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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!

THE MOTOWN GOSPEL

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I am very excited to begin sharing our new series with you entitled, "The Faith We Sing: Motown." Each summer I partner with the talented folks in our music ministry to bring a new installment of this series. Each music genre we have explored has been special in their own way, and I am certain that the Spirit led us to Motown for this year. It is going to be the perfect message for the culturally divisive and uncivil times we are living in.

The music of Motown, born out of racially- and economically-tense 1960s Detroit, has a powerful message for the events happening in our current times. The Motown Gospel offers hope when people are despairing and worried. The Motown Gospel proclaims justice to those who are oppressed and disenfranchised. And the Motown Gospel brings love to a world that is tempted to choose hate. All this and more lies ahead for us over the next several weeks at MCC. I hope you will make plans to join us, sing along, and explore the Motown Gospel!

PRISONERS OF HOPE

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Return to the stronghold,
You prisoners of hope.
Even today I declare
That I will restore double to you. Zechariah 9:12

It has been a week . . .

Death of friends and loved ones in our congregation seem to have loomed large in our grief . . .

The Supreme Court was wishy-washy about non-discrimination . . .

      A gay man was killed in Soulard, our church's neighborhood . . .

      The big island of Hawaii continues to be ravaged by an erupting volcano  . . .

       A fashion icon hung herself in her apartment . . .                              

I suppose this list could go on for a while and no doubt, you could add your own particular things to it. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to dive full on into the rivers of all that is wrong, sad, unjust, frustrating and tragic? We are surrounded by reasons to engage these things until the lens through which we view the world become cloudy, gloomy and filled with despair.

And then . . . as people of faith, we are reminded that we are called to be Prisoners of Hope! Yes!

     We are called to remember the mystery and power of the One who loves us and walks with us . . .

We are encouraged to know that in every challenge, there is a lesson that brings us closer to our purpose . . .

We are invited to sew love where there is hate, understanding where there is injustice, grace where there is trouble and comfort where there is grief . . .

We are nudged to channel the power and presence of the Spirit who sustains and teaches us . . .

We are moved to be grateful for every blessing in every moment . . .

To be Prisoners of Hope will not take all the challenges and heartache away but it will ensure that there is a little less despair, a little less fear, a little less sadness and a little less cynicism in your own little part of the world. The promise of God is that restoration will return double to us. That my friends, can change the world. Join me this week in being a relentless Prisoner of Hope!