The Branch ChurchMay 10, 2023
Advent - Week 1 (11.26.23)
Our theme this year is "a weary world rejoices".
We're borrowing that line from the Christmas carol, O Holy Night. It's a line that holds tension and hope. Tension because both weariness and joy are present at the same time and hope because...well...weariness and joy are present at the same time.
This morning we consider the ways in which we doubt joy and even resist it. We explore the story of Zachariah and Elizabeth - a story of both weariness and joy -- and let it inspire us to consider how we might more and more become people ready to receive joy when it sneaks "into the cracks of our imperfect life".
What is Mine to Do?
Teresa follows up on the conversation we had about Israel/Palestine (on 10/29) by asking the question - what is ours to do? How do we move toward wholeness in the face of constant pressure to perform, achieve and fix all things?
Two things I'm wrestling with as I watch the war in Gaza
The attacks by Hamas, as well as Israel's response, have created so much pain and destruction. Our hearts are heavy with the weight of this war and the decades long conflict that has preceded it.
What are we to do in the face of such violence and loss? What can we do, if anything?
Chris shares some of his wrestlings from the last few weeks and invites us to wrestle too -- not just with this war on the other side of the world, but with the way vengeance and demonization can easily took root in our own lives.
Q&A on Israel/Palestine
After our gathering, folks stuck around to ask questions about the current war, the larger Israel/Palestine conflict and what it might mean for our lives.
Core Values - Week 5: Courageous Creativity
This is a moment in history full of change, questions, uncertainty and loss. So much is shifting so quickly -- including what it means to be Christian (not to mention...if...I want to be Christian).
A moment like this calls for courage. Courage to dream new dreams; to allow our imaginations to be reignited. To admit our limitations let go of old patterns that no longer work. We are committed to being that kind of a community.
Core Values - Week 4: Purposeful Presence
Presence is one of God's greatest gift to us, and in turn, it is one of the greatest gifts we can offer to each other. We consider this core value -- an intentional choice we can make to be present in our world, here and now.
Core Values - Week 3 - 9/24/23
Week 3: Relational Grace
Core Values - Week 1 - 9/10/23
Our first week on our core values considered the value of Partnership.
Core Values - Week 2 - 9/17/23
Week 2 considers the core value of Inclusivity.
Acts - Week 11 - 8.27.23
Our final Sunday in Acts considers the last chapters of this book - chapters that show us the promising reality that God's Spirit is given to us precisely in our gritty, messy humanness.
Acts - Week 8 - 8/6/23
One of the consistent themes in Acts (and the Bible) is conflict. From the very beginning of the story (Acts 6), we find rumblings of discontent.
How do we overcome difference? Acts 15 doesn't give us a 1-2-3 step plan, but it does offer insight to steps we can take to help conflict become something that grows us.
Acts - Week 7 - 7/30/23
We all know what it is to feel the tension between our differences. At the center of the stories in Acts is the tension between Jew and Gentile. Those first Christians were constantly having to work out what it means to not just tolerate 'the other', but to be their brother and sister.
Acts - Week 6 - 7/23/23
Our dear friend Deborah leads us through the stories of Stephen. His life is the first witness to the scattering of those following Jesus -- out from Jerusalem to Samaria to the ends of the earth. Stephen is willing and able -- and that open posture leads to changed lives, including his own.
Acts - Week 5 - 7/9/23
We consider Acts 3 and 4 - a story of boldness and courage, including a willingness to speak truth to those in power. How do we do the same?
Acts - Week 4 - 6/25/23
Something has happened in Jerusalem -- a pouring out of the Sacred Breath (Holy Spirit) -- and it has begun to change people's lives. Today we look at the end of Acts 2 where we see the impact of this revolution of intimacy.
Acts - Week 3 - 6/18/23
God promises to come - and that coming takes place at Pentecost. But could anyone could have expected the way in which the Divine Spirit came to those first followers? What might this coming of fire, wind and language mean?
Acts - Week 2 - 6/11/23
The disciples pose a question to Jesus in the days following his resurrection - a question that exposes their longings and hopes. Jesus' response to their question was not what they expected. This week we consider this story and what it might mean for us.
Acts - Week 1 - 6/4/23
We begin a summer long journey through the story of Christianity's beginnings. This week, we consider the larger context and themes of the book.
Seeking - Week 7 (5.21.23)
Our last installment in this series explores John 4 - a story of an ordinary, everyday encounter that ends up leading to a transformative connection — a connection rooted in vulnerability.
Could it be possible that our everyday, ordinary connections offer the same possibility for change?
Seeking: Who Sinned? Week 6 (5-7-23 )
John 9 is a chapter full of questions, and to be honest, some are better than others.
We take a look at the host of questions asked in this story and consider what makes a lesser and better question? What mistaken assumptions often undergird our questions? And how might we follow the example of Jesus in this story who invites us to not just ask, but act.
Seeking - Easter (4.9.23)
It's a story we know well. Perhaps too well. Can we listen with fresh ears -- like that time we first heard encountered the unbelievable world of chemistry, poetry or jazz.
When Mary meets Jesus in the garden she doesn't recognize him. The disciples who ran with her to the tomb don't understand. Questions abound. Confusion is everywhere. Into the fray steps the risen Christ - meeting Mary and the disciples where they were and calling them by name.
Seeking - Week 5 (4.23.23)
In Ezekiel 37 the prophet (by the same name) is given a vision -- a vision that not only captures the hopelessness of his world, but perhaps of his own life as well. And yet, this same vision also breathes hope and possibility. In our world, there is no shortage of hopelessness. What might this ancient vision offer us and our context today?
Seeking - Week 2 (3.19.23)
Our second week in this series (from March-May we'll be preaching roughly every other week and having Group Sundays on the other weeks - see our blog for more) considers the story of Nicodemus. This religious, pious and seeking leader is confronted with an idea that confuses and shakes him: you must be born again.
To be willing to 'begin again' seems to be a consistent message in Jesus' life. Whether it's having the faith of a child, letting go of an old wineskin, or putting a seed in the ground, Christ consistently teaches us that growth and transformation only happen when we are willing to begin again.
Seeking - Week 1 (3.5.23)
Our first Sunday in our Lenten series explores the question: "Who Will You Listen To?"
Sabbath - Week 6 (2.19.23)
Our final week in the series considers what Sabbath has to teach us about our relationship with the rest of the created world.
Sabbath - Week 1 (1/8/23)
We begin a series considering the ancient practice of Sabbath.
Sabbath - Week 4; Work (1/29/23)
Teresa invites us to consider what Sabbath might mean for our work -- and our identity.
From Generation to Generation - Week 3 (12.11.22)
Joseph had a choice to make. Would he separate from Mary or stand with her? It, no doubt, was a difficult choice.
While our circumstances are certainly different, we too face the same type of choice: will we separate from those in need - those we disagree with - those who are on the edges of society -- or will we move toward and stand with?
Joseph's story invites us to choose a better way.
From Generation to Generation - Week 2 (12.4.22)
When Mary is visited by Gabriel and told that she will give birth to the long awaited Messiah, she is understandably afraid and troubled.
What does Mary's response to this visit have to teach us about our response to fear? And what might Gabriel's words prompt us to remember about God's promises?
From Generation To Generation - Week 1 (11/27/22)
The genealogy of Jesus (in Matthew 1) is often overlooked. But what does this long list of names have to tell us?
As we consider it together we find an unlikely lineage full of unexpected characters. But perhaps that's the point. Even Jesus' beginning is through and through marked by those we continually dismiss or try to explain away.
SUNDAYS THIS FALL!
Not only is our gathering move to 10am starting September 11, but we're also experimenting with and exploring new ways of practicing our faith and connecting with each other on Sundays. This podcast lays out what to expect and how you can be involved.
What is God Like? - Week 5 (8.21.22)
Both the Old and New Testaments use the same word for Spirit and wind. Elliot helps us reflect on this as a valuable metaphor to teach us about what God is like.
In the Beginning... Week 3 (6.19.22)
The beginning of our story (Genesis 1 and 2) is a story of utmost goodness. So is the end of our story (Revelation 21 and 22). Between these bookends comes God's call to care for, tend to, serve and guard the created world so that it might be good, whole and complete.
In the Beginning... Week 1 (6.5.12)
The beginning of a story matters, and Genesis is a beginning of profound goodness. This tells us something fundamentally important about the Creator and about ourselves.
In the Beginning... Week 2 (6.12.22)
Our second week in Genesis 1 invites us to consider how deeply connected we are to the creation and how God's 'first language' can draw us more deeply into relationship with the Creator
Wholehearted (together) - Week 11 (5.22.22)
Our final week in this series considers the overall goal: deeper and more meaningful connections with those in our lives. Which begs the question, what exactly does it mean to be connected and how do we connect? Jesus shows us a compelling way (Mark 10:46-52).
Wholehearted (together) - Week 10
The Scriptures ask us to do a difficult thing -- to live in a way that both honors every person's individuality and intentionally integrates their lives in the larger body. This week we talk about that both/and and give time to consider what it might mean for us.
Easter is a paradox: death leads to life. Emptying ourselves leads to a filling -- a renewal. It is only by descending that we are lifted up. Philippians 2:5-11
Wholehearted - Week 6 (4.10.22)
The last Sunday in Lent points us to the story of the prodigal sons and father (Luke 15) as a way to explore the common experiences of shame, guilt, humiliation and perfectionism.
Wholehearted - Week 4 (3.27.22)
We continue to expand our vocabulary of the heart by considering an all to common human behavior: comparison.
Envy and jealousy -- and two German words - schadenfreude and freudenfreude -- are emotions and experiences connected to comparison. We see them in action in a story from Mark 10:35-45.
Wholehearted - Week 3 (3.20.22)
This week we expand our vocabulary of the heart by considering wonder and awe -- what they are, what they feel like and what they often help lead us toward.
Wholehearted - Week 2 (3.13.22)
What's the difference between joy and happiness? And what are the costs of choosing foreboding joy? We explore these parts of our heart while looking at a great story from Luke 15.
DEBRIEF - Mapping Our Future - Week 3 (3.3.22)
Teresa and Chris sit down to debrief our final week of conversation about where we are headed and how we might get there.
As you'll hear in this short podcast (just 11 minutes), we not only took away some important things from Sunday's dialogue, but we're also inviting everyone to continue the conversation in some specific ways in the coming weeks.
Introduction to Lent
This Lent, we'll follow Jesus' lead and look inward -- tending to our heart.
How might these forty days of Lent propel us to live more wholeheartedly?
DEBRIEF - Mapping Our Future - Week 3 (2.22.22)
Teresa and Chris share a summary of Sunday's conversation on "Grow", including what stood out to them and what we will be paying attention as we move forward.
DEBRIEF: Mapping Our Future - Week 2 (2.15.22)
For the next three weeks we won't be releasing a podcast from Sunday since most of the morning is being spent in small groups, discussing various questions about our core values. But - we will be releasing these DEBRIEF podcasts -- short summaries and take-aways from the morning.
Here's a few thoughts from our first Sunday of conversation.
DEBRIEF: Mapping our Future
This short, 13-minute podcast, takes a look back at Sunday's big ideas, and shares some insights we gained from the survey people took during worship.
If you have not taken the survey yet, you can do so here: https://forms.gle/yBFULNVzmmagu2ZP6
Mapping Our Future - Week 1 (2.6.22)
We're taking the month of February to map our future together.
Any good map shows you three things: where you are, where you are going, and some options for how to get there. Sundays in February will center around these three things.
To begin, we took a look at a story from John 4 - a story that gives us a sense of where we are called to go. We are called to become people who receive and offer embrace, who are growing, and who participate in the renewal of God in the world.
Detour - Week 5 (1.30.22)
Our final week in the Detour series considers the regret that can come when things don't go according to plan. What do we do with that regret? Is it possible that regret can be a 'call to courage and a path toward wisdom?' (Brene Brown, Atlas of the Heart).
Detour - Week 4 (1.23.22)
One of the emotions we encounter when life gets detoured is disappointment. And while we may be able to move beyond some disappointment fairly easily, some disappointment carries deep pain, confusion and even shame. We consider this emotion -- and what is behind it -- this week as we also consider stories found in Mark 3 and 10.