First, Love-Week 4 // The Meaning of Life is Love // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture:  2 John 1-13

Dear Church,

My favorite saint is a woman called Julian who lived a long time ago in a place called Norwich. She had visions, the most famous of which is the one of some thing ‘that appeared to be hazelnut.’ At that time, she knew the Lord was showing her that the tiny object was everything that ever was and ever would be, and it was held by God and so ‘it is well, it is well, and all manner of things will be well.’

It was years later in her life, a life marked by deprivation and wars and plagues and loss, that she asked God For the meaning of the vision. And this is what the Lord told her:

Wouldst thou learn thy Lord’s meaning in this thing? Learn it well: Love was His meaning. Who shewed it thee? Love. What shewed He thee? Love. Wherefore shewed it He? For Love. Hold thee therein and thou shalt learn and know more in the same. But thou shalt never know nor learn therein other thing without end. Thus was I learned that Love was our Lord’s meaning.

The meaning of life is love.

It always has been and always will be, but since the fall, we humans have never been satisfied with that.

But life came as a gift from God, who is love. Our creator who made us from love for love. And anytime our theology becomes anything other or easier than love, we’ve made ourselves an idol.

I hope you’ll join me as we read the last of St. John’s ancient love letters and remember again that the way is love and love is our way.


Pastor Kate

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First, Love-Week 3 // 1 John 3:16 // Wes Vander Lugt

Scripture:  1 John 4:7-21

Dear Church,

I love the book of 1 John because the message is profoundly simple: God is love, and if you are God’s children, you will be people of love.

This is what Christianity is all about! In his marvelous little book The Love That Is God, Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt summarizes the basics of Christianity this way:

God is love.

The love that is God is crucified love.

We are called to friendship with the risen Jesus.

We cannot love God if we do not love each other.

We live our love out from the community created by the Spirit.

That fourth line is often the hardest.

We get tripped up by our busyness, by our tendency to narrow the scope of people we are called to love, by our fear, and by misunderstanding what it means to love.

But the message of 1 John is liberating: God has given us everything we need be people of love. The Spirit is with us, dissolving our fears and empowering us for a life of sacrificial love.

I hope you will participate in worship this Sunday at 10am in the sanctuary or on the livestream as we continue our series First, Love and remember who we are as people of love.

Grace and peace,

Wes Vander Lugt

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First, Love-Week 2 // Love and Hatred // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture:  1 John 3:11-24 (NIV)

In the beginning, we understood that our only goal on the way of Jesus is to love.  Not to fix or change or judge or punish or even to save, not to be the holiest, or the most important or the most powerful or the best. God is all of those things, and the way of Jesus won’t make you God, which is what we’ve all desired from the beginning. The way of Jesus will heal us and show us how good and wonder-filled and enough it is to be people fully loved by our Creator. The way of Jesus will make us content and grateful to be human. It is the grace of God that delivers us from evil and into love, which is the opposite of death.

Love will set us free in the wild center of God’s liberating redemption of all creation. Love will lead us on the path back to shalom. Love, and only love, will take us everywhere we need to go. Love will make all things new.

Including our life in Christ.

I hope you will join me as we share the feast of communion and I hope you’ll come and taste and see that God is good and God is for you and God is with you and God is within you. 

Pastor Kate

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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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Life After Grace-Week 4 // Grace Is Power // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture:  2 Corinthians 12:1-10

If grace were only the assurance that we will find eternal life with God after we die, it would be more than enough reason to praise God forever.  If grace were only the character of God’s heart that chooses to pour out merciful forgiveness on sinners, it would be enough reason to give thanks for all of eternity.

Most of us think that’s what grace is–eternal life and an assurance of God’s mercy.  And it is more than enough for us.  Who could want or need anything more?

We do.

People who want to pick up their crosses and follow Jesus, we need more.

And the incredible good news is that there IS more.  Grace is even more than mercy and salvation.

Grace is power.

Grace is the force that resurrected Jesus from the grave.

Grace is the power inherent in the new life we receive from God.

Grace is the ability that is in us, but not of us, to be faith-filled followers of Jesus.

But most of us, as familiar and dependent on grace as we understand ourselves to be, don’t feel very powerful.  In our suffering and struggles, we are weak and despairing.  Or worse, in denial.  Many of us have been taught to completely deny our suffering and struggles.

If power is part of grace, then why are we so powerless?

Because, friends, the power of grace can only be found in one place.  It’s the place Jesus walked toward unflinchingly his whole life. And it’s the place most of us run as fast and far from as we possibly can.

I hope you will join me as we discover the exact place we can find the power of grace in our lives, should we choose to seek it.


Pastor Kate

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Life After Grace-Week 3 // Manna & Quail // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture:  Exodus 16:1-16

Dear Church,

The Hebrew people were liberated by the power of God’s love for them. They no longer had to fear Pharaoh’s wrath or the brutality of slavery or the infanticide of their children.  They were rescued out of oppression and set on a journey towards the promised land and their common destiny–to dwell in a land flowing with milk and honey and become a source of blessing for every nation on earth.  It was happy-ever-after on all fronts.

Except that it wasn’t.

Because they didn’t know how to live blessed and free.  They didn’t know how to survive, how to care for themselves and, most basically, how to feed themselves in this new life. So this glorious freedom began to feel like doom and they cried out to God (read complained) and demanded to go back to their familiar life of slavery. At least we had good food back then, we’d rather die there than die out here in the desert.

Sometimes, freedom from your fears feels like a different kind of death. What is unknown can feel like threat, even when it’s actually a blessing.

As Christians, we have life after grace. We have been freed from the powers of sin and death and evil.  We are redeemed people and on our way to the promised land, and even on the way, we have abundant life.

And all this blessing is strange and unfamiliar.  Sometimes, wild new life can feel like death.  Sometimes, the urge to return to what we know is all-consuming. We too cry out to God. Sometimes we unconsciously choose to return to our old pre-grace–and don’t even notice.

The good news is, our God is a determined liberator. God meets our needs with extraordinary generosity and gentleness. God knows we need space and grace to grow into our new life in Christ and gives us both, abundantly.

I hope you’ll join me, as we look back at the story of the chosen people in the wilderness learning how to live in the freedom of God’s love and celebrate the way Christ, which ushers us into our own new life after grace.


Pastor Kate

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Life After Grace-Week 2 // Destruction // Cedric Lundy

Scripture:  Ephesians 2:11-16,  1:9-10,  3:6,  3:14-17

Dear Church,

When Jesus said ‘it is finished’ on the cross, he was announcing his eternal victory over the powers and principalities of sin and death.  That’s not what it looked like, but that’s what it was. The resurrection was God’s vindication and validation of Jesus’ triumph over the forces of evil. Ever since that first Easter, we have been living in grace.

Now that grace has come and the Kingdom of God is in our midst, the Holy Spirit has been unleashed to work in the world making all things new. And it may surprise you, but here’s the first item of business:


The Risen Christ has some demolition work to do. 

Specifically, he’s tearing down the wall of hostility that divides enemies and strangers from one another.

Perhaps your first response is incredulity.  You might look around and point out all the places that division and hostility still rule the day. But before we question the efficacy of grace in geopolitics and national culture, I wonder if we could pause and look inward. Are you willing to surrender to grace and allow the Lord to tear down the walls of fear and hostility you’ve erected in your own heart as a barricade against enemy love and redemption.

Our job is not to critique how well or poorly God is overcoming sin in other people’s hearts, but to soberly wonder if we are allowing the Lord to conquer and reclaim our own hearts that have been twisted by sin and fear. Life after grace includes rejoicing in the salvation God gives to our sworn enemies.

Do you long for reconciliation with your enemies, or are you still building a wall to stop the flow of unmerited grace?

I hope you’ll join us as our friend Cedric Lundy preaches the good news of God’s astonishing grace-fueled demolition!


Pastor Kate

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