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I Corinthians 12

12 Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many. 13 We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink. 14 Certainly the body isn’t one part but many. 15 If the foot says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not a hand,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? 16 If the ear says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not an eye,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, what would happen to the hearing? And if the whole body were an ear, what would happen to the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God has placed each one of the parts in the body just like he wanted. 19 If all were one and the same body part, what would happen to the body? 20 But as it is, there are many parts but one body. 21 So the eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” or in turn, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 22 Instead, the parts of the body that people think are the weakest are the most necessary.

This week the importance of this passage from scripture came into my life twice. I think it may be one of the wisest metaphors ever written about the body and about living in relationship with others.

This week I broke the first, smallest knuckle on my pinky finger playing volleyball in the local Tuesday night gay volleyball league. I'm set for surgery tomorrow morning to pin the joint back into place. The last phrase of the scripture about the weakest parts of the body being most necessary is a lesson I am learning every moment this week as I constantly notice ways that we use pinky fingers and never think about it!

But the wisdom of this passage goes far deeper than pinkies. During the week this week one of our members got really upset with another member of our congregation. Every time I tried to help mediate the situation I kept hearing this passage in the background. If we are one body--which we are--then even when we disagree with one another, we cannot sever the relationship. If we are one body, that would be like an eye saying to a hand I do not need you. Let me tell you, I love and need each one of you. We are each a precious creation of God, led here by the Holy Spirit.

While my eye might not have thought much about my pinky before this week, it is pretty much all my body is focused on now. Even if you feel like you are sometimes overlooked, remember that every part of God's body (the church) is here for a reason. I hope to see YOU on Sunday.

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Last Sunday in worship, Pastor Lillie helped us explore what it might be like to live out a "We Culture" instead of an "I Culture." Many of you asked for the principles she shared for living in a "We Culture" so here they are:

  • It is more important to get right than to be right

  • When you are part of a "we" group, it is not about you

  • Be loving and kind, it is not that hard (and if it is hard, it’s on you, not on others)

  • Be vulnerable...it is the best way to open your heart

  • The impact of your communication matters just as much as your intent

  • When there is conflict, go directly to the one with whom you have the conflict

  • Learn to have a "viewing point" rather than a "point of view"

  • Care for each other every day, not just on the days when there is a crisis

  • Show up

As we get closer to starting our new Meetup Groups, we'll have more and more opportunities to learn to live a "We Culture" together. Get yourself signed up for a group and get ready to make new friends, have fun and grow in your faith!

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If you missed it last Sunday, we launched our new Meetup Groups, which will begin gathering during the first week of October. We are not holding any other programs or classes this Fall in an effort to encourage everyone to give Meetup Groups a try.

Each group is organized around different interests, and with 12 different groups (like the apostles!) meeting 6 out 7 days a week, there is sure to be a group that has things you are interested in! From Gardeners to Swing Dance Learners to Readers to TV watchers, there are groups for all different types of interests. So far over 100 people have already joined a group! To explore the 12 groups, simply click here.

Know that these groups will meet for 10 weeks, so this is not a forever commitment. After each semester, we will open a new slate of groups, so there will always be new ways to meet friends. And that is main goal. We hope that these groups will help you build better and more friendships with the amazing people in our church!

So, take a look at the groups and see which one is for you!

If you have any questions, the group leaders will be available on Sundays throughout September to talk with you about the Meetup Groups.

Why am I a Christian?

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I want to be honest . . . there are SO many reasons not to be a Christian anymore. Just about every day I see more reasons not to be a Christian than I see reasons to remain one. Still, there is something inside me that clings to my own experience of God through the life, ministry and courage of Jesus. There is something palpable about my love for the Jesus I have grown to know.

As a self-identified entrepreneur, one of the things that causes me to follow Jesus is that I see him as one, too. Jesus did not set out to form a new religion and never even knew the term Christian. He did, however, have the courage, creativity, and determination to forge a new way of understanding God. 

           He did fly in the face of his own religious culture

                       He did offer compassion to whoever needed it

                                   He did “see” people who were different than he was

                                               He did support spreading wealth and seeking justice for all

                                                           He did preach that everyone is loved by God

                                                                       He did live as fully human with purpose . . .

In other words, Jesus was willing, despite every possible resistance and challenge, to do something new . . . to show another facet of God . . . to see the rough places and the thin places and the unconventional places where God lives, too! More than anything else, that is why I am a Christian. God sent Jesus to show me that seeing what others don’t see is my fully human life with purpose. What is your fully human life with purpose? What faith will it take for you to see something new and see it through until the very end? What courage will it take for you to doubt your doubts and have faith in your faith?

The world is changing. The spiritual landscape is shifting in a big way. The culture we live in is being made over. Is it any wonder that God is calling us to something new? Is it any wonder that God gave us Jesus to show us how to do it? 

So, here we are. Will we be the kind of Christians who are courageous and faithful or the ones who cling to all the rules that “used to be”? I want to challenge all of us to envision a movement that is still being formed and molded by Spirit and is being revealed to us in every moment . . . IF we are willing to see what others never will.

Be blessed by newness,

Pastor Lillie

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Sometimes it is the simplest things in life that have the greatest impact. A number of years ago I watched a five-year-old named Aharon give a fellow church member a penny. The man was obviously having a rough time, and Aharon turned to him and said, “Here take my penny. I found it yesterday, and it was a lucky penny, you know? Head’s up. It should help make things better.” And it did. Not because the penny was lucky, but because in Aharon’s hands it became worth far more than one cent. It transported the man into a new and better reality.

The problems of this world are too much when we begin to think about how we might overcome them all. And yet, if we are to learn anything from Aharon, we must consider whether the real solution is found in seeking world-changing ideas. Perhaps the best path is in the small stuff? Rather than trying to solve the world's biggest problems, maybe we can give a single person a reason for renewed hope or just help transport them for a moment to better reality.

That is small-scale change, no doubt. But, it is miraculously large in its impact. In my view of Jesus, he was more of a penny-sharing kind of world-changer anyway. What do you think?

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I Corinthians 4:8-9

"We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."

According to neuro-scientists, our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second! What? That seems unreal, doesn’t it? But it is true! Of course, these bits of information are largely processed by our unconscious mind. According to the same neuro-scientists, we are only able to process 5-9 thoughts in our conscious mind in any given moment! Essentially, one could conclude, that we are all walking around unconscious!

Most of us feel the sting every single day of the enormous number of stimuli that come into our experience as humans. It is overwhelming often, taxing regularly, stressful sometimes, and reasonable occasionally. We are pressed on every side as we try to juggle all the balls that are part of our daily experience. 

It is little wonder that our culture seems to have become mindless...unaware of what is happening right in front of us...oblivious to the needs of those all around us...numb to the ways we treat one another...asleep to the basic courtesies that were once part of our living fabric. 

So, mindfulness, begins with recognizing that our common experience is not very mindful–that we are sleepwalking through much of our daily lives blind and crashing into things. We stumble from place to place caught in a whirlwind of thoughts, missing what is right in front of our nose. Often, the storm of thoughts is not pleasant to be caught up in. We ruminate over what someone said earlier, what we should have said in reply, what happened ten years ago, or what we have to do tomorrow. Our minds are exhausting, and therefore, we may feel exhausted.

The mindful approach is to invite a gap in the endless stream of thoughts and emotions. We train ourselves to wake up; to open a door and let in some fresh air and space. We allow ourselves to be present to the energy of our experience, right here, right now. We discover the possibility of waking up to how things are in each moment. We explore what it means to pay attention to what is going on in our body, our mind, and our environment.

The scripture written at the beginning of this devotion, invites us to a way of life that is mindful and reminds us that when we are present to the Spirit (who is in all the moments of life), then...

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

So what will it be for you...mindless or mindful? Choose well!

Here’s to being present!

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I have been so blessed to serve as one of the pastors at MCCGSL for the past 4 1/2 years.  Our journey has been filled with love, laughter, trials and tears.  I know that I am better because I have been here.  You have touched my life and have shaped my ministry forever.  I know that God is going to continue doing amazing things at MCCGSL.  Love one another and continue to grow together.  Tell people what you love about MCCGSL and invite them to come to church with you.

I hope that you will join me on Sunday as I preach my last sermon and celebrate our ministry together after worship.  

I leave you with these words by Brené Brown from her book, The Gifts of Imperfection.  "To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn't come with guarantees - these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But, I'm learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace."

I fiercely love MCCGSL with my whole heart and I know that God has a plan for me and God has a plan for you. May we live joy-filled lives that abound with gratitude and grace!

Blessings,

Pastor Katie

Pineapple Hospitality

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Because I grew up in the South, I have long been familiar with the pineapple as a symbol of hospitality.  If you travel through the cities in the south, you will see that the pineapple adorns statues, gates, door knockers, wallpaper, bedposts and on and on.

In early colonization, the pineapple became a delicacy because of its rarity and delicious juice.  Europeans had never encountered such a fruit so when it was served to guests, they felt particularly welcomed and honored.  As time went by, the pineapple was used in other ways, as well.  For example, in the deep south, if a pineapple was found on your porch in the morning, it indicated that your neighbor wanted to sit in the swing with you and visit.  Additionally, when sailors would come home, a pineapple would be speared and placed in front of the sailor’s home as a sign that there would be friendship, warmth and a welcome home party for the sailor.

Today, the pineapple is the international symbol for hospitality.  In my native Alabama, pineapple upside down cake is a delicacy and if you serve it in your home, you are communicating to guests that they are warmly and enthusiastically welcomed.  It symbolizes that the host desires for you to feel warmth, friendship and comfort while in their home.

Every week, we have guests in our church home.  We believe ourselves to be welcoming and always inclusive but it never hurts, from time to time, to check and see how many pineapple upside down cakes there are when visitors enter our doors!?  Are you one of the pineapple upside down cakes?  Is our welcome warm, comforting and enthusiastic?  Will our guests leave and understand why we say that our church is a place where Everyone Belongs?  I pray that our welcome can become like a pineapple . . . a delicacy of sweetness and warmth.

RESURRECTION!

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This week the pastor of the MCC in Omaha, Nebraska, shared this picture on his Facebook page with the message, "Perhaps this image can be a metaphor for Christianity in the West."

For more than 20 years people have been discussing the decline and possible death of Christianity in the Western World (basically meaning Europe and North America). As I chatted with my colleague from Omaha, one of the things we discussed is the irony that for decades Christians have worried about the death of our faith...even though we practice a faith that is based in a story of death and resurrection.

Perhaps we could all stand to have more regular reminders in our lives that we practice a resurrection faith. No death is final...be that the death of the physical body of a loved one, the death of a pet, or the death of a beloved restaurant, store, or organization. All death creates an opening for new life, for resurrection.

With all the anxiety in our world today, we are all tempted to put our "death glasses" on. Those glasses cause us to look around and see all the things that are dying. This week, I encourage you to ponder the image of this tree. See the new life springing forth from death. Then, I challenge you to put on your "resurrection glasses" instead. Try to look at the events happening in your life, our church, and our world with resurrection glasses that see the new life and the hope of the resurrection work God is always performing all around us!

MORE FROM MOTOWN

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We got off to a great start to our Motown Series last Sunday. If you missed it, be sure to watch the sermon video below because it opens with a great Motown medley by our choir! With all the busyness of our church these days, I also want to encourage you to sign up for the daily affirmation emails that go along with this series as well (see below). They will add a meaningful element to your experience of this July series.

Last Sunday, we focused on the Hope that can be found in the message and music of Motown. This Sunday we will look more deeply at the source of that hope by looking at what lies behind the music. There is a rich history that made all of that movin' and groovin' possible! I hope you have enjoyed some time with family and friends this holiday and are able to join us on Sunday! Maybe bring a family member or friend along with you! May God bless you today and always!