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.

Peace,

Pastor Kate

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September 11, 2022 – Again, Lord!-Week 2– 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.

Peace,

Pastor Kate

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

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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.

Peace,

Pastor Kate

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

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A Kingdom Legacy-5 // Understanding God’s Heart // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture: Luke 7:36-50

Many of us are moving into a new season, new work, new responsibilities–shifting from the rhythms of summer into the increased demands of the fall.  At this hinge between ending and beginning, it is right that we gather to think one more time about our Kingdom legacy.  It is easy to get so caught up in all we have to do that we lose focus on who we are becoming.  Centering on God and his Kingdom over the demands of this world will often appear disruptive, inappropriate, and wasteful–even to those who have dedicated their lives to the work of the Lord.  In Luke chapter seven, we find the story of a woman who interrupted a meal honoring Jesus at a Pharisees house.  She came uninvited, weeping and wailing, and poured an absence amount of precious oil on Jesus’ feet after kissing them and wiping them with her hair.  The holy people were offended–that she created a scene, that she wasted valuable oil, that she disturbed then in their serious work of thinking about following Jesus.  She appeared to be an inappropriate mess.

But in that holy crowd, only she and Jesus understood God’s heart and true holiness.  And all the agendas and concerns and tasks that consumed the hearts and minds of the Pharisees that day have long been forgotten, but we still remember and ponder the power and significance of her act. We don’t know her name, but we are blessed by her legacy.

As we move into another frantic season of doing, I hope you will join me, as together we will seek the Spirit’s wisdom and guidance on how to create a Kingdom legacy that will honor God and point to his Kingdom for generations to come.

Peace,

Pastor Kate

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

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A Kingdom Legacy-4 // Korah’s Rebellion // Pastor Cedric Lundy

Scripture: Numbers 16

Dear Church,

This Sunday we welcome a Grove favorite to the pulpit – Pastor Cedric Lundy. He will be preaching the message “Korah’s Rebellion” from the book of Numbers. Cedric is the director of Urban Promise and an adjunct teaching pastor at Watershed church.  Previously, he served Charlotte churches as pastor of mission and justice and middle school ministry pastor.  Cedric’s faith is characterized by his passion for justice, heart for young people and zeal for the Lord.  He and his wife Emma (a native of Scotland) share a daughter Isla.  In his free time, he co-hosts a wonderful podcast called Token Confessions, runs a small coffee-roasting business and enjoys making pasta and bread from scratch.

I hope you’ll join us for worship this Sunday.

Peace,

Pastor Kate

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

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A Kingdom Legacy-3 // Jonah // Rev. Daniel Heath

Scripture: Jonah 3:1-5. 10

Dear Church,

This Sunday one of my favorite people is coming to the Grove to share one of my favorite stories.  Rev. Daniel Heath will be preaching a message on the book of Jonah.  Some of you might remember Daniel from the times he’s led worship at the Grove, or you might know him from his season leading the contemporary worship music team over at Covenant Presbyterian Church.  For the past few years, he has been living in New Jersey, completing his MDiv at Princeton Seminary and then serving on the staff.  He’s recently moved back to Charlotte with his wife Katrina and two sons Jackson and Jordan to begin a new call as the associate chaplain at Davidson College.

But Daniel asked me not to tell you any of that (whoops–sorry!).  He just wants you to know that he loves the Lord and his family and helping to build and support faith communities.  It’s a gift to know Daniel and a gift that he will lead worship for us this week–along with so many of you!

Peace,

Pastor Kate

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

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A Kingdom Legacy-2 // More Than Enough // The Grove Youth

There is a line I love in Psalm 145 that says, one generation commends your work to another, they tell of your mighty acts.  We’ve been able to share the goodness of our God with the next generations this summer, because of you–you gave resources, you prayed, you packed, you drove, you cooked, (and cooked and cooked and cooked and cooked–it took a LOT of food), you played, you shopped, you cleaned, you chaperoned, you befriended these young people.  You poured into these children and youth this summer–and that is a Kingdom legacy.

This Sunday, they’ll be pouring back into us! During the sermon, our youth will be sharing the stories of how they met the Lord this summer.  It’s going to be a beautiful day at the Grove–loud & holy.

Peace,

Pastor Kate

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

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A Kingdom Legacy-1 // The Right Question // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture: Luke 12:13-21

Dear Church,

At the end of each of his crusades Billy Graham famously asked the same question, ‘If you died tonight, do you know if you are going to heaven or hell?”   He asked that question to encourage everyone in the audience to make a decision to follow Christ.

Respectfully, I believe Rev. Graham ended with the wrong question.

In the gospel of Luke, two brothers approach Jesus asking him to settle a dispute between them about their inheritance.  He refused. Instead he tells a story about a very rich man whose wealth increases exponentially after a banner harvest.  In response, he scrambles to build bigger barns to accommodate his windfall and prepares to live happily ever after enjoying himself.  Then he dies.  And God says to him, ‘You Fool! This very night your life is demanded of you.  Now who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

I think Jesus wants our community to be based on his question, not Billy Graham’s.  Our life together isn’t about where we are going to go after we die–that’s settled.  We are eternally saved by the triumphant love of Christ.  This leaves us free to pour all of our energy into Jesus’ question.  What kind of legacy are we going to leave, in this world God so loved?  How do we stop storing up for ourselves what we can never keep and start joyfully devoting all we have to the new creation God is unleashing in our midst, right here, right now?

I’m excited to worship with you this Sunday.  And I’m very excited about the gathering that will follow immediately after.  We have an opportunity to make a significant decision about the kind of legacy we will leave in our community.  I am so grateful we get the chance to be loved by God, to love one another and to build part of the Kingdom of God, right here in our neighborhood.

Peace,

Pastor Kate

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

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HOSEA-Outrageous Love // We Are All Gomer // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture: Hosea 1:1 – 2:2

Dear Church,

Today we begin a new worship series on the book of Hosea, which has one of the most unforgettable beginnings in all of scripture:

The Lord said to Hosea, ‘Go, and marry a wife of whoredom’

Who talks like that? Apparently, God does.

God commands the prophet to marry a promiscuous woman named Gomer.  Everyone agrees she is the last person a prophet should marry; she is unsuitable, uninterested, and incapable of being faithful.  Predictably, it does not go well.  It isn’t long before she’s left her family behind and returned to her old life.

And let’s get one thing clear from the start, because people have done a lot of damage with this book: the message of Hosea is for all of us.

We are all Gomer; willing to be loved by God, happy to receive all the benefits and blessings of the relationship, thrilled to be chosen–but unwilling to choose, unwilling to return God’s love, serially unfaithful.  Like Gomer, we were given a new intimate life with God; but we continually run back to our old life of sin.  Like all good prophets, Hosea shines the light, not on our enemies or the people we look down on, but on us.  We are the problem.  Which makes what happens next all the more breathtaking and astonishing.

I know, I know–nobody wants to come to worship on Sunday morning and hear about how they are unfaithful to God.  But, whether we admit it or not, we are sometimes.  Knowing that about ourselves is what keeps us humble and welcoming as a church.  It’s what keeps our focus on God’s goodness and not ourselves.  But most of all, we need to know how God treats unfaithful people, people who take grace for granted, people who screw up BIG TIME–because someday that truth is going to save our lives.

Peace,

Pastor Kate

Want to chat about what you have heard? Click here:
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Spirit School-Week 7 // Spiritual Gifts // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scriptures: Exodus 31:1-11, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Dear Church,

We are coming up on our last session of Spirit School and we’ve saved the best part: gifts.  Spiritual gifts.

I know some of us just felt a thrill and are thinking, ‘finally!’  Others of us are taking deep breaths and trying to manage our anxiety.  Churches have been exploiting and fighting over spiritual gifts since the day after Pentecost.  That’s because we misunderstand two crucial things:

1. Spiritual gifts are not about us.
2. All gifts are spiritual.

I hope you’ll join me as we learn how to expand our understanding of spiritual gifts and how to use them to glorify God and bless our communities.

Peace,

Pastor Kate

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

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