Again, Lord!-Week 4 // After the Revelation // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture: Judges 6:33-40

Dear Church,

When we meet Gideon, he is literally bent over, cowering in fear while hiding from his enemies.   And then an angel of the Lord appears to him with a series of stunning revelations: he is seen and known by God, he is called to a life of wonder beyond his wildest imagination and God will accompany and equip him every step of the way. 

Don’t we all want a message like that from God?  Don’t we all savor those moments when they come–a word or sign that shows us that God sees us, that God has a life of beauty and purpose for us, that God is with us and will provide for us always? Honestly, aren’t we all hoping for God to give us revelations like that every time we open our bibles or seat ourselves in the sanctuary?  I know I am.

But that moment–dazzling as it was–wasn’t the end of Gideon’s story.  It was the beginning.  That moment wasn’t the climax of Gideon’s life of faith–it was the catalyst.  Gideon had many other encounters with God, but that one was never repeated.  It didn’t need to be.  It served his purpose–it launched him on his journey.

I’ve been reading Paul’s letter to the Colossians every day lately, and I’m struck by how he tells the church they’ve got to move beyond knowing the revelation of Christ to living Christ:

You’ve received Christ Jesus, the Master: now live him.  You’re deeply rooted in him;  You’re well constructed upon him.  You know your way around the faith.  Now do what you’ve been taught.  School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it!  And let your living spill over into thanksgiving. (Col. 2:6-7, The Message).

It’s a wonderful thing to receive revelation from God.  But the goodness and abundant life comes not in getting it or knowing it or even in believing it–the glory comes in the living and walking it out.  This Sunday we’re going to see what that looked like for Gideon and seek the Lord for what his story shows us about our own.


Pastor Kate

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Again, Lord!-Week 3 // Idols & False Gods // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture: Judges 6:1-27

In the book of Judges we find the story of a man named Gideon, an Israelite who lived in dangerous and depressing times.  The country was under constant threat of enemy invasion, farms were frequently attacked and raided, the nation’s glory days seemed far behind them.  People believed that God had abandoned them and idol worship–always a problem–increased in fervor and frequency.  Gideon was an average every-day citizen, doing what he had to do to survive.  At the moment we meet him, that required stealthily harvesting grain while hiding in a winepress so that the cloud of dust didn’t attract robbers.

And then an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Greetings, mighty warrior!’ and revealed that God had chosen him to deliver the people from their enemies.

There is a lot of similarity between Gideon’s age and our own. It is still far too easy for God’s people to be seduced by spirits of rage or despair.  Remembering the ways that God has rescued and redeemed our ancestors, we learn how to expectantly pray–Again, Lord.  We need Gideon’s story in this season. We need the reminder that God is no respecter of persons, that his anointed ones are found in the most unexpected places.  But even more importantly, Gideon’s story teaches us that the source of our suffering often isn’t where we think it is.  Gideon’s first task as the deliverer of his people wasn’t on a battlefield–but in his own backyard.  The same is often true of us.


Pastor Kate

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Again, Lord!-Week 2 // Genesis 21 // Elder Nicole Thompson

Scripture: Genesis 21:1-21

One of the most painful things about being a follower of Jesus Christ is listening to folks who have been brutally wounded by the church.  I didn’t grow up in the church, but when I was a teenager, I was invited by a friend to come to youth group.  There I found both the love of God and the unconditional tender welcome of a whole multi-generational community.  The folks at Crestwood United Methodist Church claimed me as one of their own and surrounded me with love and belonging.

But many people have a tragically different story.  When they wandered into a worshipping community they were met with suspicion and hostility.  Or, perhaps worse, they were initially welcomed, claimed and included only to be blindsided later by hatred and rejection.  These stories are so hard to hear, but we must listen.

We’ll hear one of them in this Sunday’s scripture–Hagar and Ishmael.  God promised Abraham and his wife Sarah that they would have a son who would become the father of a mighty, holy and blessed nation.  But when years passed and the promised child did not come–Abraham and Sarah decided to include Hagar, their servant, into the promise.  It was common in that age for men to father children with many different women, so the couple decided Abraham would have a child with Hagar.  They named him Ishmael, claimed him and raised him as their legal and spiritual child, the carrier of the promise.  And then Sarah had a biological son, and no longer needed or wanted Ishmael.  She demanded that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael out into the desert.  They were no longer part of the promise.  They were no longer chosen.

This is a brutally common story–chosen people choosing to reject those they see as threatening or unnecessary. Chosen people who believe God only cares for those they care for.  Chosen people who think that being chosen gives them the right to choose.   Abraham and Sarah sent Hagar and her son out into the desert to die.  They didn’t need them anymore, so they didn’t want them anymore.

But God did.  God heard the cries of a suffering mother and child and sent an angel to comfort them and to guide them to water. Then the angel announced that the chosen people were wrong, that God still chose Hagar and Ishmael–that they were forever a part of God’s plan and God’s promise and no one could take that from them.

We are surrounded by people who only know church as the community that used and abused, hated and rejected them, people who believe that since they weren’t chosen by God’s people, they aren’t chosen by God.  God hears their cries and send messengers to find, comfort, serve and include them.  As we move deeper into our worship series ‘Again, Lord,’ we rejoice that God still seeks out and heals those suffering wounds of rejection.  We pray that the Grove will be a source of living water where everyone discovers that they are chosen.


Pastor Kate

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Again, Lord!-Week 1 // God’s Call // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture: Acts 10:1-23

Peter had been through a season of intense transformation–a call to leave all things behind and follow Jesus, a new name, receiving the keys to the kingdom and the announcement that he’d be the rock of the church, being called Satan by Jesus, confidently declaring his allegiance to the Lord and then deserting and denying him, watching his savior die, wondering at the empty tomb, being restored to faithfulness on the beach, preaching the gospel for the first time, being filled by the Spirit, watching the explosion of new disciples streaming to God. 

Peter’s world had been turned upside down so frequently and dramatically since meeting Jesus, he didn’t know which way was up anymore.  Like many of us, He’d been through so much he probably thought he couldn’t be surprised by God anymore.  He thought he had arrived, he thought he understood the vast newness of God’s grace.

He was wrong.  One day, Jesus spoke a new word and gave a fresh vision that, even after all he’d been through, was beyond Peter’s wildest expectations.  Even after all they’d been through, Jesus still had a new word for Peter.

And Jesus still has a new word for us.

We will never grow beyond being surprised by God’s call.  No matter how far we’ve come, how much we’ve changed, until we see God ‘face to face’ on the other side of eternity, we will never be able to comprehend how wide, how far, how vast and how deep the Father’s love for the world is.  We cannot let our delight in God’s past faithfulness satisfy our hunger for God in the present.  I hope you’ll join me as we begin a new worship series.  In this new season, we look to the past and cry out ‘Again, Lord!,’  seeking more of the fullness of God in these present days.


Pastor Kate

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