Monthly Archives

February 2023

Getting Back into Practice

It is good to give thanks unto the Lord… The Lord is righteous. God is my rock. – Psalm 92


Dear Gatherers,


Moving into these first weeks of Lent feels a little like returning to school after summer break. We know the drill. We just have to get back into practice. And if we’re lucky, not only will we learn new things; we’ll acquire new and improved skills. That’s what we’re hoping for at Gather. We’re taking time to learn more about prayer from folks who know a thing or two about it.


We start with Wilbert Watkins beautifully leading us toward the prayer practice of gratitude. His thoughts on this topic are a true blessing. Carve out 15 minutes to spend with Wilbert. He’s got a special gift for us and we’re grateful that he’s shared it! Click below to access the video.


Peace, with much gratitude,

Pastor Tim

Giving News

We’re delighted to add a new stewardship channel to Gather. We’re now on Givelify, enabling us to use a church-friendly app for easier giving. This is in response to several folks who were frustrated by not having a third option. Take a moment to scan the Q-R code and register. God is good to all of us, and it’s a blessing to share together in this work!

A Lenten Journey with Madeleine L’Engle

This year we’re traveling Lent with an expert navigator, the famous 20th-century author and religious thinker, Madeleine L’Engle. You can order her book 40-Day Journey with Madeleine L’Engle on Amazon. (It’s also available on Kindle.) Then join us each Thursday as we look over the past week’s readings and discuss what spoke to us.


How Holiness Happens

You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. – Leviticus 19:2


Dear Gatherers,


Remember Gatorade’s Be Like Mike campaign from the 90s? Maybe not because—although it feels like yesterday—it’s been a minute since it came out. Here’s the premise. A bunch of kids play basketball on the playground, occasionally letting their tongue jut out while they shoot (a trademark Jordan move). Footage of MJ being amazing reveals what’s in their heads while the accompanying song—a junkanoo Caribbean tune—taps into what’s in their hearts: “Sometimes I dream that he is me / You’ve got see that’s how I dream to be / I dream I move / I dream I groove / Like Mike.”


In the day, being like Mike was a worthy aspiration for any kid, regardless of age. Multiply that exponentially and you’ll get to sanctification, a quest for the holy that aspires to resemble our Maker as much as we can. “You shall be holy,” God tells Israel, “because I’m holy.” The problem with holiness, unfortunately, is very similar to the problem with the Gatorade ad. The bar is too high for ordinary humans to clear. Be holy like God is holy? Are you kidding? The absurdity of the idea has caused many to lower the standard, moving in more visible direction: dress, act, speak, and show we’re holy and we’ll be holy.


The good news is that we don’t have to waste time play-acting holiness. It’s not measured in the way we move or what we wear or how we talk. That’s a type of piety that’s meant to mislead, and it’s often the source of obnoxious self-righteousness. God tells us to be holy, rather than “just do it” (another Jordan campaign). And how does that work? God makes us holy. That’s sanctification in a nutshell. We can be holy because God wills it so.


Forget looking “holy”—the spiritual equivalent of taking jump shots with your tongue hanging out. Just be holy, knowing you’re made in the image of a holy God. Once you get the being part down, the behavior will follow. We’ll unpack this liberating take on holiness during Thursday’s discussion. We may not be able to be like Mike, but God is saying, “You are holy like me!” We meet at 7:30pm CST via Zoom.


Peace, with much love,

Pastor Tim

Texts of Terror

The other woman said, “If I can’t have him, neither will you. Cut the child in half.” Then the king answered, “Give the first woman the living newborn. Don’t kill him. She is his mother.” – 1 Kings 3:26-27


Dear Gatherers,


Every time we witness horrific beat-downs of black bodies—like we’ve just seen with Tyre Nichols’ murder in Memphis—there are always pundits who wonder how much more we must endure to put an end to state-sanctioned violence. Then there are others who express valid concerns that abusive authority has become so normalized we’re numb to its harmfulness.


As followers of Christ, we can’t submit to either thought stream. It is not by mistake that God chose to enter our story at a time of backbreaking political oppression and violence. It was essential that we see God in those contexts to know that God is present always. It’s never too much for God to be with us, despite the horrors we create for ourselves through our sins of violence and greed and power.


It’s also important to remember that Jesus of Nazareth was steeped in a religious tradition that told gruesome stories of nearly unimaginable human depravity. A father takes his only son up a mountain intent on killing the boy in a misguided effort to please God (Genesis 22). Another father makes a vow that if God grants him victory over his enemies, he’ll sacrifice the first person to greet him when he returns home—who turns out to be his daughter (Judges 11). Civil war breaks out after a horde of xenophobic men gang-rapes an outsider’s companion (Judges 19). And in 1 Kings, two sex workers fight over maternity rights to one child. When the king suggests they slice the baby in two, the true mother pleads for her child’s life. It’s a Solomonic maternity test that proves right.


We call these stories “Texts of Terror,” because they expose cruelties that a hyper-masculine, nationalistic culture can visit on women, children, and outsiders. It should grieve us that our daily news runs rampant with similar texts of terror. Children are regularly sacrificed in these tales: sons and daughters, classmates, and neighborhood play companions. Not only do we inflict physical violence on their bodies. We inflict tremendous spiritual violence on those who survive. The brutality knows no bounds.


As scripture shows, these stories aren’t new. Jesus knew them and no doubt saw them play out in his own community. That may be why he pointed to child wellbeing as a mandate for faithful people. He healed children. He held them close. He warned against misleading and abusing them. And he taught us to value children’s lives (including grown sons and daughters) above all regard for power and control and “law and order.” Child wellbeing is our responsibility. When we make it a cultural norm, what happened in Memphis and so many other places in recent memory will become inconceivable. Let’s make it our cultural norm at Gather.


God help us.


Peace, with much love,

Pastor Tim