Angels Among Us: More Peace

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This Sunday our Advent series focusing on the angels will continue with the message, "More Peace." Remember that you are invited to bring any angel figurines that you have and add them to our angel-themed Advent Wreath.

To help get us prepared for this Sunday's message, consider that the first words from the Angel to Mary: "Do not be afraid." This phrase is actually the most common in all the Bible. It is used 365 times, which "just happens" to be one for every day of the year. Perhaps that is a cue to us about how important it is for us to repeat every day, "I do not need to be afraid."

As you prepare for worship this Sunday when we will explore the Advent invitation to a life of "More Peace," I invite you to think about the angelic admonishment to trust the new thing God is preparing to do by reminding us, "Do not be afraid!" Are you prepared to let go of your fears and trust God? Are you open to the path of peace...even if it includes change?

Angels Among Us

This Sunday we will begin a delightful and heartwarming new series for Advent. The series is entitled, "Angels Among Us," and will highlight the many angel encounters that surround the conception, birth, and arrival of John the Baptist and Jesus.

With each encounter, we will find the values of the Advent season that are rooted in the life of Jesus and celebrated by the Advent Wreath: hope, peace, joy, and love.

The series will be an angelic prayer journey to the manger. We will pray for More Hope, long for More Peace, find ways to celebrate More Joy, and try to practice More Love. This is going to be a special Advent Season, which is befitting it being our last Advent at 1920 S. 7th Street.

We truly hope you will be present and help make this Christmas season special.

You Are Never Alone

There are all sorts of ways that we can sometimes feel alone. Perhaps the easiest to point to is how we can feel alone at night in an empty house. But we can also feel alone in the middle of room full of people gathered for a company holiday party. Sometimes it has little to do with the people around us, like when we feel alone even when we are surrounded by our closest friends. Sometimes it has a lot to do with the company we are keeping, like when we feel alone while visiting the home of a family member who does not accept us. The point is we all feel lonely sometimes.

As we enter the holiday season which can bring many joys but also some loneliness, I encourage you to remember that you are never alone...even though we all feel lonely sometimes. In those moments when your heart is aching, in those moments when you wish someone would slow down and really see you, or in those times when your entire body seems to scream out for someone to just hold you so you know you are safe and whatever form those painful lonely feelings may take in you, remember you are never alone.

It may sound trite, but it is one of the truest things: God is always with us. God is within us, sometimes longing for us to turn and run into the already open arms of Love. If you have a lonely moment this holiday season, I encourage you to try this visualization...

Close your eyes and try to visualize every detail, every feeling, every sound, of climbing up in the lap of Jesus and being held. Try things like this: In your mind's eye try to see the way the clothes are laying on Jesus's chest as you lay your head there. Can you smell the detergent? Maybe cologne? Is the shirt he is wearing soft? What do you hear? A heartbeat? His breathing? Maybe Jesus is softly humming one of your favorite songs? Is he gently rocking you? Rubbing your head? Scratching you back? Does he say something to you or does he simply hold you in his arms knowing that his embrace speaks more than any words? What do you notice in your visualization?

While Jesus is not physically with you each day, this visualization is an invitation to remember that Jesus is with you always--that you are never alone. The loving embrace of God is always awaiting you. This holiday season, I give thanks for the strong and loving arms of Jesus that are as near as the next moment that we choose to close our eyes and think of him.



At the beginning of this month I took a moment in this email to encourage everyone to make this a whole month of gratitude. Well, here we are that the main event: Thanksgiving week. The seven-day countdown begins now.

Between today and next Thursday, I really encourage you take some time each day to pause and be grateful. I have seen a few of you posting things for which you are grateful on Facebook. You could do that, or perhaps you could write out a list of gratitudes in your journal, make it a dinner conversation each night, or come up with another creative way to focus on gratitude this Thanksgiving. A good way to be sure to follow through is to do your gratitude practice at the same time of the day each day and try to connect it to something in your normal routine.

As a way of practicing what I am suggesting, I will share a bit of my gratitude with you here. Today, I thank God for each of you. Truly. This week marks five years since I moved to St. Louis, and so I have been thinking about our time together. We have faced some challenges as a church this year, but we did so by trusting each other and never losing sight of the promise that God is preparing a new path of ministry and growth for us (Jer. 29:11). I am thankful to continue to walk in gratitude and hope as I/we eagerly await what God will do through us in the year ahead!

A Sunday to Anticipate


This Sunday is going to be a powerful day to join us for worship. While each Sunday God's Spirit moves through our worship in touching and sometimes surprising ways, this Sunday is going to be special for two reasons.

First, this Sunday's service will feature the baptism of Nick Nichols, who has been worshiping with us for just over a year. Nick has a powerful story of transformation that will make this baptism one that you are likely to remember for a long time.

Secondly, our entire service this Sunday will focus on the theme of healing. Each of us live lives that are a mixture of brokenness and wholeness, and this Sunday our service will allow us to spend a bit of time focused on our God who heals. There is more than enough healing for us all, so I hope you will make it a point to attend worship this week. Here's a short devotional thought to help you prepare your heart and spirit for Sunday:

"According to Paul, God has sufficient sustaining grace to meet every single challenge in our lives. Sufficient. We fear its antonym: insufficient. We've written checks only to see the words insufficient funds. Will we ever offer prayers to only discover insufficient strength? Never. Plunge a sponge into Lake Erie. Did you absorb every drop? Take a deep breath. Did you suck the oxygen out of the atmosphere? Watch an ocean wave crash against the beach. Will there never be another one? Of course there will. No sooner will one wave crash into the sand than another appears. Then another, then another. This is a picture of God's sufficient grace and healing." -from Grace, by Max Lucado

Tending a Garden of Gratitude


Thankfulness—gratitude—is a choice. Each day we have the opportunity to choose whether we will focus on the frustrating or the positive, the lack or the abundance, the bad or the good.

Today is November 1st, the beginning of a month that invites us to think about thankfulness and gratitude. While we all experience a lifetime's worth of ups and downs—the key difference is not in who endured the most. The key difference is in where we set our gaze. None of us can control what will happen today or tomorrow, but we can choose what we focus on. We can choose to look for the positive, find reasons to be grateful, and insist on a positive attitude even when it might be easier to be cynical or jaded.

Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Last week, Eugene Peterson died. In his paraphrase of the Bible, called The Message, he translated the last phrase of that verse, “Cultivate thankfulness.” As we embark on this month of gratitude, I give thanks for the life of Eugene Peterson, and I challenge you to cultivate thankfulness in each day of November. Set your gaze on the positive and seek to become a person of carefully, lovingly, cultivated gratitude.

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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 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?


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