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We Need to Talk About Grief

December 4th, 2017

Chris Morton

Grief is the natural and normal response to change or loss.

Everyone deals with grief, but the holidays have a way of bringing our loss to the forefront.

Here are a few things you or someone you know might be grieving:

  • The loss of a loved one
  • The end of a relationship
  • The loss of a job
  • The failure of an exciting opportunity
  • The loss of a pet

There are also have many reasons to grieve in our broader culture, including:

  • The wide-spread pain from sexual assault brought to light by #MeToo.
  • Multiple mass shootings and a lack of political will to address them.
  • How a political and social divide has invaded daily and family life.

How We Address Grief as a Church Community

At Austin Mustard Seed, we know that grief is normal, unavoidable and significantly impacts our daily lives. We believe that God meets us in our grief and even shares our grief.

One way we address this reality is at “Lament Night.”

Lament Night is an opportunity express our grief or stand in solidarity with others who are experiencing it. Lament Night usually takes place in the privacy of homes.

However, due to the more obvious needs of the holidays, we are hosting a special Lament Night Liturgy this Advent.

How to Invite Someone to Lament Night

Talking about grief is awkward and so talking about Lament Night might be awkward to do. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you invite your friends and neighbors:

  • Don’t forget our definition of grief: a normal response to change or loss.
  • Be specific! Tell people “We are hosting a one-night event focused on grief.”
  • Remember who it is for: anyone experiencing grief and those of us who want to support others in grief.
  • Talk about the season. It’s common knowledge that the holidays can be painful, so don’t be afraid to talk about it!

We hope you’ll participate in Lament Night and invite a friend.

Lament Night: An Advent Liturgy of Longing is December 18 at 7pm.

CLICK HERE TO INVITE YOUR FACEBOOK FRIENDS

Advent: Five Ways Your Family Can Learn to Wait for Jesus

December 1st, 2017

April Karli

As the days grow shorter and cooler (in some parts of the country, anyway) it means that Advent is almost here! During the busy and frantic time leading to Christmas, Advent gives us opportunity to slow down and prepare ourselves for Jesus’ arrival.

This year, Advent begins on December 3. Advent is a time of patient waiting and expectation. We participate in the story of God’s people for centuries, longing for the Messiah to come. During Advent we prepare our hearts for the arrival of Jesus as a baby, and we prepare our world for Jesus to return again.

Families can celebrate Advent together. Children are primed for the symbols and and stories of Advent. Candles, wreaths, and lights for the season of Advent all give kids something tangible to help them enter into the season. Perhaps the easiest part of Advent for kids to relate to is waiting. During Advent we wait…and wait…and wait. We wait for Jesus to come just like God’s people waited for the Messiah to come and save them so long ago. We are still waiting for Jesus to come again.

Five Ways to Celebrate Advent as a Family

Here are a few resources with ideas for ways you can observe Advent with your family this season:

  1. Create an Advent wreath. Traditional Advent wreaths consist of greenery and four candles, three purple and one pink. Most Advent wreaths also have a white candle to light on Christmas Eve.
    The first Sunday of Advent light the first purple candle. This is the candle of hope. Read Psalm 130:5-6 together as a family. I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” Discuss these questions: When is it hard to wait for something? What makes waiting easier for you? What does hope mean?

    The second Sunday of Advent light the first and the second purple candle. This is the candle of peace. Read John 14:27 together as a family. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” Discuss these questions: When do you feel afraid? Who or what helps you when you’re afraid? What does it feel like to be at peace? How does Jesus give us peace?

    The third Sunday of Advent light the first two purple candles and the pink candle. This is the candle of joy. Read Luke 1:46-47 and Philippians 4:4 together as a family. “And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46-47) “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” (Phil 4:4) Discuss these questions: What do you look like when you feel joyful? How can we feel joy when things are good? What about when things are bad?

    The fourth Sunday of Advent light the first three candles and the last purple candle. This is the candle of love. Read 1 John 3:1 together as a family. See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Discuss these questions: Who loves you? How do you show someone you love them? How does Jesus coming to earth as a baby show us that God loves us?

    On Christmas Eve light the first four candles and the white candle. This is the Christ candle. Read Luke 2:10-11 together as a family. “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Discuss these questions: What would you do if you saw an angel? Why is the birth of Jesus good news? Who can you tell the good news about Jesus?

    Search the internet or Pinterest for dozens of ideas to make your own Advent wreath. Or, here are a few ideas for how to make an Advent wreath for use at home: Traditional Advent Centerpiece, Simple Advent Wreath, Painted Votive Advent Wreath, Non-traditional Advent Wreath.

  2. Color your way through Advent using devotionals from Illustrated Children’s Ministries. Illustrated Children’s Ministries creates beautiful faith formation resources for families and churches. This year’s Advent for families includes five weeks of simple devotions, coloring pages, and an illustrated Advent wreath craft.
  3. Sign up to receive a free daily family Advent reading from Sparkhouse Family. Sparkhouse creates books and curriculum to spark kids’ curiosity about God and faith. These are geared for kids ages 3-10.
  4. Make your own Jesse Tree. Jesse Trees are decorative trees used during Advent to retell the Bible stories that lead up to the birth of Jesus. My Jesse Tree has lots of free downloadable resources to create your own Jesse Tree at home.
  5. Participate in the Advent Conspiracy. The Advent Conspiracy encourages people to prepare for Christmas in revolutionary ways: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All. Discuss with your family how to redirect your resources of time and money this Advent to love and serve your neighbors.

Whatever you decide to do this year, remember that Advent invites us all to slow down in preparation of Jesus’ arrival. Allow new Advent traditions to enrich and enhance your family’s experience of the season. May your Advent be filled with joyful anticipation and hopeful expectation for our Savior, Jesus, to arrive!

 

Who is Jesus? (Cutting Room Floor Podcast)

November 11th, 2017

Chris Morton

Throughout the Catechesis series, we’re providing an extra “cutting room floor” podcast, where we share some key ideas that we didn’t have time for in the week’s sermon.

This week, we asked the question “who is Jesus?” and discovered three core ideas the Church has always believed about Jesus.

One is that Jesus is SMART!

As Dallas Willard says in Divine Conspiracy

Our commitment to Jesus can stand on no other foundation than a recognition that he is the one who knows the truth about our lives and our universe. It is not possible to trust Jesus, or anyone else, in matters where we do not believe him to be competent. We cannot pray for his help and rely on his collaboration in dealing with real-life matters we suspect might defeat his knowledge or abilities. And can we seriously imagine that Jesus could be Lord if he were not smart? If he were divine, would he be dumb? Or uninformed? Once you stop to think about it, how could he be what we take him to be in all other respects and not be the best-informed and most intelligent person of all, the smartest person who ever lived?

Play

Sunday: Help Our Kids Collect Cans!

November 3rd, 2017

April Karli

Did you know that 20% of people living in Travis County are below the federal poverty level? More than half of the Travis County residents eligible for SNAP are not enrolled.

That translates into a lot of hungry neighbors who we can help.

This November our Kindergarten-5th graders are going to take the lead in a food drive at Austin Mustard Seed. They’ll be learning about how to love and serve our neighbors while encouraging all of us to participate by bringing food to donate.

Starting THIS SUNDAY, NOV 5, we’ll be collecting donations for the Micah 6 food pantry. Micah 6 is a nonprofit that meets the needs of the homeless and impoverished in the University of Texas area. They donate over 3,000 pounds of food a week.

Items needed include:

  • canned meats like tuna, stew and chili (pop-tops preferred)
  • canned vegetables
  • pasta and pasta sauce
  • beans
  • healthy cereals
  • UHT packaged milk and juice that requires no refrigeration
    (Ultra High Temperature, or long shelf storage packing)

How do we make space for people of all ages in our community AND care for our neighbors? By inviting our elementary age kids to champion this project.

Bring your food items to donate starting this week and throughout November! Let’s see how much we can collect!

Tomorrow is Because of My Dad 👴👧

October 27th, 2017

April Karli

Tomorrow we’re hosting the Austin Venue for SheLeads.

The party starts at 10:30 am at the Orange Chapel. Come on over, even if you haven’t registered yet.

One major reason we’re hosting this event is that of my dad, Jack Hammans, and the influence he had on me.

Jack will be a part of our panel of local leaders. He will share some of his own story of how he’s come to support women in leadership. He’ll be joined by three amazing local leaders who are women.

Thanks, Dad for being instrumental in my own development and growth both as a follower of Jesus and as a leader in the church.

If you are still on the fence, think about all of our amazing kids and the kind of church you want them to grow up in. Wouldn’t it be great if we could inspire them the same way Jack inspired me? Come on over tomorrow and we’ll dream about it together.

See you tomorrow.

This Will Help You Move from Apprehension to Wonder

October 24th, 2017

Chris Morton

As a church, we have beliefs.

As individuals, it’s a little more complicated.

Sometimes we strongly agree. Sometimes we doubt.

If you don’t have anywhere to discuss your doubts, they can become much more.

Fears. Frustrations. Cynicism.

We grow isolated because we are afraid to share our doubts.

When you have a safe space to discuss what you believe, you fears grow smaller. Doubts which were once crippling transform into mystical questions.

We’re halfway through our discussion series “Catechesis,” where we are revisiting timeless core beliefs of the Church. Instead of ignoring or silencing our doubts, we’re pushing into them.

We’re asking questions that might seem dangerous—but we’re doing it in safe places filled with friends.

When we ask difficult questions together, we are transformed from apprehension to wonder.

Download this week’s Reflection and Discussion Guide.

Find a Community Group


Listen Back to the Catechesis Series

Finally: Let’s Say What We Think About the Bible! (Tonight and Tomorrow)

October 10th, 2017

Chris Morton

What have Christians ALWAYS believed about the Bible?

If you are from “ChurchWorld” you probably have one of two responses to this question:

(A) I love the Bible. It’s God’s word.
(B) I’m not sure I think about the Bible…but I don’t know where I can talk about that.

On top of that, there are a lot of people who want to tell you what the Bible is—or what it isn’t.

As John mentioned on Sunday, many people talk about the Bible using words like “inspired,” “authoritative” and “inerrant.”

What do these words even mean? Does the Bible describe itself that way?

Others want to tell you that the Bible is ancient, useless and self-contradictive. Since Christians have always relied on the Bible, we should be able to answer why!

Do you have a deep love for studying the Bible you want to share? Are you unsure about the Bible and afraid to bring that up?

Good news!

Now is your chance to honestly reveal what you think about the scriptures.

This week’s Catechesis Discussion is all about the Bible. The purpose of the Catechesis series is to discuss how our shared life is birthed out of what the Church has always believed. We can’t have a Catechesis Discussion without the Bible.

So let’s have a discussion.

How to Participate this Week

  1. Download the Community Group Discussion Guide. Before you go to your group, you’ll want to take time to read through it. You may want to pray about the questions and journal through them.
  2. Visit or join a Community Group. You can see a full list here.

What is Belief? Cutting Room Floor (Catechesis Bonus Podcast Week 1)

October 7th, 2017

Chris Morton

During our nine-week Catechesis discussion, we’ll have a bonus episode in addition to our weekly sermon podcast. In this episode, Chris digs a little further into why Christian Beliefs are reasonable…at least they can be. He also waxes about a two of his favorite books.

Play

What if We Had Women and Men Leading Together?

October 5th, 2017

April Karli

Growing up, my church experience, except for Sunday school, was all male led.

I watched my dad prepare and deliver sermons every Sunday. Another man led the hymn singing during the worship service. Regularly, my dad met with a team of all male elders. When missionary families visited, the husband would preach and share about their work overseas.

There was no question that men were the leaders of our church. Women’s voices were valued, but only in certain places like the children’s or women’s ministry, or organizing VBS, a potluck, or an outreach project.

What if Women…

Many capable, gifted women leaders were present in my home church, including my own mother, and I wonder how our community might have been different had those women been empowered and free to lead alongside the men.

If women had been invited to preach, lead worship, or asked to shepherd the church community as elders, I think we all would have had a richer, more full experience of God and what the family of God is meant to look like.

Certainly, as a little girl, it would have had a huge impact on me as well as the other children—girls and boys—to have seen women and men leading together.

Leading Together

These experiences for women aren’t limited to the church. There are still many venues where women’s voices aren’t welcomed or held in as high esteem as men’s. But the church can and should be leading the way when it comes to changing how men and women lead together.

SheLeads is a one-day event on October 28 where we can learn, discuss, and imagine together God’s vision for shared leadership in the church and ministry. Last year, many of the women who attended our Austin viewing party were transformed by the experience and began to understand their own God-given gifts and purpose in a whole new way. We heard lots of encouraging stories of how the speakers, panelists, and table discussions impacted the participants.

This year Austin, Texas is one of several regional venues for SheLeads. We are partnering with other churches in Austin to bring the event to town.

If you are a…

  • Woman leader looking to be encouraged or encourage other women
  • Woman unsure of her leadership potential but curious to explore it more
  • Man who wants to empower and support the women leaders around him
  • Man or woman who loves Jesus and desires to see his church more fully embody the gospel

SheLeads is for you.

Email me to let us know by SATURDAY, OCT 7 to receive the group discount.

Registration prices go up Sunday! We hope to see lots of you there!

Here is Your Perfect Moment to Step into Community

September 25th, 2017

Chris Morton

Name calling matters.

This past summer, we spent hours in our Leadership Team and with past Midweek Groups leaders at Austin Mustard Seed asking the question:

What words best capture the experience we hope people have in our the smaller groups at our Church?

We landed on the term “Community Groups.”

Seven Traits of Austin Mustard Seed Community Groups

Yes, we know that the term “Community” can be overused, especially in churchworld. This is how we got there:

We asked the question “what common traits do all our groups have?” Even though each group is different, what do we hope they will all experience?

We agreed on seven key traits:

  1. Growing in the Way of Jesus—Groups are united by a desire to better understand who Jesus is, what he taught, and what it means to live those teachings out today
  2. Commitment to the Group—Participating in a Community Group requires a willingness to dedicate time, energy and resources to meeting regularly, communicating consistently and investing in the lives of other group members.
  3. Space for Vulnerability—Groups are hospitable places where individuals can feel seen, known and welcome, no matter where they are in their personal journey and in their faith.
  4. Joining God’s Mission—Groups are driven by God’s Mission and seek ways to join God in making all things new.
  5. Dialogical—Groups focus on honest conversation about each other’s lives, hopes, questions and opinions.
  6. Prayer—Groups regularly pray for each other and for outsiders. They also help individuals grow in their own practice of prayer.
  7. Hospitality—Groups are dedicated to welcoming passionate believers, hopeful skeptics, adults, children, families and the unmarried, no matter what their stage in life or faith.

When we tried to sum these traits up, we couldn’t come up with a better word than “Community”.

What to Expect this Week (9.24—9.30)

This is one of the best possible weeks to join a group.

You can see a list of our current groups HERE.

The goal of Community Groups this week is to articulate a “covenant”. A covenant is a relational agreement between people before God.

Community Group Covenants help set the expectations of each group on how to participate and what to expect.

By helping form these covenants, you will help shape the nature and values of the group.

Are you looking for a group where you can be honest? Put that in the covenant.

Are you looking for a group where you can have fun? Put that in the covenant.

Are you looking for a group that will help you experience a deeper spiritual life? Put that in the covenant.

Led by the Holy Spirit, you are forming these groups together.

What will your group focus on?

Click HERE for the Community Group Covenant Worksheet.