Service Recap; October 9


Luke 17:5-10

The message translation of the gospel from Luke goes like this:

“The Apostles came up and said to the Master, “give us more faith.” But the Master said, “You don’t need more faith. There is not ‘more’ or ‘less’ in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, “Go jump in the lake,” and it would do it.”

We can all relate to the disciple’s request. It’s remarkable, isn’t it, that even those walking beside Jesus felt the need for more faith. Even the disciples, who watched Jesus walk on water, who saw him multiply the loaves and fishes, who were at his side as he dispelled sicknesses, asked for more faith. In Jesus response, he seems to be saying, “You’re asking for the wrong thing. The fix for the weakness that you sense in yourselves cannot be mended by more faith.” In his homily, Bob reminded us that faith is not a product of working harder. It is not a good that can be multiplied. It is, Bob suggested, something in us that can be active in the right ways.  And when it is active in us in the right ways, it enables us to live in certain ways that would be impossible without faith.

Faith points us beyond ourselves. Faith causes our attention to shift, almost effortlessly off of ourselves and onto Christ. Faith is absent when we are looking at ourselves. When we focus on our own abilities, our own beliefs, our piety, or our own greatness or wretchedness, faith is not active in us. However, when we look at Christ, at His faithfulness and goodness, then we see ourselves rightly and we see others rightly as well. Faith looks toward Christ.  The disciples, looking at themselves, thought that they needed more faith. “Master,” they say, looking down at their own faith or lack of it, “give us more faith.” Jesus draws their eyes up, off of themselves and onto himself.

When we look at Christ, we see the servant of all. We see in Christ the example of how we ought to live. When we “fix our eyes on him, the author and perfector of our faith” we begin to ask the right questions. We see that our faith is complete in Christ and we are empowered to live lives of service toward others. 


We praise you, God, for the gift of new life in Loralei Akiko Inouya born to Jason and Andrea this week. We thank you that both she and mom are healthy.   May you continue to bless this family and bless Loralei with good health.  May she grow up to know you and also bring others to your saving grace.  

We pray for all those affected by hurricane Matthew. We ask for needed supplies to come to those who have needs. We pray for safety for those still in the middle of the winds and flooding. For those who have lost love ones, we ask for your presence to attend them in this time.  

We pray for Pastor Bob, Caleb, Michael Demaray, and Andy who will attend the denominational meetings this week in San Francisco.  We also pray for Jihun Kang as he comes as a local pastor and guest.  May your Spirit guide the discussions, decisions and fellowship at these meetings.

We continue to lift up in prayer the people of Columbia as they voted down the peace deal between the government and the FARC guerrillas. We thank you for peaceful voting last week and for the willingness for both sides to continue to negotiate.  We ask that the churches in Columbia may be a beacons of hope and peace in their communities.

Lord In your mercy, hear our prayers.


  • Community Dinners are the week of October 17-22. Community Dinners are an initiative with the goal of getting people to share a meal with folks from the grace community that they may not know. Simply choose which day works for you, and Caleb will tell you who is hosting your dinner! Simple as that! Simply fill out this form with dates that work for you.
  • November 5th, Grace is hosting Dr. Kristen Deede Johnson for a lecture on faith in the public sphere. Kristen is a professor at Western Theological Seminary and has written about and worked in the space around faith and culture. This lecture will help us think critically about our political and public engagement for the good of Chicago. More info here.  

Service Recap; September 18

Psalm 113 | Luke 15:11-32 | Luke 16:1-13

The Parable of the Shrewd Manager

The Parable of the Shrewd Manager

The story in this week's gospel is of a wealth manager who knows that he is about to get fired. He has that surge of panic that comes along with any major life setback. His plans are thrown out the window. He pictures his inevitable demise. Afraid, he begins thinking about how to create a safety net for himself. He goes to all of his employer's debtors. He finds the man who owes his employer 100 jugs of oil. "You can make it 50," he tells the man in debt. He finds another person who owes 100 containers of wheat. "Why don't you just pay back 80?" he offers kindly. He acts dishonestly, the Bible tells us, but he wins friends by acting shrewdly. You might expect the Bible to tell us about the hammer of justice coming down on this man. You might expect the preacher to preach about doing the honest thing, even when it is difficult. You might expect the gospel lesson to be about trusting God and not acting shrewdly. 

Ah, but the Bible is so sneaky sometimes. The sneaky man's boss commends him for acting so shrewdly. Jesus tells those who are listening that they ought to be like this man. "Make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth," Jesus tells us. What an odd story. 

Bob pointed out that both the prodigal son in the story immediately preceding this one, and the shrewd manager both "squander" wealth. One of them ends up ruining his life. The other ends up saving his life. The prodigal son squanders money on himself. The end of his use of his finances is his own pleasures-it is used as his escape from reality. The shrewd man in the second story squanders his money on relationships. He recognizes his need for people-he needs someone to have his back, and so he too squanders wealth, but he squanders wealth on relationship. Bob said it this way, "the shrewd manager knows what time it is." He knows what is important in this certain place at this certain time. Do we know what time it is? For Christians, the answer to this question has everything to do with the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is at hand. This reality causes us to look at our time, wealth, skills, and compassion and to use all of these things to enter into relationship with one another and with God in meaningful ways.  


We pray for many in our Grace family who are facing uncertainty.  We ask for your patience to guide them in this time as they await major life changing experiences from family health concerns, financial challenges, to job changes.  May each person facing uncertainty seek you for all they need and seek.  Provide wisdom and confidence that you guide and protect us.  

Father, it was said of the Prodigal Son that he “came to himself.” Help us to wake up to ourselves, and to You. Set us free from the illusion of trying to be perfect so that we might be more fully human. Help us not to chase after an imaginary life, and to find satisfaction in our real lives. And turn us away from our self-rejection so that we might see that Your arms open in welcome.

Lord in your mercy....Hear our prayer


  • Join us next Sunday for worship as it will be James Falzones final Sunday as the music director. Following the service, we will have lunch at Bob and Jill Reid's house. All are invited! An RSVP and more information can be found here
  • Beer and Hymns is on October 2nd. Everyone is invited to join us at Gideon Welles on Sunday, October 2nd for drinks and songs. Check out this website for more information, and pass it along to anyone who might be interested!
  • Men's Meetup is this Thursday. We're meeting at Hopcat, a new bar in Chicago on Clark Street. We'll meet at 7:30. Hope to see you there!

Service Recap; September 4



We thank you Lord for our labors this weekend. Let us not forget those who have close jobs because of corporate changes, those forced into early retirement, those denied employment because of age, sex, or race, those who must work illegally in order to survive, those who seek other work and cannot find it. Renew our sense of vocation and help us to discern your presence in even the lowliest tasks we face. 

We pray for those who have brought increased, senseless violence it our city this year.   Our hearts go out to those who grieve the loss of loved ones in the midst of this violence.  We ask for peace to inhabit our hearts and that in all things we do we may seek those things that make for unity, purity and peace.  

We pray for the new school year ahead for our youth.  from the city leadership, administrations, teachers and students, we ask for a year focused on creativity and learning.  

We lift up in prayer Andrew, Amy and Irene Fields.  We thank you that they have settled into their ministry in Columbia and ask that you would continue to strengthen their Spanish and connection to the people they serve.  Bless the seminary that they would continue to provide education that expands minds to bring your good news to this world.  

Lord in your mercy...Hear our prayer

Homily Recap:


Luke Timothy Johnson writes this about the mission of the church:

"The church is, in a real sense, the continuation of the incarnation, the embodied presence of the resurrected Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit... the church is.... the laboratory for communal life before God, the model that the world can see.... as the basis for its own rebirth."

During the homily we asked ourselves the question: are we living into this calling of the church?

One of our scripture readings was from Paul's letter to Philemon. As he wrote to Philemon, asking him to free his runaway slave, Onesimus, that question, or something close to it, must have been on Paul's mind. For, Paul had already written about 10 years earlier these words to the church in Galatia:

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

Now, ten years later, Philemon, a friend of Paul's, had the opportunity to put this truth into action in two ways. First, Paul urged Philemon to forgive Onesimus (i.e relate to him according to the gospel and not in the way that a runaway slave would be normally treated in the Roman law and custom of the day. Secondly, Paul urged him to receive Onesimus back into his home as a brother and NOT a slave (emancipation is almost certainly in view here). 

Our cultural context is far removed from this First Century setting, but the question we should be wrestling with every day is the same as the one Paul and Philemon considered in the exchange preserved for us in the Epistle to Philemon: what are we doing in our personal lives that enables us to live into the vision of the church as "the laboratory for communal life before God, the model that the world can see.... as the basis for its own rebirth."


  • Beach BBQ This Sunday! Join us after church on September 11th for a BBQ on the beach. Kids are welcome. Friends are welcome. You can get more information and RSVP here
  • New Members Class is on September 18th. If you're interested in learning more about Grace Chicago, who we are, what we believe, and why we exist, join us for lunch after the service. Send an email if you'd like to come. 
  • Falzone Family Send Off is September 25th. The Falzone family is moving to Seattle. To celebrate their years at Grace Chicago, we're having lunch at Pastor Bob's house after church. Hope you can join!

Service Recap; July 17

"The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it."

We read these harsh words from Amos 8 this week for our first lesson. Amos, the shepherd, is convicted that these are the words of the Lord, and so he speaks them clearly and loudly to "those that trample on the needy, and bring ruin to the poor of the land." 

Chapter 8 of Amos contains the sort of damning rhetoric that makes me wince. "That's the Old Testament for you," we might say. At first I wince because the God in this passage does not sound like the God of steadfast love. But Bob pointed out that the words are directed against those who are taking advantage of the poor. I feel good about that. The God that defends the poor...that is my kind of God. But then Bob reminded us that Amos' searing declaration is directed at God's people. Not at those outside the sanctuary walls, but at those inside them. 

Amos was followed up by Luke's brief sketch of an interaction between Jesus, Mary, and Martha. Mary sits at Jesus' feet listening to him tell stories. Martha works tirelessly. "Mary has chosen the wiser," Jesus says. "Well, yes, Jesus," I say in my head, "of course she has. Martha's doing all the work." 

Amos and Luke present the possibility of NOT being in the presence of God. Amos makes clear the reality that where the poor are trampled and taken advantage of, the Word of God will not be present. In Matthew 25, Jesus says that when we ignore the hungry, naked, and imprisoned, we ignore Him, because He is present with them. Of course, then, when the people of God participate consciously or unconsciously in the oppression of the weak, God's presence and Word will not be in their midst. The scene from Luke paints a more tangible and mundane scene, where Martha is simply too worried and busy to be in the presence of Christ. Bob suggested that we "make it or break it by paying the right kind of attention in the mundane." Martha is too busy to pay attention-to notice that the living God was telling stories in her house. 

I don't think the point of these stories is that God will recuse Himself from us if we don't do the right things. I think the point is that God is right in front of us. He is with the woman on the corner we pass each day, whose story would move us in ways that might threaten our comfort. He is with the co-worker who, if we would give him our true attention, would confess his humanity to us in ways that would for us to view him not as a co-worker, but as a fellow image-of-God-human-being. The truth is that we have the great power to pay attention or not. We have the great power to ignore God's presence in the world, and in that way live in a world void of the Word of God. But we can also sit at the feet of Christ and hear his stories. We can pay the right kind of attention to the suffering in the world and participate in it, and in that way become the hope of glory. 

From the Heidelberg Catechism

What does the 8th Commandment require of me? That I do whatever I can for my neighbor's good. That I treat others as I would like them to treat me, and that I work faithfully so that I may share with those in need.

Communion Song

Prayers of the People

We continue to pray for and end to the violence in our world.  We pray especially today for the victims and families of the attack in France.  Remember in your mercy all who mourn and grieve the death of family and friends.  Nourish them with patience, comfort them with a sense of your goodness, strengthen them to meet the days ahead.   

Lord in your mercy....Hear our prayer

We pray for peace in the streets of Turkey. Give wisdom, creativity, and perseverance to all who work for unity, peace, concord and the freedom of all people.    We remember missionaries from our denomination, Rick and Stephanie and their family who work tirelessly to bring your good news to that region.  May you continue to provide safety to them and wisdom in the midst of uncertainty. 

Lord in your mercy...Hear our prayer

Open our eyes, O Lord, to see that you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth.  Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you, bring nations into your fold, pour out your Spirit on all flesh, and hasten the coming of your kingdom.  

Lord in your mercy...Hear our prayer

{As we continue to pray in light of the tragic events across the country, we offer this article from the publication, Perspectives, to continue a dialogue around difficult topics. The article  discusses the difference between guilt and responsibility, and encourages us to allow the stories of recent weeks to become personal.}


  • Grace is cooking at the Joshua Center this Thursday. Nathan Bowman is taking the lead this month. Email Caleb if you are interested in helping cook food for the women who live at the shelter at Breakthrough.
  • Men's Meetup is next week Thursday (28th). We'll meet at Green Street Smoked Meats and walk to Beer Bistro afterwards. Email for more information.
  • Lisa Zook is hosting a Dinner with Grace on July 31st. Join us in the evening for a casual meal. This is a great opportunity to meet some new folks! More info on the events page. 

Service Recap; May 29, 2016

This week Caleb, our pastoral intern, led us in a thoughtful reflection on how to be at ease with oneself in the presence of a loving God. Remarkably, he culled his insights from an Old Testament narrative that is replete with pyrotechnics and violence. More about that in a minute. Caleb began his homily by graciously inviting us into a period in his life when he struggled so deeply with anxiety that silence became incredibly difficult - to the point that he had to have earbuds in all the time. He needed the sports podcasts or the tunes to tune out the nagging thoughts that he wasn't going to measure up as husband, or pastor, or you name it.

From Caleb's recent trip to Israel, taken on top of Mt. Carmel.

From Caleb's recent trip to Israel, taken on top of Mt. Carmel.

He jumped nimbly from that moment of transparency to a momentous event in the history of Israel, a day full of anxiety for many, but full of restful confidence for one man, Elijah. The story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal is immediately for Israel a cautionary tale, extolling the magnificence of Israel's God and warning against chasing after the so-called gods of Canaan. You can read the narrative of the events in 1 Kings 18:20-39. Suffice it to say, the prophets of Baal were anxious all day long, as they limped about in circles, raving and shouting, self-mutilating, trying their religious best to get the favorable attention of a god that never answered. Meanwhile, Elijah, without breaking a sweat, and after a running commentary, thick with sarcasm (maybe Baal is asleep - yell louder!) invokes the presence of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, who promptly responds and consumes Elijah's sacrifice with flames from heaven.

The day of the showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal begins with this question that Elijah puts to the people: "How long will you go on limping with two opinions. If the Lord is God, follow him, but if Baal then follow him."  God is jealous for our loyalty but not so that he can prop up his ego. God wants us to worship him and him alone because only in the gifts of his love, grace, and empowering presence can we be confident in who we are meant to be. The anxious voices in our head invite us to measure up to some ideal version of ourselves that is good enough to get God's favorable attention and merit the favor of others - may as well limp about all day waiting on an idol to show up and approve of you. Better to be like Elijah and take God at his word. The Lord our God is the one who accepts us as we are, forgives all of our sins, and sets our lives on the path of wholeheartedness.

Communion Song


  • Pray for those who have lost their lives to war. Pray for families whose lives have been upturned by war and violence.
  • Pray for those in our own city whose lives have been upturned by violence.
  • Pray for peace.


  • There will be a vote next week after church to confirm Elders and Deacons. All members are invited to vote.
  • There will be a potluck on June 12, and we will be hosting guests from General Synod.
  • Summer hours will begin on June 19th. Service will begin at 9:30am
  • HUNGER WALK is June 25th. Sign up to Volunteer to help out by responding through the church email this week!