Monthly Archives

October 2022

Body Love

See to it that nobody enslaves you with philosophy and foolish deception, which conform to human traditions and the way the world thinks and acts rather than Christ. All the fullness of deity lives in Christ’s body. – Colossians 2:8-9


Dear Gatherers,


In an infamous April 1823 letter to John Adams, Thomas Jefferson went off on Christian theology, saying belief that God’s existence is revealed in Jesus amounts to “Atheism” since it ignores sufficient proof of God found elsewhere. (Jefferson was a devout deist with no use for Christian dogma.) The Incarnation was especially prickly for him. He called it it a “fancy absolutely incomprehensible” and hoped “the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away all this artificial scaffolding” to focus solely on the teachings of his hero, a first-century Jewish philosopher from Nazareth.


Despite boundless respect for the man who crafted so many unforgettable American ideals (that many Americans have lately forgot), I have to say, “Pres. J, you missed the point.” The fully embodied expression of God is necessary because it models an alternative way of being that achieves the ideal. We are created to house something too great to fashion on our own. We embody love more powerful than any ability we possess. We embrace life that defies labels and transcends boundaries. That is our divine birthright. As the Psalmist famously confessed, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high I cannot attain it” (Ps. 139:6).


That’s why incarnation matters. Our Maker took on human flesh to demonstrate what lived-in divinity looks like and how it behaves. We are flesh-and-blood organisms living in a material world with flesh-and-blood needs. And when we cynically ignore this (getting all skeptical or super-spiritual—they’re essentially the same thing) the most pathetically pious among us turn against bodies. Look at the Far Right’s obsession with bodies, not as holy habitations, but as political fodder that scoffs at God’s undeniable presence in bodies of women and queer folx and immigrants and differently abled people and people of color and anyone else who doesn’t conform to a white supremacist, patriarchal norm. The odiousness of this stuff is plenty wrong. But there’s a fundamentally faithless confession in it as well. To denigrate or oppress “other” bodies exposes an atheistic belief there’s no God inside them. I have a real problem with that.


Dear Mr. Jefferson, you may be correct when you see atheistic bankruptcy gift-wrapped in pseudo-Christian nonsense. It wasn’t only in your time. Lots of that on display these days. But the incomprehensible “fancy” you despise at the core of Christian thought? It’s not that hard to comprehend. It’s not even that fancy. God dwells in us fully in the same way God fully dwelt in Jesus. That makes our bodies sacred. Our choices sacred. Our lives sacred. And when we learn to love our bodies and the bodies around us—even disagreeable ones—we’ll get much closer to the divine inside.


Join us every Thursday through November, for a compelling Queer Theology 101 conversation that challenges all kinds of presumptions. We meet at 7:30pm CDT via Zoom.



Pastor Tim




Each of you proclaimed liberty for the other and made a covenant before me in the temple that bears my name. But then you went back on your word. – Jeremiah 34:15-16


Dear Gatherers,


If you were unable to be with us for last Sunday’s Gather Live, you missed a treat. We felt real freedom in our worship. It was so thick that by the time we arrived at the Communion table, I simply held up the loaf and cup and told the church, “This is what freedom tastes like.” We came very close to breaking into a holy dance. (We’ll have the video up on YouTube soon.)


Accepting our freedom empowers us to proclaim liberty to others. Not simply because it’s a wonderful thing that everyone deserves—of course, it is. But helping others get free enables them to join the fight for freedom. That’s the lesson from Jeremiah 34. Well, part of it.


The Babylonians are bearing down on Jerusalem. The prophet tells the king to free all slaves, enabling them to join the fight against their oppressors. (It turns out they were due to be freed anyway.) Then, after proclaiming liberty, the owners do a U-turn and revoke their freedom. God’s anger is chilling: “Since you have defied me by not setting your fellow citizens free, I’m setting you free, declares the Lord, free to die by the sword, disease, and famine! And I will make you an object of horror for all nations on earth” (Jer. 34:17).


We’re living in a perilous time with authoritarian movements and tyrants trying to revoke freedoms right and left. But God says freedom is irrevocable. This will not go well for them. Now let’s bring this a little closer to home. We want to change the world for the better. Make it a freer and more livable place. Lift our communities as citadels of justice rather than objects of horror. Throw open the windows and doors of our churches so fresh wind blows in, pure light casts out shadows, and no one is denied the Pentecostal proclamation of liberty, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Acts 2:15).


To do that, we need more people. We build our ranks by proclaiming freedom to folks who want it. Many won’t believe it at first. Many will have experienced U-turns in other places, other churches, other family settings. But let’s show them we’re for real. Who in your circle needs to get free? Proclaim liberty—not just for them, but for everyone. Let them know freedom is possible. God wills it so. Not just for them, but because the world needs more free people in the freedom fight.



Pastor Tim

The Experience-Based Vision

Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?”– Luke 24:31-32


Dear Gatherers,


Were your ears burning? I spent last weekend writing grant applications for us to do the work God calls us to do. That means I’ve been talking about you! One application required nearly a dozen 300-word essays, asking everything from how we gather to our demographic mix to what’s our vision for the community outreach center. So you’ve been on my mind. Well, you’re always on my mind—but you’ve been intensely on my mind these past few days.


One question asked to describe the “intersectional identities” involved in in our ministry. I didn’t have to think twice before writing, “The beauty of Gather is how its leadership and congregation can be placed along multiple matrices, many obvious, others less so—all of which reflect the racial and cultural diversity of the communities we serve.” In non-grant speak, all I was saying is that you can’t put us in a box. We’re not a white church or a black church, a mostly straight or mostly gay church, a Southside or West Side church, an in-person or online church. And in the end, I believe that’s what makes us a truly Pentecostal church. We can’t be boxed in. And that witness brought new fire to my heart. The word on the street about us re-ignites my soul. And if you’ve lost some fire, look at what God has already done and let new flames kindle up. Gather 2.0 is going to catch fire!


After Jesus was unjustly executed, two suburban brothers from his community headed back home, dejected. They’d just gone through something so horrendous they couldn’t possibly have seen it coming. Their leader was murdered in plain daylight. Gone. Except he wasn’t! He met them on the road, speaking to them with such passion that their trauma-induced blindness lifted and their hearts caught fire.


Gather, we’ve been through something. Let’s not pretend otherwise. But we are not abandoned. The Living Christ meets us on our road, as a community and individuals, and we need to see that. Let it set a new fire in your heart. Let experience fuel for your vision of what’s next. That’s where we’re going as a community. That’s what we’ll be rejoicing about this coming Sunday in our live worship. See you there!



Pastor Tim

Remote-Control Repair is a Non-Starter

Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature. – Romans 12:2

Dear Gatherers,

If you’ve not been to our Thursday discussions on capitalism and Christianity, you’ve missed some of the toughest conversations we’ve ever had at Gather. The Gospels make it very plain: Jesus was no capitalist, which means if this really were a Christian nation, our economy would look very different. The Sabbath principles of freedom, equality, and rest would dominate every enterprise. Racism and supremacist thinking would be taboo. Yet in today’s toxic atmosphere of faux religion and home-school politics, can we even follow Jesus’s teaching in a capitalist system? Well, the answer is: we must. While we make our livings, do our shopping, and pay our taxes, we also live into Jesus’s principles of generosity and justice. We subvert the system by defying it from inside.

That’s also how we reverse the tide of religious harm that has weakened Christian witness everywhere. To remedy the church’s wrongs calls for a brave bunch of folks willing to subvert the system by defying it from inside. Why? Because you can’t fix something from afar; remote-control repair is a non-starter.  That really is Gather’s mission. And it’s not impossible. It’s necessary. That’s how I’ve started talking about it to people, saying, “Gather is a bunch of bruised and brave believers who are just bold enough to get in and revolutionize what church is, what it looks like, and how it works.”

All those folks who’ve turned their backs on religion? The ones the Pew Researchers call the “nones” and “spiritual-but-not-religious” crew? They’re not changing a thing. What’s more, their assumption that leaving Christianity will hurt the church bullies’ feelings is childish. If you want to stop the pain for others (and get well yourself), you’ve got to risk getting in and creating a new kind of church—something folks will recognize and find restorative.

Believing we can’t fix this is hellishly wrong. What we need is the audacity and commitment to subvert the system by defying it from inside. Our light has to shine brighter. Our witness has to be bolder. Our worship has to be truer. Our faith has to be more faithful. Our willingness to sacrifice has to make us unstoppable. Is Gather up for that kind of subversive project? Hell yeah! The conformists and con artists have had their turn. Now it’s our time to be transformers, not half-heartedly, but true to the end. Because when you’re inside you can change things much more forcefully than you’ll ever accomplish standing outside, calling names and throwing stones. Let’s get into the work of repairing the church!

Pastor Tim