Sunday, October 20, 2013

Guided Meditation: Evolving Faith and a New Covenant

Texts: Jeremiah 31: 31-34; Psalm 8

31The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

   Gazing into the vast night sky, the Psalmist, feeling small, spoke to the Creator of all that vastness with these words: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is humankind that you are mindful of them?” (Ps. 8: 3-4).

Just as the vastness of space struck the ancient Psalmist with awe, so the vast mystery of time may cause us today to consider our place--and our “time”--in an ever-evolving cosmos. Science has by now answered many ancient questions but has brought us to the threshold of new mysteries.  The intersection of science and religion gives us fresh cause for awe, hope, connection, and meaning.

Usually our theological eyes are trained on human events over the last few thousand years at most.  But evolutionary Christianity invites us to recognize a Sacred Force for life and love that existed long before humans and that will exist long after planet earth is absorbed by our sun.  Yet this sense of our individual tininess and our species’ frailty is not cause for despair. Contemplating our place in a 13.7 billion-year-old and ever expanding universe may prompt us to ask, using the Psalmist’s language:  “What is humankind that YOU, Creator, are mindful of US?” We then might add, “What is humankind that WE, Creator, have become mindful of YOU?”  One answer to that question is that we are the universe becoming aware of itself.

Usually our meditation is an inward spiritual practice teaching us mindfulness of our thoughts and feelings, helping us listen for the Holy that beats within us and guides us and connects us to others.  But let’s spend the next moments focusing outward upon the distant stars—contemplating what lies far beyond what we can observe or know.  Let’s contemplate a universe racing forward in time and changing both suddenly and slowly as it goes.

If it’s true that evolution continues and that we as a species are still evolving, what will a future look like if we can—God help us to do so!—evolve not only physically and intellectually but also morally and spiritually.   If it’s true that modern humans are continuing to evolve—and according to a recent research, we’re evolving faster now than ever before—what are ways we might eventually evolve in matters of faith?  Often we try to imagine what we as individuals might be capable of doing—and set personal goals to that end.  Or we try to imagine how our children might develop into adulthood—and support them in developing their gifts.  But if it’s true, as some evolutionary theologians posit, that a still–evolving humanity can evolve morally as well as physically and intellectually, then imagine a more spiritually evolved humankind thousands and thousands of years from now.  What would a future—tens of thousands of years hence-- be like IF we as a species can develop spiritually?


Next, let’s go backward in time – to the 7th century BCE and hear again words the prophet Jeremiah spoke, which I’ll reshape as if he’d known about scientific evolution:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord . . . when I will make a new covenant with humanity.  By that time human beings will have evolved to a state where the law of love is written on their hearts, the way of compassion Jesus will walk will be the path that humankind prefers, and a new level of consciousness will have overtaken their species to connect them to one another more deeply.  IF they don’t destroy the planet first. 

According to James Fowler, a few rare individuals develop spiritually to a stage where they view all people as from a universal community to be treated with universal principles of love and justice because the welfare of the other is as important as her or his own welfare.  Now imagine a future where this spiritual state is not rare but is in fact attained by most people.  Take a few moments to  inhabit that world mentally.  What would it be like for compassion and justice to be our default interactions?  How would you live differently if compassion was the rule rather than the exception, the “law” of the land?


Hear again the voice of the prophet Jeremiah, slightly modernized: The days are surely coming, says the Lord . . . when people will no longer need to teach one another about me or say to each other, “Know the Lord” because by then they shall all know me, their consciousness of Me will be heightened, their experience of me will be universal, the God they seek will be found in the interrelatedness between people. I will be within their hearts.  

 Let’s pause now to imagine how a heightened consciousness of our connections with other humans and with all creation would, in effect, help us to “know the Lord.” 


We’ve stretched our imaginations in order to gain some sense of scale with which to consider God’s enduring work in the world and our small but important role in ushering in the next new wave of change. We can’t bring about evolution, of course.  It is a force beyond us.  It is silently at work in our very DNA and will be eventually played out through thousands of years of human reproduction and survival.
But on the personal scale, we do have some choice about the ways we will change.  We can cultivate habits of hopefulness and an eye for new possibilities.  As Paul Tillich said, “Faith is being apprehended by the future, that realm of as-yet-unrealized possibility which comes to meet us in the experience of hope and promise."  Theologian John Haught imagines God as The Future, the realm of infinite possibilities, but God needs us to actualize those possibilities.

So in this next period of silence, begin by considering a situation in your life for which you need hope.  Perhaps you feel you are coming to a dead end and can’t see the way ahead.  Perhaps you face a choice among several options and don’t know which path to choose.  Perhaps you’re simply stuck in a rut and have forgotten you CAN change the path you’re on.  But think about a situation in your life where you feel stuck with how you’re living your life or caught with an impending decision.  If you believe God is manipulating your movements, you may resign yourself to what IS rather than seeking out new possibilities. Certainly much about life is fixed, unchangeable, or is a product of chance. In traditional theology, God is thought to rule from “up above.”  In evolutionary theology, “God leads from up ahead, luring us forward in love, animated by a promise that needs us in order to be realized.  Living in faith and hope means becoming agents of conscious evolution, as co-creators of a divine promise.

Imagine now God beckoning you toward a fuller future. Imagine your own spiritual journey forming you in ways that help you “Know the Lord” deep within.  Imagine how you might grow up spiritually to live love and help create a community of peace and justice.


Some evolutionary theologians like Bruce Sanguin, from our recent “Painting the Stars” series, believe that Jesus was not an “interruption of natural processes but rather their fulfillment.”  Jesus’s luminous life was “not a supernatural event outside of natural processes but was the fulfillment of them, an eruption or intensification of the whole process of evolution.”  Jesus was the “first fruit” of a more fully evolved human.  Jesus didn’t “come down to earth” but “emerged as a child of earth demonstrating what the universe is capable of.He is a glimpse of the future, what we are capable of—a new creation, a new species.  Jesus is the way that is the future trajectory for us. Certainly much prevents us from following in the way of Jesus. Fear keeps us falling back into our reptilian (fight or flight) responses. But our future depends on the hopeful way of Jesus. 

Hear this good news: the universe is now capable of producing Jesus.  We are, in evolutionary terms, capable of being a new species.  We are, in Paul’s phrase, a new creation. 

What fear is holding you back from stepping more confidently and consistently into the way of Jesus, which is the way of the future?   Name that fear in your own mind.  See it as a barricade in your path.  Now mentally move that barricade, tear it down, go around it, climb over it, but overcome that fear to move forward.

Imagine the evolution of Christianity itself that will nurture the faith journey of evolving people. Imagine what happens if our species can evolve toward peace and love—a new covenant written in our DNA.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Clobbering One of the Clobber Passages

Text: Genesis 19: 1-11

Yesterday I had the joy of speaking to a great group of LGBTQ students at the LGBT Wave of Hope Conference at the University of South Alabama.  In addition to being the keynote speaker, I led a workshop on "one of the clobber passages" in the Bible that some people use to condemn homosexuality.  I'm sharing notes from that workshop since we had a guest preacher today at Open Table.  Did I mention how terrific these students and the sponsoring organizations are?

I can understand if you’re not a fan of the Bible. The Good Book has been used as a bad weapon against too many people. But understanding a little more about the Bible may be a key to achieving the aims of full equality of all persons because it is the main means by which people in our culture continue to marginalize and sometimes even terrorize the LGBTQ community. Even if you do not read the Bible for personal instruction or inspiration, you are affected by those who do--right here in the Bible Belt.  You cannot say it’s irrelevant to you.  And while I know many gay friends who manage to take the Bible literally by simply ignoring the six or seven “clobber passages” that supposedly condemn homosexuality, I suggest reading the Bible seriously, maybe even eventually reverently—without reading each and every verse literally.

Let’s look at one particularly problematic story which, according to some people, is the first mention of homosexuality in the Bible.

The first and maybe best known scripture used to condemn homosexuality is found in Genesis 19, which tells the story of the destruction of the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and the rescue of Lot and his family from that destruction.  We’ll limit our study to the first 11 verses, which are really the first episode in the chapter-long narrative about Lot and the residents of Sodom. The question we’ll use to test this story as a prooftext that condemns homosexuality is: “What is the sin of Sodom?” 

Most people today would answer that homosexuality is the sin for which the ancient city was destroyed by an angry God.  The troubling term "sodomy" is rooted in this story. But many scholars today no longer think this story has anything to do with same-gender loving people or acts.  They say Sodom’s sin was something else entirely and base this conclusion on these things:

  • the context of this story within the larger Abraham saga in Genesis,
  • the other references to Sodom in the other parts of the Bible,
  • the details in the story itself.

1. So let’s first consider what’s happening in Genesis 18, which precedes our reading.  Abraham, Lot’s uncle, is visited in the heat of the day by three men. These three strangers appear at his tent at Mamre, and Abraham immediately brings food and water to them, as was required in this ancient Near Eastern desert culture.  He bows to these total strangers and washes their feet and kills a calf and prepares a feast for them.  He does so because survival in that desert culture required that travelers be given gracious hospitality and protection.  And to this day in parts of the Middle East this code of hospitality remains.  Hospitality to strangers was/is the highest value in those cultures. In response to Abraham’s protection, the three strangers tell him that his long-barren wife will finally bear a child in her old age.  And that chapter ends as the strangers set out toward the city of Sodom.  But as they leave, God cries out to Abraham:  ‘How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin!” God has already been offended by the sin of Sodom.

If Sodom has already earned a sinful reputation and the wrath of God, then the actions in the next chapter, which some define as homosexual, cannot be the sin for which Sodom was punished.   Whatever is wrong with Sodom predates the events in Genesis 19.

2. Next, let’s recognize how the rest of the Bible views the sin of Sodom.  Sodom’s ambiguously sinful reputation was previously attested to in Genesis 18, and its enduringly sinful reputation is later attested to by no fewer than 15 biblical allusions.   Significantly, of these 15 references, only Jude 1:7-8 understands the sin of Sodom to be of a sexual nature; the Bible mentions Sodom in other places in association with sins of idolatry, murder, greed, mistreating the poor, arrogance, pride, cruelty, oppression—or unspecified sin.  However, even the Jude passage does not mention homosexuality. Ezekiel 16: 49 (NIV), for example, announces, "'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy."Thus, the Bible itself does not perceive the sin of Sodom to be homosexuality.

3.  Finally, we look at details in the story itself, dividing the 11 verses into three sections:

1The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2He said, ‘Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you can rise early and go on your way.’ They said, ‘No; we will spend the night in the square.’ 3But he urged them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

Do you notice similarities between Gen. 18, the story of the angels visiting Abraham and this story of angels visiting Lot?  The theme common to both stories is hospitality.  Like his Uncle Abraham, Lot is honoring the code of hospitality to strangers. 

4But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; 5and they called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.’

Most scholars acknowledge that the crowd’s demand “to know” the visitors, means sexual knowledge, since it uses the Hebrew word yd’, which can mean sexual knowledge. But sexual knowledge does not necessarily mean these men are homosexual. Since this group represents all the men in the city of Sodom, it seems unlikely that every male in the city is homosexual (assuming, for argument’s sake, that that culture shared our concept of homosexuality). But despite popular understandings of this verse and the etymology of the term sodomy, most scholars now agree that “the turbulent mood of the narrative suggests gang-rape rather than a private act of either ‘sodomy’ or any specific homosexual act” (Countryman 164).  These men are not knocking on Lot's door looking for a date. They are threatening violence, as we will see in the final part of this pericope.

6Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, 7and said, ‘I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. 8Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.’ 9But they replied, ‘Stand back!’ And they said, ‘This fellow came here as an alien, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.’ Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near the door to break it down. 10But the men inside reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. 11And they struck with blindness the men who were at the door of the house, both small and great, so that they were unable to find the door.

The mob’s shouts, threats, and physical intimidation--“pressing hard against” Lot and trying to “break [the door] down” (19:9)--are actions of violence, not sexual desire. The men of Sodom reveal that the moral dilemma Lot faces is about honoring a code of hospitality rather than defending a code of heterosexuality.

Male gang rape (like any rape) was and is an act of aggression, not of sexual desire.  Evidence from antiquity, including artistic renderings, attests that conquerors raped defeated soldiers to humiliate the enemy to the utmost by forcing the men to assume the inferior position of women.  At least one writer compares this ancient horror to male-on-male rape in contemporary prisons, a violent practice that signals power and control over a victim, not sexual attraction. 
There is not a word that can be translated directly from the biblical texts to fit our meaning of homosexuality.  In other words, “in biblical times there was no elaborated understanding of homosexuality as a sexual orientation.  The ancient Israelites did not even think about sex in these terms” (Helminiak 39).  Whatever is being condemned in Genesis 19: 1-11—it is not homosexuality as we mean it today.
What would you say is the sin of Sodom?  Contrast this story with the one in Genesis 18 about Abraham serving the 3 strangers, where Abraham epitomizes the hospitality code. These same strangers/angels then visit Sodom where, in shocking contrast, they are threatened with actions that violate the hospitality code to the extreme. The fact that Lot offers his two virginal daughters for the crowd to do with them as they please (verse 8) rather than betray the implicit oath of protection he's made as host to the strangers is another dramatic means of underscoring Lot's adherence to the code of hospitality. (Perhaps he's being hyperbolic to make his point, or perhaps he was willing to go that far to protect his guests. Certainly the story reflects a disturbingly patriarchal culture. But the story's point is clear: hospitality to the stranger trumps all other duties.) Bear in mind that the other fifteen allusions the Bible itself makes to Sodom never name its sin as homosexuality.  Recall the details of this story.   

This story seems to be about the biblical imperative to welcome the stranger and offer radical hospitality to all, so the sin of Sodom is clearly not homosexuality but rather the extreme violation of sacred hospitality codes.  In fact, this text might, ironically, be used to advocate for the protection of all “strangers” in our midst, especially those who are different from us and including those seen as Other by virtue of their sexuality. It may be that the very people who are condemning others for the sin of sodomy may themselves be guilty of that very sin of Sodom: not welcoming and protecting the stranger.

Works Cited and Consulted

Achtemeier, Paul J., Gen. Ed.  The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary.  San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1996. 
Bellis, Alice Ogden.  Helpmates, Harlots, and Heroes: Women’s Stories in the Hebrew Bible.  Louisville:  Westminster/John Knox, 1994.

Brawley, Robert L., ed.  Biblical Ethics and Homosexuality: Listening to Scripture. Louisville: Westminster, 1996.

Brueggemann, Walter.  Genesis Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching.  Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982.

Countryman, L. William.  Dirt, Greed, and Sex:  Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988.

Frick, Frank.  A Journey Through the Hebrew Scriptures.  Belmont, CA:  Wadsworth Thomson, 2003.

Hasting, James, ed.  Dictionary of the Bible.  New York: Charles Scribner’s, 1963.

Helminiak, Daniel.  What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality.  New Mexico: Alamo Square, 2000.

Miller, Madeleine S. and J. Lane Miller. Harper’s Bible Dictionary, 8th ed.  New York: Harper and Row, 1973.
New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 1.  Nashville: Abingdon, 1994.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 3rd ed.  Michael D. Coogan, ed.  Oxford, Oxford UP, 2001.

Phipps, William E.  Genesis and Gender: Biblical Myths of Sexuality and Their Cultural Impact.  New York: Praeger, 1989.

Rosenblatt, Naomi H. and Joshua Horwitz.  Wrestling with Angels: What the First Family of Genesis Teaches Us About Our Spiritual Identity, Sexuality, and Personal Relationships.  New York: Delacourte, 1995.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Dash of Faith and Simmer Slowly

TEXT: Luke 17: 5-6
5The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

Jesus’ first followers begged him to give them more faith. “Increase our faith!” they demanded, as if they’d time traveled to our century and ordered Fast Faith like Fast Food at a Spiritual Drive-Through-- after which God’s static-y voice replied, “Would you like fries with that?” Unfortunately, faith isn’t so easy to order. Fortunately, as Jesus explained, our faith doesn’t have to be biggie-sized. Even a little bit of faith—the size of a mustard seed—can accomplish seemingly impossible things. Just a little faith can be enough to uproot a mulberry tree and plant it in the sea—which you have to admit is one of the Bible’s strangest metaphors. 

Just a little faith in God’s loving purposes can unite diverse people across the world’s cultures and times, for which we give thanks on this World Communion Sunday. 

Just a little faith can plant new faith communities.

The metaphor of planting a tiny seed of faith is especially appealing to church planters like me and perhaps to you as part of a new faith community. In many ways Open Table is a just sprouting seedling. Tending this vulnerable seedling requires patience and faithfulness. And in the case of a mulberry tree or a congregation, its full potential won’t be reached for many, many, many years.

Sure, some of us know of churches that spring up almost overnight with hundreds or thousands of members. Wistfully, we might envy the sheer numbers these churches boast, so we pray, “Increase our numbers.” Worriedly, we might imagine that the key to a sudden influx of new members is a change to our worship service or one additional program or more and more activities or a slightly tweaked advertising strategy. These musings can be constructive if each of us is asking “What can I do?” rather than “What should others in the church be doing?" . . . and if we all stay focused on following in the ways of Jesus . . . and if we’re not flailing about to please hypothetical visitors in some misplaced belief that spirituality is a commodity we produce to fit consumer expectations. Up to a point, we need to accommodate the preferences of potential church members, anticipating, for instance, the best time and place for us to gather for worship and prioritizing the needs of those who are not yet with us over our own. But our faith community is not forming to serve up the spiritual equivalent of Happy Meals—even if that’s what sells.

While I would love for us to grow our numbers rapidly, I’m afraid the standard formula for doing so may not work for us. One blogger has recommended “prepack[aging] the Gospel” with this “quick and easy formula”: Take “1 dynamic preacher, 3 good musicians, a well selected location, and lots of marketing dollars” and in “two years’ time” you’ll have a church (

I’d love to have lots of money to devote to lots of marketing (though I suspect that even in the 21st century our love for God and one another and especially for those on the margins should be our best way to be known in our community).

I’d love to have the perfect location for Open Table (though the perfect location for a progressive church to grow numerically would not be ANYWHERE in conservative Mobile, AL).  

I’d love to have 3 or more fabulous musicians, and God knows I’d love for us to have a dynamic preacher!

But the standard formula doesn’t quite fit us because the gospel we are offering is not one we can prepackage and churn out for mass consumption. In fact, our Good News involves a rethinking of the Good News as you’ve heard it previously. As your pastor, I’ve got nothing for you, nothing at all—no glitz, no charm, no charisma, no brilliance—nothing but a Gospel that is, for me, truly Good News. That’s all I’ve got.

Open Table offers a Gospel that is demanding. And the demands of the Gospel don’t sit well with consumers who think they can place an order and have God delivered to them when and where and how they wish. The good news we preach and teach and try to live is about loving even our enemies, giving up control, forgiving, losing our lives in order to find them, dying to the old ego-driven self, living in grateful connectedness to all creation, recognizing our own belovedness while at the same time knowing that life is not all about me or you. The good news we teach and preach and try to live has nothing to do with believing certain doctrine in order to go to heaven but has everything to do with falling trustfully into the arms of Love and working selflessly to usher in God’s ways of peace and justice right here and now. The Gospel as we understand it is not about bolstering the faith you walked in with but challenging you to hear God’s voice unsettle your convictions. The Gospel is not about providing pat answers but about living the questions. But how many people in this city or in this world do you think will really think that’s “good news”? How in the world could Madison Avenue sell this?

Not only is the Gospel we live demanding, but the community we create around this Gospel is diverse. We come from many different walks of life and church backgrounds. Our politics and personal histories and abilities vary. We are unabashedly “out” as an open and affirming church, but we’re not “the gay church” and our progressive label means, to us, something broader than being open and affirming or social justice-oriented. Our diversity and a desire for even greater diversity is certainly no short cut for growing a church.

It’s not only the demanding Gospel we live and the diverse community we create that complicates our growth—it’s also the deeper spirituality for which we strive. We try to honor silence and simplicity so that God can talk to us more than we talk to God—but silence frightens many in our noisy culture.  We offer surprise and elicit participation—which might be uncomfortable.  Music and art and poetry and the love we bear for one another can touch us deeply in worship, but we are wary of emotionally manipulative worship practices. There are no quick and easy lessons for spiritual maturity. Because sometimes that growth is not up to you. Sometimes it’s a matter of waiting patiently . . . as the darkness teaches . . . and time heals . . .. and your roots go down deeper even as your spirit reaches upward toward the Light. Spiritual maturation is hard.   

Especially because life is not on hold while your pastor is rearranging your theological map. Death may rob you of a loved one just as you’re rethinking eschatology. Or you may lose your job or your health at the same time you’re losing your ability to read the Bible literally but before you’ve acquired a confidence in reading it any other way. Many in our faith community have faced great challenges before they’ve had time to reconstruct their spiritual resources.

But today’s passage from Luke assures that with faith, even just a little faith, you can be transplanted from familiar soil into a salty sea and grow even there.  Even on the salty seacoast of Mobile, Alabama. With just a little faith.   

It may be tempting for us to sell our community a gospel that most people want to buy.  But our mission is about following in Jesus’s way—not about selling a product.

The Slow Church movement has been developing over the last few years in resistance to just such a consumerist view of church. It was inspired by the Slow Food movement of recent years that critiques “industrialized [fast] food cultures and agricultures” and the way a fast food culture has affected not only our physical health but also has altered our economic systems as well as cultural values and family systems. Slow food advocates “insist that the ways we eat actually matter for the kinds of people we become."They believe food should be "good, clean, and fair." But living the slow food alternative is “messy and difficult.”

Like the Slow Food movement, the Slow Church movement questions the speed and efficiency and bigness of Fast Church and calls for a “vision of the holistic, interconnected, and abundant life together to which God has called us in Christ Jesus” (  Slow Church is slow, hard work. But “we need this slow and steady witness to the Gospel not only because of its aims to save people from poverty, oppression and violence”—but “because we, too, need to be saved” and  the planting, tending, harvesting, chopping, simmering, serving, tasting is all “part of our spiritual formation” (  The stuff we might think of as the “business” of church can become, with thoughtfulness, our spiritual curriculum.

If you began this journey with Open Table thinking we’d be doing church as usual and that we’d be drawing in hundreds of worshipers by now, it may be time to adjust expectations.
We are offering to a conservative culture a progressive theology and healthy spirituality and not just a progressive social/political outlook.

We are planting a church at a time when church membership is in a steady decline across all denominations.

We are part of a fast food/consumerist mentality that teaches us we
can be nourished in fast, convenient ways. 

This may be a time to adjust both our expectations toward a longer timeline—and raise our level of commitment to engage in the hard, slow work of church planting. 

The Church Universal began as a mustard seed.  It has sometimes grown like a weed.  It has sometimes grown like an invasive weed that takes control.  But the church has often been the mulberry tree that offers shade and fruitful bounty in the unlikeliest of places. May our seeds of faith grow into a mulberry tree.

God who loves the whole world, we recognize what a tiny part we might play in your grand scheme. We thank you that you love us into loving others. We would like to take on the demanding, slow, often invisible task of living and loving faithfully, of letting you grow us up into more mature individuals and a more mature faith community.  Amen