Monthly Archives

March 2022


Dear Gatherers,

When I’m feeling especially insignificant or of little use (which is more often than you know), my inner jukebox cranks up a song from childhood, the wondrous “Feed the Birds” number in Mary Poppins. As a kid, I only knew the song from the soundtrack. (Movies were “worldly amusements” that diehard Pentecostals avoided back in those days.) Yet even without visuals of the bird lady on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the quiet lyric gripped me:

Though her words are simple and few
“Listen, listen”, she’s calling to you
“Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag”

What may seem like so little to us can often be life-sustaining nourishment for someone else. A gentle word, a random gesture, a moment of going further than most—modest morsels we offer from our crumpled bags of kindness are vital bread for others’ souls. This is why Jesus constantly teaches to offer more than is asked of us, doing for others what we’d want for us, treating folks how we’d like to be treated. In other words, we’re called to go beyond meeting obvious needs; we’re called to make lives better and calmer and more hopeful.

Henri Nouwen calls this “being bread for the world”—allowing ourselves to be given for the wellbeing of others. In theory, this is an idealistic almost impossible request. Who can do such things, especially when keeping our own families and relationships and selves going? But I’m convinced such thinking results from a lost sense of scale. In God’s economy, morsels get multiplied. We don’t need to have all the means and answers in our bag. Just a few crumbs from your hand and my hand and other hands and whole needs get met. Lives get saved. Hope gets restored.
Though her words are simple and few
“Listen listen,” she’s calling to you

Sometimes the God’s voice finds us in unexpected ways, like the stooped form of a character actress in a classic film—breaking through just as loudly and forcefully as an angelic visitation. My friends, we have been taken, blessed, and broken to provide morsels that feed the world. How do we understand this beautiful demand better? That’s what we’ll talk about this Thursday as we continue our Lenten study, Fasting and Feasting. Join us at 7:30pm CDT. You’ll be glad you did!

Peace, with much love,
Pastor Tim



Dear Gatherers,


One of my favorite contemporary Christian songs of the past few years is “New Wine.” It opens with a line that sort of grabs you by the collar: “In the crushing, in the breaking, you are making new wine.” (If you don’t know it, you can hear the Gather version here; it begins about 37 minutes into the service.) What I love most about that lyric is that it takes us from struggle to outcome. First, the breaking. Then, the wine. Having spent some time in Napa and a few European wine precincts, that resonates with me. The grapes may be beautiful strung along the vine. They may look delicious. But until they’re broken, their inner beauty and taste remain hidden. Their potential is unrealized.


Part of the Lenten project is breaking, splintering surfaces and disrupting appearances to find what’s inside us. In a world where appearance is everything, this time of fasting and consecration opens us up. Quite often, no one is more surprised than we are with what we discover. There is sweetness in us that we haven’t yet developed a taste for. There are textures in our spirits that we may overlook as ordinary, when in fact they make us unlike anyone else. Finding the hidden self is part of our journey—the good and the bad and the ugly that, after crushing and breaking, yield new wine and bread for the world.


This Thursday we look more closely at this idea of being broken, along with why feasts are so central to our Christian tradition. (They may feel disconnected, but they’re not.) Plan now to be with us this Thursday at 7:30pm CDT, as we contemplate brokenness as part of our discussion of being and becoming beloved. I’m really looking forward to this time together!


Blessings, with much love,

Pastor Tim

The Hospitality Principle

Dear Gatherers,


After spending a couple weeks exploring fasting, we turn our sights to feasting, a tradition that is globally embraced among religious and non-religious folks alike. Everybody loves a party! But it can’t go unnoticed that Christianity has embraced feasting from its infancy. Some of the Gospels’ greatest miracle stories involve the multiplication of food to feed enormous crowds. Jesus often turns up at lavish dinner parties (and usually makes people uncomfortable). When the Early Church settled into its own worship culture, it chose a feast—the Eucharist—as its centerpiece, rather than animal sacrifice or performative penance. So no bloodshed, no bowing, no scraping. Just an open seat at an eternal table.


Why would the first Christians focus on feasting? They were obsessed with radical hospitality or, as we call it at Gather, ecstatic inclusion. Their joys and passions could not be contained. They had to share them with everyone they knew. As a result, every time Christians gathered became a festive occasion. The emphasis was on sharing with everyone who found their way to the table. And they called this practice blessing, which in its strictest sense means, “to make happy.”


When Jesus takes the bread and blesses it, he vests it with a power to make his companions happy. It’s exactly what we do when we fill our houses with company to celebrate Christmas and Easter and other Christian feasts. The hospitality principle is in full flower. We have these parties to make folks happy. It’s also why we gather at table every time we worship: to invite our guests to enjoy hospitality that makes them happy.


Henri Nouwen says we are blessed to bless others. It’s the hospitality principle taken to the extreme. This week we’ll discuss the feast-blessing-hospitality-happiness connection. It’s an illuminating thread to follow! Join us at 7:30p CDT to find out more.


Blessings, with much love,

Pastor Tim



Bread for the World

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)


Dear Gatherers,


During communion, I often mention the elements are intentionally accessible. In choosing household staples—everyday bread and ordinary wine—Jesus invites us to remember his love is always within reach. And that’s what we commemorate every time we come to the table: a radically accepting love that would not flinch, not even in the face of death. No matter how we try to fancify it, the feast still comes down to a piece of bread and a sip of wine.


Jesus talks about bread a lot. He handles it frequently, whether feeding multitudes, enjoying dinner with a few disciples, or having an post-resurrection meal with two friends. Consistently, the Gospels envision him taking bread, blessing it, breaking it, and giving it. That’s also what happens to Jesus in his 40-day wilderness ordeal. As the bread of life, the Spirit takes him into the desert. He’s blessed with angels and wildlife to look after him. He’s broken in a series of fierce confrontations. Finally, he’s given to the world through the wisdom and passion that grow out of his experience.


As we journey deeper in this Lenten season, it’s wise to consider Henri Nouwen’s belief that we too are “bread for the world” to be taken, blessed, broken, and given. And that leads to a vital question: what’s taking us to places of fasting and prayer? What’s pushing us forward, possibly in directions we’d rather not go? What’s testing our spirit, stamina, and willpower? This discernment may sound lofty. But it’s actually very close to us—as near as the bread on our table.


These questions will ground Thursday’s Fasting and Feasting Lenten series, as we look at Jesus’s experience in the wilderness and hear more from Henri Nouwen’s classic The Life of the Beloved. Join us via Zoom at 7:30pm CST. It will be a joy to plunge more deeply into these ideas!



Pastor Tim


Dear Gatherers,

This week begins what’s often regarded as the most sacred of all Christian seasons—a 46-day time of consecration known as Lent. (Wait! Isn’t Lent 40 days? Technically, yes. Forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter are devoted to fasting and contemplation. But you also have six Sundays, which are always feast days.)

We don’t know when Lent became a widespread tradition. But it has always been a malleable practice—more process than ritual, despite efforts to standardize it, starting with the imposition of ashes on Christian foreheads to mark Lent’s beginning. At first it focused on adult converts preparing for Easter baptism. Over time, the practice grew wider and the association with Jesus’s 40-day temptation became more prominent, giving us many familiar themes—journey, self-denial, wilderness, desert, and so on.

So, Lent is not quite like more uniformly practiced Christian events like Advent, Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. How we approach it is mostly directed by what we want to draw from it as individuals and also as a community.

What are you looking for in your spiritual life? Perhaps that’s our first consideration. In the wilderness Jesus fully recognizes who he is: God’s Beloved. In the same way, maybe Lent is the journey we undertake each year to discover where our humanity meets God’s presence in us. Maybe it’s where we make decisions about what matters most to us. Maybe Lent is when we learn that looking for God is how we are found.

Our weekly Lenten conversations will focus on fasting and feasting as mechanisms that enable us to discover we are truly beloved children of God. Don’t miss one of the discussions, starting this Thursday. We’ll begin at 7:30pm CST. And we welcome everybody to join us, whether it’s your first or fiftieth time!

May this season be a vital, enriching time for us all.

Peace and blessings,
Pastor Tim