Make Love the Measure-Week 6 // Instead of Despair // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture: Matthew 28:16-20, 2 Timothy:6-7

Dear Church,

When Sandy Hook happened 9 years ago, I cried for days.  This week, I haven’t shed a single tear.  I am stunned and horrified and afraid but mostly I am numb.

This is the last Sunday of our season celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.  That means next we celebrate Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit, which means this Sunday, traditionally, churches celebrate Ascension–the day Jesus returned to the Father to reign in the Kingdom of Heaven.  That sounds triumphant and holy, but it feels like Jesus is leaving us behind.

Especially this week.

This week, reading the story of the ascension actually makes things make sense.  It seems like it’s saying that Jesus has left us to go be with God in God’s kingdom up there somewhere in heaven, and we are on our own down here with a great commission to take charge and build a satellite campus.  And the reason everything is so brutal and terrible is that we are cosmically bad at our assignment.

But things are not what they seem: in scripture, in the ascension, in the great commission–and in this present moment. Tragedy and loss are brutal and cannot be glossed over, AND violence and injustice are not running the show.  Jesus has not left us; the great commission is not a colonial curse and we are not relegated to despair. The good news is always better than it seems.

I hope you will worship with me, as we seek God, and stand on God’s promises in resistant response to this week’s fresh brutality.  We walk by faith, not by sight and we are called to be salt and light for just such a time as this.

Peace, 

Pastor Kate

Make Love the Measure-Week 5 // Waiting // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture: Acts 1:12-26

Dear Church,

What does it look like to love the risen Lord?  Sometimes–much more often than we’d like–it looks like waiting.

In the book of Acts, Luke tells us that Jesus spent 40 days with his followers after his resurrection.  It was a season full of meals and ministry and teaching about the Kingdom of God.  And that season culminated in the ascension–Jesus and his disciples climbed the Mount of Olives and returned to the Father, and Jesus’ last words to them were–return to Jerusalem and wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Full of hope, fear and confusion, full of love and full of grief–at first, the disciples did just that.  They returned to the upper room and they waited…for a while.  And when waiting grew too uncomfortable, they quit and did what seemed best in their own eyes.  How often do we do the same? 

As we struggle to grieve and make sense of last week’s horrific terrorist attacks–this is a particularly hard and holy word.  

Beloved ones–sometimes God asks us to wait.  Love for God compels us to act, but also–sometimes–to refrain from acting until we are equipped to move with Jesus and not ahead of him.   The disciples were so eager for the Kingdom of God to come, they couldn’t stand to wait.  Often the most difficult thing God requires of us is nothing–not to rush ahead, not to fill the space, not to make a plan–not to start before we are ready.  Those who love the Holy One must learn how to wait. 

In three Sundays, we will celebrate Pentecost–the day God kept the promise and gave the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ disciples.  It’s coming–but it’s not here yet.  Like the first disciples, we too are in the season between Easter and Pentecost.  We too must learn to listen and wait on the Lord.  

‚ÄčIt’s so much harder than it seems.  The first disciples couldn’t do it.  This Sunday we’re gathering around the story of what they did instead of waiting.  For me, looking into this passage has been like looking into a mirror.  I hope you’ll listen, to learn why and how to wait, and the good news of what God does when we just can’t manage it.

Peace,
Pastor Kate

p.s. Friends–we will be lifting up the names of those lost in last weekend’s mass shootings and addressing this tragedy in the message.  I wanted to let you know so you could make wise decisions about stewarding your mental health. 

Make Love the Measure-Week 4 // Our Part // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture: Acts 9:18-31

Dear Church,

Last week in our ‘Make Love the Measure’ worship series we shared the story of Ananias, the foolishly faithful believer who trusted the Lord’s call and healed & welcomed a man named Saul.   That seems like a pretty ‘normal’ biblical story until you learn Saul was blinded by the Lord on his way to Damascus (Annanias’ hometown) on a mission to find and arrest all the believers living there.  Saul’s plan was interrupted by God, who came, not to punish Saul, but to transform him into the ‘chosen vessel’ to bring the gospel to Gentiles.

Usually when we tell this story, we skip from the story of Saul’s encounter with Christ to the stories of Paul’s incredible ministry planting churches across the known world.  But this Sunday, we are looking deep into what we normally overlook.  Because it wasn’t just the power of the Lord that changed Paul’s heart–it was the love of a community.

In Acts chapter 9, we catch a glimpse of the way two churches loved, healed, taught, and learned from a man who, in his former life had been responsible for the brutal deaths of their loved ones.  That’s the kind of wondrous love the Spirit empowers and requires of us in the body of Christ.  It’s the kind of love that still redeems and remakes the world–and it is our baptismal birthright.

I hope you’ll join us as we ponder how to be a church full of life-changing, destiny shifting love. 

Peace,

Pastor Kate

Want to chat about what you have heard? Click here:

https://www.thegrovecharlotte.org/connect-with-us

Make Love the Measure-Week 3 // Ananias Visions // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture: Acts 9:10-19

Dear Church

Ananias was a brave and faithful man who risked all he had, including his life, to follow Jesus.  One day the Lord called to him in a vision and told him to go and heal a man named Saul who had come to town to arrest and execute Christians.God told Ananias that this man, who was responsible for the deaths of many believers in Jerusalem, who had come to Ananais’ town to arrest and kill even more, this man–not any of the people he persecuted–was God’s ‘chosen instrument’ to carry the gospel to the nations.

The Lord did not promise Ananias he would protect him and keep him safe.

Ananias didn’t ask him to.

The vision Ananias received from the Lord was dangerous and confusing. Honestly–it was offensive. And we who see Jesus’ acceptance of death on a cross as the holiest expression of God’s love for humanity–we must expect to be shocked by the limitlessness of God’s love for all of creation. If your visions from the Lord never challenge you, if they only affirm and encourage–they may not be from Jesus. And if you have no interest in visions at all–your following is limited by your own capacity for love, not expanded by his.

Peace,

Pastor Kate

Want to chat about what you have heard? Click here:

https://www.thegrovecharlotte.org/connect-with-us

Make Love the Measure-Week 2 // Why Peter? // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture: John 21:1-25

Why Peter?

This Sunday we read the story of Jesus’ breakfast on the beach with Peter.  Scholars call it the rehabilitation of Peter.  Here we see Jesus re-claiming and re-commissioning Peter as the leader of the church. 

If you take the gospels seriously you ask questions, and sooner or later one of those questions has to be–why Peter?  Why does Jesus choose this arrogant, overconfident, impulsive, brash, cowardly, also-he-has-some-good qualities fisherman in the first place?  Surely there were more gifted, more worthy, more promising people (ahem–women!) around.  Why Peter? Especially after he doesn’t pray in Gethsemane, dices off a guy’s ear, denies  Jesus after his arrest, deserts him during the crucifixion and doesn’t believe at the empty tomb.  Peter doesn’t get it.  There isn’t a mistake Peter doesn’t make.  There isn’t a chance he doesn’t blow.  So, why Peter?   What exactly are Peter’s qualifications? What does he do right that’s so amazing it balances out all of the wrong?

Well, I’ll give you a hint.  We call Jesus’ Kingdom the Upside-down Kingdom, because everything here is exactly the opposite of what we expect.  Peter’s qualifications are his failures. They are the measure of God’s love, and yours are too.

Peace,

Pastor Kate