God With Us: Joseph (Week 3)

We continue our Advent series this week with Joseph’s story. What was it like to be in Joseph’s shoes? What do we learn about God and about ourselves through this story. We invite you to explore these questions and more while listening to this podcast. There are times of silence in the podcast to allow for times of reflection or discussion.

We hope you join us for worship next Sunday at 9:30 am as we celebrate Christ’s birth during our Christmas Eve worship service.

God With Us: Mary (Week 2)

This week, Brian Workman led us in the practice of Lectio Divina. Our BranchStudents group helped lead this practice by explaining how it works and reading the story for us. We invite you to spend some time with this story (Luke 1:26-56) and listen to what God might be telling you through it. Where does Mary’s story intersect with your own? There will be times of silence in the podcast for you to follow the 4 steps of Lectio Divina.

Lectio Divina Steps:

  1. Lectio: Read or listen to the passage. Be open. Take your time. On the second reading, begin to look for a word or phrase that sticks out to you. If nothing sticks out, that’s ok, just pick a word or phrase – or try to take the whole reading in.
  2. Meditatio: Think! Why do you think that word or phrase stuck out to you? What is going on in that part of the passage? As you think about it, how do you feel? Begin to wonder if God is using the word to invite you – to do something? To let go of something? To know something new (or more fully) about God or yourself?
  3. Oratio: Pray. This is a simple and honest response to the passage, and the things you have been thinking about/pondering.
  4. Contemplatio: The simplest way to think of it is to rest in God’s presence. Rest in the love that God has for you. Allow God’s Spirit to draw you close and fill you with his love, grace and peace.

God With Us: Elizabeth and Zechariah (Week 1)

God is with those who are heartbroken, feeling lost, those who are wondering if hope has run out.

This week’s sermon was more interactive than normal, so instead of listening to the noise of our individual conversations, we invite you to have your own conversations or reflections, using the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah. Read Luke 1:5-25 and then reflect on these questions:

  1. From the text, what do we learn about Elizabeth and Zechariah?
  2. What can we imagine about Elizabeth and Zechariah? If we were in their shoes, what might we be feeling or thinking?
  3. How have you experienced (or are you currently experiencing) loss, heartache, hopelessness or confusion?
  4. What is God’s response to Elizabeth and Zechariah? What does it say about God?
  5. Let the story help you remember what is true about God. Of what truth is God trying to remind you?

God with us. God with you.

God With Us

God with us.
This is the promise of Advent. That Christ has come to be with us; to walk our earth, know our pain and guide us home. And, this same Christ is coming again to finally and fully be with us.
God with us.
Could there be anything more significant or shocking? God? Coming to us? Coming to Elizabeth and Mary? Coming to Joseph and some shepherds? This is the promise of Advent.
This December we’ll explore the people God came to in the lead up to Christ’s birth. Their stories are not all that different from ours and teach us about the ways God is with us today.
December 3 – Elizabeth and Zechariah
December 10 – Mary
December 17 – Joseph
December 24 – the Shepherds
December 31 – God’s Loyal Love to us

The Adventure of Coming Home: “I am always with you” (Week 6)

As we end our series, we look into the verse that ends the story of the prodigal sons. In verse 31, the Father says “You are always with me and everything I have is yours.”

The Adventure of Coming Home: Receiving Your True Self (Week 5)

As we start to wrap up this series, it’s our hope that many of you have been able to take a step towards home. The journey doesn’t end here, though. It’s a lifelong journey, not an overnight one. Listen here.

The Adventure of Coming Home: Discovering Your True Self (Week 4)

This week, we move from the lies of the False Self (we must earn our identity) to discovering our True Self (we can receive our identity). “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” Luke 15:31

The Adventure of Coming Home: Unmasking Your False Self (Week 3)

What mask are you wearing? This week, we dig into the hard work of uncovering the parts of ourselves that we like to keep hidden. Often, we don’t even know those parts exist. But our loving God wants more for us than the identity for which we are willing to settle.

The Adventure of Coming Home

“God is at home. It is we who have gone out for a walk.”
Meister Eckhart

The story of the prodigal son(s) in Luke 15 points us to what is true: we easily wander from home. And, when we turn back for home, God runs toward us to welcome every single part of who we are.

This is good news. And yet, turning back for home can be scary. What if we’re not welcomed? What if there are parts of ourselves that won’t be accepted? And what will we find out about ourselves on the way?

To be sure, the journey home is nothing short of an adventure. It is full of risk, uncertainty and…life. Join us as we explore what this parable teaches us about ourselves and the journey home.

The Journey Inward (Week 1)

Bringing Our Whole Selves (Week 2)

Unmasking Your False Self (Week 3)

Discovering Our True Self (Week 4)

Receiving Our True Self (Week 5)

“I am always with you” (Week 6)
Luke 15:31

Additional Resources
“The Gift of Being Yourself” by David Benner

Practicing Spiritual Practices

Transformation doesn’t come from effort alone. We can’t just hope or wish or even try really hard. Instead, we have to train ourselves into a new way of being. We have to practice.

To that end, Join us any Wednesday morning from 8-8:45am at the Garfield Park Nature Center (see map below, entrance is on Jefferson) To begin, we head into different parts of the Nature Center to practice prayer and contemplation on our own. We then gather together after a set amount of time to share any reflections. Any one is welcome any week.

Can’t make it? Below is a growing list of resources we’re using . You can engage with these at anytime, anywhere it works for you. 

  • Download and use the Centering Prayer app (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/centering-prayer/id844280857?mt=8). We use this most Wednesday mornings.
  • Pick up a copy of Seeking God’s Face

Want more info? Email chris@thebranchonline.org


Fall at the Branch

The weather has turned cooler. The more relaxed pace of summer seems to be over. Here at The Branch, things are no different. Take a look at some of the things happening this Fall. Join us for one or join us for all. We’d love to have you!

Fall Kick-off Party
When: Saturday, Sept. 16 @ 3pm–?
Where: Oeverman and DeBlaay yard – 2020 and 2030 Madison Ave. SE
What to bring: Sign up here for food, lawn chair, any yard games you love, and blankets/pillows for the outdoor movie
Who: Everyone from the youngest member of your family to the oldest is invited.
Why: For fun! And to connect with each other as the fall season begins

BranchStudents Kick-off
When: Sunday, Sept. 17 @ 5:30
Where: Workman’s home
What to bring: any side dish to share
Who: 5th graders and older, along with their parents are invited to this first meeting of BranchStudents. (Please make other arrangements for younger siblings.)
Why: To learn more about what BranchStudents is all about

Fall Partner Gathering
When: Sunday, Sept. 24 @ 3pm
Where: Seymour Church in Alger Heights
What to bring: nothing
Who: All partners (members) and those who call the Branch home, even if not officially affiliated
Why: To discuss and reflect on the vision God has laid before us; to discern what that means for us corporately and individually
Childcare is provided. Please RSVP here.

Vision Series: Reconciled

Reconciliation finds its roots in the Latin meaning to bring back together what has been separated; to make good again. The Scriptures tell us that reconciliation is exactly what God is up to in the world, and we are called to join in that work.

The Branch is a church committed to reconciliation that is both personal, relational and moves us towards greater justice in the world.  Join us each week as we not only consider where we are headed as a church, but what God may be inviting each of us to do in the months ahead.

9/10 – reconciled: me

9/17 – reconciled: you

9/24 – reconciled: us

Stories from Sabbatical 8.6.17 (The power of story)

*Current Series: Stories from Sabbatical (part 2)*

For three months, the Branch gifted a sabbatical to its lead pastor. During August, Chris will share more reflections from his time away. We’ll also share stories about the ways the time of sabbatical changed individuals and families at the Branch.

Reimagining Scripture

During the month of July we took time to dialogue over passages of scripture (John 6:1-15) so very little of our dialogue was recorded. We’d love to hear your take on the story found in that passage of Jesus feeding the 5000.

Missional Community @ Garfield Park

During the summer, join one of our missional communities at Garfield Park on Thursdays from 5:30-7:30pm (come whenever your schedule allows). We’ll have dinner together (bring place settings and something to pass), play and hang out. We’ll also continue to build relationships and support recent refugees who join us from time to time.

Sabbatical Return Party

Let’s celebrate the DeBlaay family returning from sabbatical! We will eat together on the lawn of the Branch on JUNE 11 after church. Please sign up to bring something to share.


Easter at the Branch

How do we celebrate Easter at the Branch (and, for some, the end of a fast)?

On Good Friday, we come together to enter into a memorial of the final hours before Jesus crucifixion. The hour long service starts at 7pm and childcare will be provided for toddler and nursery age kids. Older kids may join us for the service. We hope you and your family will join us for this time of worship.

To celebrate the subsequent resurrection on Easter morning, get here a little early to enjoy a special Easter tailgate with us. Bring your favorite breakfast food to share, we’ll make the coffee. It all starts at 8:30am and we look forward to seeing you there.


Racial Reconciliation Training

This spring, we are offering free training aimed at helping address systemic and individual racism and bias. Our goal is “to see and learn about racism in a new and redemptive way, to gain insights into systemic racism through the eyes of faith and Scripture, to see more of the connections between history and contemporary race relations, and to identify organizing opportunities to eliminate racism, both causes and effects, within the body of believers and throughout the world.” Please join us as we pursue reconciliation in this part of the world we call home.

April 22 – Noon to 6pm

April 26 and May 3, 6-8pm*

*While we’d love to have you at all three pieces of the training, you can attend only Saturday if your schedule requires.

To register, simply check our our Facebook event and click “Tickets Available.” We look forward to your presence in our community and welcoming you into the family of the Branch!