First, Love-Week 1 // Back to the Beginning // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture:  1 John 2:7-17

In the year 125 AD, a Greek philosopher named Aristedes attempted to explain the popularity of Christianity to the Roman Emperor Caesar Hadrian’s. Here’s how he described these early Christians:

“They love one another. They never fail to help widows. They save orphans from those who would hurt them. If they have something, they give freely to one who has nothing. If they see an immigrant, they take him into their homes and rejoice over him as a brother…and if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food.”

Who would describe Christians that way today?

This Sunday, we begin a new worship series based on the letters of John, the last living apostle to the early church. He was the one Jesus called ‘beloved,’ and he wrote to believers in the time before the faith was a religion, before it was institutionalized, before it was domesticated, when it was still a way of living. When it was still a way of love.

These letters were written before we replaced Jesus’ invitation to ‘follow me’, with the authoritative command to worship Jesus, before we replaced ‘pick up your cross and follow’, with ‘believe these doctrines or be damned.’ John wrote in a time when the church understood that Jesus did not leave us with a call to belief or worship, but with one command: ‘love one another as I have loved you.’  Keeping that command was the way the early church lived with Christ.

In those early days, keeping the faith was figuring out what does it look like to love my brother and sister the way that Christ has loved me?

You can see in Aristedes’ words that people answered that question in some astonishingly beautiful ways.  Now most Christians talk about Jesus as the only way to get to heaven after you die.  Then Christians talked about Jesus as the only way to live on earth as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

At first, Christianity was a way of living with love.  Let’s go back to the beginning. 


Pastor Kate

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As Above-So Below // Pentecost // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture:  Acts 2:1-21

When Jesus gathered his disciples together after his resurrection, before he returned to the Father, he gave specific instructions. ‘Stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.’

So they stayed together in Jerusalem. They gathered in an upper room, they did a little administrative work, they prayed, and they waited.  They did not get what they were waiting for.  They did not get the kind of power they expected or desired. Because who in the world could have anticipated this?

Instead, they got the power Jesus asked the Father to give them.  They got Jesus’ own Holy Spirit. And in the moment they received the Spirit, they became the answer to Jesus’ prayer.

This Sunday is Pentecost.  We will remember the story of that day and the wisest and most mature among us will celebrate it.  Because the story of that day is still the story of our life together.  Those first disciples didn’t get what they prayed for, they became what Jesus prayed for–they were filled with the Holy Spirit, what was in them was not of them, and they became the church.  May it be so with us.

The church without the Spirit of God is just a religious institution, a collective, interactive man-made idol. Such a church might do things for God, but it cannot do things with God.  It is limited by its own wisdom, its own desires, its own culture, its conflict and its limited vision and resources. It can easily be seduced by the enemy.  It has and does tremendous damage.

But a community of believers who wait, pray and surrender to the Holy Spirit, they are empowered by God through the Holy Spirit and become the living body of Christ. They are limited only by the will of God. Such a church has everything it needs to flourish in faithfulness to God in all seasons.

I hope you will join me for worship on Sunday at 10am, in the sanctuary or on the livestream.  Like our ancestors, we will surrender our agenda and wait and pray for the power of God which is the Holy Spirit.  Apart from the Spirit we can do nothing.  With the Spirit, we have everything we need to become the answer to the prayers Jesus is still praying for the world.

Come and see!


Pastor Kate

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Life After Grace-Week 6 // Reconciliation // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture:  Colossians 1:9-22

Dear Church,

As is our custom here at the Grove, in January I prayed and asked the Holy Spirit for wisdom to discern a word to guide us in faith and focus this year. For 2024, that word is reconciliation.

And so, on the last Sunday of our worship series ‘Life After Grace,’ we turn again to that word–reconciliation. Most of us know little more than the definition.  We know what the word means, but very few of us have any lived experience of deep, transformative relational repair.  Even worse, we don’t want it.

Our culture, secular and sacred, celebrates enmity and judgment. Perhaps especially in the church, our deepest animating passions surround what we’re against and who we reject. Our moral vision rarely exceeds the righteousness of exclusion. We believe that our enemies are no more than the worst things they’ve ever done.  We seek God’s grace to protect us, not reconcile us.  Which means, at our deepest level, we believe the power of sin supersedes the power of grace.

But reconciliation is the core of the revelation of Jesus. It is the ultimate and inevitable expression of grace.  Anything less than reconciliation isn’t grace at all.  When the thought of reconciliation fills our own hearts with resentment and suspicion, it is not our enemies that we are rejecting, but the way of Jesus and our own salvation.  If grace doesn’t heal and save our enemies, it doesn’t save us either.

I hope you’ll join me as we let the Spirit and the scriptures shape our vision and increase our desire for reconciliation.  We cannot believe what we cannot imagine. So first we’ll let scripture and Spirit help us imagine a life after grace where we, along with all the rest of creation, are healed and reconciled back to Christ.

Once our hardened hearts are softened and filled with the beauty of the goodness of reconciliation, then we’ll believe it and begin to long for and seek the power of grace to be part of it.


Pastor Kate

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Life After Grace-Week 5 // God Is Good // Nicole Thompson

Scripture:  Psalm 139:1-12

Grove Family,

I know we talk about God a lot.

About how we are loved and cared for. We share stories with one another about how God keeps us or shows us the path we should follow. Surrounding ourselves with these stories is encouraging and of course it builds and strengthens our faith.

This Sunday we will examine how we can stay the course when we find ourselves in those moments when we aren’t strong, when doubt creeps in and questions abound.

We will walk with our brother David and reflect on moments of his life when he walked with God but he also wondered and questioned. We will explore how God knows us and is not surprised by our feelings as we walk this journey called life.

As we journey through the various seasons we find ourselves in, what is most valuable for us to remember is that God is with us.

😘 Smooches!

Elder, Pastor, Seminarian Nicole Thompson

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