Category Archives: Blog

Why do we continue to celebrate Gay Pride?

Gentle Spirit Christian Church
Gentle Spirit Christian Church

So why do we continue to celebrate Gay Pride? It is for actual equality. Here’s why:

  • LGBT people can still be fired or denied housing or public accommodations for no other reason than the simple fact of who we are in just about as many states as same-gender couples can now get legally married.
  • Transgender people worldwide are regularly shot, stabbed, beaten, burned, mutilated, tortured, strangled, hanged or stoned – generally to death – simply for being who they are. It’s why the single biggest transgender-focused event in any community is a day of remembrance to honor those who have suffered in the last 365 days.
  • About 40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBT. LGB youth are also 4 times more likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers – and this is in a context where suicide is already the second leading cause of death among young people age 10-24.

And, this is to say nothing of adoption rights, wage gaps, transgender underemployment, and unemployment… you get the picture.

My point being that, while it has been thrilling to see same-gender love advance from second-class status in America, it’s important for us – and for our allies and observers – to understand that the fight for marriage equality in many ways happened on its own timetable thanks to the courts. However,  the fight and struggle are not over. There are people out there who want us to be quiet, sit-down and go back to our closets. As long as that is the case, each year at this time we will stand with Pride, Courage and the Love of God in our hearts.

Most importantly let us not forget these powerful words of scripture: Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”
Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.” This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: “Love others as well as you love yourself.” These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

Holy Week 2019 Pastoral Call to Fast and Pray

As we travel in our Lenten journey this year, our church once again encourages and will engage in an annual period of fasting and prayer from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. We started this practice 15 years ago, and for the past seven years we have emphasized making this special time be about becoming more attuned than ever to the work God would have us do as individuals and as a church.

In that time, we have focused our prayers on our church and its direction — on how to better do the work God has laid out for us. We have had significant growth in outreach to the community and to God’s people. The miracle stories seem to happen at a dizzying pace. With more than 20 years of history as a congregation, we celebrate our past and present — and we prayerfully look to our future.

It is only with your support that we have become a church that is affirming, inclusive and progressive in our ministry, and it is only with your help and prayer that it can continue.

The pastoral staff and I have been moved by God’s spirit to again call for this time of fasting and prayer. I hope that you will consider joining us in this spiritual practice — and in particular, to join me in Candler Park, near picnic pavilion 2, on Holy Saturday, April 20th between 10am and 2pm, to pray together and also to pray for those who are joining us in person or in spirit.

Here are the details of our time of fasting and prayer:

  • Our fast begins on Good Friday at the conclusion of the 7pm service at the foot of the Cross on the lawn of First Christian Church of Decatur.
  • Our theme this year is “Taking Our Inventory“.
  • On Holy Saturday in Candler Park, I will lead us through a day of prayer. If you have a signed covenant with our church, I appeal to you especially to participate in this sacred and holy time of reflection and of seeking God’s direction for this fellowship. (If you have small children, don’t let that stop you from participating; let us know you intend to be there and we can discuss arrangements for child care.)

For this year’s meditation, here are some questions I encourage you to focus on:

  • How does this year’s meditation translate for you in the life of Gentle Spirit Christian Church? What kinds of spiritual inventory have you pursued?
  • What can each of us do to witness a spiritual inventory through our vision and mission?
  • What do we need to do as individuals to continue to take a spiritual inventory?
  • Indeed, what does a spiritual inventory actually look like?

Easter is a special opportunity for us to set ourselves aside and focus on God, to allow God to speak to each of us individually and to all of us as a church. I hope you’ll join us in this spiritual practice beginning at with our Good Friday service and concluding with our Easter (Resurrection Sunday) Sunrise Service in Candler Park, picnic Pavilion 2.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll find this year’s Lenten readings useful in your spiritual practice.

God bless,
Pastor Paul

Lent 2019 Readings

The 2019 Lenten season commences on Ash Wednesday, March 6th, and ends on Maundy Thursday, April 18th.

Our theme this year is Taking Our Inventory. We all have our own ways of doing personal inventory — but how do you take a biblical survey based off the readings we have?

Three questions to consider:

  • In the readings, which verse stood out from the others?
  • Why did this verse ring a chord with me?
  • How does or should this influence my life today?

When I mentioned these three, Pastor Paul added a challenge: Sit in front of a mirror and look at yourself with your bible in hand. Consider that you were uniquely created in the image of God — who loves that image in the mirror, unconditionally. So can you say that you do too?

Take these steps in hand and read your bible day, taking time to inventory yourself in front of that mirror.

Readings and Sermon Titles:

  • Thursday, March 7: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Exodus 5:10-23; Acts 7:30-34
  • Friday, March 8: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Exodus 6:1-13; Acts 7:35-42
  • Saturday, March 9: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; John 12:27-36

Sunday, March 10 (Lent 1): Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13. Sermon: “Jesus’ Test is Our Test” (Vicar Alyce)

  • Monday, March 11: Psalm 17; 1 Chronicles 21:1-17; 1 John 2:1-6
  • Tuesday, March 12: Psalm 17; Zechariah 3:1-10; 2 Peter 2:4-21
  • Wednesday, March 13: Psalm 17; Job 1:1-22; Luke 21:34-22:6
  • Thursday, March 14: Psalm 27; Genesis 13:1-7, 14-18; Philippians 3:2-12
  • Friday, March 15: Psalm 27; Genesis 14:17-24; Philippians 3:17-20
  • Saturday, March 16: Psalm 27; Psalm 118:26-29; Matthew 23:37-39

Sunday, March 17 (Lent 2): Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a). Sermon: “Time’s Up” (Pastor Paul)

  • Monday, March 18: Psalm 105:1-42; Exodus 33:1-6; Romans 4:1-12
  • Tuesday, March 19: Psalm 105:1-42; Numbers 14:10b-24; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
  • Wednesday, March 20: Psalm 105:1-42; 2 Chronicles 20:1-22; Luke 13:22-31
  • Thursday, March 21: Psalm 63:1-8; Daniel 3:19-30; Revelation 2:8-11
  • Friday, March 22: Psalm 63:1-8; Daniel 12:1-4; Revelation 3:1-6
  • Saturday, March 23: Psalm 63:1-8; Isaiah 5:1-7; Luke 6:43-45

Sunday, March 24 (Lent 3): Psalm 63:1-8; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9. Sermon: “One More Year” (Pastor Paul)

  • Monday, March 25: Psalm 39; Jeremiah 11:1-17; Romans 2:1-11
  • Tuesday, March 26: Psalm 39; Ezekiel 17:1-10; Romans 2:12-16
  • Wednesday, March 27: Psalm 39; Numbers 13:17-27; Luke 13:18-21
  • Thursday, March 28: Psalm 32; Joshua 4:1-13; 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5
  • Friday, March 29: Psalm 32; Joshua 4:14-24; 2 Corinthians 5:6-15
  • Saturday, March 30: Psalm 32; Exodus 32:7-14; Luke 15:1-10

Sunday, March 31 (Lent 4): Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32. Sermon: “Is this Plain Enough?” (Pastor Paul)

  • Monday, April 1: Psalm 53; Leviticus 23:26-41; Revelation 19:1-8
  • Tuesday, April 2: Psalm 53; Leviticus 25:1-19; Revelation 19:9-10
  • Wednesday, April 3: Psalm 53; 2 Kings 4:1-7; Luke 9:10-17
  • Thursday, April 4: Psalm 126; Isaiah 43:1-7; Philippians 2:19-24
  • Friday, April 5: Psalm 126; Isaiah 43:8-15; Philippians 2:25-3:1
  • Saturday, April 6: Psalm 126; Exodus 12:21-27; John 11:45-57

Sunday, April 7 (Lent 5): Psalm 126; Philippians 3:4b-14; John 12:1-8. Sermon: “Priorities!” (Pastor Paul)

  • Monday, April 8: Psalm 20; Exodus 40:1-15; Hebrews 10:19-25
  • Tuesday, April 9: Psalm 20; Judges 9:7-15; 1 John 2:18-28
  • Wednesday, April 10: Psalm 20; Habakkuk 3:2-15; Luke 18:31-34
  • Thursday, April 11: Psalm 31:9-16; Isaiah 53:10-12; Hebrews 2:1-9
  • Friday, April 12: Psalm 31:9-16; Isaiah 54:9-10; Hebrews 2:10-18
  • Saturday, April 13: Psalm 31:9-16; Leviticus 23:1-8; Luke 22:1-13

Palm Sunday, April 14 (Lent 6): Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Luke 19:28-40. Sermon: “I Love a Parade” (Pastor Paul)

Holy Week:

  • Monday, April 15: Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 36:5-11; Hebrews 9:11-15; John 12:1-11
  • Tuesday, April 16: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 71:1-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 12:20-36
  • Wednesday, April 17: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 70; Hebrews 12:1-3; John 13:21-32
  • Holy Saturday, April 20: Job 14:1-14; Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16; 1 Peter 4:1-8; Matthew 27:57-66 or John 19:38-42

Easter Sunday, April 21: Acts 10:34-43 or Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Acts 10:34-43; Luke 24:1-12. Sermon: “The Empty Tomb” (Pastor Paul)

Vicar Alyce Keener

About Vicar Alyce Keener

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Alyce has been called in two directions from an early age: Teaching and God. She has been active in churches all her life, prays every day and studied at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. She has lived in Georgia since 1995.

“If I Tell My Church They Will Say I’m A Sinner”

I’ve been questioning my sexuality. I think I’m bisexual but I’m not sure. But I’m scared if I tell my friends they will not like me anymore and if I tell my church they will say I’m a sinner. Do you have anything to help?

Dear Gen Renaud,

It seems your concerns appear to involve a lot of fear of the unknown. You fear that if you pursue the life of your sexual orientation will you end up being rejected by your friends and your church will judge you as a person worthy of hell.

I have come to recognize that your fears and concerns are rooted in the way you were taught to view God. So in essence, the only way that you will be able to get past those fears is to change the way you view God. So let’s see if we can help with that.

A book written by Bruce Bawer called “Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity” helps us to understand the real source of our fears when it comes to sexuality. The source of this fear is the difference between an attitude of love and an attitude of law. On page 5 of this book Mr. Bawer states:

Simply stated, conservative Christianity focuses primarily on law, doctrine, and authority; liberal Christianity focuses on love, spiritual experience and… the priesthood of all believers. If conservative Christians emphasize the Great Commission — the resurrected Christ’s injunction, at the end of the Gospel according to Matthew, “go to all the nations and make them my disciples” — liberal Christians place more emphasis on the Great Commandment, which in Luke’s Gospel reads as follows: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

What these few words means is we have a choice as to whether we see God as a strict authoritarian who demands that all come to God in a specify way or we see God as a loving Creator who desires that all would come to God and would treat each other accordingly.

You seem to be focused on the point of view that is based on the law and authority figures who have decided they speak on behalf of God.

Yes, you can make a choice as to how you shall view God and who you will choose to believe.

However, I must tell you that to believe God would create something with free will and then ultimately destroy that creation because it didn’t follow the law is rubbish.

Why did Jesus when asked, state that the Greatest Commandment was to love God and to love your Neighbor? He never said in order to be okay with God and not go to hell you must obey the law of the church (synagogue), rather he spent all of his ministry telling folks to love God and giving them example after example of how they could show and could live that love. The women caught in adultery, the raising of Lazarus, the blind person healed, the Roman Centurion slave healed, the women with the issue of blood healed.

Read Jesus’ words:

When you have done this to the least of my brothers or sisters you have done this to me. (Matthew 25:40)

Be not be judges of others, and you will not be judged. For as you have been judging, so you will be judged, and with your measure will it be measured to you. And why do you take note of the grain of dust in your brother’s eye, but take no note of the bit of wood which is in your eye? (Matthew 7:1-3)

Then Jesus said to the people and to his disciples: “The scribes and the Pharisees have the authority of Moses; All things, then, which they give you orders to do, these do and keep: but do not take their works as your example, for they say and do not. They make hard laws and put great weights on men’s backs; but they themselves will not put a finger to them.” (Matthew 23:1-4)

But a curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! because you are shutting the kingdom of heaven against men: for you do not go in yourselves, and those who are going in, you keep back. A curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! for you go about land and sea to get one disciple and, having him, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. A curse is on you, blind guides, who say, Whoever takes an oath by the Temple, it is nothing; but whoever takes an oath by the gold of the Temple, he is responsible. You foolish ones and blind: which is greater, the gold, or the Temple which makes the gold holy? (Matthew 23:13-17)

Yes, my child of God you can chose to live in fear by the law, authority and or judgements of those around you or you can choose to live by the words of Jesus and his examples.

If your church decides to call you a sinner then know there are other churches you can belong to which teach about a loving God. I challenge you to read the words of Jesus and see that all fear has been cast out and in its place given that of perfect love.

God Bless,
Pastor Paul

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

In Atlanta, Hell is Exactly 33 Degrees Fahrenheit

Christians talk an awful lot about hell. But have you ever stopped to imagine what hell is really like? I mean really. Stopped and imagined. Eyes closed. The world pushed away. Just you and whatever vision of hell is in your head — or at least at the edge of your thoughts.

Got it? Okay. Now let’s compare notes. Was it anything like this?

  • Shivering and reduced circulation.
  • A slow, weak pulse, slowed breathing, lack of coordination, irritability, confusion and sleepy behavior.
  • Slow, weak or absent respiration and pulse — and the irrational desire to engage in “paradoxical undressing” as one loses rationality, nerves become damaged and one begins to feel incredibly hot.

Now, before you think I’ve lost my mind with that third bullet, let me explain the source of that term “paradoxical undressing”: The three descriptions above constitute the three stages of hypothermia.

So am I saying that hell is cold rather than hot? No. At least not literally.

Rather, I believe that hell is existing in the absence of God’s love. Or rather, living in the absence of the awareness of that love. Call it a distancing.

And if you wanted to distance someone from God, to really cause them to doubt or forget or even curse God, how might you do it? Well, here’s one recipe:

  • Saddle them with a mental illness, an addiction, a crippling life circumstance or a seriously bad choice (or series thereof).
  • Let the condition(s) above distance them from friends and loved ones.
  • Jeopardize their livelihood.
  • Cause them to lose their home.
  • Degrade their health.
  • Let them sleep on the streets.
  • Put them at the mercy of cold weather.
  • Let hypothermia set in.
  • Allow them to die alone.

If any version of that happened to you, would it strain your relationship with God? Even a little? (Maybe some of it has. I don’t want to assume, I’m just painting a picture.)

As I write this, I’m personally aware that a variation on what I’ve just laid out has happened to at least three people in our midst in recent days. Three children of God, my friends. Three blessed souls subjected to what I would argue is hell on earth.

And not only is this preventable, but the tools to prevent it exist and get used. So how do three people die anyway? Let’s just say that at least one of the tools is, shall we say, tragically mis-calibrated. That tool is called a warming center, and there’s more than one in the city of Atlanta. Several of them open once the temperature dips below 41 degrees, and several more open when it dips below 36 degrees. They’re all mostly small, accommodating anywhere from five to 100 people in a metro area with an estimated 3,000 homeless. They’re also all privately operated by nonprofits.

The largest warming center of them all, operated by the City of Atlanta, can accommodate more than 100 people but is seven miles from downtown, outside 285, and at least a 46-minute public transit journey from Five Points. It also doesn’t open unless the temperature dips below 33 degrees.

And that, my friends, is how three people have ended up dead before the official start of winter. Are you upset yet?

Most mornings I start my day with a cup of coffee, a meditation, a morning prayer and the posting of a thoughtful saying I’ve nicknamed “For the Day’s Journey” that anyone can join me in keeping in mind as we go through the day. One morning this week, my daily saying was this one by the theologian Rob Bell:

Often the people most concerned about others going to hell when they die seem less concerned with the hells on earth right now, while the people most concerned with the hells on earth right now seem the least concerned about hell after death.

It’s a dramatic oversimplification, but in service of a point about Christianity’s less than pretty moments. And almost immediately after posting it on Facebook I received the following comment:

… let’s all pray that the city has the common sense to open all three large warming centers tonight, we all know that a black woman died under the same kind of weather circumstances two weeks ago… I am putting a Facebook event page together asking folks to help us get the people moved to the warming centers…

The writer of that comment being so in tune with my thoughts in the moment that I briefly considered charging him rent for the space he’s clearly occupying in my head.

Unfortunately, what he was suggesting that particular 50-degree day — that people volunteer to help move the homeless to warming centers — only works if they’re actually open. It’s been a topic of debate in my circles for the last three weeks.

And I’ve heard a whole range of excuses, chiefly these two:

  • It costs too much. So now we know there’s an actual calculus of some kind when it comes to the value of a human life here in the richest nation the earth has ever seen.
  • The temperature isn’t low enough. The overnight low temperature in the last six days having been 46, 43, 39, 37, 46 and 39 degrees as I write this.

So what’s low enough? Apparently, according to the City of Atlanta it’s exactly 32 degrees — which as you’ll recall from fifth-grade science class is referred to as “freezing” because it’s the temperature at which water changes from a liquid to a solid state. It becomes ice. And how much of the human body is water? Sixty percent. In fact, according to H.H. Mitchell in the Journal of Biological Chemistry:

  • The brain and heart are 73 percent water
  • The lungs are 83 percent water
  • Skin is 64 percent water
  • Muscles and kidneys are 79 percent water
  • Bones are 31% water

I feel qualified to speak on the subject of being outdoors in all kinds of weather because my own congregation meets outdoors every Sunday morning. And in the 12 years since we started doing that, we’ve realized that any weather conditions that result in a wind chill below 40 degrees are just too uncomfortable even for a church that moved outside on purpose so as to truly be a “Church Without Walls”.

And it’s not as though we show up unprepared. We wear layers, we bring blankets, we build a fire. And all this just to get through an hour under a picnic shelter that keeps us dry (but also shields us from the sun, which is great in July and not so great in January).

So at this time of year we watch the weather forecast for 10:30am Sunday in Candler Park pretty closely, and we try to make the call by Thursday or Friday of each week as to whether we’ll move to our version of a warming center, the chapel at First Christian Church of Decatur, where our offices are located. (And in fact, this weekend’s call was to move indoors.)

Before we started doing that, we endured some comically quick outdoor services in the winter — our record being a bright, brutally cold Sunday where we came, worshipped and left so quickly that one parishioner who showed up 15 minutes late surveyed our usual meeting place and concluded that we must have cancelled the worship service altogether.

So if we can learn that, why can’t the City of Atlanta? What exactly is their calculus that guides them to act as though any outdoor temperature above 32 degrees is just fine for an unsheltered human?

Consider this: According to the National Weather Service’s Wind Chill Chart, even a five-mile-an-hour wind can make a 35-degree temperature feel like 31 degrees.  A 10-mile-an-hour wind makes it feel like 27 degrees.  A 15-mile wind, 25 degrees. And so forth.

Are we collectively not smarter than a fifth-grader here? Or are we ourselves just cold to the reality of what’s happening? Three. People. Have. Died. In essentially autumn weather.

Actually I’m not sure who’s in a bigger hell right now, the homeless or us. When my church distributes hygiene kits to the homeless, the most frequent expression of thanks I hear is “God bless you.” So I’m thinking that the average homeless person is actually acutely aware of God. I’m thinking they actively yearn for God’s love. That they recognize acts of kindness as blessings from God. And that they immediately reflect that blessing back onto the giver of that kindness.

Which we probably need, now that I think about it. Maybe we’re the ones being ministered to. Maybe we’re the ones who are the most separated from God right now: We with our collective calculus about the worth of a human life and, connected to that, our inability to correctly calibrate our live-saving tools to reflect actual science and experience. We who have homes, meals, hot water, heating, clothes, and the love and friendship of those around us.

We have all those things but we can’t be bothered to reflect those blessings back onto the least among us. Instead, we’re apparently content to live in a city that famously issued one-way bus tickets to homeless people in advance of the Olympics, and where that particular chicken has come home to roost in the form of an investigation by The Guardian showing that Atlanta is one of the top two mainland U.S. destinations for homeless people being bussed out of other cities.

So have we learned our lesson? With Atlanta the host city for the multimillion-dollar Super Bowl LIII, I think we’re about to find out. And whether we bus anyone out of town again or just chase the homeless away from where tourists are most likely to be, we’ve still got our little 33-degree problem. Or if, God forbid, a homeless person dies on a cold street during the Super Bowl, will the spinmeisters determine that it was of natural causes?

I mean, whatever we need to tell ourselves, right? And in the next breath we can go on about affordable housing, that old shibboleth I’ve been hearing on politicians’ lips again lately. But does housing help addicts recover? Does it treat mental illness? Does it come with a living wage? Because if not, then we’re not politically serious about homelessness; we’re just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

But it feels so good! It feels like we’re helping. It feels like we care. It feels like we get it. And we couldn’t be more out of touch: Out of touch with our fellow humans, and therefore out of touch with God’s will for all of us.

And isn’t that a kind of hell? The most clever one you could imagine? One that doesn’t even feel cold, or hot, or lonely, or deprived? It doesn’t feel like any of the things we externalize hell to be.

Hell feels like self-satisfaction, like we’ve done enough. Like maybe there actually are disposable people. We can’t save everyone! Or can we?

Can we afford not to?

God goes to incredible lengths to remind us that in God’s eyes, we’re all equally children of God and therefore equally worthy of God’s love: Wonderfully, uniquely made fragments of none other than God, who presents you with the paradox that you are but one of billions of grains of sand in the universe, and that God created all of it for you.

It’s just another window into understanding God’s true anguish over a forgotten woman dying on a cold street.

God cannot love you or me unconditionally if God isn’t also with the freezing woman. God is there with her in our place, pointing the way to our salvation. In a faith that teaches that we are all brothers and sisters bound by Jesus Christ, for us not to want to be there too is the spiritual equivalent of avoiding our own sister’s deathbed. It’s a journey down a cold road.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, not for a moment longer. And we are by no means prisoners of our past. Because in the eyes of the God of love, each of us is also as innocent as the day we’re born. Each of us is only a moment away from redemption. The definition of repentance being simply to change direction.

This Christmas, can we not collectively admit that the direction in which we’re going isn’t working? That it’s actually destructive? Because it’s not only destroying human life, it’s also destroying us. When a person dies of accumulated collective neglect on a street in the richest nation in human history, our choice is either to feel it deeply or not at all.

I choose to feel it deeply, because the alternative is hell on earth.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

Advent IV, 2018: Lighting the Candle for Love

From the order of worship for the fourth Sunday of Advent (Year C)

VOICE: Last Sunday we lit the candle of joy. We light it and the candles of hope and peace again as we remember that Christ, who was born in Bethlehem, will come again to fulfill all of God’s promises and bring us everlasting peace and joy.

The candles for hope, peace, and joy are lighted

VOICE: The fourth candle of Advent is the Candle of Love. God’s love is a perfect love. It holds nothing back. God, in love, gives us everything we need to live a life of hope and peace.

VOICE: The bible says that “God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Child, so that whoever believes should not perish, but have eternal life.” Jesus shows us God’s perfect love.

VOICE: This is what love is like: Love is patient, love is kind and envies no one. Love is never boastful or conceited, rude or selfish. Love is not quick to take offense, it keeps no records of wrongs, it does not gloat over other people’s troubles, but rejoices in the right, the good, and the true. There is nothing that love cannot face, there is no limit to its faith, to its hope, to its endurance.

VOICE: Love never ends. We light the candle of love to remind us that Jesus brings us God’s love and shows us how to love others.

The candle for love is lighted

VOICE: Love is like a light shining in a dark place. As we look at this candle we celebrate the love we find in Jesus Christ.

VOICE: Let us pray: Thank you God for the love you give us. We ask that as we wait for all your promises to come true, and for Christ to come again, that you would remain present with us. Help us today, and everyday to worship you, to hear your word, and to do your will by sharing your love with each other. We ask it in the name of the one who was born in Bethlehem. Amen.

Advent III, 2018: Lighting the Candle for Joy

From the order of worship for the third Sunday of Advent (Year C)

VOICE: Last Sunday we lit the candle of peace. We light it and the candle of hope again as we remember that Christ, who was born in Bethlehem, will come again to judge the world and bring it everlasting peace.

The candles for hope and peace are lighted

VOICE: The third candle of Advent is the Candle of Joy. When the angel Gabriel told Mary that a special child would be born to her she was filled with joy. She sang a song that began with the words: “My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

VOICE: Just as the birth of Jesus gave great joy to his mother, so his presence in the world gave joy to those who had none before. He healed them and gave them hope and peace when they believed in him. From hope, peace, and love grows joy.

VOICE: We light the candle of joy to remind us that when Jesus is born in us we have joy and that through him there will be everlasting joy on earth.

The candle for joy is lighted

VOICE: Joy is like a light shining in a dark place. As we look at this candle we celebrate the joy we find in Jesus Christ.

VOICE: Let us pray. Thank you God for the joy you give us. We ask that as we wait for all your promises to come true, and for Christ to come again, that you would remain present with us. Help us today, and every day to worship you, to hear your word, and to do your will by sharing your joy with each other. We ask it in the name of the one who was born in Bethlehem. Amen.

Advent II, 2018: Lighting the Candle for Peace

From the order of worship for the second Sunday of Advent (Year C)

VOICE: Last Sunday we lit the first candle in our Advent Wreath, the candle of hope. We light it again as we remember that Christ, who was born in Bethlehem, will come again to fulfill all of God’s promises to us.

The candle for hope is lighted

VOICE: The second candle of Advent is the Candle of Peace. Peace is a word that we hear a lot. It is one of the things that we hope for. Christ brought peace when he first came to us and he will bring everlasting peace when he comes again.

VOICE: The prophet Isaiah called Christ “the Prince of Peace”. When Jesus came he taught people the importance of being peacemakers. He said that those who make peace shall be called the children of God.

VOICE: We light the candle of peace to remind us that Jesus is the Prince of Peace and that through him peace is found.

The candle for peace is lighted

VOICE: Peace is like a light shining in a dark place. As we look at this candle we celebrate the peace we find in Jesus Christ.

ALL: Thank you God for the peace you give us. We ask that as we wait for all your promises to come true, and for Christ to come again, that you would remain present with us. Help us today, and every day, to worship you, to hear your word, and to do your will by sharing your peace with each other. We ask it in the name of the one who was born in Bethlehem. Amen.

Advent 2018 Theme: Getting Busy

The first Sunday of Advent 2018 is December 2nd. Here are the message, readings and sermons for the season.

Advent 2018 Message

As we look at God’s word, we need to understand how the Christ (as the word of God) comes to humankind now and how we can receive and carry the Christ’s presence today. This starts with our attitude… the guides for which can be found throughout scripture. I am calling this attitude “Getting Busy”: Awareness and watchfulness, getting prepared, doing the work, understanding the all-inclusive Gospel. The task then becomes to take a journey over the next four weeks to come into a full consciousness with God, who comes to us in Jesus the Christ, and in fact to be prepared to get busy doing the Gospel — using words if needed.

Advent 1 Readings: “Pay Attention”

Psalm 25:1-9
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36

Advent 2 Readings: “The Mechanics of Being Prepared”

Malachi 3:1-4
Luke 3:1-6
Philippians 1:3-11

Advent 3 Readings: “What Should We Do?”

Zephaniah 3:14-20
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:7-18

Advent 4 Readings: “The First Shall Be Last”

Psalm 22:25-31
James 3:17-18
Luke 1:39-45
Luke 1:46-55

Advent 2018 Sermons

Remember: To turn on the volume for any video you play, just click on the speaker icon in the lower right corner of the frame. These videos are reposted from our Facebook page, where we post our weekly sermon videos. You can also listen to them on our podcast.

December 23, 2018

Sermon for December 23, 2018. From the Gospel reading: “I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened — I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!”

(Luke 1:46)

December 16, 2018

And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

Luke 3:10-14


December 9, 2018

So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.

(Philippians 1:9-11)


December 2, 2018

Don’t brush this off: I’m not just saying this for some future generation, but for this one, too — these things will happen. Sky and earth will wear out; my words won’t wear out.

(Luke 21:33)

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.