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PRACTICE!

Dear Gather Friends and Family,

It’s such an old joke it no longer merits a rimshot. Nonetheless, there’s so much truth inside it, it will likely outlast the edifice it names.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
Practice, practice, practice!

Mastering theory, aesthetics, and historical knowledge are necessary for any artist. But not one of them will transform an amateur into a serious musician. That requires practice: studying the score, reviewing the same passages again and again, teasing out nuances that turn what’s on the page into experience; giving voice to specific phrases and passages; acquiring deftness to maneuver the interplay of spirit, mind, and body to create something uniquely your own. Practice.

Perhaps the most powerful intersection of Buddhist and Christian thought is at the point of practice. While both traditions embrace communal rites, they are adamant that daily spiritual practice and discipline are the real transformative pieces of the puzzle. And—particularly distressing for those of us enamored with novelty and ornament—Buddhist and Christian practices are famously repetitive and unadorned. To borrow again from the musical metaphor, they’re closer to practicing scales than performing (or composing) arias.

Over and over and over. Pray and meditate. Read and reflect. Remain mindful and react mindfully. Look inward to find an active outward path. Over and over and over. As Christians, our texts and traditions are overrun with admonishments to embrace this lifestyle. But too many Christians prefer patronizing the Carnegie Halls of religion instead of answering the call—and living into the promise—of authentic practice. Any good Buddhist knows the answer to this question: how do you follow the Buddha? Practice, practice, practice. If we ask the same question, we get the same answer.

How do you follow Christ?
Practice, practice, practice!

This Thursday evening we’ll wrap our April series with a closer look at practical approaches to spirituality that Buddhism and Christianity share. Join us at 7:30pm CDT.

Join our conversation on Zoom:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83567085701
Meeting ID: 835 6708 5701
Or dial in at 312-626-6799, using same Meeting ID

Peace and blessings,
Pastor Tim

We need your help!

As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!

Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea

As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.

TRANSCENDENCE

Christianity’s animating idea is transcendence. God makes God’s self known in the person of Jesus, and that revelation enables us to look beyond, and live into, a deeper reality. It’s more than what Jesus said and did. It’s embodying what he meant and permitting the gospel of unconditional love and grace to shape our being and behaviors. The Christian concept of transcendence is one of inward transformation that turns our attention outward to others and the world.

Many would like to bisect this idea into one or the other—contemplative (or meditative) practice and active (or missional) practice. To place one over and above the other, however, results in an incomplete experience. In Colossians 3:16-17, we find this delicate balance described beautifully: “The word of Christ must live in you richly. Teach and warn each other with all wisdom by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him.” Start with contemplation. End in action.

We see many parallels in the practices of our Buddhist friends. Their deep personal work of contemplation ultimately points toward the strengthening of community. And both Christian and Buddhist thought seek transcendence through a paradoxical idea: looking inward compels outward action to ease the suffering of others.

We’ll explore these ideas in more detail this Thursday at 7:30 CDT, as we continue our comparative studies of two traditions that are very different and yet speak very clearly to one another. Join our conversation on Zoom:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83567085701
Meeting ID: 835 6708 5701
Or dial in at 312-626-6799, using same Meeting ID

Peace and blessings,
Pastor Tim

PS: And make sure to join us this Sunday for our monthly YouTube worship, “Meeting the Moment.” Invite friends—especially those who don’t like church too much. You and they will be blessed. You can find the service here:

Click Here

We need your help!

As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!

Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea

As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.

DEEPER REALITY

It may surprise some that the great Buddhist writer Thich Naht Hanh finds many similarities between his tradition’s emphasis on mindfulness and Christian emphasis on the Holy Spirit. As Hanh explains so eloquently in Living Buddha, Living Christ, mindfulness is entering “deeply into this moment [to] see the nature of reality” (16). Statements like this sound exotic to our post-modern Western ears. But our age habitually over-emphasizes what we can measure with five limited senses and explain with finite logic.

How often we get reminded our grasp of “what’s real” is inadequate, as happened last week with news that the muon, a sub-atomic particle, undermines presumably hard-and-fast laws of physics.* Our limitations would hardly surprise Jesus, who taught that mindfulness for what we can’t see and know opens a deeper reality he called “God’s kingdom.” Explaining why he used stories to make his teaching accessible, he told his followers, “You have been given the mysteries of God’s kingdom, but these mysteries come to everyone else in parables.” And then, borrowing from the prophet Isaiah, he warned not even easy-to-understand parables would be sufficient to illuminate closed minds (Luke 8:10).

Neither Jesus nor the Buddha would suggest mindfulness requires esoteric knowledge or exotic practices. As Thich makes plain, mindfulness in Buddhist parlance is comparable to the Holy Spirit in Christian thought—a force that penetrates surface realities to deepen our understanding of the world as it actually is. In his final teaching Jesus promises, “The Holy Spirit will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). EverythingAll. Wow.

Perhaps hearing this concept reframed in less familiar, Buddhist vernacular can inspire us to perceive more than meets the eye. In Christian thought, without the Holy Spirit—the Comforter, Teacher, Advocate who guides us into all truth—we cannot touch a deeper reality where suffering is felt and healing happens. Thich would (and does) agree with a gently breathed “Amen!”

On Thursday evening at 7:30pm CDT, we’ll talk about this in more depth. (See what I did there?) Join our conversation on Zoom:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83567085701
Meeting ID: 835 6708 5701
Or dial in at 312-626-6799, using same Meeting ID

Peace and blessings,
Pastor Tim

We need your help!

As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!

Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea

As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.

TWO GREAT TRADITIONS SIDE-BY-SIDE

One of the great joys of religious curiosity emerges when we compare our traditions with other beliefs and practices. In part, the delight comes from flagging ways we may have misunderstood or been misled. I remember being a teenager before learning Roman Catholics place statuary in their churches to keep memory of saints alive. Unlike what I’d been told, they don’t worship idols. They remember their ancestors when praying, believing those who’ve gone before are close to God. What a wonderful tradition!

Setting aside common misjudgments and our own vague notions, we can discover the underlying sacredness of others’ beliefs and practices. Often, we’re intrigued by how closely they reflect our own sensibilities. None of these relationships is closer Christianity and Buddhism. Though they are different on many levels, their approaches to life and spirituality bear some striking resemblances. This month, we’ll be looking at the two traditions side-by-side and discerning how they reflect and relate to one another.

Working from the great Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hahn’s classic Living Buddha, Living Christ, I trust we’ll find new impetus for vital spiritual practices like silence, mindfulness, and the meaning of true discipleship. These and other principles are fundamental to Christianity and Buddhism, and they speak to one another (and us) in remarkable ways.

We’re very excited about spending April exploring these two great religions. You’ll be surprised, I believe, at what you’ll discover. And if you’ve not had a chance to appreciate the value of comparative religious study, this will be a great start!

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83567085701
Meeting ID: 835 6708 5701
Or dial in at 312-626-6799, using same Meeting ID

See you each Thursday in April at 7:30pm CDT.

Blessings, with metta (loving-kindness),
Pastor Tim

We need your help!

As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!

Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea

As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.

WHY IT’S PERSONAL

Holy Week’s events are meant to provoke profound questions. Why would God elect to meet us in our own flesh and why was 1st-century Palestine the right setting for this redemptive encounter? Why would God choose to live and move among powerless country peasants rather than infiltrate the Jerusalem power brokers and 1%, overturn the Roman occupation, and seize power as Israel’s long-awaited king of kings? Why would Jesus’s friends prove so fickle that not one of them rushed to his defense? Why would Jesus go to such extremes to prove what psalmists and prophets had been saying for centuries: God’s love for us defies all description and measure? We ask these kinds of questions every year. And even when we can tease out some theological significance, the answers exceed our comprehension.

Yet there is a second set of “whys” that should also interest us. Why does this story hold meaning for each of us—in equally real but often radically different ways? Why does the account of Jesus’s last hours stirs so many different emotions in us? What do we gain in telling this story again and again?

This week Gather will meet for a Maundy Thursday Zoom service that makes room for personal reflection. Plan to be with us at 7:30pm CDT as we recall the fateful Thursday evening that began with a Passover dinner party (complete with singing!) and ended with what surely looked like the end of the Jesus movement. As we recall the specific events of that evening, we’ll hear testimony and song to deepen our appreciation of just how personal this story gets.

On Sunday April 25 we will come together to rejoice as life slowly returns to “normal.” But what will that really look like? The pandemic has surely changed us in many ways. How we meet this moment will be of major importance in the future we co-create with God and one another. Join us for a special service of exuberant joy and thoughtful challenge.

Click Here

We need your help!

As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!

Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea

As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.

THE NIGHT SEARCH

Advent for Real

I love Advent in ways very much like I love Lent. Both seasons draw us into unspooling narratives characterized as sojourns in hostile territory: the long night of waiting at the start of winter, the desert struggle just as winter melts into spring. Even though we know the contours of the story, where we happen to be—emotionally, spiritually, and personally—comes into play. And it is our own changeability that ensures no two seasons are alike.

But Advent can also feel quaint. The tradition appears to have begun in France around the fourth century as a time of consecration for new converts preparing for Christmas baptism. (There’s a wonderful rhyme there: they’re born into the kingdom of God on the day celebrating the arrival of the One who proclaims the kingdom. It’s kind of neat how all of that works out.)

Advent’s French origins make sense to me, having spent a lot of time in France. While we stereotype the French as very cosmopolitan and sophisticated, their culture reflects a deeply engrained village sensibility. The seasons are closely watched. Local traditions outweigh national or international ones. Non-locals are met with guarded formality that many mistake for rudeness. A trip to the post office can easily absorb an hour or more because the person at the counter wants to talk at length about something that has nothing to do with mail. C’est la vie. This is how life goes.

Thus, it hardly surprises me to hear echoes of village life in Advent customs. High expectation coupled with the commonsense patience. Images of long nights and dancing flame. Telling the story of how Jesus came into the world, building the crèche, planning the feast—the regular-ness of it all, the comfort of how timeworn the traditions are, the invitation to search the metaphorical darkness of an inky sky—these feel “villagey” to me. Quaint.

And yet this Advent also feels as though the whole thing landed in our laps and we’re supposed to figure out what to do with it. A couple days back elderly people and healthcare workers in the UK received the first vaccines for COVID-19. It was a big deal. But it also turned enduring this pandemic into a sweaty waiting game. How soon can we get inoculated? It’s not clear. We have to wait. In the States, we’re still watching for a peaceful transfer of power between the outgoing Administration and its replacement. We wait. All over the world, economies are on hold, as are education, family events, vacations, the random joys of aimless shopping or wandering into a pub for a quick beer—all of it delayed. We wait.

Meanwhile, we’re admonished to stay wise and remain patient.

In 2020 Advent got very real. It also got very villagey, as our social circles constricted to a handful of friends and family, our options dwindled to the simplest pleasures, our work became less definitive and our relationships once again asserted their preeminence. Our thoughts are text-friendly direct, our emotions reduced to a paltry array of emojis. Responses are seldom quick enough. Wherever we turn, we are waiting. The night search continues.

In 2020 Advent got very real. Think about that.

Complete your holiday weekend with a joyful and uplifting worship experience! Join Gather at 5pm CST on Sunday, December 27, as we welcome the Christ Child into the world. The service will premiere on the Gather Austin-Oak Park channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCldChQ-w8vS1vkbSDyyxLOQ

We need your help!

As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!

Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea

As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.

RED AND YELLOW, BLACK AND WHITE

Pink-Faced Christianity and the Missionary Complex

Those of us who grew up in Sunday school probably remember this little ditty: Jesus loves the little children/All the children of the world/Red and yellow, black and white/They are precious in his sight/Jesus loves the little children of the world. It conjures memories of cherubic children chirping at the top of their lungs, and our nostalgia for “simpler times” filters out one important detail. This song wasn’t about racial equity—although it reads that way in 2020. It was a mission song intended to stir pink-faced concern for non-white foreign kids. (Why brown-skinned kids got left out we’ll never know; most current versions wedge them in between “red” and “yellow.”)

Wouldn’t we just love for this song to be our time-tried anthem of diversity and inclusion! That impulse signals how far white-American Christianity has to go to shake its history of white supremacist ideology.

This Sunday school favorite doesn’t celebrate racial diversity; it flags it as something to be overcome in order to “win the world for Christ” (a classic white-American Christian euphemism). How fortunate for Jesus that so many fair-skinned believers fanned out across the planet to spread his gospel to less ideally pigmented masses! How lucky for those youngsters that we would resign the comforts of home to evangelize their “pagan” lands!

If this sounds unduly harsh that’s because intrinsic, systemic racism in white-bred American Christianity consistently cloaks itself in missionary fervor. We’ve distorted the Great Commission—“Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel” (Mark 16:15)—into a cultural mandate. Making disciples has become synonymous with defaming any sociopolitical and religious thought that doesn’t square with our white-friendly systems of faith, government, and ethics.

Is it not curious that, in America, we’re shielded from non-white foreign Christian influences? Why don’t we know that many Africans revere Jesus as the First Ancestor—the most prominent of a “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) who are actively engaged in earthly affairs? How is it we’ve never been challenged to grapple with Japanese focus on God’s pain? No white American Christian is going to accept an angst-ridden God! Yet in the post-World War II Asian conscience, a God who is not outraged at human pain and humiliation cannot be loving. A God without suffering is no God at all. Let’s work with that for a minute or two.

Until we overcome our missionary complex, white American Christianity will never be rid of racist impulses and opportunism. Pointing to multiracial congregations doesn’t prove anything—not if we continue to serve a white supremacist agenda of “converting” foreign people of color to our pink-faced gospel with its blue-eyed Jesus and our current nationalistic determination to destroy democracy “for Christ.”

Jesus does love all the children of the world. And Jesus knows how to speak to them in ways that affirm their identity rather than erasing it. Until we get that, we need to leave this “harmless” tune alone.

This week we end our “De-Othering” series with a look at the many ways racism gets inscribed in the Christian character. Join via Zoom or phone:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81856098958?pwd=Z2JkRmx3SlZOTk5QOHhiayt0YUF5Zz09

Meeting ID: 818 5609 8958; Passcode: 273071

Or dial in at 312-626-6799, using the same ID and passcode.

We need your help!

As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!

Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea

As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.

LOUSY COOKS

Silent, Subservient? No Way!

Recently I was talking with a friend who decried the recent antics of politically ambitious televangelists. “This is why I left Christianity,” he said. My answer surprised him. “Christianity is like cooking. Calling yourself a cook, doesn’t mean you’re good at it.” Which is to say, a lot of lousy but LOUD cooks give Christianity a bad rap.

Some of our worst cooks are committed to a male-dominated diet. It’s a deeply imbedded problem tracing back to ancient cultures that deprived women of voice, education, and recognition. Men did the talking, reading, and writing. Even when they embraced feminine influence (e.g., in goddess worship, submission to priestesses, fealty to royals), they kept slinging the same hash about masculine superiority.

Double standards and glass ceilings we revile to this day have hung around a long time. Unfortunately, they can’t be completely rooted out of our sacred texts because assumption of male privilege is too thoroughly knitted into the narrative.

The boys-club mentality that overshadows so many texts has often persuaded highly privileged (and naïve) male faith leaders, as well as some women, to inscribe gender inequity into alleged Christian values, culture, and doctrines. Preaching subservience and silence for half of humanity may work for some members of the other half. But it also diminishes and disregards the Creator’s bold decision to equip all of us with intellect, reason, desire, and purpose.

Again: A lot of lousy and LOUD cooks give Christianity a bad rap.

For all the testosterone that fueled its writing and propagation, scripture keeps showing its hand. It can’t deny the unique powers women possess as creative forces. Our faith is committed to this idea on so many levels that cherry-picking scripture in order to bully half of the community is a fool’s errand. It can’t pass the gospel test of “all-ness.”

Women keep silent? Wives obey? Daughters comply? These notions are repeatedly contradicted, often within the very same books and letters that espouse them. With very few exceptions, every woman seen or mentioned in scripture is extraordinary. They’re the real movers and shakers. They make things happen. Their opinions matter. They don’t get as much stage time as the men—many of whom are train wrecks—but when they show up, something’s about to give.

It’s just bad theology, poor scholarship, and pure hatefulness—terrible cooking—to ignore the power and influence women possess. Don’t let a bunch of lousy chefs convince you all cooking is terrible. Don’t let a bunch of sexists turn you against Christianity. Lousy cooks are just lousy cooks. We all would be wise to see that.

Our conversations about “De-Othering” continue every Thursday through November 19th. Join via Zoom or phone:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81856098958?pwd=Z2JkRmx3SlZOTk5QOHhiayt0YUF5Zz09

Meeting ID: 818 5609 8958; Passcode: 273071

Or dial in at 312-626-6799, using the same ID and passcode.

We need your help!

As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!

Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea

As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.

MALE AND FEMALE

What the Creation Story Tells Us About Gender

God created humankind in God’s image… male and female God created them. – Genesis 1:27

In the ancient Hebrew imagination, Creation was perfect, because it was God’s doing. Our task, as God’s ultimate handiwork, is to hasten the world’s return to its original perfection. That can sound rather simplistic until you dig a little deeper into what Israel’s poets, prophets, and rabbis meant.

For them, perfection meant wholeness. And that applied to everything God makes in the Genesis 1 narrative, from the stars in the heavens to the tiny things creeping through the grass. Thus, when the early rabbis read Genesis 1:27, they assumed gender wasn’t an either/or category, but rather an all-of-the-above proposition. This idea was so prevalent in Jesus’s day that soon thereafter it was inscribed in Jewish commentary. “Said Rabbi Jeremiah ben Elazar: In the hour when the Holy One created the first human, He created him [as] an androgyne” (Genesis Rabbah 8).

Why is this important? First, it tells us that in the minds of Jesus’s teachers the creation of a male or female human would be incomplete because being created in God’s image would necessarily mean having all the qualities we associate with God, whether they are manly or womanly traits. But also beginning with a dually gendered human makes sense of a later story in Genesis in which the “male side” and “female side” are separated to enable them to face one another.

Most important for us today, in a world where gender fluidity is finally being more widely accepted, this reading calls us to fresh awareness that we don’t live in an either/or world because we’re not made by an either/or God. There’s simply no such thing as an “all-man man” or an “all-woman woman.” And that causes us to question limits and definitions we create around gender. It’s imperfect thinking because it’s incomplete.

How radically would our gender assumptions be altered if we embraced our androgynous origins? How easily could we open ourselves to more gender variance—not worrying about what little boys and little girls are made of, becoming more fully like the all-encompassing God who made us? How would that ease our discomfort with others who may not fit so easily in our binary boxes?

Creation is perfect. We are not. But we can move closer to perfection—closer to the Holy One who made us in a non-binary image to reflect our Maker’s non-binary nature.

This week we conclude our series, In the Beginning: Creation Across Cultures, with a look at how the making of humankind is portrayed. We invite you to join us on Thursday evening at 7:30p CDT, using the Zoom information below. If you’ve missed this opportunity you can find a recording of the discussion on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCldChQ-w8vS1vkbSDyyxLOQ.

 

Via Zoom:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88285720765?pwd=bWd2Z1dCVjVMWkIxdEgxSW90Z2dIZz09

Meeting ID: 882 8572 0765, Passcode: 930247

You can also phone in at 1-312-626-6799 using the same meeting ID and passcode.

We need your help!

As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!

Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea

As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.

MADE FOR PRAISE

Not “Again”

Isaiah tells the story of a national crisis. Weak leaders have sold the country out. Enemies have invaded the land. The capital and its beloved Temple are reduced to a sand pile. The best citizens are taken hostage while those left behind—somewhat tellingly called “the Remnant”— long for the day when they can make their country great again, forgetting its collapse was brought on by greed and xenophobia, all under a veneer of false piety.

After the equivalent of 18 American Presidential terms, the captives come home. The dream of a return to “normal”—complete with rebooted economy, a restoration of old systems of power and a revived sense of ethnic supremacy—doesn’t jibe with God’s thinking. “Again” isn’t on God’s mind. “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old,” God says to Israel. “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Is. 43:18-19)

Why isn’t God so gung-ho about a “great again” plan? Restoring earlier glory doesn’t take much. Just some money and elbow grease. Yet God is abundantly clear this new thing has one purpose. God is doing something new for “the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise” (v21).

God wants our praise. In fact, we are made for praise. And that means we are made to expect more from God and ourselves than reviving a fabled past that never really existed. I’m about to do a new thing, God says. Don’t you get it?

Both testaments make it abundantly clear that when we praise things get shaken up. In Joshua, we see the Israelites raise such raucous praise walls crumble. In Acts, Paul and Silas go into such a high praise their prison cell can’t hold them; they literally sing and shout the jail doors off their hinges! The God of new things desires praise and when we praise, God does every more revolutionary things.

But praise is hard because praise seems silly to us—all this telling God how wonderful God is, all this noise and singing and clapping and shouting “Hallelujah!” (which, by the way, literally means to praise God exuberantly). In other words, praise is uncomfortable. And for that reason, a lot of us would rather dream of the past than step outside our comfort zones to see what kind of new ideas God’s got in mind. We’ve lost the praise that pushes us into a new reality.

“I’m up to something new—something only I can do—something that will inspire and command high praise. DON’T YOU GET IT?”

We are made for praise. God is always giving us new reasons for praise. When we live in a state of praise, we see beyond stale ideas and golden oldie days. Not “again.” Never “again.” Always new. Can we step out of our tightly drawn comfort zones to give God the praise God deserves? It depends on how well we believe God when God says, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

Don’t miss this Sunday’s YouTube worship experience, “Praise & Protest” that links praise with demanding more than a weak-spirited “great again” philosophy of life. This will be an uplifting time together. You can access the service at 5pm CDT (on October 25) via our YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCldChQ-w8vS1vkbSDyyxLOQ. See you then!

We need your help!

As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!

Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea

As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.