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WORSHIP

It’s Got to Be Real

Tim: Last week you led us through a very powerful study that paired the work of the Holy Spirit with the life of the community. That makes the discussion of worship this week a natural move.
Shea: It sure does. Worship has to rest at the heart of the community. Its primary purpose is to bring the Spirit and people together. That’s what makes worship transformative.
Tim: It’s an experience without equal. And virtually all the public rituals we enjoy—concerts, plays and movies, political rallies, even birthday parties—employ elements that originated in worship settings. Music, recitations, movement, adoration, symbolism… I could go on and on about how much of our lives are rooted in worship. Everything starts there.
Shea: Really? That’s quite a claim.
Tim: Think about it. We built temples long before theaters and coliseums. Our compulsion to gather arose from a shared longing to declare the greatness of God and entreat God’s care. So worship is a primal drive, even though we still aren’t very good at getting it right.
Shea: We’re definitely challenged in that arena. Why do you think that is?
Tim: We keep getting hung up on what’s “acceptable.” And—surprise, surprise—it always works out that our brand of worship is what God likes most. Remember: scripture tells us humanity’s first descent into violence wasn’t about money or sex. Why did Cain murder Abel? Worship.
Shea: And we’ve been killing each other over worship ever since.
Tim: Literally and spiritually. I meet people all the time who are the casualties of self-appointed “worship cops” who patrol whose worship is or isn’t acceptable. Of course they’ve got all kinds of excuses to back up their theories. What they don’t have is an understanding that real worship comes from the heart and that’s what makes it acceptable.
Shea: Jesus called it “spirit and truth.”
Tim: Exactly! If you aren’t spiritually alert and self-honest, your worship won’t be real. Over and over, the Bible insists realness is what God wants. The fault in Cain’s worship wasn’t the sacrifice; it was the pretense behind his offering. His assumption it was better than Abel’s made it deficient. Pride and self-centeredness corrupted his worship.
Shea: So how do we avoid that as Gather forges its worship culture?
Tim: We have to reclaim the reality of worship: its boldness, its Spirit-led power, its responsiveness to God’s movement in our lives, its relevance to our own truth. We do that by following David’s example. When Israel’s enemies stole the Ark, David said, “We’ve got to get it back.” I pray that’s what will happen with Gather. I pray we’ll keep it real and stay committed to bringing true worship back home for folks who’ve lost touch with God and the experience of God. That’s what we’ll be talking about this Thursday, in our very first worship experience. 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

A few save-the-date opportunities to invite folks to be part of the Gather faith community experience:
  • Next Thursday, May 31: we wrap up the Origins series on May 31 with a focus on Grace and Gratitude. This will be a story-telling session, as we hear from a number of folks about the ways God’s grace and their gratitude have made a difference in their lives.
  • Sunday, June 24: Gather will join the Lighthouse Church (4713 N. Broadway, Chicago) in a special worship service prior to joining thousands from other Chicagoland churches as we witness God’s love and radical welcome in the annual Gay Pride parade. Tee shirts and more info soon to come!

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.

Summer is the perfect time for a “walking tour” of Mark’s Gospel. The oldest and shortest of the Gospels, Mark is full of amazing details that capture the life and ministry of Jesus in fascinating ways. Mark’s Jesus is a man on a mission without much patience for folks who can’t keep up. He says exactly what’s on his mind. And the writer tells the Jesus story in an action-packed style overflowing with mysterious touches. Why is there no Christmas chapter? Why is Jesus so tough on the disciples? Why can’t they see who he really is? Why are the women afraid to tell the news of the Risen Christ? And what’s up with that naked man in Gethsemane (among other peculiarities)?
Join us every Thursday from June 7-August 30, as we spend the summer touring Mark’s Gospel. It will be a trip well worth taking!

SPIRIT & COMMUNITY

Why “All” Means All

Tim: This week’s topic is a twofer: Spirit and Community.
Shea: You can’t talk about one without the other.
Tim: Why is that?
Shea: The Spirit is how God is embodied in God’s people. When the Spirit arrives (as Jesus promised), she gives birth to the Body of Christ, and then remains to guide and sustain it.
Tim: So the Spirit is a “she”…
Shea: I perceive the Spirit as a “she.” Watch how she’s described and behaves in the texts. She births an ecstatically inclusive community called “the Church.” She nurtures it with extraordinary care. Under her influence, its members embrace and feed one another, defying social customs that divide and denigrate.. She’s got no use for any of that, just like she’s got no use for liars and bigots and phonies. That’s how Mamas do.
Tim: There’s also biblical precedence for conceiving the Spirit as feminine.
Shea: In the beginning, the Spirit of God—as the Spirit in creation that hovers over the waters of creation—is “Ruach” and is feminine. Throughout the Hebrew Bible, she has two distinctively female personas: “Shekinah,” or the divine presence, and “Chokmah,” or wisdom. That’s why everyone gets a seat at her table. The presence of God, the wisdom of God, the unconditional love and undiluted power of God—if all of God is present in the Spirit, then every human being’s welcome is assured. It can’t possibly go any other way.
Tim: How does Peter explain it at Pentecost?
Shea: “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:17). There’s no working around that. “All” means all. No walls or fences, no admission committees, no velvet ropes and bouncers, no VIP sections, none of that. Just the Spirit flowing in and out of everyone who says, “Count me in!”
Tim: What about those who say God decides who’s in and out, usually based on behavioral criteria: how you act, who you hang with, how you pray, how you identify, all of that.
Shea: That misses the whole point. Either it’s “all”—everybody—or it’s not. There’s no such thing as a selective “all.” If it’s not all, it’s less than all, nothing at all, and obviously substandard.
Tim: How do we fix that?
Shea: We embrace the promise of Pentecost. But we also realize how hard that can be, because we’re tribal by nature. We think in “us/them” patterns and for centuries the institutional church—not the real Church—has promoted “us/them” religion. It’s tried to overcorrect for the chaotic, all-inclusive move of the Spirit. But there’s a big problem with that. When you start telling the Spirit how to move and whom to accept, like a wise and loving parent, she’ll let you run it. But then she’ll also hold you accountable for thinking you can order her around. Yep, as I see it, the Spirit is the biggest, baddest Big Mama there ever was.

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

A few save-the-date opportunities to invite folks to be part of the Gather faith community experience:
  • Next Thursday, May 24: Our series turns its sights on worship–a perfect opportunity to try out our worship skills! We’ll pilot what a Gather worship service could look like and rejoice in the joy of our salvation!
  • We wrap up the Origins series on May 31 with a focus on Grace and Gratitude. This will be a story-telling session, as we hear from a number of folks about the ways God’s grace and their gratitude have made a difference in their lives.
  • Sunday, June 24: Gather will join the Lighthouse Church (4713 N. Broadway, Chicago) in a special worship service prior to joining thousands from other Chicagoland churches as we witness God’s love and radical welcome in the annual Gay Pride parade. Tee shirts and more info soon to come!

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.

Summer is the perfect time for a “walking tour” of Mark’s Gospel. The oldest and shortest of the Gospels, Mark is full of amazing details that capture the life and ministry of Jesus in fascinating ways. Mark’s Jesus is a man on a mission without much patience for folks who can’t keep up. He says exactly what’s on his mind. And the writer tells the Jesus story in an action-packed style overflowing with mysterious touches. Why is there no Christmas chapter? Why is Jesus so tough on the disciples? Why can’t they see who he really is? Why are the women afraid to tell the news of the Risen Christ? And what’s up with that naked man in Gethsemane (among other peculiarities)?
Join us every Thursday from June 7-August 30, as we spend the summer touring Mark’s Gospel. It will be a trip well worth taking!

WHAT GOD WANTS FROM US

Shea: So far we’ve done some pretty heavy lifting at Gather’s Thursday night studies.
Tim: First, the Bible, then God, and last week Jesus—so, yeah, we’ve not been timid about our topic choices. And that’s by design, because the last thing the world needs is another Christianity Lite church.
Shea: Or one that manufactures WIIFM Christians by framing the gospel as a What’s-In-It-For-Me proposition.
Tim: How did Jesus put it? When you make the quest for God’s kingdom and justice your priority, the WIIFM takes care of itself.
Shea: Can following God’s way be that simple?
Tim: Actually, what God wants from us is pretty straightforward. But it comes with necessary freedoms to live out those requirements. That’s where things get tricky, balancing freedom and responsibility. We’ll be talking about that this week.
Shea: What do you mean, balancing freedom and responsibility?
Tim: From Moses onward, the prophets were always able to summarize what God wants from us.
Shea: You mean, like Micah 6:8’s to-do list: do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
Tim: Exactly. Or Jesus’s distillation of the Law and Prophets into two requirements: love God entirely and love your neighbor as you love yourself. The prophets were geniuses at breaking things down to their basics. And it always comes down to the same core principles: commitment to God and compassion for the other.
Shea: Then how does it get so complicated—to the point it starts to feel impossible?
Tim: Doing what God asks has no meaning if we don’t do it freely, without any threats or promises—no WIIFM—hanging over our heads. That means breaking free from a bunch of extraneous rules and regs that often get put to us as “must do’s” yet have no relevance to the kingdom of God or any benefit to us. But you know how we are. When we’d rather not do what’s best for us, we complicate everything.
Shea: We lose our way to God and one another by making it harder than it should be.
Tim: And we’re free to do that. That’s the irony of it. That’s why we need God’s guidance and the wisdom of the Word to keep us on track. If we could kick our habit of making what’s right and just so difficult, we’d fix many of our problems. Unfortunately, we suffer from two serious issues: reluctance to own responsibility and a crippling fear of freedom. We’ll dig into this some more at this week’s study.

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

A few save-the-date opportunities to invite folks to be part of the Gather faith community experience:
  • Next Thursday, May 17: Our Origins series continues with a closer look at the Holy Spirit and community. Using the magic of the Interwebs, Shea and Tim will co-teach in real time. (Pray for tech mercies!)
  • Thursday, May 24: Our series turns its sights on worship–a perfect opportunity to try out our worship skills! We’ll pilot what a Gather worship service could look like and rejoice in the joy of our salvation!
  • Sunday, June 24: Gather will join the Lighthouse Church (4713 N. Broadway, Chicago) in a special worship service prior to joining thousands from other Chicagoland churches as we witness God’s love and radical welcome in the annual Gay Pride parade. Tee shirts and more info soon to come!

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.

FINDING JESUS

Tim & Shea talk about
FINDING JESUS

Shea: I used to sing a song in church called “I’ve Found Jesus.” It was a song about a conversion experience. But as a kid, I would laugh and jokingly say “You found Jesus? Congratulations!” (This is cheesy, but I grew up in the Where’s Waldo? era.) The older I get, the more I am actually interested in finding Jesus, but not in the same way as the song. Since we have been discussing origins, this week, let’s talk about Jesus. What can we know about him? What exactly did he look like? Who was he? Can the idea–the paradox–of being fully human and fully divine be explained? How do we find Jesus?

Tim: Well, there are many depictions and representations of Jesus. The one I struggle with most is the blue-eyed, blonde-haired Jesus who speaks King James English and lives in a world not too different from our own. Not that it surprises me. Cultures have historically portrayed Jesus in their own image, as one of them. Recently, there’s been work done by forensic experts to depict with more accuracy what Jesus may have looked like (see the upper-left picture above). And I think it’s important for us get a more realistic idea of what Jesus may have looked like because that helps us get free from the unnecessary baggage we saddle Jesus with.

Shea: Wow, so how we envision Jesus has implications for our understanding of him?

Tim: Yep. For starters, Jesus was a brown-skinned Palestinian Jew. This alone changes many Americans’ understanding of him, the timbre of his message, and the reality of the company he kept. And if he did not have an earthly father, his genetic make-up would have been entirely composed of X chromosomes which would mean he was…

Shea: Differently embodied!? Are you saying the Virgin Birth requires us to consider how ready we are to categorize Jesus according to our own cultural norms?

Tim: Well, that certainly can be argued. In being fully human, Jesus’s body was no different than any other person’s body. Yet also being fully divine, his body occupied a unique space between humanity and divinity that set him apart from anyone else. Is it any wonder Jesus identified so strongly with the differently embodied, marginalized, and rejected folks? He was one of them! And that’s a great consolation for those of us who’ve been shoved to edges because of how we’re embodied–whether it’s color, gender, orientation, or any other attribute that others regard as “not normal.”

Shea: Wow.

Tim: So how Jesus was physically embodied and socially located has tremendous relevance for us today. The question is: How do we see Jesus?

Shea: Can we perhaps talk about how Jesus has been the victim of identity theft?

Tim: Say more.

Shea: Well, it seems to me that Jesus has been misrepresented–visually, politically, and theologically. The Jesus as a marginalized outcast crushed by the cross of empire has been transformed into a socially acceptable, middle-to-upper-class Jesus who endorses the crosses of empire (red hat included).

Tim: That’s why this week’s study is so important. We must look at the origins of the Jesus story by mining the depths of our ancient sources, including scriptures, other sources, and art/iconography. Who Jesus was and who Jesus is may give us different answers

Shea: Which leads us to the question of the week: Who is Jesus Christ for ustoday?

Tim: Oh yes. Last week we talked about the origins of God, and now we turn to Jesus to look at the God-ness he embodied, which automatically leads us to question the God-ness every one of us embodies. You can’t get very far in any discussion of Jesus without going there. Join us this Thursday for Week Three for our study series, “Origins.” Come ready for an encounter with Jesus!

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

Here is the PJ Morton cover of “How Deep Is Your Love” we played last week at Gather! Enjoy!

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 AWESOME GOD MOMENT

Shea: Do you remember the first time you had something like a God encounter?
Tim: That’s an interesting question. I was pretty young, maybe five or six. A bunch of ants were marching down our sidewalk and I just sat in the grass and stared at them. I had this strange sense of how enormous I must seem to them—how completely beyond their comprehension someone like me must be. Then I started staring at the sky…

Shea: You were having an Awesome God moment!
Tim: Sure was. Then my dad took a broom and swept them off the sidewalk—

Shea: Oh no! It morphed into an Awful God moment!
Tim: Obviously, that wasn’t Dad’s intention. But to my child’s mind it felt very arbitrary and unjust. I wanted to chase after the tiny ants and say, “I’m your friend. I’m not the one who did that terrible thing to you!”

Shea: Sounds familiar.
Tim: And now it occurs to me that I’ve put myself in the God role, which is uncomfortable to say the least. Nonetheless, I imagine God desires to tell us, “I’m not the one with the broom! I love you. I’m watching over you. Don’t confuse me with the sweepers…”

Shea: It’s so important that we really know who God is and how God works.
Tim: Without that, we run the risk of living in paralyzing fear of a God who means us nothing but good.

Shea: Which is why we’re taking a closer look at God in our next Gather Bible study.
Tim: Oh yes. It all starts with God. If we don’t really know who God is and how God really works, we’re just talking. And, seriously, who’s got time for that?

Join us this Thursday for Week Two or our study series, “Origins.” Come ready for an Awesome God moment!
L!VE Café, 163 S. Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park. Doors open at 7:00p, study begins at 7:30p. If you can’t be with us in person, join us via Facebook Live.

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

What a wonderful night it was

What a wonderful night it was!

We want to say a huge “thank you” to all the people that came out and helped birth our new worshiping community. This space is yours; we hope you will invite your friends and help shape it. We are excited to see all that God does in and through this community.

Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea