Pentecost

The Gospels record Jesus saying several times to the disciples that "if you have seen me you have seen the Father." To see the Son of God, the fleshly Jesus standing before them, to see how he acted, lived, served, and loved -- was to see the Father and to know his loving, giving, healing, powerful character.

I've had people ask me before "How do you see Jesus at work right now?" Sometimes I've kind of fumbled my way through that question... err, I don't know, I guess technically Jesus was a man so I haven't seen HIM in the flesh outside of what I see of him in the Scriptures... It's a minor difference, but this weekend as Dave taught through who the Holy Spirit is I found myself reflecting on the fact that it is more accurate to say that to see Jesus at work in the present, is to know the Spirit.

Much like Dave shared, I lived a lot of my life holding the Holy Spirit at an arm's length. The churches I found myself in either didn't talk about him or talked about it in a way that felt like I was either going to become a crazy person or believe in some voodoo magical entity. But a few years ago, I had an experience where I realized I'd totally missed the Spirit and that it's actually pretty difficult to go about the Christian life without him. 

So often what I think we need to hear, in this present day where we've all either heard a little too much crazy Holy Spirit talk or have heard nothing at all... is that there is nothing to fear in the Holy Spirit. He will not hurt you. He is the very essence and experience of love. He is the one that quiets us so that we may hear his voice. He is the one who orders our lives. He is the one who sets our broken, hurt, unsure, fearful places within us right. He is the one who proclaims us as beloved sons and daughters. He is the one who sets us free. He is the one who gives us dreams and like wind fans those dreams into actual flame. He is the one who readily offers more and more and more of himself, never running out of what he can give. He is the one who gives us breath and words in prayer. He is the one who allows us to cry, "Jesus is Lord!" He is the one that fills us with the very power that raised Jesus from the dead, and says "you will do even more works than these..." healing every disease, casting out demons, curing the sick, raising the dead... Sure, sometimes it might look a little crazy to the rest of the world but the Spirit is good and kind. If you're like me and are holding him at an arm's length may I just offer that you can put the fear down, because it truly has no place in this life with God. He wants only to love you! I promise, promise, promise.

Bloom, to know the Spirit... is to see Jesus alive in the world... which is to proclaim the Father's heart to the world. My prayer for us all is that we would become a people humbled to receive God, and continually filled and alive to the Spirit. This Pentecost, may you open yourself to the Spirit afresh and may we journey together into the heart of the Father, becoming more and more like Jesus in the world. You are loved, Bloom.

-Melissa

Seventh Sunday of Easter

“We are the Easter people, and Alleluia is our song.” If anything could sum up Bloom's time through the season of Easter, I hope it’s that quote from Saint Augustine that Melissa included in her message this past weekend. This weekend was all about the ascension of Christ and the disciples being empowered to continue the work that Jesus started on the earth after he’s gone. It’s about a community of people who are weak, uneducated screw-ups who are given authority by Jesus to do some incredible things—the same authority that has been give to us, Bloom, as a community of resurrected, Jesus-seeking people. Melissa challenged us to be like the disciples, faithfully going in unity with those who know and love Christ to point people to what it means to know and love Christ. As we move into the season of Pentecost this next week, my prayer is that we as a church community will be filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, unified in our mission to love people and bring the light of the kingdom of God to the darkest places in our city. Sometimes it seems like I need a wake-up call like the disciples who were just sitting and staring as Jesus ascended to the clouds. “why do you stand there looking up toward heaven?” I wonder if it would be an effective motivation technique for an angel to come and kick my butt into gear and move me into action, instead of just waiting for things to happen. I think instead, we’re called like the disciples to move toward something that is bigger than ourselves. To  be bound together in love, as Paul says in Colossians 3:14 and to seek the unity of Christ that Melissa so lovingly and gently pushed us toward. “We are the Easter people, and Alleluia is our song.” Let that be our mantra as we continue on, because there’s nothing and no one more unifying than Jesus, and there’s nothing more empowering than the Spirit, "which he poured out upon us richly, through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:6). So, let’s make it our mission, Bloom, to work together for the good of our community and the Kingdom to love God and love people as Jesus taught us. 

Peace be with you, 

- Seth

PS: If you’d like to watch the interview of Cardinal Tagle that Melissa spoke of in her message, or any of the other talks from the Alpha Leadership Conference our Staff experienced last month in London, go to http://alpha.org/lc/talks.

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Bloom,

"If you love me you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will send you another Advocate, to be with you forever." (John 14:15-16)

If you're like me, you read or hear verses like these from the Gospel last week and you find yourself saying, "Yeah yeah, I've heard that. I get it. Love Jesus. Be like him. Something about the Spirit. Moving on." It's easy to just gloss over them because they are kind of the crux of the Christian faith, right? We meet this Jesus and then we go about trying to live how he asks us too and we know that at moments along the way there's this Holy Spirit -- ever within us, being our help, guiding us into truth.

But maybe it's easy to gloss over these kinds of verses because they are actually pretty troubling. I've been at this Jesus way of living for awhile now and most of the time I don't think I look much like him. I actually find myself fighting him, "I know you say to treat people with love and kindness, but do you SEE THAT PERSON AND HOW CRAZY THEY ARE?" I stumble and fumble and wander this way and that all the time. I struggle sometimes with the same old sins. I get easily frustrated with friends and strangers alike. I am quick to judge the intentions of others. And before you know it I've left the Spirit out of it entirely and I'm playing a measuring up game with myself. You got that one right - plus one point. You should really pride yourself for that moment. You got that one wrong - minus one point. I can't believe you call yourself a Christian.

Why? Why do we do that with ourselves?

I found Dave's encouragement to us this weekend so refreshing because it took me out of the measuring up game and seemed much more like an invitation to simply fall in love with Jesus, over and over and over again. All we're really after in the end is to know that we are okay, that we're loved an accepted, that we have a place to belong. And finding that is truly to give ourselves over to the Father, through the resurrected Son, by the power and freedom of the Spirit.

Jesus invites us, after all, into a relationship with himself. He isn't playing games with us, like we so often trick ourselves into believing but he simply says, come and be with me, the rest will order itself. Loving someone just automatically produces obedience. Loving someone means that we find ourselves to be safe, which opens us up to be honest and true with the other. Loving someone means that we want what they want. The way into that love is through the person of Christ, who shows us the face of the Father and makes us alive through his Spirit.

So today, I hope and pray that we may all stop playing these goofy Christian games and we'd simply give ourselves over to the one who loves us, who wants our good, who isn't measuring our every move but is instead inviting us to remember who we are and to rest in the fact that he is ordering our days. 

Peace be with you,

- Melissa

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Last week Andrew led us through a section of the Farewell Discourse, where Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples, his friends with whom he has journeyed for the last several years of his life. And those few years must have felt like an eternity, as they were filled with some crazy events... people being healed from all sorts of physical ailments, arguments with religious leaders, times of teaching that reshaped how they see their life and God, and the raising of a friend from the dead. The years held for them conversations on roads and around the table in which Jesus spoke identity straight into their souls; he took time to raise them up and to stand them firmly in who there truly are, in him.

I remember summer after summer of leaving Young Life camp, saying goodbye both to new friends and -- in a sense -- to the space in which so many good experiences were held. All that was left was the memory of what had taken place within me and the pain of leaving it behind. I imagine that I have now experienced one millionth of what the disciples were feeling that day as Jesus told them goodbye. How could you ever move on after this man? Jesus brought them into experience after experience of seeing the love and power of God made manifest both in them and in those around them. How does one say 'goodbye' to that?

Seemingly, with great distress and anxiety. Because that's what we see in the hearts of the disciples. And I find this so deeply human and so core to what our hearts are made of, because they are frightened, and the trouble in their souls is directed to two of our core needs that we have as people. For they respond to Jesus' departure with a cry and a deep longing. The cry is that they could see God, the one who made them, who holds their life in his hands. The longing is one for home, a place to truly belong, where they could be safe and secure.

These two needs that are thrown at the feet of Jesus are so telling of what we are really made of, because no matter what one accomplishes or experiences or becomes, somewhere deep within us still lives this  cry and longing, to know our creator and to have a home. "Yes, we see now that you are leaving us, but still... can we see and know our creator? You're leaving us, and to where do we belong now?" To know God. To find home. The departure of their friend and Lord surfaces these needs to an even greater prominence than ever, and Jesus addresses them with words of truth, grace, and peace.

Simply, he tells them,"If you have seen me, you have seen God," and follows that with describing the home he is going to prepare for them. And the answer Jesus gives them of how to get there, how to find God and home: "I am the way, the truth and the life". Jesus is the answer to their troubled hearts. He himself. Not a map, not a theology, not a moral code. Jesus. Their friend, the one they have come to know, is himself the answer to their deepest cry and their deepest longing.

Jesus. Nothing and no one else can set peace into the troubled heart.

Let us find Jesus the way. Let us trust in him alone.

Grace and Peace to you,

-David

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Hi Bloom Family,

I'm filled with gratitude at your warmth towards me after my talk on Sunday. Thank you so much. 

I've been trying for about 24 hours now to write an email reflection, and my brain is full and tired and nothing eloquent is forming. So I'll bend to the scriptures of the week and hold them up. Spend some time with me in reflection, soaking in the true and gentle words of our shepherd. Read it through a few times. Let it fill you like breath. 

Breathe in the true words. Breathe out the tiredness, the fear and weariness. 

Rest in his words.

 

God, my shepherd!

I don’t need a thing.

You have bedded me down in lush meadows,

you find me quiet pools to drink from.

True to your word,

you let me catch my breath

and send me in the right direction.

 

Even when the way goes through

Death Valley,

I’m not afraid

when you walk at my side.

Your trusty shepherd’s crook

makes me feel secure.

 

You serve me a six-course dinner

right in front of my enemies.

You revive my drooping head,

my cup brims with blessing.

 

Your beauty and love chase after me

every day of my life.

I’m back home in the house of God

for the rest of my life.

 

- Psalm 23 (the message)

 

Amen and amen. 

Grace and peace to us all,

- Dulcy

Second Sunday of Easter

Dear Bloom,

Mandi and I wanted to take a minute to thank you for all the kindness you showed us this past weekend. From the party Friday (special shout out to David and Brad and the rest of the team for the amazing food and atmosphere!) to the services Sunday… the whole thing was so very special to us. The hugs and the cards and the expressions of gratitude - all of it made us feel so loved. We’re leaving here with full hearts.

I said in my message yesterday that part of what made the journey with Bloom so special over the years was how thoroughly and tenaciously this community lived out a robust vision of the kingdom. More than any community we’ve been part of, you did that. You combine so much of what is best in the great stream of historical Christian orthodoxy… your love for Jesus and for the life of prayer and worship that renew our communion with him, your dedication to holy living, your concern for the poor and overlooked of society, your love for the lost and for those whose faith is damaged and/or broken, your dedication to serving one another generously, your openness to the Holy Spirit’s dynamic presence and work, your commitment to and respect for the Great Tradition that surrounds us and orients us and the Scriptures that continually feed and chasten that tradition… I could go on and on. For us, you are a dream come true. Certainly you are God’s dream come true.

That’s a huge part of what gives us great confidence in your future. Add into that the wonderful leaders that serve and surround you, and Mandi and I have every expectation that you will continue to flourish, as God intends.

Leaving you is so bittersweet. I don’t know that it’s the path that any of us would have chosen, but it’s clear that God’s hand is on it. So we follow. And at the end of the day, if our journey with you has been nothing else, it has been a breathless attempt to keep up with the Jesus whose path is always expectedly unexpected. For us, that has hardly been more true than it is right now. Because we trust him, we know there is great good in store for all of us in this.

For these last eight or so years, we’ve carried you as close to our hearts as our own children. This community is precious to us. Your lives are precious to us. And though this is the end of our time with you, the conclusion of my pastorate with you, we hope that you know that we will never stop carrying you in our hearts… we love you so deeply.

I hope that you will stay in touch with us and that you holler at us whenever you’re in or near Colorado Springs (andrew.arndt@gmail.com!). We will covet every chance we get to see your wonderful faces…

Grace to you, and Godspeed.

- Andrew and Mandi Arndt

Easter Sunday

Dear Bloom--

My goodness Sunday was fun. When my family and I drove home after the 9:30 service, I said to Mandi, “If I had to dream up a last Easter Sunday with Bloom, it would look something like that.” The love, the laughter, the hilarity, the hearty choruses of “Crown him with many crowns!”... it took my breath away.

With my time at Bloom nearly at an end, it also made me think about how far Bloom has come. Those first several months (years, actually) of Bloom’s life were, quite frankly, positively painful. I always expected that at some point I would turn a corner with my preaching, which would then magically gel with the worship, our “thing” would happen, and then word would begin to spread across Denver about the very awesome “thing” that was happening at Bloom. “Hey, have you heard about the thing that is happening at Bloom? Man, something’s really going on there! Let’s go check it out!”

To my great chagrin, our moment of “thingness” never really happened. We kind of just ambled along slowly for a very long time trying to figure out what we were doing. Our first Easter service drew 115 or so people. I remember thinking, “Breakthrough!”

We were back at 85 the next week.

And yet, here we are, seven Easters later, and we might have had 500-600 with us on Sunday. How or when all of that happened… like, if you pushed me and said to me, “So when did Bloom really begin to turn a corner?”, I would be hard pressed to point to a moment in time. Mostly, I think it was a lot of tedium. Coffees and lunches and happy hours and meetings that made my heart sing and meetings that made me want to light my hair on fire…

And God used all of it to make something beautifully substantial.

Resurrection life is like that. The Psalmist said that the righteous are like “trees planted by streams of water…” Want to undertake a peculiarly thrilling exercise? Head down to Wash Park on your lunch break and watch the trees grow. No, really. It will freaking blow your mind.

Except when it doesn’t. Which is all the time. And yet, sure as shoot, those trees are growing; with each passing of the season they stretch out ever more towards their Creator in joyful praise. Because given the right conditions, that’s what trees do.

I’m telling you. It’s like that. Resurrection life is like THAT.

So, with both Easter and a new chapter of your life as a community upon you, I want to encourage you: keep doing what you’ve always done. Stay rooted in resurrection, keep loving each other, keep embracing the happy tedium of it all… God’s glory is peculiarly rooted in all that ordinary stuff, the power of the age to came present uniquely in the mundane.

Grace to you,

Andrew

Fifth Sunday in Lent

Sometimes we tend to overlook this thing called the weekly collect, that prayer we tuck in between announcements and the Scripture readings during our services. This last week the collect read, 

"Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever."

The collect often unveils deeper truths embedded within the weekly Scriptures. As I listened to Dave and Melissa reflect on the Gospel and sat through the documentary Cries From Syria later on Sunday evening - I couldn't help but think of that phrase in the collect that says, "among the swift and varied changes of the world." 

In the sermon Sunday we discussed matters of death and resurrection. We talked of the death of ones we love, dreams we've had, and hopes we've longed for. We also talked about rebirth of visions, resurrection of life, and the resurgence of those dreams. After the evening gathering, watched a film that painted a picture of hopelessness and death. We watched story after story of human lives who suffered greatly and a learned about a Nation where dreams could never exist. But in the film, there was a moment where a little hope broke in. This moment felt like a small resurrection. 

They told the story of a group in Syria called The White Helmets - this is a group of everyday ordinary people who serve as Syrian Civil Defense forces. As bombs rain down these people save lives. They are volunteer rescue workers who risk their lives to save others. As people in the film spoke about them they said things like, "They are who bring hope to us people here in Syria." 

That statement nearly brought me to tears. Because... this is us, a bunch of ordinary every day people, trusting in a story about life, death, and resurrection. My desire is that among the swift and varied changes in the world, Christ would teach us at Bloom to love what God commands and that we would be fixed where true joys are to be found. And because of that, WE as the church would bring hope to people in our communities, city, and the world... 

- Andrew Devaney