgiveness, seeking God came to Jesus.  And he healed, freed many, fed many, helped many–but not all.  Some were left hungry, left sick, left behind when Jesus went away. He could have stayed and done more–but he didn’t.  Why?

Why did the one who taught us that God leaves the 99 to rescue the one lost sheep, why did he leave before all the need was met?  Resting and praying are important–but are they more important than healing the sick?  After all, Jesus got in trouble for healing on the sabbath–surely praying could have waited a little longer? How can it be that Jesus left some people behind–and what does it mean for us?  

Would you believe me if I told you, it was good news?

Beloved, our God is worthy of praise–and even though sometimes it surely looks otherwise, our God never leaves anyone out and never leaves anyone behind.


Pastor Kate

Into the Shadows-Week 1 // Being Beloved // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11

Before he began any ministry, Jesus was baptized–and as he came up from the water, the Holy Spirit came down like a dove and rested on him. And with the Spirit, a voice:
‘You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.’

All this happened before Jesus did a thing for God.

Years ago I served a beautiful church in South Boston.  A community a lot like ours in many ways–people from every background, every circumstance gathered together in sincere, imperfect love for God and neighborhood and one another.  And every year we would have a special service remembering Jesus’ baptism and after the message the pastor would call everyone forward and anoint our heads with oil and say over us the words that God spoke over Jesus:

You are my beloved child, with you I am well pleased.

People would come undone–weeping uncontrollably in joy and relief.  It was so beautiful and holy and I knew it was as faithful. I knew it was true, but I didn’t understand how it could be. 

I loved those people so deeply, but I knew them–almost as well as I knew myself.  How could God be pleased with us–when we were still such a mess?  Love us–sure, but be pleased with us?  Not just pleased, but well pleased?  How can that be…surely we have more work to do, more growing to accomplish first.  
And even if it is somehow true, surely it can’t be good for us to hear it now?

But what we see in Jesus’ story–both in his baptism and in the season of temptation he endured just after–is that we cannot grow, we cannot heal, we cannot even begin to join the work of Jesus and we cannot resist the forces that pull us from God, until we know that God is well pleased with us.  Until we believe that we are beloved–right now, right where we are.  Our right beginning is in being with God–not in doing for God.  Being–resting, rejoicing–in God’s loving voice calling us beloved, astonishing us with the revelation that when God beholds us, God is well pleased with us. 

Until we know this, we know nothing of God. 

Until we believe this, we can do nothing for God.  

This Lent we are allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us Into the Shadows–to face the things we run from, to confront the powers that overwhelm us.  And if we are brave (may God give us the grace to be brave), we will learn that God is in the shadows as much as in the bright.   And in the shadows we will find a deeper, richer, stronger, healthier faith in Christ.  


Pastor Kate

P.S.  If you’d like to learn more about ‘being before doing,’ one of the truths a season in the shadows reveals to us–check out this podcast by Pete Scazzaro.