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Harvest Feasts

Shea: We’re wrapping up the “Feast!” series in a unique and exciting way.

Tim: Yes! For our final study we’re going to have “dinner church,” which is part of a new kind of liturgical movement that harkens back to the Early Church, when the first Christians worshiped around the table.

Shea: So it will be worship and study?

Tim: Sure will—we’ll enjoy a simple meal while we sing and pray and hear a brief message. “They shared all things in common,” the Book of Acts tells us as it describes what community life was like for the first Christians. So we’ll do something similar.

Shea: Any tip on the message? What are you thinking about there?

Tim: We’ll look at the harvest feasts that the Early Church observed: Pentecost, or the spring harvest festival, and Sukkot, the autumn festival. Both celebrations fire the imagination and invite us to think about our own faith tradition in fuller ways.

Shea: Pentecost gets our attention because we think of it as the Church’s birthdate. It’s when that great moment happens. The Holy Spirit descends on the believers, a great manifestation of power takes place, and Peter preaches his stunning message of radical inclusion: God said,I will pour out my spirit on all flesh.”

Tim: You know what we say around Gather…

Shea: All means all, y’all!

Tim: Amen to that! If folks doubted what the Spirit was up to at Pentecost, it was because they had no idea what the harvest feast was all about. Pentecost’s main purpose was to celebrate the first great in-gathering of the season. The early wheat constituted a bounty that guaranteed folks would be nourished during the longer season, when they needed strength and stamina to bring in the autumn harvest.

Shea: So the Pentecostal “all means all” in-gathering was necessary to nurture the Church’s future growth.

Tim: Check this out. If the first-century believers behaved remotely like most Christians today there wouldn’t be a Christianity to speak of. If they got all wrapped up in keeping folks out, they would have never grown the Jesus movement as quickly as they did. The harvest at Pentecost—that first great in-gathering—provided Peter and Paul and all those working beside them with the fortitude and staying power to reap an even greater harvest.

Shea: Is that why there are so many references to harvests in their letters?

Tim: Yes. As bona fide Pentecostals, they identified as harvesters called to bring a new thing into existence. Since they’re our ancestors, we should be harvesters too. And we should embrace the Pentecostal view that “all means all!”

Shea: I say amen to that! I’m really looking forward to Thursday’s feast!

Join us this Thursday, as we conclude our study series, “Feast!” in the Fellowship Hall of Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake Street in Oak Park (Green Line: Ridgeland). Doors open at 7:00p, the worship begins at 7:30p. If you can’t be with us in person, join us via Facebook Live.

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.

Menus and Etiquette

Fully, Properly Fed

Tim: There are so many feast stories in the Gospels.

Shea: The first thing that comes to mind is the large number of feasting parables. Stories about feasts, preparing for feasts, who gets invited, and how guests behave. Jesus talks about banquets because that was his world. Apart from the parables, nearly every time Jesus steps indoors he’s at a feast of some kind.

Tim: That’s tough for a lot of folks to accept. Jesus was quite the partygoer. He eats with the tightly wound religious set one day and then he upsets them when they see him hanging with folks they regard as “sinners.”

Shea: Jesus’s eagerness to accept any and every invitation caused many folks to view him as a libertine and radical.

Tim: If we were seeing Jesus in a contemporary setting, he’d cover the social landscape, from fancy black-tie events to house parties. It’s not like he’s a social climber, leaving old friends behind to worm his way into the jet set. But he was a social butterfly. He went wherever he wanted to go and took his posse with him. That was radical.

Shea: In Jesus’s day, classes and genders didn’t mix at banquets. Ethnic groups tended to hang together, although the hospitality ethic sometimes required inviting a foreigner into one’s home. There were all kinds of rules and customs in place to keep everyone segregated.

Tim: Just like today. While it’s got a whole lot better, there are still a lot of places I wouldn’t be comfortable walking into, even if I was invited. That’s not only because I would be concerned about not being welcomed. I wouldn’t know how to behave or what to eat.

Shea: It’s the old joke about not knowing what fork to use. It was no better in Jesus’s day, even though they ate with their hands. There were all these subtleties: where you sat, how you dressed, who poured the wine, who washed guests’ hands and feet, what was on the menu. First-century readers caught these nuances and saw what was really going on around the table. It’s a little tougher for us. Without the background info, we’re not getting fully, properly fed when we read the feast stories. That’s what we’ll be looking at this Thursday.

Tim: I couldn’t have set it up better. This week is all about menus and etiquette and social demands, and how all of that became powerful material for Jesus to show us a better way of being.

Join us this Thursday, as we continue our study series, “Feast!” in the Chapel of Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake Street in Oak Park (Green Line: Ridgeland). Doors open at 7:00p, the study begins at 7:30p. If you can’t be with us in person, join us via Facebook Live.

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.

Feast Days

“New Birth”-day Parties

Shea: The new “Feast!” series is turning out to be very enjoyable and inspiring! So many details that get lost in translation—it’s good to see them surface in our discussions.

Tim: I agree. We often forget that even as our faith transcends time and place, many of its customs are rooted in times and places very unlike our own. Some things that we hardly think about—like bread, for instance—were loaded with meaning in the early days of the Church. That was the big a-ha in last week’s study. And this week’s will be similar, I think.

Shea: How so? What are we looking at this week?

Tim: It turns out we’ll be meeting on All Saints Day, which creates an invitation that’s too good to turn down. There couldn’t be a better day to talk about the longstanding Christian tradition of feast days.

Shea: And what is that?

Tim: Very early on, the Church embraced a practice of commemorating its martyrs by designating the date of their deaths as feast days. They envisioned their last day on earth as their birthday—or new birth-day—when they were born into everlasting life.

Shea: So these saints’ days are really new birth-day parties.

Tim: Exactly. And as we’ve said all along, in the Christian tradition—well, actually, in all faith traditions—feasts are typically associated with rites of passage: baptisms, weddings, funerals, and other events or rituals that change someone’s status.

Shea: Having your life taken from you because of your beliefs… that certainly qualifies as a change in status!

Tim: While the first Christians no doubt grieved the losses within their beloved faith communities they adamantly chose to celebrate those who were preceding them in death. So they designated the anniversaries of their executions as feast days in their honor. That’s how we get St. Stephen’s Day and St. Teresa’s Day and so on.

Shea: And this tradition continues.

Tim: Yes, it does. All of these thousands of years later we continue to beatify and commemorate folks who’ve literally or effectively given their lives for the gospel of Christ. So new saints are added to the list all the time. For instance, earlier this month the Catholic Church designated one of my personal heroes, Archbishop Oscar Romero, a saint.

Shea: Deservedly so, since he was a leader in liberation theology and assassinated while standing at the altar following a sermon in which he pleaded for soldiers refuse to participate in the wholesale violence and repression of the El Salvadoran regime. His courage and conviction knew no limits.

Tim: And his feast day will be March 24, the anniversary of his murder—or in Christian terms, the celebration of his entrance to new life.

Shea: I want to say, “Tell me more.” But we’ll have to wait until Thursday night.

Tim: Yes. It will be the perfect study for All Saints Day!

Join us this Thursday, as we continue our study series, “Feast!” at L!VE Café, 163 S. Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park. Doors open at 7:00p, the study begins at 7:30p. If you can’t be with us in person, join us via Facebook Live.

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.

Food and the Five Senses

O Taste and See!

Tim: We have a new harvest-season series we’re calling “Feast!”

Shea: We’re going to look at food-related topics in scripture and get better grounding in why biblical writers placed so much value on flavor and meals and eating rituals.

Tim: All of that is important in scripture.

Shea: In the Judeo-Christian framework, food is a cultural and religious anchor. Both the Hebrew and Christian texts spill a lot of ink about food. And the central ritual in both faiths occurs weekly at the table. In Judaism there’s the Shabbat meal on Friday evenings, when family and friends gather to begin the Sabbath. Christians do something similar on Sunday mornings, when we gather at the Communion table at church. These sacred meals reclaim our collective past and recommit to a shared future and purpose.

Tim: We can’t overlook our Muslim, Hindu, and other friends who also participate in sacred feasts and food-based rituals.

Shea: Yes, the combination of food and worship is universal, in part because food is an extremely reliable and enjoyable way to experience the sacred. For instance, bread and wine rest at the center of the Shabbat and Eucharistic meals. Yet there’s much more going on.

Tim: Such as?

Shea: Both feasts engage all five senses. In Jewish homes, the week begins with a kind of multisensory reawakening: the sight and smell of lighted candles, the sound of prayers and songs, the feel of bread shared across the table, the taste of bread and wine and other dishes spread before the guests. Having inherited those sensibilities from our Jewish ancestors, the same thing happens during Christian Communion.

Tim: Both rituals refer to the ancient past in some way, with Jewish families recalling the Creation and the Exodus, while Christians remember the promises made real in the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. But they are also very immediate in the claims they make on those who gather. At the table, with all of our senses enlivened, we become highly aware that God is with us, in us, and for us.

Shea: Exactly! That’s why the Christian Communion liturgy includes the Great Thanksgiving, a lengthy prayer that offers gratitude for the work of Christ and evidence of God’s goodness in the world. As our senses come alive to the table’s sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and touches, our spirits also come alive to our Maker. How did the psalmist put it? “O taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Ps. 34:8)

Tim: This is going to be a marvelous series—a true feast!

Join us this Thursday, as we begin a new study series, “Feast!” at L!VE Café, 163 S. Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park. Doors open at 7:00p, the study begins at 7:30p. If you can’t be with us in person, join us via Facebook Live.

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

UPCOMING GATHER OPPS
_____
Mark your calendars for October 27, when Pilgrim Congregational UCC will host an extraordinary concert featuring two amazing talents: Andrew Barnes Jamison (keys) and Darnell Ishmel (vocals). The concert begins at 7:30. It will be one of the highlights of the fall!

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.

Tim and Shea talk about Thankfulness

The Gratitude Impulse

Shea: This week we’re wrapping up the Spiritual Disciplines for Undisciplined Times series. How do you think it went?

Tim: It’s always hard to assess right off the bat. It takes time to find out how much impact a series or specific lesson or idea has. But it’s been an invigorating study, that much I’ll say. And we were especially blessed by the contributions of Bishop Pennese and Rev. Hughes as each of them led one of the discussions. For a new church, we are really blessed to have some tremendous support!

Shea:  Yes, we are. Now our final lesson focuses on Thankfulness. I get why we’d want to include gratitude as a spiritual discipline and why we would close on this topic. But the narrative we’re looking at really interests me. Why Miriam?

Tim: I don’t think enough gets said about Miriam. We tend to push her into deep background when we tell the Exodus story. Either she’s Baby Moses’s big sister who looks out for him when he’s floating in the Nile. Or, as we see in this week’s text, she’s the grown sibling who dances after Pharaoh and his army drown in the Sea of Reeds.

Shea: And then there’s the episode where she criticizes Moses because he marries a woman of color and she gets struck with a skin disease.

Tim: Yes, and together that’s about it for Miriam. But scripture is very clear that she’s a prophet. The big piece that gets discounted when we typically talk about Miriam is very important: she’s responsive to her times and the move of God in her situations. And this aspect of her character is writ large in the story we’ll look at this week.

Shea: Hmm. And the connection to thankfulness?

Tim: The outbreak of joy that compels Miriam and the women around her to pick up tambourines and start dancing surely comes from a deep place of thankfulness. Look, these folks are fleeing enslavement and their captor has just been vanquished. The first impulse is “Thank God!” Very often, that impulse leads to singing and shouting and dancing. At least, that’s how it works in my life. But it interests me that Miriam and her friends have their tambourines at the ready. They’re ready to rejoice and I believe that’s because they live in what you might call a state of anticipated thankfulness.

Shea: They’re ready! I like that. And I’m ready to find out what more we can learn from Miriam this Thursday. Meanwhile, do you want to say anything about the new series?

Tim: I’m just going to tease it a bit. All I’m going say is we’re calling it “Feast!” I’ll say more this Thursday night.

Join us this Thursday, as we continue our study series, “Spiritual Disciplines for Undisciplined Times” at L!VE Café, 163 S. Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park. Doors open at 7:00p, the study begins at 7:30p. If you can’t be with us in person, join us via Facebook Live.

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

UPCOMING GATHER OPPS
_____
Mark your calendars for October 27, when Pilgrim Congregational UCC will host an extraordinary concert featuring two amazing talents: Andrew Barnes Jamison (keys) and Darnell Ishmel (vocals). The concert begins at 7:30. It will be one of the highlights of the fall!

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.

Generosity

The Spiritual Discipline of “Standing With”

Tim: This week we’re going to look at what, for me, is one of the greatest stories in the Hebrew Bible, Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath.
Shea: Yes! On the surface it’s a very simple story, but there’s so much going on underneath. There hasn’t been any rain, famine has descended on the region, and God sends the prophet Elijah north into pagan country, where he meets a widow at the city gate. She’s at the end of the road. Her cupboards are bare and she’s gathering sticks so she can make a fire to prepare one last meal before she and her son starve to death. But Elijah stops her and insists that she cook for him first.

Tim: Talk about chutzpah! And we should probably note the famine is the result of a prophecy that Elijah declares against Ahab, the king of Israel. There’s a bit of irony going on: the prophet is instrumental in bringing drought on the land and now he’s turning to a foreign widow for food.
Shea: Added irony: it’s not like he isn’t being provided for. He’s been in the wilderness for some time and God has sent ravens to feed him. And yet he turns to a woman who’s got next to nothing to share with him… who’s concerned about her son… and who has no social or religious obligation to this arrogant holy man from Israel. But she agrees to help and in the process she teaches a powerful lesson about generosity as a spiritual discipline.

Tim: Go on…
Shea: For starters, her own circumstances don’t blind her to others’ needs of others. She doesn’t know that Elijah called for the famine. She doesn’t know that God has already proven faithful to him—he’s not going to go hungry no matter what she does. What she does know is there’s a hungry foreigner at the gate and something inside her can’t be comfortable with that.

Tim: And generosity as a spiritual discipline?
Shea: It’s not charity. Let’s be clear about that. The widow doesn’t give because she can afford it. She’s not writing a check or clicking on a GoFundMe page. She’s showering Elijah with hospitality. She recognizes they’re all hungry. Generosity as a spiritual discipline is rooted in two principles: hospitality and solidarity with the poor, hungry, and marginalized. She is going to stand with him, even though she doesn’t know him.

Tim: So you’re saying Elijah is in worse shape than the widow and her son because he’s an outsider with no one to provide for him.
Shea: Exactly. And she becomes a divine instrument of generosity. There’s more to explore in this story and I can’t wait for us to dig into it this Thursday night!

Tim: I have a strong feeling we’re going to be fed in a very special way this week!

Join us this Thursday, as we continue our study series, “Spiritual Disciplines for Undisciplined Times” at L!VE Café, 163 S. Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park. Doors open at 7:00p, the study begins at 7:30p. If you can’t be with us in person, join us via Facebook Live.

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

NEW SERIES BEGINS IN SEPTEMBER
What kinds of spiritual practices and habits work best for us? How do we keep our faith life fresh? What do we do when things we’ve always done feel like they’re not working? How do we stay plugged in to God’s work in us and our community? This fall we’ll look at spiritual disciplines as our means of survival in an increasingly chaotic world.
Join us every Thursday through October 11, as we examine Spiritual Disciplines for Undisciplined Times.

UPCOMING GATHER OPPS
_____
Mark your calendars for October 27, when Pilgrim Congregational UCC will host an extraordinary concert featuring two amazing talents: Andrew Barnes Jamison (keys) and Darnell Ishmel (vocals). The concert begins at 7:30. It will be one of the highlights of the fall!

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.

Embodiment

Reclaiming the Body

Tim: I’m so glad to be back this week!
Shea: Welcome back, world traveler. Since you’re back, give us a sneak peek of where we are heading on Thursday night.

Tim: I’m going to talk about how the Christian faith is “fleshy.”
Shea: Say more.

Tim: Starting with the Incarnation, this idea of a fully embodied understanding of self and community keeps popping up. So why do a lot of Christians try to lock their faith inside their heads?
Shea: That’s a brilliant point. It almost seems that many people try to rationalize their faith, to the detriment of the rest of the body.

Tim: Which is counterproductive. It neglects the needs of our bodies and can denigrate them.
Shea: So what do we need to do about it?

Tim: The time has come to reclaim the God-ness that incarnates all of us. In antiquity, people believed that there was a spark of divine light in all people. Meister Eckhart noted this in his mystic writings.
Shea: A divine spark–I like that. How do we get in touch with that spark?

Tim: We do this when we affirm our bodies and the bodies of others–in all shapes, sizes, orientations, and identities.
Shea: To really reclaim our bodies is to embrace them?

Tim: Yes, and then we can begin to see our bodies as God does: beautiful image bearers of the divine. We are one of a kind and our bodies are temples of the Holy One.
Shea: And we should honor and cherish our bodies as such.

Tim: Exactly. This week I will talk about reclaiming our bodies, something that will lead us into deeper connection with the divine and ourselves.

Join us this Thursday at L!VE Café, 163 S. Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park. Doors open at 7:00p, the study begins at 7:30p. If you can’t be with us in person, join us via Facebook Live.

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

NEW SERIES BEGINS IN SEPTEMBER
What kinds of spiritual practices and habits work best for us? How do we keep our faith life fresh? What do we do when things we’ve always done feel like they’re not working? How do we stay plugged in to God’s work in us and our community? This fall we’ll look at spiritual disciplines as our means of survival in an increasingly chaotic world.
Join us every Thursday from September 6 through October 11, as we examine Spiritual Disciplines for Undisciplined Times.

UPCOMING GATHER OPPS
_____
Mark your calendars for October 27, when Pilgrim Congregational UCC will host an extraordinary concert featuring two amazing talents: Andrew Barnes Jamison (keys) and Darnell Ishmel (vocals). The concert begins at 7:30. It will be one of the highlights of the fall!

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.

Mindfulness

Practicing Mindfulness

Shea: Hey Tim, I’m loving this new series! What are we going to discuss this week?
Tim: Thinking through my own spiritual journey, I have found that often times the busyness of life is a great inhibitor to our spiritual practices.

Shea: Tell me about it! Between school, life, and work, I feel like I have so much on my mind that there are times when I cannot seem to find time for spiritual practices.
Tim: And it is spiritual practices that ground us in life, empowering us to live a life of faith. They sustain us in the work that we do–remember word, work, worship?

Shea: You are wise and correct, my friend. How do we embrace practices amidst our busy lives?
Tim: By practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is a conscious desire and effort to open your mind, self, and senses to your surroundings/circumstances. Mindfulness meditation allows us to suspend judgment and unleash our natural curiosity about the workings of the mind, approaching our experience with warmth and kindness, to ourselves and others.

Shea: Wow, there’s a lot there. The word “open” really sticks out to me.
Tim: Yes, openness is key to mindfulness. If we aren’t careful, for various reasons, we can live lives closed off to the workings of the Spirit. Mindfulness helps us open up by being present and aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

Shea: I want to be mindful. How do I begin?
Tim: In the Hebrew Bible, God appears to Solomon and asks him a tremendous question: “What should I give you?” Solomon responds that he wants to be able to discern what is good and evil so that he can be wise in his service to others.

Shea: Solomon practiced mindfulness.
Tim: Exactly. He made the effort to be open and to learn. Rather than material possessions and riches, he asked for the gift of wisdom that comes through a posturing and centering of the self.

Shea: Where do we begin?
Tim: It’s important, first, to know that mindfulness is not a fixed destination. It is something that we have naturally available to us; we just need to practice and develop our capacity to be mindful.

Shea: I see. Well, I’m “open” to that.
Tim: Then you’re on your way. This week Reverend Michelle Hughes will lead us on this journey as she hosts our the study this Thursday night. She’s been on the forefront of social justice for a long long time and is no stranger to struggle. We’re truly blessed to have her bring this lesson. It’s not something you want to miss!

Join us this Thursday at L!VE Café, 163 S. Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park. Doors open at 7:00p, the study begins at 7:30p. If you can’t be with us in person, join us via Facebook Live.

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

NEW SERIES BEGINS IN SEPTEMBER
What kinds of spiritual practices and habits work best for us? How do we keep our faith life fresh? What do we do when things we’ve always done feel like they’re not working? How do we stay plugged in to God’s work in us and our community? This fall we’ll look at spiritual disciplines as our means of survival in an increasingly chaotic world.
Join us every Thursday from September 6 through October 11, as we examine Spiritual Disciplines for Undisciplined Times.

UPCOMING GATHER OPPS

September 20 – This week, Rev. Michelle Hughes, Interim Pastor of Pilgrim Congregational UCC, will lead the study on mindfulness.

September 27 – Next week, Pastor Tim will be back to talk about embodiment!

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from them!

_____
Mark your calendars for October 27, when Pilgrim Congregational UCC will host an extraordinary concert featuring two amazing talents: Andrew Barnes Jamison (keys) and Darnell Ishmel (vocals). The concert begins at 7:30. It will be one of the highlights of the fall!

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.

Courage

Owning Our Strength

Shea: Who is the woman above us?
Tim: That’s Irene Pappas, the 20th-century Greek theater and cinema legend. It’s a shot from her most famous film in the States, Zorba the Greek (1964), in which she plays a young widow whose fate gets tangled up with a young man who meets with a tragic end. It’s the kind of role that would bury most actresses. The Widow (as she’s known) is a helpless victim. But Pappas invests her with a ferocity and pathos that turn a marginalized character into one of the most powerful women in 1960s film. And I bet you’re wondering where this is going, right?

Shea: Well, when you start talking movies …
Tim: Not to worry. I pulled the Pappas photo because I envision her when I read the story of Rizpah. She’s a character who intrigues me every which way.

Shea: We’re revisiting her story this Thursday night at Gather as part of our series on spiritual disciplines. The theme is courage, correct?
Tim: Yes and she personifies it in how she turns grief into triumph. I don’t want to give too much away. But suffice to say when state-sanctioned violence takes her sons, Rizpah refuses to let it slide. King David plays politics, placating longtime enemies, paying no mind to the human cost. But Rizpah, a relative nobody, courageously takes a knee and humiliates him.

Shea: Again, we’ve got a passage that feels ripped from the headlines.
Tim: We live in a time of cowardice and opportunism. We see things that don’t make sense, because folks who profess to have directly opposing values are content to play politics if they think it will get them what they wants. It’s a dangerous position to take. That’s why courage is becoming an increasingly vital spiritual discipline in these undisciplined times. We’ve got to have Rizpah courage to speak truth to power and refuse to bend. We’ve got to own our strength. As I picture Rizpah, in my mind’s eye she’s got that Pappas brand of fire and fury. She knows where she’s strong and she won’t be pushed aside. We need more of that in this day and age. It’s a story that resonates deeply.

Shea: And we have a fierce and courageous teacher to guide us this week.
Tim: We couldn’t ask for better. Our own Bishop Phyllis Pennese will lead the study this Thursday night. She’s been on the forefront of social justice for a long long time and is no stranger to struggle. We’re truly blessed to have her bring this lesson. It’s not something you want to miss!

Join us this Thursday at L!VE Café, 163 S. Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park. Doors open at 7:00p, the study begins at 7:30p. If you can’t be with us in person, join us via Facebook Live.

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

NEW SERIES BEGINS IN SEPTEMBER
What kinds of spiritual practices and habits work best for us? How do we keep our faith life fresh? What do we do when things we’ve always done feel like they’re not working? How do we stay plugged in to God’s work in us and our community? This fall we’ll look at spiritual disciplines as our means of survival in an increasingly chaotic world.
Join us every Thursday from September 6 through October 11, as we examine Spiritual Disciplines for Undisciplined Times.

UPCOMING GATHER OPPS
September 13 & 20 – Two dear friends of Gather will be bringing the Word while Pastor Tim is away on vacation. On September 13, Bishop Phyllis Pennese will continue with Spiritual Disciplines study with a look at Courage. The following week, Rev. Michelle Hughes, Interim Pastor of Pilgrim Congregational UCC, will lead the study on mindfulness. Both of these great pastors and teachers will feed your soul!  Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from them!
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Mark your calendars for October 27, when Pilgrim Congregational UCC will host an extraordinary concert featuring two amazing talents: Andrew Barnes Jamison (keys) and Darnell Ishmel (vocals). The concert begins at 7:30. It will be one of the highlights of the fall!

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.

Mark’s Easter Narrative

Indeed: The Story Never Ends

Tim: Every time I reach the end of Mark’s Gospel a kind of melancholy comes over me. I realize it’s counterintuitive because the last chapter tells the Resurrection story. Death is defeated. Christ has won the victory. Still, it’s like hanging up after a long late-night phone call with an old friend. The conversation is amazing, but you’re sad it’s over.
Shea: Is it over? Mark closes with one of the greatest cliffhangers of all time. No one knows where Jesus is. Unlike the other Gospels, he doesn’t have a post-crucifixion cameo in Mark. No garden conversation, no appearance to the disciples, no breakfast on the seashore. The writer simply says the women are so traumatized and carried away they can’t speak. then the story ends with a conjunction that approximates English connectors like “for” or “indeed.”

Tim: But it doesn’t connect to anything! The earliest manuscripts of Mark end abruptly in verse eight: “They were afraid indeed…” The rest of the closing chapter gets added much later. In fact, most Bibles contain two attempts to end the Gospel in a more conclusive way. There’s a short ending and a longer ending. Why is that?
Shea: Folks couldn’t be satisfied with the Jesus story closing with a dot-dot-dot. Yet what if that’s the point? What if we’re supposed to look at the dot-dot-dot and realize the story never ends? The women go to the grave to preserve their rabbi’s body. But there’s no body to be found, because Jesus has already moved on. His corpse can’t be preserved because he’s alive and his work is never-ending. It doesn’t need preservation! The Jesus story becomes their story. And now it’s our story. Indeed

Tim: The young man in the empty tomb tells Mary Magdalene and the others that Jesus will meet the disciples in Galilee, which is where the whole thing began.
Shea: Indeed. Everything comes full circle. In Mark, the right response to the Resurrection is “Get back to work.” This time it won’t be Jesus in the lead role. It will be his apostles, his delegates, us. In the end—which is not an ending at all—this story is about the calling placed on us to usher God’s kingdom into the world. How does it begin? Jesus declares, “The reign of God is near. Turn around and trust this good news.” And where does he proclaim this gospel? Galilee.

Tim: It’s a perfect circle. The story never ends!
Shea: It never ends. What happens next is always up to us.

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

NEW SERIES BEGINS IN SEPTEMBER
What kinds of spiritual practices and habits work best for us? How do we keep our faith life fresh? What do we do when things we’ve always done feel like they’re not working? How do we stay plugged in to God’s work in us and our community? This fall we’ll look at spiritual disciplines as our means of survival in an increasingly chaotic world.
Join us every Thursday from September 6 through October 11, as we examine Spiritual Disciplines for Undisciplined Times.

UPCOMING GATHER OPPS
September 6 
– All hands on deck! Chicago Theological Seminary will be bringing a camera crew to Gather to shoot footage for a short video feature  about Tim and Shea and the new church. We need everyone to be present and accounted for!
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September 9 – Our friends at Pilgrim Congregational Church are sponsoring their annual Great Food Truck Rally. Stop by between 4 and 8 pm to enjoy a fabulous variety of gourmet food truck fare and visit with the fine folks at Pilgrim. 460 Lake Street in Oak Park.
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September 13 & 20 – Rev. Rich Havard, Campus Pastor of the Inclusive Collective, a Christian Movement at the University of Illinois at Chicago, will be bringing the Word. Rich is a powerful speaker and inspiring faith leader. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from him!

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.