Doing church differently. | Questions. Answers. Doubts. Faith. All. Welcome. Here. |

Doing church differently.     |     Questions. Answers. Doubts. Faith. All. Welcome. Here.     |
​Content copyright 2013. The Gathering. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

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the Gathering
Questions. Answers. Doubts. Faith.

All. Welcome. Here.

Getting Together
As we gather we fill our coffee cups,
find a seat and enjoy some music,
you are welcome  to join in singing
(in fact we encourage it).

We’re glad you’re here!

Community Sharing & Prayer
We take a few moments to share our lives
with one another and pray.
(Participate as you are comfortable.)

Scripture & Message
We read from the Bible and explore it together.

Gathering at Table
Sometimes called Eucharist, The Lord’s Supper,
or Holy Communion this is a simple meal
where our lives meet up with God’s life.
Everyone is welcome at this table.
To best welcome all, we use unfermented wine (juice) and offer the option of an allergy free wafer (gluten/yeast/wheat/dairy/egg/soy/corn).

The Take Away
What happens here doesn't stay here!
We are given a challenge and we sing a closing song.


Go in Peace!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Summer Schedule :: Lindenwood Park :: 10:10am

We're taking the Gathering to the great outdoors this summer!
Starting this Sunday (June 1st) until Labor Day, we'll be worshiping in Lindenwood Park. We're also changing it up a bit by starting our service at 10:10 a.m. and have it reserved for a half day (until 3 p.m.), which means we can have potluck picnics on occasion. We hope you'll join on this new adventure!

Summer Schedule :: Lindenwood Park :: all at 10:10am
6.1 - Shelter #4
6.8 - Main Shelter
6.15 - Main Shelter
6.22 - Shelter #3
6.29 - Rotary Shelter
7.6 - Rotary Shelter
7.13 - Shelter # 2
7.20 - Habitat Work Site
7.27 - Main Shelter
8.3 - Main Shelter
8.10 - Main Shelter
8.17 - Rotary Shelter
8.24 - Shelter #4
8.31 - Main Shelter

And here's a handy, little map to guide you to the proper shelter:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sunday Summary: Palm Sunday

On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the week before his death and resurrection. Often referred to as "Passion Sunday," this marks the beginning of Holy Week, which concludes on Easter Sunday.

Palm Sunday celebrates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to observe Passover. The gospel records the arrival of Jesus riding into the city on a donkey, while the crowds spread their cloaks and palm branches on the street and shouted "Hosanna to the Son of David" and "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" to honor him as their long-awaited Messiah and King.

The significance of Jesus riding a donkey and having his way paved with palm branches is a fulfillment of a prophecy spoken by the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9). In biblical times, the custom was for kings and nobles to arrive in procession on the backs of donkeys.

The donkey was a symbol of peace; those who rode upon them proclaimed peaceful intentions. The laying of palm branches indicated that the king or dignitary was arriving in victory or triumph.

Throughout Jesus’ three-year ministry, he downplayed his role as Messiah and sometimes even told people whom he healed not to say anything about the miracle to others. Palm Sunday is the one exception in which his followers loudly proclaimed his glory to all.

In the simplest of terms, Palm Sunday is an occasion for reflecting on the final week of Jesus' life.

Written by Kay Weiss, guest blogger

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sunday Summary: Unbound - Raising Lazarus from the Dead

As part of our theme of walking with Jesus this Lenten season, our story comes from John 11:1-45 (The Living Bible). Here's a quick summary of the parable of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead:

Do you remember Mary, the woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her hair? Well, her brother Lazarus became ill. So, she and her sister, Martha, sent a message to Jesus asking for a miracle.

The disciples warned against the journey, as Jesus has recently been threatened by Jewish leaders in the area. Instead of rushing off to help his friend, Jesus stayed where he was for several days before traveling to him. He told the disciples, “Lazarus is dead. And for your sake, I am glad I wasn't there, for this will give you another opportunity to believe in me. Come, let’s go to him.” 

Upon arriving in Bethany, they were told that Lazarus had been in his tomb for four days. Mary, surrounded by Jewish leaders, stayed grieving at the house. But Martha went to meet Jesus and said, “Sir, if you had been here, my brother wouldn't have died. And even now it’s not too late, for I know that God will bring my brother back to life again.”

Jesus told her, “I am the one who raises the dead and gives them life again. Anyone who believes in me, even though he dies like anyone else, shall live again."

Lazarus' tomb was nothing more than a cave with a heavy stone rolled across the entrance. Jesus, the sisters and the Jewish leaders, along with the disciples all went to the tomb and rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, of course, but I said it because of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me." Then he shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”

And Lazarus came out—bound in grave clothes. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” And when the Jewish leaders saw this, they finally believed.

In his sermon, Cody talked about past trips to Peru for mission work. There's a monastery there, in the city of Lima, that's a "must-see" called the Convento de San Francisco. Beneath the church lie ancient catacombs, Lima's first graveyard. It is estimated to contain 70,000 burials. Bones line up along narrow hallways underneath the church, and one area contains several large and deep holes, filled with bones and skulls arranged above each other in circular patterns.

When you visit, you can tour the catacombs—which Cody admits is a bit of an eerie adventure. It's dark, musty, and cramped as you wind your way through the tunnels... but every so often, you come across a grate in the ceiling that opens up to the cathedral above. And you can see all the way up to the Spanish Baroque lattice dome—a grand sight, especially from the catacombs.

Perhaps the tomb of Lazarus and the catacombs of Convento de San Francisco are a metaphor for our difficult, everyday lives. It's dank and dark, and oppressive and hard. It's like living in a basement graveyard or a hole in a wall—with a limited and depressing view of what life is. In this scripture, Jesus calls Lazarus by name to "come out!" from the tomb.

Maybe we all need to come out—from under oppression, from a negative mindset, from our self-imposed tombs. Come out and be alive. Be unbound. Be set free! Maybe we need to think above death, outside the box of our coffins. The view upward is limitless.

Go. Be. Do.

Written by Kay Weiss, guest blogger

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sunday Summary: Living Water - The Woman at the Well

The parable of the Woman at the Well is the longest one-on-one conversation with Jesus in recorded history — reason enough to give the woman from Samaria a fresh look. We don't know her name or age, but her story is important. Our scripture reading was from John 4:5-30 (The Message).

Let's set the scene...
It was noon on a hot day. Jesus, tired from traveling, stopped to rest at Jacob's well outside the town of Sychar. This was a bold move in and of itself, as Jews avoided Samaria at all costs. (They were often beaten and robbed for crossing over the border.)

When a woman appeared with a watering bucket in hand, Jesus made a simple request: "Will you give me a drink?"

It may seem like a small request, but back in the day, Jews weren't supposed to talk to Samaritans (they were enemies) and men weren't allowed to talk to women without their husbands present. Also, rabbis wouldn't be caught dead speaking to a shady lady, such as this woman (who had been married 5 times and was living with a man who wasn't her husband).

Jesus was willing to throw out the rules, but the woman at the well wasn't. "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman," she reminded him. "How can you ask me for a drink?" She focused on the law; Jesus focused on grace.

It was an incredibly scandalous and radical move. How would this relate to a story in our world today? Imagine the President of the United States traveling in his limo through the streets of Detroit. He stops in the seediest neighborhood and gets out to speak with a prostitute and asks her for a drink. How's that for radical?!? 

Jesus had a remarkable conversation with this woman. She had been an outsider and not an upstanding citizen in the eyes of her community, and here, the Messiah was asking her for a drink of water. When she questioned his actions, Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.” The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? 

She didn't understand that he was speaking, not of earthly water, but of salvation. That happens a lot in scripture. Jesus is talking about things way up here (imagine my hand stretched up as high as I can reach), while we're all living down here... on earth.

This story is God doing a new thing. Jesus, the prophet of Samaritans and Jews alike, is telling her that it doesn't matter where they worship or what their differences are... they're all equal in the eyes of God. Jesus brings himself down to her level, to offer her salvation, and break the social barrier.

The woman recognizes his greatness and rushes back to town to tell everyone she knows what she has just seen. Before long, more Samaritans return to the well to meet the him. This woman, now his disciple, brings the people to Jesus. How's that for women in leadership?

What does this parable teach us? 
For one, it teaches us to be inclusive and welcoming to ALL people... even our enemies, even people that are outsiders, and yes, even people of "ill repute." Maybe we should even be especially welcoming toward these people, as Jesus was. It's so easy to want to overlook them or push them to the edges of society and judge them for their mistakes. So, here's your reminder, don't judge someone just because they sin differently than you. God's kingdom is open to all.

And secondly, this is a call to action in our world today. It's a call to come to the well, and drink of it... and to offer it — the "living water" — to our brothers and sisters, here on earth. Let us be Jacob's Well.

Go. Be. Do.

Written by Kay Weiss, guest blogger

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sunday Summary: New Beginnings - Sarah's Story

A couple of weeks ago, Cody approached Chad (my husband) and I and asked if we would use the sermon time on March 15 to share our stories of why we walked away from the church for a while, and how we came back. Formulating my story was a challenge, but it was helpful to me, and I was grateful for the chance to share it.

I grew up in a Methodist Church. As a child, God was my friend. Later, God was my Savior and healer, helping me to get out of all the messes I managed to get myself into (and there were many, but that’s another story). 

Some kids are into sports, some are into video games  I was into church. It was my favorite place to be. I enjoyed being together with others and worshiping, or just discussing God and how His love made life beautiful. 

So from the time I was little, I wanted to be in ministry. I remember wanting to be a pastor as a little kid, but a trusted adult once told me that girls really shouldn't be pastors (which I totally bought back then  can you believe that?). I was also a bit intimidated by the examples I had seen – all the pastors I had ever met were pretty awesome people, and I wasn't sure I could meet that mark. So I played around with other career ideas, but nothing ever fit like ministry did. It was just where I belonged, and God has given me many beautiful and affirming experiences over the years to assure me that I’m heading in the right direction.

I went to the University of North Dakota (go Sioux!) and earned my degree in religion. My plan was to continue immediately into seminary from there. UND has a really great program and really helped me grow, but being what it is, it really took all my preconceived notions and everything I had taken for granted to be true about God and the Bible and tore them apart.

I quickly found out that the Bible can be  and is  interpreted in many different ways. Of course, most people think their interpretation is the right one. As the semesters went by, I started to wonder: if everything I had ever known wasn't as solid as I thought it was, what exactly was the truth? 

And I started to think: maybe I don’t know exactly what this whole Christianity thing is anymore.
And maybe I don’t really know who God is anymore.

While all of this was going on, a good friend of mine came out of the closet to me, and to support her, I went with her to meetings of the Ten Percent Society (which is a club on campus for LGBTQ individuals and their allies). While there, I made a lot of great friends. I also heard a lot of horror stories  and witnessed some myself  where a lot of Christians were just downright mean and hateful if they found out someone wasn't straight. One girl was told there was still hope for her as long as she repented and became straight, and one church even asked a committed couple to sit in separate pews so as not to be “tempted” by each other. 

These were not isolated incidents in one church – the more I saw and heard, I realized this stuff was happening all over.

I was also attending meetings of a small campus Christian group. These were good people, and they were often a great encouragement to me in my faith. But one particular meeting, someone brought up the “problem” of homosexuality and its prevalence on campus, which was followed by a “brainstorming” session as to how to solve the problem. I couldn't believe it. 

But not knowing what to say, I was a coward, and I sat and said nothing. 

And you know what? I’m ashamed to admit this, but, I found myself hiding the fact that I was in TPS from my Christian friends, and hiding that I was a Christian from my TPS friends. 

That was when I gave up. Between not even knowing what “the truth” was anymore, and seeing the hurt that God’s people were causing, I threw away my seminary applications, and called it quits.

While all this was going on, I met and fell in love with Chad and we were married, and then we had our precious daughter, and life just moved on. I was hurt, and didn't want a lot to do with the church, but I started going again when our baby was a year old because I wanted her to grow up in the church like I had.

It didn't happen overnight, but over time, God healed me. And eventually I figured out two major things:

1)   I didn’t have to have all the answers. I will probably never have all the answers. And questions and doubts are not bad. At the risk of sounding cliché, I realized that faith was a journey, not a destination.

2)   Churches are made of people, and people can be mean and hurtful, because people are broken. But God is not broken. And there are loving and accepting people and churches out there. I think the Gathering is a great example.

So, don’t shy away from God or the Bible or faith because you don’t have all the answers. You don’t have to understand the book of Revelation to reach out and be the love of God to someone. 

Just remember Luke 10:27  love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, love your neighbor as you love yourself. 
God will take care of the rest.

 Written by Sarah Beth Green, guest blogger

Friday, March 7, 2014

Sunday Summary: Misunderstood? Do I need to be "Born Again?"

When I saw this listed as an upcoming discussion in the bulletin, I knew it would determine my future with the Gathering. You see, this phrase, "born again" is very loaded and has a lot of negative connotations for me. It probably evokes strong emotions for many of you as well, whether good or bad.

Here's my story: 
I grew up in the Lutheran Church. My dad was a pastor. He died suddenly when I was 9 years old.

I never remember hearing this phrase "born again" in our church as a child. I'm pretty sure we didn't talk about it. After my father's death, we moved back to our hometown and found a new church.

In middle school, I had a few friends whose families started attending a different new church in town. Services were held each Sunday at the roller skating rink. I'm not sure what their denomination or affiliation was, but they did weird things there... really weird things that we never did in our church --- old or new.

People raised their hands and swayed while singing. Many spoke in tongues during the service. They preached (almost exclusively) from the Book of Revelation and spoke of end times.... And they claimed to be "saved" and "born again." They also insisted that anyone who wasn't born again, wasn't getting into heaven.

All my life, I had been told that you just need to believe in God, treat others as Jesus did, and know that your sins are forgiven by Christ's death on the cross, if you ask for his grace. What was this being "born again" stuff?

I didn't like it one bit. I still don't. A quick Google search just now brought up some info from that church's website:
"Those who have not accepted the redemptive work of Jesus Christ will suffer eternal separation from the Godhead.  The devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life, shall be consigned to everlasting punishment in the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. This is the second death, the lake of fire."
 - Reference: Revelations 19:20; Revelations 20:10-15
Other testimonials fill the pages:
"I made a personal commitment to Christ 27 years ago. I have studied the Bible the past 27 years and have had many experiences to practice the Word and prove God's faithfulness to fulfill His promises." 

"[We] invite you to come and find out that God desires to give you the kingdom!"

Yeah... I don't even know what to say about that. I feel like there should be an asterisk at the end of these statements with the disclaimer, "some exclusions apply."

At the time, some of this "gospel" they were spouting sounded pretty questionable, or at least worth doing research to verify whether it actually came from the bible. Even at the tender age of 12, I was a skeptic.

I didn't know the word "cult" at the time, but I could see how certain personalities got swept up in the concept. This authoritarian figure, like a preacher (though with no formal seminary training), was telling the congregation and anyone else who would listen, that "true Christianity" and the path to heaven was available only to God's chosen people --- those who repented and were saved, and were born again from the womb of Christ. All others, even people who identified as Christians but had not be been born again, would surely perish in Hell-fire. Any misstep or questioning, and your sinner's soul would burn for all of eternity.

It seemed too exclusive. Too judgmental. Too definite. Like, "You're telling me that only you and the people that think EXACTLY like you, are going to heaven? No one else?" It didn't jive with my concept of God, even then in my still-forming adolescent brain. The thought that my dad --- a man of God, who had spent his life spreading the gospel and showing Jesus' love to others --- hadn't gone to heaven because he had not been "born again." It makes me angry to this day to think about it. If that was "true Christianity," I wanted no part of it.

For a good part of the last 15 years, I have intentionally avoided church, attending only at Christmas and Easter, and only then to appease my mother. I've explored other religions and atheism. Though I've always retained a belief in God and felt a spiritual connection, I really disliked organized religion... Until I found the Gathering.

I'll admit, I was hesitant initially... but knowing that it was a place that was open to questions and doubts, believers and non-believers, ALL people, regardless of race, color, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or familial status --- I thought it was worth exploring. And I'm glad I did.

So, back to Sunday's sermon on being "born again." Our scripture reading came from John 3:1-16 (NIV), which in part, reads:
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Cody explained in his sermon that this has become somewhat the center of western Christianity. To those who have a had an experience of "rebirth in Christ," it is an affirmation and an uplifting part of your story... but he cautioned that it doesn't automatically mean that you are faithful or without sin.

He asked if we had any interesting stories from our own birth... and let me tell you, there were some good ones! But we don't spend our entire lives talking about our birth. In fact, that's probably not something we talk about at all, unless a friend or family member is having a baby. It's simply not a part of our daily lives to discuss how we came into this world. Though it may be when our lives began, our lives don't revolve around that moment.

So why should our Christian lives revolve around being "born again?"

In short, they shouldn't. It's not the end all, be all of our lives as Christians. And the pressure for some to have the experience of being "born again" is sometimes enough to make us rearrange our story or fabricate some grand rebirth tale.

The story of Nicodemus, as told in John 3, is often taken out of context, and without consideration for what was, even at the time, a misunderstanding. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, which probably most closely relates to the profession of a lawyer today. He was a literal-thinker, a "rule guy," if you will, and saw the world in black and white. His fellow Pharisees were very suspect of this Jesus-guy that was stirring the pot in their city. Jesus was a rule-breaker, a dissident, a non-conformist. And they didn't like him one bit.

Nicodemus was curious though, and came to Jesus under the cover of darkness. He asked what he needed to do to become part of the family of God. Jesus answered that he needed to be born again. Nicodemus, being the concrete thinker that he was, took this literally.
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
 He was confused by the language and interpreted it as a riddle. The Hebrew word which Jesus likely used "anōthen" has multiple meanings: anew; from above; again... which may have lead to the confusion. 

Today, we look at it from a different perspective. Don't get hung up on rules and regulations. Jesus says that all God's people are welcome to the kingdom of heaven. Your physical birth, lineage, or bloodline isn't a factor. And your spiritual birth isn't the main point of the story either. God's family is open to all. 

Each day can be a rebirth in Christ. Each day can be filled with new life and new hope. Each day is given to us from above, and has potential for us to receive God's love into our lives. If you have a "moment of awe" or of God's presence or a "born again" experience, take it as a reminder of God's love and an affirmation of your faith. 

You may have many of these experiences or moments in your life. Put them to work. Use them to do housekeeping of your personal and spiritual affairs. Ask what's keeping you from love, faithfulness, or kindness in  your life. Use these moments as an opportunity for a fresh start and reminder of God's unconditional love for you. That wind you feel blowing? That's the spirit of God. Let it breathe new life into you.

Go. Be. Do.

 Written by Kay Weiss, guest blogger

I just came across this article, The Problem With a Rigid View of God and it says so many things I couldn't put into words on the page. Definitely worth the quick read:
None of us are experts when it comes to God ... So it is best to operate from humility; from a stance of “I could be wrong…”