Blog Index
  • Preparing for Worship: Tree People (Psalm 52

    Though I enjoy writing liturgy, the reality is our congregation needs to be formed and shaped by many voices, not just mine. By having someone else write some of our worship liturgies, the congregation will be blessed and shaped by someone else’s gifts, perspectives, and emphases. This is a good thing. So it is with preaching.

    John Haralson   •   July 7, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: Wild God (9am only this week!)

    A lot of times, we Christians can (rightfully) lament the evil in the world and cry out to God to do something about it. We want him to come and make what is crooked straight. This is crying out for God to “judge”. In the biblical story, to judge means not just to render a decision about something. It means to repair and restore a person, a situation, or a people. Biblical judging always includes restorative action.

    John Haralson   •   July 1, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: The Allure and Menace of Riches (Psalm 49)

    We are also a culture deeply marked by anxiety. We are profoundly worried about money, our futures, our jobs, our kids, the survival of our planet, and about who will win November’s Presidential election. And, no amount of money can seem to make our unease subside. 

    John Haralson   •   June 24, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: Psalm 48 & Spiritual Warfare

    God has given us this rich variety of prayers and songs to help us faithfully and authentically engage with him across the spectrum of our life circumstances. The Psalms help us truthfully name the various situations we find ourselves in so that we can experience God whether or not we’re having a good day, a heart-breaking day, or an incredibly average day.

    John Haralson   •   June 9, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: Psalm 47

    To be a Christian means to be united with God. Theologians often speak of “union with Christ” or use the New Testament language of being with or in Christ. The idea is that he graciously and lovingly shares the fulness of his life with his people.

    John Haralson   •   June 3, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: Psalm 46 (9 AM only this Sunday!)

    In the Psalm, nothing is calm and serene. Life as the Psalmist knows it is falling apart. There are natural disasters (“the mountains fall into the heart of the sea”) and God’s enemies are seeking to destroy God’s people (“the nations rage”). Everything the Psalmist holds dear is at risk of collapsing or being swallowed up.

    John Haralson   •   May 27, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: Rejoicing in Suffering

    This may sound like a bold or possibly naive statement by Paul. But, if you know anything about his life, you understand that it was filled with intense suffering and difficulty. In one of his letters to a congregation like ours, Paul said that he and his friends were once at a point where they “were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.”

    John Haralson   •   May 20, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: Songs from Prison

    It is difficult to describe the depth and power of that experience. Here was a church that was reeling from yet another form of racist violence carried out against African Americans. To make it even more egregious, the murders happened at church―a place that historically has been a place of safety and refuge for Black Christians.

    John Haralson   •   May 6, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: Lydia: The Man from Macedonia

    Yet, what is even more important is that God was seeking Lydia. Through a very circuitous and perplexing route, God sends Paul and his friends to find Lydia and tell her the good news of the gospel. Though their path no doubt seemed strange to them, God was steadily and sovereignly bringing them to Lydia’s doorstep.

    John Haralson   •   April 28, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: Agents of God's Hospitality

    This parable and Rembrandt’s masterpiece have a lot to teach us. They tell us that God is currently throwing a feast for all who turn to him. Through Jesus Christ, God fully welcomes all who come to him. God is doing a lot of celebrating and welcoming on a daily basis.

    John Haralson   •   April 22, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: Seeing Tabitha

    To be a Christian means to offer up our lives to God in the present, and continue to follow his guidance regardless of where he leads us. Sometimes that path is clear and makes sense to us. At times, however, the way forward is murky and it can seem like the Lord is leading us to a dead end.

    John Haralson   •   April 15, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: My Lord and My God!

    Before encountering the resurrected Jesus, Thomas told the other disciples that he absolutely refused to believe unless he was able to touch the wounds on Jesus’ hands and side. He wanted to make sure that the “Jesus” people were interacting with after the first Easter Sunday was the same one that got crucified just over a week before. He wasn’t going to risk it all again until he saw Jesus with his own eyes.

    John Haralson   •   March 31, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: Holy Week at Grace

    This side of Easter, Jesus invites us into this work and into a renewed relationship with God. Yet, it is a journey and a tasking that is filled with mystery. On this path, we cannot control or manage Jesus. We cannot stipulate to him the terms of our discipleship. We cannot tell him where we are willing or unwilling to go.

    John Haralson   •   March 25, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: Betrayed with a Kiss
    John Haralson   •   March 18, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: The Sabbath & the Future (9am service only!)
    John Haralson   •   March 4, 2016
  • Saying No to Fundamentalism

    When Christians live like this, when we go beyond what God has spoken to us in his word, the Apostle Paul characterizes such a life as being weak in faith. This is counter-intuitive, because Christians who live very tightly circumscribed lives out of a desire to honor the Lord are often thought to possess strong faith. However, Paul wants us to see that such a life is not one that is being lived out of a robust, personal, trusting relationship with God.

    John Haralson   •   February 26, 2016
  • What Does Sabbath-Keeping Look Like This Side of Jesus?

    You see, Game 7 was played on a Sunday, and I was convinced at that time that watching a baseball game on a Sunday wasn’t honoring to God. I thought that by watching that game, I would be breaking the Sabbath commandment. So, I went to church and hung out with some friends that night instead.

    John Haralson   •   February 19, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: Sanctifying Singleness

    Very often, the church can give the impression that the ultimate goal in life is to get married and have children. Getting married is seen as the great transition point between extended adolescence and adulthood. Those who are married are seen as the true grown-ups in the world, while those who are not married can be often made to feel like they are stuck in some sort of holding pattern—waiting for their real lives to begin.

    John Haralson   •   February 11, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: Jesus and Sabbath

    You see, when we insist on policing others, we are acting on a deeply held belief that God is primarily an enforcer of his laws. We think the Lord is lurking around every corner making sure that nobody is coloring outside of the lines.

    John Haralson   •   February 5, 2016
  • Play and Sabbath

    Play has purpose. Adults can often look at children in the midst of play and think they are involved in something meaningless and unproductive. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

    Heidi Hansen   •   January 25, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: The Sabbath & Justice

    God created all people in love.

    Therefore, he wants everyone to be treated with justice.

    God’s people should be people of justice

    John Haralson   •   January 22, 2016
  • Fighting the Noise

    There is so much noise in our lives. Our schedules are jammed with activity after activity. If anyone wants to do anything with us, we have to schedule it weeks in advance. We have demanding jobs, rising prices, social media, streaming movies and television, and companies that give us flexible work hours but also demand that we are pretty much always reachable.

    John Haralson   •   January 18, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: Pharaoh's Voice, God's Voice

    To live out that salvation and freedom, God gave his people the Sabbath. One day in seven they were to cease their work. This would have been mutiny under Pharaoh’s regime. But, God wanted his people to stop working once a week to enjoy the freedom they had from their former taskmaster.

    John Haralson   •   January 14, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: The Sabbath and Creation

    Our busy-ness, as we all know, comes at a steep price. Our relationships suffer; as we aren’t as available for other people as much as we would like to be. And, our relationship with God suffers as well. All too often, when I’m praying, I hear a nagging voice in my head telling me to wrap things up because I’ve got important things to do.

    John Haralson   •   January 8, 2016
  • Preparing for Worship: Walking in Righteousness & Love

    I have a very wise friend, who once summarized the Bible’s entire story using love as the major thread that holds everything together. The idea isn’t original to him, as he was doing his best to channel the theology of Augustine.

    John Haralson   •   December 18, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: God's Welcome this Sunday!

    This week, as a congregation, we get to be both recipients and agents of God’s hospitality. We get to be welcomed by him into his gracious and loving presence with us. In addition, we get to be God’s hands and feet as he embraces more and more people into his family.

    John Haralson   •   December 11, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: Walking in Darkness

    Yet, in many instances, the traumas inflicted on her characters become the soil out of which new life and transformation emerge. These traumas become, as it were, sacred wounds―entry points for God and his grace into peoples’ lives.

    John Haralson   •   November 27, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: The Lovesick Community

    Take, for example, the presence of God in our daily lives. Is God powerfully present, giving us gifts each day, protecting us under his wings, and growing us wonderfully in his image? Or, is God withdrawn and silent, seemingly content with letting us wither in his absence?

    John Haralson   •   November 19, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: Does It Matter?

    So much of our lives can seem to be lost in the debris of history. We can labor for years to build a great business or team at work, only to have one bad manager come in and ruin everything. We can pour ourselves into relationships that were once sources of great encouragement and strength, only to have an intractable conflict create distance, mistrust, and even rupture the relationship.

    John Haralson   •   November 13, 2015
  • Creating Space for Children's Faith

    Much of our spiritual lives, like our emotional lives, are lived out internally in our hearts and minds. The ways in which we experience God, process life with him, and recognize significant shifts in our spirits are very natural things that happen deep inside of us. Putting words to it is very difficult because the words never seem to match the internal experience. I think accepting that fact is a good place to start. The potential mutual formation that can be experienced as a part of regular spiritual exchange between parent and child is massive, and truly beautiful.

    Heidi Hansen   •   November 7, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: What Are You Seeking?
    John Haralson   •   November 5, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: God's Generational Faithfulness

    Nurturing the faith of the next generation of Christians in our congregation is a similar invitation to come to terms with our inability to control others. Yes, we do have responsibilities and we need to take them seriously, but ultimately we must surrender control of our children to the Lord. We cannot guarantee the shapes and contours of the spiritual lives of our children; that is something that is in God’s hands.

    John Haralson   •   October 30, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: Why Are You Here?

    About a year and a half ago, our congregation bid a bittersweet farewell to Michael & Susan Subracko and their two young sons. After being part of the Grace family for many years, we sent them off with our blessing to begin work on a church plant in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of New York City.

    John Haralson   •   October 22, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: Squiggly Line Living

    Indeed, God decisively interrupted Paul’s journey. Instead of allowing Paul and his companions to proceed in a nice, efficient, straight line, God had other plans―plans that involved a shipwreck and a 3-month detour on the island of Malta.

    John Haralson   •   October 16, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: Shepherds

    In many ways, this also gives us a clear vision for the work of pastoral care and shepherding that takes place in our congregation. The goal of pastoral care is not so that people in the congregation become dependent upon the people providing the pastoral care. Rather, the goal is that the congregation becomes rooted in the love of God so that they may be empowered and released to love and serve others.

    John Haralson   •   October 9, 2015
  • Selfies and God's Love

    I think we take selfies because we deeply desire to be celebrated. We want to know that we are special and have dignity and worth. We want to know that our lives matter. That’s why we take photos of ourselves at the Grand Canyon. Deep down, I think we are trying to say, “I am connected to something majestic and beautiful.”

    John Haralson   •   October 8, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: The Body

    In the movie, Speed, someone rigged a city bus with a bomb that, once activated, will detonate if the bus’ speed drops below 50 miles per hour. The premise of the film is quite simple:

    Slow down, and you will die.

    John Haralson   •   October 1, 2015
  • Discernment

    During the past few months, I have met with several people who are in the midst of a season in which they are wondering how to decide what’s next in a specific area of their life. For some, it’s work. For others, it’s a possible move to a new location. For others it’s about a relationship or an area of personal growth. Regardless of the specific issue, there is a theme among these conversations – “How do I know which choice to make?”

    Debbie Smith   •   September 29, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: The One Who Demonstrated Mercy

    This week, it is our great privilege to have Mike preach to us on Sunday morning. Mike lives in St. Louis, where in addition to being Dean of Students at Covenant Theological Seminary, he is also the Senior Pastor of South City Church. As one of the few African American pastors in our denomination, Mike brings a wonderful perspective to the challenges facing the church and our country in our present time.

    John Haralson   •   September 25, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: Priesthood of All Believers

    We live in a day and age where there is a mild amount of obsession about finding a calling in life that is a perfect match of our skills, dreams, and aspirations. The fact that the article I quoted was actually written gives us some idea of the cultural pressure we encounter every day with regard to our vocation. Keep in mind that this pressure easily spills over into the church, where we apply it to spiritual gifts and the work we do in a congregation.

    John Haralson   •   September 17, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: Receiving the Church

    What if the church was not something we are supposed create or sustain by our own zeal, wisdom, and diligence? What if a congregation like ours, instead of being merely a product of our own doing, was first and foremost God’s creation? What if our congregation was designed by the Lord to be a gift to be received by each and every one of us?

    John Haralson   •   September 10, 2015
  • Learning to Love the Church

    In the New Testament, the church’s identity is that of the bride of Jesus Christ. This fact is critical and we overlook it to our detriment. God describes the church as an entity he greatly loves and desires―as a husband loves and desires his wife or a wife loves and desires her husband.

    John Haralson   •   September 9, 2015
  • Why We Don’t Call it Sunday School Anymore

    If you were raised in the church, particularly in an evangelical setting, you most likely had some pretty distinct teaching throughout your early childhood and teen years during Sunday School. Maybe you sat and listened to bible stories that highlighted the heroes of the faith, and you were encouraged to be just like them. “Be Brave!” like David. “Be obedient!” like Samuel. “Have doubtless faith!” like the centurion. “Give!” like the poor widow. Chances are you were asked to memorize verses you did not understand, and compete with your peers for rewards for recitation.

    Heidi Hansen   •   September 3, 2015
  • The Church: Beautiful Bride or Impediment to Faith?

    Let’s face it, the church is neither a pleasant nor an attractive thing in our day and age. I say this not to foster some sort of weird “us vs. them” complex, but because it is a reality which we must face.

    John Haralson   •   August 28, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: Royal Wedding

    Piety is probably not something most of us aspire to. In our present cultural moment, the notion of being pious has mostly (entirely?) negative overtones. At best, piety is an outdated concept that our grandparents thought about. At worst, piety is often associated with being smug, self-righteous, and sanctimonious.

    John Haralson   •   August 20, 2015
  • Sacred Road: Serving and Loving Our First Neighbors

    How could we, a group of people who live largely in pursuit of our own dreams, forgetting our suffering first neighbors, receive Wendell’s words of love, kindness, and forgiveness?

    Dan Huie   •   August 14, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: Open Hearts

    In other words, all knowledge is first and foremost built on faith. You must trust someone or something before you can know anything. To paraphrase Anselm, we don’t understand so that we can believe. We believe so that we can understand.

    John Haralson   •   August 14, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: Sweet Comfort at the Altar of God

    Life in a fallen world can be brutal and disorienting. From job loss to shattered hopes to broken relationships, it is commonplace to lose our bearings on a pretty regular basis. And, living in a culture where belief in the goodness of God is questioned at every point, it is very possible that we can begin to drift even further away from living in the reality of who God is and who we are as his children.

    John Haralson   •   August 7, 2015
  • The Church and Same-Sex Marriage

    On June 26, the Supreme Court made state-recognized same-sex marriage a Constitutional right. Across the nation and around the world, millions of people publicly rejoiced. In Seattle, the most progressive city in a state that had already legalized same-sex marriage by popular vote, the reaction was similarly and overwhelmingly enthusiastic.

    Grace Seattle Elders   •   July 21, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: Hope for the Downcast Soul

    The church can be like that―a place where you feel pressure to be composed, measured, and always happy. Congregations can become communities with deep roots of denial where “seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day”.

    John Haralson   •   July 10, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: Contextualizing our Suffering

    "At the end of the day, all theological knowledge comes down to savoir faire: not only a conceptual, informational knowing-that, but also and ultimately a practical, relational knowing-how."

    John Haralson   •   July 8, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: Community as Home & Developing a Rule of Life

    What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “home”? Home can refer to many places – the place we currently live, the place where our family of origin resides, the town we grew up in or a significant town or city where we lived during our life, or maybe a special retreat or vacation place. And while home often refers to a physical location, it can also describe certain relationships in our lives. We talk about feeling “at home” with certain people and describe some friends as the family we’ve chosen.

    Debbie Smith   •   June 25, 2015
  • The Charleston Murders & Gospel Hope

    Last week, we staggered and wept at the news of the massacre of 9 African Americans at a Bible study at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. This was a chilling act of racial terrorism.

    John Haralson   •   June 24, 2015
  • Preparing for Worship: Holy or Unholy?

    Numerous studies have recently come out about the declining presence of Christianity in America. Some observers, both within and outside of the church, think this demonstrates that the Christian faith is withering and dying on the vine in our culture. Others, perhaps more optimistically, see this as a much needed pruning of the church from a high percentage of nominal Christians (i.e., people who profess the Christian faith, but really do not practice it).

    John Haralson   •   June 11, 2015
  • New Website

    After several months of planning and work, we are very happy to roll out our new and improved website and blog.

    John Haralson   •   June 6, 2015
  • The Super Bowl, Grief, and God

    Today is the morning after our beloved Seahawks endured a crushing loss in the Super Bowl. I woke up at 3am last night, unable to go back to sleep. I was troubled by many thoughts. Did we really lose that game? Why didn't we run the ball on second and goa

    John Haralson   •   March 10, 2015