It has been said that "music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends." Indeed music has the power to transcend words, whether spoken or written. Most of us have songs deeply embedded in our spirits that connect us to special times and poignant moments. These are the songs that make up the playlist of our lives. And for many of us, it wouldn't be Christmas without the music of the season. As we celebrate this first Christmas together in two years, we look to the familiar songs of the season to rediscover the story of Christmas... the story of love of grace for each of us and the world. Worship link:

Beauty Made Real

What is Christmas without the decorations, the lights, the trees, and the nativity scenes? The red and green that grace every store display, the colorful lights that show up on so many houses in our neighborhoods, and the decorated trees in our homes all signal that it’s a very special time of the year. And many of us put out a nativity set with Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men and baby Jesus so that we feel like we are keeping the season ‘sacred.’ But truth be told, wherever we find beauty, we find the holy. If we only look, we will find the hope, love, joy and peace of God revealed, not just in the baby of Christmas, but also in the images and art of the season. This year rediscover the heart of Christmas as you enjoy the beauty found in simple decorations, extravagant light displays, lavish trees, or even a single ornament. The beauty of Christmas is that in the images of the season God is revealed - personally, gloriously, for all to see. Worship link:

Hospitality is a word that carries many meanings and encompasses a wide variety of activities and experiences. Some people work in the hospitality industry - hotels, restaurants, travel and convention industries. Some think immediately about the beautiful settings they like to welcome guests into and the nice meals they like to serve there. Some think about the manners they were taught as children so as to practice polite hospitality... how to greet people, how to have a polite conversation, how to send a nice follow-up note. But in one way or another, hospitality is about serving, including, and loving the other. Is hospitality in the church any different? One person suggested that church hospitality is similar to how we feel about our tv remote controls at home. At home, a polite host asks their guest what they would like to watch on television and, giving up their own preference, change the channel to their guest's request. But that church hospitality - or any kind of real hospitality - simply gives the remote control to the guest and allows them to make their own selection. Real hospitality does more than welcome a visitor, it gives them the privileges of being family. Worship link:

Four Faithful Friends

What is the wildest, most outrageous thing you've done with a group of friends? Maybe as a teen you and your friends hoisted a car onto the school roof just before graduation. As young adults, maybe you and your friends back-packed across Europe or the US. Maybe you started a garage band in middle age, or you all jumped out of an airplane to celebrate your 80th birthday. Friends are important to us and have the potential to powerfully influence our attitudes and actions. In the New Testament book of Mark, we find four friends who went the extra mile for their paralyzed friend. Hearing that the Healer Jesus was in town, they sought to get him an audience with Jesus. But when the house where Jesus was staying was so full that they couldn't get in, they broke through the roof and lowered him into Jesus' very presence. And none of their lives were ever the same. By the faith of his friends, the man was healed. What difference can our faith make for our friends? What would we do so that our friends could get close to Jesus? What is in the way of people experiencing Jesus in the big "C" church, and at Union Chapel Indy? What wild, outrageous thing is God calling us to do to create access to the One who welcomes, loves, heals, and makes whole? Worship Link:

The Table | All Saints' Sunday

What elements make for a memorable meal? A beautiful tablescape? Exotic, specially prepared food like you might find in a celebrity chef's restaurant? Maybe you prefer a home-cooked meal like grandma used to make. Maybe it's not about the food at all. For you it might be all about who is at the table with you. Jesus spent a lot of time eating meals with people. Meals feature so prominently in the Gospel stories of Jesus that scholars have commented: ‘Jesus ate his way through the Gospels.’ He ate with the rich and the poor, the 'in' crowd and the outcasts, the powerful and the powerless. Regardless of the setting, the guest list, or the price point, acceptance, love, and grace were always on the menu. Who set the table of faith for you? Who would you invite to join you at that table? Jesus' legacy of love at the table is still with us today at the Communion Table. Pull up a chair and "...taste and see that the Lord is good..." (Psalm 34:8) worship link:

Consecration Sunday

"The point is this..." Have you ever had a long conversation with someone about something very important, only to discover that after all is said and done that the core of the issue is something very simple? While there may be much to say on the subject, and while there may be much-supporting material for one view and the other, and while speakers may be verbose and bring many thoughtful ideas, there really is only one main concern. "The point is this..." Of all the New Testament writers, Paul and those who wrote like him, seemed to have the greatest knack for using many words, illustrations, and related stories to express his heart and enthusiasm for Jesus and the life Jesus calls us to. So when he finally gets to a place of saying, "The point is this...," we know we have come to the heart of the matter. And when Paul writes about the generosity of the churches towards the ministry and the needs around them, his "point" is worth our considering even today. It's simple, profound, and so consistent with who we are called to be with Jesus that it's easy to overlook, dismiss, or skim past. But if we'll pause with Paul to consider how God would have us think about our generosity, we'll discover the point is this... giving has nothing to do with budgets, bills, or bank accounts, and everything to do with you and God. This is the point... Worship Link:

A Bout with Doubt

There's no doubt about it. We all have doubts. I doubt that I'll get that job... promotion... raise. I doubt that I will ever travel to exotic locations around the world. I doubt that I can ever give up smoking. I doubt she's telling me the truth. I doubt that my spouse really loves me. I doubt... I doubt... I doubt.... What would it take to erase some of your doubts? Would you have to see that first pay stub to believe you really got the raise? How many days without cigarettes would it take to convince you that you had really kicked the habit? Is there anything your friend can do to convince you she's telling you the truth?  After Jesus' resurrection, the disciples had trouble believing that he was alive. One, in particular, Thomas, wanted physical proof that Jesus was alive. He wanted to touch the nails scars in his hands and put his hand in the wound in Jesus' side before he would believe. Thomas asked Jesus for what he needed to believe. You can, too. The road to faith often begins at doubt. Let's travel together and see what we discover. Worship link:

Forward Focus

It was the famous baseball player Satchel Paige who once said, "don't look back, something might be gaining on you!" Without realizing it, we often carry something around with us wherever we go. We bring it out in our conversations and through our actions and attitudes. Those things from our past may never have really existed, or been experienced by us personally, yet their power lives within us, paralyzing us from moving forward and causing us to look backward. What would keep us from perceiving what God is doing? Maybe it is expecting things to look exactly like what was done in the past. Are you copying patterns of the past or do you have a forward focus to the future with great expectation that God is working a new thing? Scripture: Isaiah 43:18-19 18 Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old. 19 I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Worship link:

Stronger Together

What's your favorite adventure story? From fledgling Jedi Luke Skywalker to the small but mighty hobbits of Middle-earth, there's no shortage of tales about unlikely heroes who are called to perform impossible tasks against all odds. We're awestruck by their bravery, grit, and optimism. And we admire the relationships they build along the way - bonds that help them realize their potential, overcome obstacles and feel a little less alone. Enduring relationships aren't only found in books and movies. They're also part of God's master plan for our lives. In fact, God intentionally created us to rely on each other, so that together we could achieve more than anything we could imagine on our own. Link to Spiritual Gifts Inventory: Scripture: I Corinthians 12:12-18 | The Message "Your body has many parts — limbs, organs, cells — but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said goodbye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain — his Spirit — where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves — labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free — are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive. I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, transparent and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it." Worship link:

Pastor Elizabeth Gilbert interviews Sharon Moore as they learn more about the gardens and gardening at Union Chapel Indy. They discuss how gardening is closely related to our spiritual disciplines in life, and we discover more about how a grateful heart produces fruit in our lives that honor God. Video link:

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