Category

Weekly Update

Teachable Moments

Jesus and the Immigrant Mother

Tim: So we’re reaching the halfway point in our tour of Mark’s Gospel.
Shea: The Gospel moves so fast and draws so many contemporary parallels that our heads are spinning.

Tim: No kidding. The great theologian Karl Barth said you should study faith with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other, and our work in Mark has certainly validated that idea.
Shea: The issues Jesus confronted in his time continue to surface in our struggles today: empire, social indifference masked as religious piety, war on the sick and the poor, ethnic struggles and boundary issues, and questions about what defines authentic family.

Tim: Now this week, the timeliness is especially intense as we look at an immigrant mother who challenges Jesus’s xenophobia. That probably makes a lot of people uncomfortable—to think that Jesus had some rough edges that needed attention.
Shea: That’s right. Mark shows us what happens when Jesus encounters a foreign woman whose love for her daughter compels her to risk her own humiliation as she begs Jesus to reconsider his feelings about people who don’t belong to his tribe. She actually teaches Jesus how faith and inclusion are intertwined. “All” means all for her and Jesus learns that from their interaction.

Tim: Wait. Are you saying Jesus doesn’t know it all?
Shea: The idea of a “teachable moment” for Jesus, well, that upsets a whole lot of the perfection we place on him. We talk about Jesus being fully human and fully God. But we don’t allow him to have a fully human experience, which includes getting it wrong sometimes, discovering the full the scope of his ministry, and, as a human, learning what godly compassion is all about. His own people don’t get him. But this Syrophoenician, pagan, foreign mother, she sees all that Jesus can be for her and everyone like her. And it’s she who teaches Jesus in this moment.

Tim: A fully human Jesus, who needs to unlearn some of the prejudices and assumptions his culture has put into him—that’s powerful stuff.
Shea: He calls this desperate woman a dog!

Tim: Why would Mark’s writer include such a story? It’s not Jesus’s finest moment.
Shea: Mark wants to show us we all have some unlearning to do in order to be taught. And to think that we don’t suggests we think we’re better than Jesus.

Tim: Which clearly we’re not.
Shea: This moment is pivotal in Mark’s Gospel, because it comes just before all the attention turns to Jerusalem, where Jesus will confront, and be confronted by, the evils of empire and religious bigotry at their most powerful and blatant. He has some learning to do!

Tim: There’s even more to this story and we’ll unpack it all this coming Thursday night!

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

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!

COMING SOON!

This Thursday, July 12: After a slightly shortened worship/study experience we’ll hold a brief congregational meeting to take care of some pressing business. If you are a regular Gatherer please do your best to be there!
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Sunday, July 15: We’ll meet more of our Austin-Oak Park neighbors at one of the weekly concerts in Scoville Park, at the corner of Lake St. and Oak Park Avenue. Bring a blanket, some refreshments, and big smile as we introduce ourselves to the neighborhood. Concert begins at 5:30–let’s assemble around 5p. See you there!
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Thursday, July 19: We will have our second worship experience led by our “virtual pastor” Shea Watts. The music will be great. The Word will be powerful. And the fellowship will be outstanding. Invite some friends and join us!

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.

Jesus, the Boundary Crosser

Embracing the Whole of Humanity

Shea: This week we’re looking at chapters five and six of Mark’s Gospel and I don’t know how else to say it except Jesus is crushing it.
Tim: The next two weeks give us some of the most famous miracles—feeding thousands of people (not once, but twice), curing a woman who’s been sick for 12 years, reviving a religious leader’s daughter and healing a pagan woman’s daughter, walking on water, and an exorcism that ends with 2000 drowned pigs. It’s all spectacular!
Shea: The earlier issues of clean and unclean, touchable and untouchable, who’s a sinner and who’s not, whether or not Jesus is crazy or possessed—none of the accusations hurled at him are sticking.
Tim: What’s more, we see a new pattern emerge with Jesus and his followers sailing back and forth across Lake Galilee. Mark’s writer cleverly uses geography to bolster the Gospels’ theme: the kingdom of God belongs to everyone.
Shea: When he’s on the west side of the lake, he’s talking to Jewish folks. But when he sails to the eastern shore he’s with Gentiles, folks who don’t worship the God of Israel, who don’t keep the Sabbath, who don’t obey all the clean and unclean rules that have occupied so much of the story up till now.
Tim: Yet the author is very careful to show us that what happens on the “Jewish” side of the lake also happens in the “Gentile” region. The mirroring is brilliant and the message is unmistakable.
Shea: Embracing the whole of humanity is Jesus’s mission. It’s central to God’s reign. And if we look at what he’s doing, the repentance Jesus calls for when he announces the kingdom of God is not a call for exclusivity, rigidity, piety, and other “religious” compulsions that cause so much pain. Jesus’s call is actually the opposite: to become more inclusive, more open-minded, more welcoming, and completely unconcerned about borders and boundaries, labels and locations.
Tim: How timely this lesson is right now! Jesus meets people in all kinds of trouble on both sides of the lake. On both sides, desperate parents whose children are endangered seek him out and Jesus is so moved by their faith he changes his policy to see the families are cared for. That alone should give us pause.
Shea: He also upsets an entire village when helping a deeply troubled man literally puts their pork-based economy under water. Something else we should think about, given our current proclivity to place financial gain over and above care for the neediest among us.
Tim: No amount of discomfort or disapproval can stop Jesus. In his mind, boundaries are for crossing, freedom is for taking, and the good news of the kingdom is for all people. And if we’re going to follow Jesus…
Shea: The road always takes us home, doesn’t it? “All” means ALL. Thursday night is going to be rich!

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

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!

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.

Parables

Jesus Talks in Parables! 

Tim: Let’s talk about parables this week.
Shea: Ah, yes, Jesus loves to tell parables. What’s the deal with these?
Tim: Well, they’re more than stories or anecdotes. Whereas many people see them as reversals, I think they’re more than that?
Shea: What do you mean?
Tim: Parables don’t simply reverse the social order; they do so while also establishing that reversal as the new norm. In this way, they are a dis-course, that is, meant to set us off one course and on another!
Shea: Interesting. Can we try one? Let’s do the Parable of the Mustard Seed from Mark 4:30-34.
Tim: Of course. Here Jesus is telling a parable about the message of the Kingdom of God (gospel) as the mustard seed. It begins with a tiny seed, but it grows to be large, and, most importantly, it offers shade and refuge for the birds of the air.
Shea: Okay, but it’s a plant, not a tree. It’s certainly not the largest, right?
Tim: Exactly! You can see something is up here. One of the interesting things about mustard plants is they can grow in a weed-like manner. In other words, when the mustard seed is planted, it grows and takes over. For that reason, planting them was *illegal*. So Jesus is intimating how the gospel message will grow (and take over) by using an illegal practice as his example. Others may think that the mustard seed yields a weed, but Jesus sees what it will be: a tree.
Shea: And what about the whole birds/refuge part?
Tim: I’m glad you asked! This is a continuation of the theme in the Hebrew Bible about the limitless reach of God’s kingdom. Like a tree, God’s kingdom gives refuge, shade, sustenance. If we think about how planting mustard seeds was illegal, then we can begin to see what Jesus is getting at. Farmers have an antagonistic relationship with birds; they typically come in and wreak havoc in the garden. Yet, it is the birds of the air that are welcomed to rest in the “shade” this parable. Thus, God’s kingdom is a shelter for those that are normally driven away (i.e., unwelcomed). Here, once again, we find radical inclusivity!
Shea: Wow, all of that packed into this one short parable? What a timely parable for us today…
Tim: Yes. And this is just one of many! We will be talking about another popular parable this week in our study Thursday night.
Shea: I cannot wait!

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

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!

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.

Public Ministry

The Jesus Crowd

Shea: Big week this week.
Tim: You bet. On Thursday night, we’re digging into the realities of Jesus’s ministry as reported in Mark—what this “kingdom of God” actually looks like, how it works, and why it’s so problematic for people who think they’ve got everything figured out. Then this coming Sunday we join the Chicago Coalition of Welcoming Churches for the 2018 Pride Parade. As always, the Coalition will show up in a big way and it’s going to be a thrilling first step into public ministry for Gather.
Shea: Speaking of public ministry, the Mark passages we’re looking at are all about the Jesus crowd. They also show up in a big way very early on and they make big trouble for Jesus. Why is that? It would seem that Jesus’s ability to draw lots of people would give him some street cred. Everybody loves an overnight success story.
Tim: The problem with the Jesus crowd is that it’s the wrong kind of people. There’s a perfectly good Greek word  for “the people.” But Mark uses a word that actually means “mob.” The original readers immediately got it; he was describing alleged sinners and social outcasts, supposedly unfit people and every imaginable kind of “unclean” person. Yet there they are, crowded around Jesus, becoming his supporting cast while he confronts evil, heals diseases, and challenges the Religious Right of his day. In fact, he shames his critics for questioning why he’s hanging out with this crowd!
Shea: So you think Jesus would have no problem marching in the Pride Parade.
Tim: It’s more like a Pride Parade keeps popping up wherever Jesus goes. These folks aren’t trying to prove anything. They get what Jesus is up to. Sure, some of them are in profound need. And some of them are there for the show. I imagine quite a few show up because they heard a party always breaks out when Jesus is in the house. But Mark never criticizes them the way he dishes the disciples and religious fanatics.
Shea: Why is that?
Tim: Because Jesus makes it very clear that he’s come for them—not to belittle or condemn them, but rather to forgive and embrace them. And he’s okay if that upsets the fanatics. “You don’t put new wine in old bottles,” he says. Jesus never turned down a reason to celebrate.
Shea: And that makes a lot of folks nervous.
Tim: They should be nervous—for lots of reasons we’ll get into this coming Thursday.
Shea: I can’t wait to see where this goes!

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

PRIDE OUTREACH – SUNDAY, JUNE 24
Gather will worship with the Lighthouse Church (4713 N. Broadway, Chicago) in a special 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!

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!

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.

Jesus, The Way Maker

Living the Good News

Tim: Growing up Pentecostal, I often heard of Jesus’ many miracles. Whether it was casting out demons or healing the sick, Jesus is busy helping people in Mark’s gospel.
Shea: He wastes no time; there is no downtime in Mark.
Tim: But let’s talk about this. Why all the miracles?
Shea: Well, for Mark, it is important to establish Jesus’ authority from the get-go. It’s why after calling the first four disciples, Jesus moves into his local synagogue and teaches with authority. That authority is then exercised when he casts out the unclean spirit from the man. The people notice Jesus’ authority, even over spirits, even a power to heal, yet they do not know where the authority comes from.
Tim: And as one with divine authority, it doesn’t take long before Jesus gets in trouble.
Shea: Nope! Right after Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, Jesus heals after the Sabbath sunset – a huge no-no! We will see, time and time again, that Jesus gets in trouble for doing the right thing at the wrong time. (Of course, the lesson here is that there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing!)
Tim: It also seems to me that Jesus can be read as socially restoring people with these acts?
Shea: Exactly. Notice the first man has an “unclean spirit.” We often think evil, even demonic, but unclean here is a buzzword that would pique one’s interest. There were very strict rules in Judaism within a paradigm of clean/unclean. As such, Jesus follows up this first cleansing with healing a leper (someone seen as unclean), that is, touching someone who was considered untouchable. It is clear, then, that from the beginning, Jesus, as the one inaugurating and enacting the Kingdom of God, has come to remove physical, spiritual, and social boundaries. That which was once unclean is how clean. There is no “outside” of God’s love.
Tim: I love that Jesus tells the once-leperous man to not say anything to anyone but the priest. In that way, it restores the man’s ability to worship God and to do so as someone that is clean, one that has dignity, one that is restored.
Shea: Love that! Yet, the story tells us the man went out and “declared it freely.” Jesus, the man from Nazareth, has compassion for these people, but he has no time for the religious rules that categorize clean/unclean or create rules that control and restrict others under the auspices of piety. People come to him in droves, desperate for this good news.
Tim: So Jesus: healer, exorcist, and rule breaker?
Shea: And so much more. Jesus is showing us the Way to new life in the Kingdom, to a personal connection with God, to relationships with others. I cannot wait to jump back into Mark’s fast-paced storytelling this Thursday night!

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

PRIDE OUTREACH – SUNDAY, JUNE 24
Gather will worship with the Lighthouse Church (4713 N. Broadway, Chicago) in a special 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!

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!

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 STORY OF JESUS

Action Hero

Shea: It’s no secret that Mark is your favorite Gospel.
Tim: I love all the Gospels. But I guess Mark is my favorite because of how direct Jesus is. He’s on a mission and he’s not messing around.
Shea: And yet people can’t recognize who he is. The disciples don’t seem to know. The Pharisees and Religious Right can’t figure out what to do with him. For the longest time, nobody puts it together and realizes Jesus is the Christ.
Tim: Well, Mark knows. He’s tells us as much is in the first sentence of his book. And, rather interestingly, evil spirits recognize Jesus. They know they’re in big trouble whenever he shows up. They cry, “What do you want with us?” Then Jesus sends them packing.
Shea: Compared to the other Gospels, Jesus doesn’t talk much in Mark.
Tim: That’s right. You won’t find long discourses and convoluted debates in Mark. Even the parables are quick and to the point. The writer is using a journalistic approach, showing us how this Jesus Movement got started, how it nearly got shut down, and why it ultimately couldn’t be stopped. God was working out a new kind of idea, a bigger, better plan for the world, a way of living unlike anything before it.
Shea: The Way was how the first believers described their devotion as Jesus followers.
Tim: And that’s Mark’s big theme. Prepare the way of the Lord, a revolutionary, all-encompassing idea that led not only to God but also to a new way of life that subverted everything the Roman Empire stood for: power, greed, materialism, militarism, slavery, exploitation of poor people, corrupt leadership, and excesses of every kind, including religious overkill.
Shea: Yet in the middle of so much wickedness Jesus declares, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.”
Tim: In Mark’s Gospel, the reign of God is all of a piece. You can’t do the God thing without the justice thing. And justice won’t work if you leave God out of it. To repent is to change direction, to reject what passes as justice and embrace what’s truly just. God is establishing a new order, and Jesus is leading the charge. That’s why we follow Jesus, why we sign on to be radical disciples. God’s up to something and we want to be part of it.
Shea: We need this Gospel now more than ever.
Tim: All you have to do is open your newsfeed to see how far we’ve strayed from the Way. Mark has never been timelier.

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

PRIDE OUTREACH – SUNDAY, JUNE 24
Gather will worship with the Lighthouse Church (4713 N. Broadway, Chicago) in a special 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!

GRACE & GRATITUDE

The Content of Faith

Tim: As I reflect on this week’s topic of Grace & Gratitude, I can’t recall us ever talking about either one in great detail. That surprises me, given how much time we spend talking about faith, encouraging and praying for one another, and so on. Can you recall our conversations every going that direction?
Shea: Are you kidding? We talk about grace and gratitude constantly! When we say, “Watch God work!” are we not saying, “God’s grace is more than enough and if we let God work, we’ll be grateful about it!” At least, that’s what I rely on when I say, “Watch God work!”
Tim: No, you’re right. “Watch God work” is so important because grace makes it all possible and gratitude is the natural response to grace. But I’m very interested in your notion of relying on grace and gratitude. Isn’t that what most of us call faith?
Shea: Yes, of course. Faith relies on God’s ability to work in our lives even while it anticipates outcomes that inspire thankfulness.
Tim: Dozens of scriptures come to mind. “Above all we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20) and “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen” (Heb. 12:1) and on and on and on. I could do faith pull-quotes all day!
Shea: Yes, but what’s in your faith?
Tim: What do you mean?
Shea: By itself, faith isn’t much better than wishing. That’s how it gets distorted into a lot of things it was never meant to be, like certainty or magic or superstition. The theologian Paul Tillich pressed against these misconceived ideas by insisting faith needs content. Faith is reliance on God. But what exactly are we depending on? That’s less clear. That’s where grace and gratitude come in.
Tim: So you’re saying grace and gratitude are what faith is made of.
Shea: Think of faith as container. When we open it up, what’s inside? First, there’s grace, or God’s unconditional love and mercy given to us without merit. We rely entirely on grace, because grace makes faith possible. Grace is what makes room for our doubts and questions, along with our confidence and trust. Grace enables us to live with the contradictions. Without opening our eyes to the miracle of grace, we’d be oblivious to how God is working in our lives despite the contradictions. “Was blind but now I see,” is how the “Amazing Grace” poet put it. Once awareness of grace enables us to watch God work, a well of gratitude naturally springs up within us.
Tim: And that gratitude enables us to see even more ways that grace is shown to us.
Shea: Which leads to more gratitude. It’s a beautifully constructed ecosystem that we call “faith.” But we’ll get to all of that this coming Thursday night.

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:
  • This 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.
  • Thursday, June 7: We start our new study series, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time (see below).
  • 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!

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.