Both/And: Rediscovering the Christ

In this first Sunday of Advent we discuss how opposite things can be both be true. That Jesus can be both human and divine and that learning to accept these paradoxes shows a maturity of faith.

Good and Beautiful God: God is Self-Sacrificing

This week we look at the story of two brothers (Mark 10) who were living out of a seductive false narrative that emptied them and their relationships.  Jesus shows us a different narrative and truth: emptying leads to filling.


Good and Beautiful God: God is Holy

Chris addresses the false narratives that God is either passive or vengeful about our sins. Instead, he suggests, God merely opposes those things which prevent our growth and prevent us from becoming the best of what he made us to be.

The Good and Beautiful God – God is Generous

Part 3 looks at the false narrative that we earn God’s favor and compares it to the life and teaching of Jesus, who shows us that God’s favor is not a response to what we do, but simply an outpouring of God’s love for who we are.


The Good and Beautiful God – God is Trustworthy

This week we look at a second narrative we learn from Jesus: God is Trustworthy. And we review the process by which we change.  Matthew 6; Matthew 26


1) If you want to recap this message, read chapter 3 from The Good and Beautiful God.  To prep for the message on the 23rd, read chapter 4.
2) Get a blank sheet of paper and each day take 5-10 minutes to sit down and list as many things as you can think of from that day that you can give thanks for.  Over the course of the week, strive to list 100 things to praise God for!

We’d suggest putting a reminder in your phone for the time each day when you’ll sit down to do this.

Community is also critical.  Is there someone else with whom you could practice this exercise with?  Or is there someone who you could ask to check in with you on this a couple of times this week?  If practicing with children, bring them into the practice.  They could keep their own list — or add to yours.

The Good and Beautiful God: God is Good


The sermon on Sunday is only a start. We strongly encourage you to take another step or two this week in order to enter into the process of transformation more fully. Here are some ideas:


1) Read chapters 1-3 from The Good and Beautiful God.

2) Engage in one of these soul-training exercises.
SLEEP (read about this exercise in depth on pages 33-36 in the book): Each of us knows what it’s like to be tired. And, we know how exhaustion can easily keep us from doing and being the people we want to be. This soul-training exercise may take some planning, but there’s no question it will be worth it. Smith suggests two options: (a) Literally schedule one day this week where you are going to sleep as long as you need to. No alarm clock. This may take some planning and perhaps the help of family friends. Or…(b) get at least seven hours of sleep at least three times this week. This is the minimum. If you can get 7.5 or 8 a night — go for it!  Again, some discipline and planning may be required…but hey…these are soul-training exercises afterall.

SILENCE (read about this exercise in depth on pages 52-53 in the book): To quote Smith: “Our world is noisy and hurried, and few of us stop to be still…[But] to paraphrase the psalmist, we must be “still” to know that God is “good.” So get a cup of something warm and delicious, find a comfortable chair, and just sit quietly.  That’s all.”
Find 5 minutes each day to sit in silence. This will be hard at first, so if helpful, keep a notepad and pen nearby so that you can jot down distracting thoughts — saving them for later. If you’re having trouble quieting your mind, spend the first minute or two reading and meditating on a verse or two (Psalm 46:10 is an example).

3) Participate in Community. Whether you join one of the small groups forming around the Branch, or you purposefully meet with a friend or spouse to talk through the material each week, we hope you’ll lock arms with others.



Salt & Light: A Radical Third Way

This Sunday we looked at Acts 15-an instructive passage for the church whenever it is facing contentious and difficult issues. As the Branch enters a dialogue around one of the most contentious issues of our day, we are committed to finding joy in what God is doing, receiving each other with delight (even when we disagree) and adopting a posture of humility. For a link to the survey mention in the message, email Mara at

Our Story: Life After Exile

As the Israelites made their way back from exile they worked to resettle and rebuild.  On the one hand, it was a time of renewed spirituality, but on the other, it was a time of exclusion of the Other. Drew helps us consider what the example of the Israelites and Jesus teach us for today.


Our Story: Exile

Exile.  This period in Israel’s history raised all kinds of incredibly difficult questions.  Why did it happen?  Was God still faithful?  What about all of God’s promises?  Christi challenges us to not only look at Israel’s time in exile, but our own as well and through them find God’s restorative movement.

Our Story: A Kingdom Divided, the Temple Destroyed

The time of the Kings was a huge part of Israel’s history, but in time and in meaning, but it all came to an devastating end – including the destruction of the Temple.  What does this mean for us today?  Chris leads us through these questions this week.

Our Story: Change Through Offering

Bethany walks us through the lives and choices of Ruth, Hannah, Saul and David to show that in our darkest moments and deepest needs, when we make a choice for God we see change and growth.

Our Story: The Promised Land

Chris looks at the story of the Israelites and Jericho and addresses the dissonance between the war & destruction there and the loving God we see in the gospels, settling on Jesus as the accurate depiction of God.