This Easter, we are reminded that hope and new life can come from pain and loss. The journey isn’t pretty or easy, but the resurrection reminds us of our hope. He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Series: April 8, 15 and 22.
Training: Saturday, April 28
April 15: Our Posture
April 22: Our Key
April 28 (Saturday afternoon)
Join us as we invite Colossian Forum to provide a few hours of specific training and practice in the area of conflict. Click here for more details and to register for this training.
Join us at 8:30am as we gather to celebrate the resurrection through great food, games and conversation. Weather permitting, we’ll be outside in the side lawn. If it’s too cold or rainy, we’ll meet in the fellowship hall.
We’ll have some main fixings of a good Easter breakfast covered, including drinks. If you’re able, bring something to pass.
Looking forward to the fun!
This is our last sermon in the series about the wilderness. Our journey took us through simplicity and lament, and showed us lies that we are tempted to believe about our identity. This week, we turn to find our true self. What can we learn about our own identity from Jesus’s responses to the tempter in the wilderness?
When Jesus was in the wilderness, the devil tempted him with things like power, prestige, possessions and control, all in an effort to make Jesus act in a way that was not true to his identity. We are tempted in the same way. What false things are we being tempted to believe? And what do we need from God to remember our true identity?
As a culture, we too often skip over lament. We like to ‘roll up our sleeves’ and get to work fixing whatever is broken. While there is good in doing that, we miss the opportunity for growth and transformation if we skip the step of lament. It is modeled for us in the Bible over and over again. There’s even a whole book devoted to it! Listen as we learn about and practice lament and in so doing, we find hope.
The first ten minutes of this week’s podcast is an overview of our local and global mission partners. The sermon on lament begins after that (at minute 10).
The wilderness is a place to wrestle with our identity. It’s a place where we must face and respond to our temptations. And it’s also a place where we experience God’s provision.
We know the wilderness to be a place that is harsh yet stunning, barren yet beautiful. It is an in-between place, to be sure. And when we willingly enter its vastness, there are things we discover about ourselves, our world and our God. Perhaps that’s why the wilderness shows up time and time again in the biblical story. From Abraham to David to Ruth, God’s people are led into those places where they must wrestle with who they are and who they trust.
Listen here as we begin our Lenten journey through the wilderness.
This week, Yakuv Gurung joined us to tell us more about the people of the Nepali Speaking Community Church (NSCC). We share a building, but we don’t often see each other, so this was a great chance to hear stories of NSCC. Yakuv also shared with us an exciting opportunity to plant churches in Nepal.
- February 18 – A Spirit-led Journey
- February 25 – A Simple Journey
- March 4 – A Sorrowful Journey
- March 11 – A Simple Journey (part 2)
- March 18 – A Journey to the True Self
We were thrilled to have Earl James with us this past Sunday. Earl is the Reformed Church in America’s (RCA) Coordinator of Cultural Agility and Advocacy.
This is what the Lord Almighty says, “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.” Zechariah 8:4
This is a picture of the Kingdom fulfilled. But how can it play out now in our neighborhoods and churches? Earl gave us some great tools to help us listen and understand stories of those who are different from us.
This week, we begin a 3 week series about The Church: Many Parts, One Body. One of the joys of sharing a building with 2 other churches is the relationships that form. Some happen naturally, but others require intentionality. This week, Nate led a conversation with our friend Rodrigo Cano, who told us more about the people of Comunidad Christiana de Grand Rapids (CCGR). He also encouraged us all to take intentional steps toward relationship.
We wrap up our series on Micah 6:8 this week, looking at how we are to humbly walk with God. How can we have the same attitude as Jesus Christ? Collectively, as a church, we are committed to saying these things:
1. I don’t have it all figured out.
2. I need you, even if you are different than me. God meets us in, and transforms us through our differences.
This week we learned about the Hebrew word for love (hesed) in Micah 6:8. Love: Hesed is compassionate and loyal love. Listen here to learn more about how we can show hesed (love) in our own lives.
We are committed to being a church that practices unity in essentials, liberty in disputed matters and charity in all things. This framework provides a way for us to be in community as we encounter those “disputed matters” of faith (Romans 14) in which we might have differing viewpoints and interpretations.
In Essentials: Unity
We cannot forget the deep and abiding truths that unite all Christians. Simply put: there is more that holds us together than divides us. This is true of both the things we believe and the actions we practice. We are committed to intentionally remembering and living out this truth.
When asked “What are the essentials?” we point to the most widely and longest held creeds of the Church: the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. Colossians 1:15-20 and Philippians 2:5-11 are also concise expressions of the Christian faith that point to the essentials. These things are central to the Gospel and our understanding of God’s redemptive work in the world.
In Disputed Things: Liberty
Debate and disagreement are not new phenomenon among Christians. We have often had deeply held, conflicting viewpoints about issues and doctrines. Unfortunately, when disagreement arises a common reaction has been to label the other side and then separate. But there is another way.
In the early church, there were several issues that caused deep debate, as they should have. The issues found in Romans 14 and Acts 15 were related to how one interpreted the Ten Commandments and understood God’s covenant with Israel (eating meat sacrificed to idols [violating the first commandment] and lax Sabbath observance [breaking the fourth commandment]). We shouldn’t be surprised that this caused significant and contentious debate.
And yet, in these two passages we see the early church maintaining unity by staying centered on essential things (the outpouring and work of the Holy Spirit, Christ’s death and resurrection), trusting God to judge fairly, and giving liberty in disputed matters.
We are striving to do the same. This doesn’t mean that we’ll trivialize our differences or always end up agreeing. It does mean we will give each other liberty to live out our convictions in community. In doing so, we believe we will find greater strength and a deepening of our faith.
- Liberty in our Convictions
We will give each other liberty in our convictions about “disputed matters” — not requiring that anyone hold a certain viewpoint on these issues, but instead, spurring each other on to seek God’s Spirit for wisdom.
- Liberty and the Holy Spirit
We can give each other liberty because we trust God’s Spirit to lead and guide our lives towards truth. We believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in all of God’s children, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic status, moving, shaping, and transforming our minds and hearts into Christ’s likeness. This truth frees us from the all too common human tendency to judge our neighbor.
- Liberty and Relationship
Make no mistake: liberty requires humility. It asks us to admit that we might not see the whole picture and we may have something to learn from those we disagree with. It asks us to surrender our ego for the sake of the other. In doing so, we create space for diverse people to be sharpened by each other as they enter into meaningful relationship. We believe that the world desperately needs examples of communities like this, and what’s more, Jesus calls us to be this kind of community.
In All Things: Charity
Love is the command on which everything hangs (Matthew 22:34-40). It is the fulfillment of the Law (Romans 13:10). It is Christ’s greatest commandment. Therefore, in every interaction, in all places, with all people, we will seek to live out love with excellence and abundance.
A Contemporary Example
Today, North American Christians are mired in a debate as they attempt to discern how their faith leads them to understand same-sex marriage. Are same-sex couples to be accepted and received in the church in the same way that opposite gendered couples are accepted and received?
At the Branch, the answer is “yes” and we have come to this position by using the framework of unity, liberty and charity.
Giving each other liberty means that those at the Branch with an affirming viewpoint on same-sex marriage give people with a historical viewpoint liberty to hold their convictions, and vice versa. It also means that liberty will be given to those who are LGBT+ as they seek to live out their lives according to God’s leading. Again, Liberty doesn’t mean that we will all agree, but it does mean that we will act with love towards each other regardless of our position, will commit to live in supportive community and hold to unity in essentials of the Gospel.
A Guiding Principle
The framework of unity, liberty and charity applies much more broadly than to just the conversation about human sexuality. It is a way for The Branch to navigate any area of faith in which we have varying viewpoints and interpretations.
If you look back on our life together as a church this is not a new way to approach conflict. From the beginning we have given each other liberty in areas such as viewpoints about war, convictions about end-times theology, capital punishment, and political and policy beliefs to name a few. In these areas we have come to different convictions about what the Scriptures lead us to believe or do, and yet we have remained committed to unity.
We take our cue from the early church. Acts 15 and Romans 14-15 show us that those first Christians debated core issues and through it all Paul’s instructions are to pursue peace and the things that lead to building each other up (Romans 14:19). The call for staying in relationship despite significant differences is clear — including Jesus’ prayer for unity in his final hours (John 17). And so as we move into a complex and unknown future, we are steadfast in our dedication to share a deep unity in the Spirit even when we have sharp disagreements.
In this, we hope to bring glory to God the Father, honor to Jesus Christ and praise to the Holy Spirit.
On this first Sunday of 2018, we begin a new sermon series based on Micah 6:8: He has shown you, o mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.
But what does it mean to ‘act justly’? And what does that mean for us both individually and corporately? Listen here as we seek to answer those questions.
Love Mercy (1.14.18)
Walk Humbly with God (1.21.18)
On this last Sunday of 2017, we revisited the word sankofa. We took some time to look back so that we can move forward, remembering God’s loyal love. If you haven’t already done so, we invite you to read Psalm 107 to be reminded of God’s loyal love, both to the Israelites so many years ago and to us. Reflect on 2017 and remember the times that you have seen God’s loyal love in your life, in the big things and the small.
Listen here for the brief Christmas Eve sermon, concluding our “God With Us” series.
Christmas Eve is one of our most anticipated gatherings and we’d love for you and your loved ones to join us. The Branch is a place where everyone is welcome.
Our time together on the 24th will include the singing of carols, a performance by our choir (and drum circle!), a dramatic reading of Christ’s birth story and the lighting of candles.
The service is kid-friendly (in fact, many kids will be leading and participating in various aspects of worship). That said, we are providing childcare for the littlest ones (birth to four years old).
The service starts at 9:30 am (yes, in the morning). We hope to see you then!