July 31, 2022 // A Kingdom Legacy // 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:

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

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

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

Spirit School-Week 6 // We’ll Get Over It // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture: Colossians 1:1-15

We are called to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.  Some days, some seasons it seems as though there is nothing but morning–as though the whole world is nothing but woe and even the church of Jesus Christ has nothing to offer.   Who am I kidding?  Even the church of Jesus Christ, sometimes it seems like the church is a major source of pain and trauma.  It certainly doesn’t feel like we are lifting very many burdens.

The temptation to give up in despair is almost irresistible.

I’ve found a strange comfort this week in one of the ancient letters preserved in our scripture.  It was written by the Apostle Paul to a small church in a town called Colossae.  Like us, they were struggling to be church in a season of great turmoil and stress.  The community around them misunderstood what they believed and why and perceived them as a threat.  Experts were coming through all the time to tell them what they were doing wrong and how they needed to urgently and dramatically change.  They were under enormous pressure and beginning to slowly and sadly drift away.  In desperation, their pastor Epaphras wrote to his mentor for help.  Paul sent back a beautiful letter of encouragement and hope telling them, in the nicest possible way, to calm down.  Because–Jesus.  Because the pain and suffering and brokenness in the world is real and urgent and it would be a sin to harden our hearts and become indifferent to it.  And still–Jesus is risen, the first fruits of all creation.

Freedom School is filling our campus with love and joy and chaos and art work.  Every day, as I scurry around this place trying to hold it all together, I pass a sign one of our scholars designed and hung on the wall.  It says, ‘you’ll get over it.’  It makes me laugh, and then it makes my shoulders drop.  I don’t know what this young artist was trying to say, but I think he’s captured the essence of Paul’s message to the Colossians.

Yes, what is against us is tremendous, but we do not need to lose heart.  Because–Jesus.  By grace, we are part of the body of Christ.  Jesus is Lord and he has defeated the powers of sin and death, destruction and violence, enmity and lies.   We can’t face all of the evil around us, but what is in us is not of us.  In Christ, we’ll get over it.  In Christ, we’ll get through it.  In Christ, we’ll get by.

I think we all need to hear Paul tell us why–in the midst of everything–we are going to be okay.

Peace,

Pastor Kate

Want to chat about what you have heard? Click here:
https://www.thegrovecharlotte.org/connect-with-us

Spirit School-Week 5 // The Righteous Power of God // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture: Acts 1:1-9

Dear Church,

This Sunday when we gather for worship many in our community will already be celebrating Independence Day.  If you have been hanging around the Grove for very many years you might have noticed that

Every year on the Sunday closest to July 4th, I preach the crucifixion of our Lord.  Because I want us to make the connection that, as Christians our freedom and hope lie, not in any flag, but in the cross.

But this year, I feel the Spirit pushing me to engage more directly with the holiday.

What does it look like to live faithfully as disciples of Jesus Christ in the United States of America?  How should we engage with the history of this nation?  What does it look like to have a holy love for the nation, for the place and the people?  How do we live here, but as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven?  And how should we respond to the many fellow Christians–some of them pastors with huge platforms–who claim that America is a Christian nation…or should be? What does the gift of the Holy Spirit have to do with any of this? Would you believe me if I said: everything?

Together, we will seek–not to be right–but the power of God to be righteous, here and now for the sake of the whole world God so loved.

Peace,

Pastor Kate

Want to chat about what you have heard? Click here:
https://www.thegrovecharlotte.org/connect-with-us