In her book Interior States, writer Meghan O’Gieblyn puts her departure from the Christian faith in these words, “Despite all the affected teenage rebellion, I continued to call myself a Christian into my early twenties. When I finally stopped, it wasn’t because being a believer made me uncool or outdated or freakish. It was because being a Christian no longer meant anything. It was a label to slap on my Facebook page, next to my music preferences. The gospel became just another product to sell me, and a paltry one at that…” It seems we live during a time in which many who were raised in the church resonate with O’Gieblyn’s words here. And yet, being a Christian does mean something. It isn’t just another label to apply to one’s self. To be a Christian is to be united to the person of Jesus Christ. In this series we will dig into why being united to Jesus is better than anything else this world has to offer.
What does it mean to call the life of Joseph a gospel? The earliest Christian commentary on the story of Joseph emphasizes Joseph as a foreshadowing of Christ. Just as Joseph was mistreated, yet saves God’s people through his faithfulness, so also Christ came and suffered to rescue the entire world from sin. We turn to the story of Joseph to find both the encouragement to live faithfully before God as his people, regardless of circumstances, as well as an image of the one who lived faithfully for us, God’s Son Jesus Christ, so that we would be restored to the Father. In this way, we can find the Gospel in Joseph as his life testifies to the grace poured out for the world in Jesus Christ.
We all have heroes. We all have people in our lives who we look up to and desire to emulate. In many ways, who we set as our heroes shapes the trajectory of our lives. Throughout her history, the church has recognized heroes of the faith as saints. Of course, on account of Christ, we are all saints before God. And yet, we see throughout church history, various people have demonstrated what it looks like for Christ to shine through them in profound ways. As followers of Jesus, we are invited to look at the lives of saints as they point us to our ultimate hero, Jesus. Join us for “Dead Guy Summer” as we reflect on the lives of those who have gone before us in the faith.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins… But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” The resurrection of Jesus Christ is central to the entire life of the Church and the mission God has given to us, and everything we do is empowered by it. In this series, we are going to walk with the risen Jesus as he appears to his followers in the days following his resurrection.
Perhaps you’ve heard it said, “Life is about the journey, not the destination.” The apostle Peter would agree with part of this sentiment. Of course, the journey of life is important. But, it’s the promise of our ultimate destination that shapes the journey. As he writes to the first century church, Peter continually reminds the early Christians that they are exiles, strangers, and sojourners in this world. He reminds them that the trials and sufferings they undergo now are temporary, and are shaping them for a glorious future in the Kingdom of God. This wisdom of Peter is a timeless truth for Christians to grab hold of for our sojourn today. Join us this Lent as we journey through 1 Peter on our way to the cross and empty tomb.
The past several years have been unquestionably disorienting for Christians our country. The pandemic, increasingly polarized political rhetoric, turbulent economic questions, and the ongoing reality of declining church membership have all taken their toll on our lives and communities. This disorientation has left most of us feeling fragmented internally and disconnected relationally. In response, there are countless opinions on where the Church should plant its flag as we look ahead to what feels like an uncertain future. But, what kind of people are we actually called to be as followers of Jesus? As we take a look at our values as a church, we want to recover these “non-negotiables” for our lives as we strive to be a people who not only proclaim the coming kingdom of God, but a people who also live as signs of it.
God has a way of grabbing hold of unlikely people in unlikely places for his good purpose.The story of Ruth puts this fully on display. In the midst of tragedy, a young woman turns from idols that will not deliver to the God who redeems and saves. As Ruth follows after God he provides for her again and again, and God ultimately uses her for his greatest purpose, the coming of his son Jesus. The story of Ruth is our story. It’s your story. When we are tempted by the idols of our world, God comes to us again and again and shows us that he is the only one who can redeem and save. And as God grabs hold our lives, may he use us to show Jesus to the world.
If someone calls you “basic,” it’s not a compliment. In contemporary slang it means you’re unoriginal or unexceptional. And yet, the term “basic” is traditionally defined as “the essential principles of a subject.” So, in this series we are asking, what are the essential principles of the Christian faith? Who is God? What is Grace? What is the Church? So often we assume answers to these basic questions, but our hope is that we can engage these questions with fresh eyes and be renewed and strengthened in our core convictions as followers of Jesus today.
Theologian John Stott writes about the book of Romans, “Paul’s letter to the Romans is a kind of Christian manifesto… a manifesto of freedom through Jesus Christ. It is the fullest, plainest and grandest statement of the gospel in the New Testament. Its message is… that human beings are born in sin and slavery, but that Jesus Christ came to set us free.” This letter covers the entire spectrum of Christian life and teaching, addressing both the seriousness of sin and the great hope of the Gospel. In the center of it all is the conviction that we stand righteous before God solely through the perfect work of Jesus Christ for us. Join us as we spend the summer reflecting on this manifesto and what it means to live life in the freedom of the Gospel.
There may be no more universal experience in all of human life than the experience of fear. From kids afraid of the dark to adults fretting over planning for retirement, fear touches all of us. No wonder the Bible talks so much about fear. Over the next six weeks, we are going to take a look at the way the human experience of fear is woven into the biblical story and be reminded, as 1 John 4 tells us, that the perfect love of God has the power to cast out fear.
The book of Lamentations is made up of five poems expressing grief over the fall of Jerusalem after Judah was overtaken by the Assyrian Empire. Like a funeral eulogy, these poems express immense pain and mourn the loss of the once glorious city that was home to the temple where Yahweh, the God of Israel, promised to dwell with his people. As we reflect on the poems of Lamentations, we are reminded that there is still much in our world worthy of grief: division and hatred, violence and warfare, sickness and death. Perhaps above all of these, it is our own sin and brokenness that has separated us from God that demands grief and cries of lament. But, the season of lament does not call us to grief that leads to self-loathing and nihilism; it is a grief that anticipates the perfect work of Jesus for us. It is in these cries of lament that we discover not only the reality of our sin but also the hope we find in the gift of the Gospel.
Perhaps you’re familiar with the oft-used idiom, “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.” It’s not about one’s size, but about the fight inside someone. This is how we ought to think of the Epistle of Jude. It’s not a big book of the Bible. (only 25 verses!) But, it packs a punch. In this short letter, Jesus’ half-brother Jude dismantles false teachers, proclaims the gospel, and encourages the early church to remain faithful to the hope they have in Jesus. Jude’s timeless message to never stop contending for the faith that “was once for all delivered to the saints” is pressing for us to lean into as Christ’s Church today. Join us as we contend, commit, persevere, and hold onto this hope we have in the gospel.
Remember when you first were learning how to drive? You were conscious of every move you made. And now, if you’re like me, you sometimes find yourself getting in your car at work and ending up at home without realizing how you even got there. As we habituate ourselves into certain actions they become second nature to us. And yet, these habits are not neutral. Our habits shape and form us towards certain ends. In many ways, habits shape who we become. As the philosopher William James once said, All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits. What might it look like to embrace a life of habits that form us as followers of Jesus? Our hope is that in being intentional with our habits we will experience that life which is truly life found within the grace of God. Join us for our series on forming a rule of life here at ULC.
If the Bible were a series of peaks and valleys, the first chapter of John’s Gospel would undoubtedly be one of the highest peaks. With beautiful prose and incisive philosophic argumentation, John invites the reader of his Gospel into the most staggering claim in all of human history, God has become man in the person of Jesus Christ. And then, towards the end of the chapter, through the Apostle Philip, John invites us to come and see this Jesus. This Advent and Christmas season join us as we journey through John 1 to come and see the Jesus who came to us that first Christmas as a baby and is coming again as our triumphant king.
There are few characters in the story of the Bible as strange as Elijah. Little is known about him before he was called to serve as God’s prophet to the people of Israel, but we see in Elijah a peculiar and complicated character. He embodies a mix of boldness and fear and swings between unhinged overzealousness and genuine uncertainty. Yet, in spite of failures and flaws, God uses Elijah for his clear purpose: to call his people back to himself. In this way, we see in Elijah a picture of our own calling and how God uses broken vessels to carry his message to the world.
The Father sent Jesus and Jesus sends us to proclaims and demonstrate the good news of the kingdom of God.
In 2014, President of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass wrote, “The balance between order and disorder is shifting toward the latter. Left unattended, the current world turbulence is unlikely to fade away or resolve itself. Bad could become worse all too easily.” In the 7 years since Haass wrote these words, this deepening disorder brought about by a global pandemic, political polarization, economic uncertainty, and the erosion of many of the institutions we once put our trust in has caused an ensuing confluence of crises in the lives of individuals. But in the midst of crisis, God invites us to be renewed by His Spirit so that we would build something lasting by returning to Jesus and His Kingdom as the source of our hope.
Jesus Christ is the central figure in all of history. Our calendars are marked by his birth. Cities across the globe are named after his followers. Billions of lives have been, and continue to be, changed by him. The Gospel of Luke, perhaps more than any other biography of Jesus, presents the history altering impact of the life of this one man. In this 21 week(!) sermon series we will take time to dive deep into the life of Jesus to more clearly see who Jesus is and what Jesus does.
The sort of idolatry that plagues most of us on a daily basis is far more dangerous than the worship of false deities that so clearly rival the worship of the Triune God. The idolatry that plagues us has a way of stealing our affections while allowing us to outwardly and even cognitively maintain our religious convictions. It is a sort of idolatry that allows us to, as Yahweh says through the prophet Isaiah, draw near with our mouths and honor him with our lips, while our hearts are far from him. James K.A. Smith writes, “To be human is to love, and it is what we love that defines who we are. Our (ultimate) love is constitutive of our identity… Our ultimate love is what we worship.” So, what do you love most? As we take the season of Lent to reflect on idols in our lives this lent, this is ultimately the question we need to ask ourselves, because what we love is ultimately what we will worship.
There is an inescapable connection between our emotional health and our spiritual health. Often times we fail to see this connection and therefore fail to grow either emotionally or spiritually. Fortunately, Scripture speaks to the whole person and can teach us how to live emotionally and spiritually healthy lives as we look to God’s grace in Christ. In this series we’ll use God’s Word and Pete Scazzaro’s book “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” to guide us to fruitful lives as followers of Jesus.
In his influential book, Start With Why, author Simon Sinek writes, All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year. Of course the Church’s “WHY” is to be faithful to Christ. And as a local expression of the Church, ULC has a unique “WHY” to fulfill in seeking to be faithful to Jesus. We exist to mobilize generations to join Jesus on his mission. But, what does that actually mean? What does that actually look like in our daily lives? In this short series we’ll answer those questions and find the “why” behind our life together.
For most of us, biblical genealogies are one of those parts of Scripture that make our eyes glaze over and put us to sleep. But, genealogies remind us of a profound truth: God works through ordinary, mundane, broken people. As we look at the genealogy of Jesus, we might notice a few peculiar things that aim to say some important things about Jesus. We find in it some people we might not expect from an ancient record of the Messiah’s birth, namely, it includes women. As we look at the lives of these women, we see profound examples of faith, coupled with the reminder that we await a kingdom in which “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
The church in the ancient city of Colossae found themselves in a tricky spot. They were a young church experiencing pressure from both inside and outside the church to conform their beliefs and lifestyle in order to make Christianity more palatable to their neighbors. In the midst of this pressure, St. Paul wrote a letter to remind this church of one fundamental truth; Jesus is greater. He’s greater than suffering. He’s greater than legalism. He’s greater than sin. He’s greater than isolation. Join us as we hear these needed words spoken into our lives today!
We live in a world of polarization and either/or thinking. Progressive or conversative, traditional or modern, religious or secular. This list is never-ending. Too often, this either/or thinking causes us to think wrongly about our faith. We create boundaries that are man-made and make dichotomies where Jesus intended tension. What if the answer to being a faithful Christian in a world of polarization is not to adopt “this-or-that” but to faithfully embrace “this-and-that” as we love God AND our neighbors?
Everyone lives by creeds. Whether it’s live, laugh, love or positive vibes only, it seems inescapable for people to condense what they claim to be true about life into these compact statements of belief. Historically, Christianity has done this through the three ecumenical creeds of the early church. And each week in worship we confess one of these creeds. But, what are we confessing? And what does it have to do with our everyday life? In this short series we’ll look at one part of the creed each week and see how our confession of faith in the creed shapes us to live into that life which is truly life.
Scripture gives us the commands of God’s law and it gives us the sure promises of God’s love and grace in the gospel. But in-between God’s Law and his promises he gives us his wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to navigate life well. Wisdom is what we need in the cracks between law and promise. How do we live life well? How do we do that now? In the book of Proverbs, God’s Word gives us wisdom on a host of topics ranging from finances to fatherhood, decisions to disagreements, and everything in between. Join us this summer as we explore God’s wisdom for us in the book of Proverbs.
I don’t know if you noticed, but we can’t be with one another right now. We can’t be face to face. It’s painful to be separated from one another. In a similar way, the Apostle Paul started a church in the ancient city of Thessalonica and after several years apart from these people, he longs to be with them. In 1 Thessalonians 2:17 he says that though they are together in heart, he desires to see them “face to face.” It’s in the midst of that desire to be with them that Paul offers encouragement and hope. That though they can’t be together, they are united in Christ and look forward to the day when we are face to face with Him forever. In this series we’ll discover that same hope that binds us together no.matter.what.
Most people pray. People from almost all cultures and all religions pray. Prayer is all over the Scriptures. But, prayer can be intimidating. Our minds get flooded with questions. Can I pray? Am I doing it right? What should I expect? Does prayer change anything? In this series we will explore these questions and many more as we, like his first disciples, ask Jesus to Teach Us to Pray. And as Jesus teaches us to pray we will grow in awe, intimacy, and strength in our relationship with God.
The mission of ULC is to mobilize generations to join Jesus on his mission. We do this collectively as we pursue our strategies and hold onto the values of our local church. But, we believe we are successful in our mission only when the people of ULC display certain marks of discipleship. Our marks of discipleship are spiritual depth, other focus, and sent posture. As we embody these three characteristics we find ourselves on mission with Jesus. Join us for this series as we explore each one of these marks and how to live them out in our everyday lives.
In the introduction to his book, Disappearing Church, Mark Sayers writes, “The post-Christian skies appear warm to an influential and increasing segment of Western culture because of an ideology. This ideology views biblical faith through a narrow and simplistic lens, in which Christianity exists as a powerful straightjacket, restraining Western culture from freedom, pleasure, and progress.” Perhaps you’ve encountered this ideology in the simple question, “What’s up with Christians and…?” During this series, we take a look at some of the questions and accusations leveled against Christians and consider how Jesus is calling us to follow him on mission to a world of unbelief.
In her book Daring Greatly, Dr. Brené Brown defines culture as the way we do things around here. During Advent we recognize that as Jesus came to this world and dwelt among us he shook up the way we do things around here. During Advent we also look forward to the day when he will return in glory to shake up the way we do things around here for good! This Advent series we consider what it looks like for ULC to live into the culture that Jesus brought in part on Christmas and will one day bring in full in his return. Join us as we pursue a culture of joy, honor, spirituality, and belonging this Advent and Christmas.
The late theologian A.W. Tozer famously said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” If we take Tozer at his word here, what comes to mind when you think about God? In the story of the Exodus we get a picture of so many attributes of God. He is a God who hears, who reveals, who promises, and ultimately we see a God who liberates. While we may not be in physical bondage, each one of us finds ourselves in bondage to various patterns of sin and brokenness. As we study the book Exodus we’ll see a clear picture of the God who acts to liberate each one of us through his Son.
In his book The Storytelling Animal, writer Jonathan Gottschall says “We are, as a species, addicted to story.” And it’s true. We love to tell stories and we love to consume stories in movies, books, or around a campfire with our friends. And stories have incredible power. They shape us, transform our thinking, and give us insight into the world. It’s no wonder, then, that nearly one third of Jesus’s teachings come in the form of stories – called parables! But what’s the point of Jesus’s parables? What’s he trying to tell us? In this series, we’ll explore some of Jesus’s parables and what they tell us about Jesus and His Kingdom.
Aristotle starts his Nicomachean Ethics by asking the question, “what is the good life?” A couple thousand years later and many people still ask the same question. Fortunately, 500 years before Aristotle asked his all important question, God inspired Solomon, king of Israel, to ask and answer that same question in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. At ULC, we’ll spend the weeks following Easter looking into this book of wisdom as it delivers ancient truth to an ever present question.
Christians are followers of Jesus. But, what does it actually look like to follow Jesus? Jesus said and did a lot, what does it look like for us to follow him in our daily lives? Well, Pastor Zach Zehnder has put together an excellent primer on practical ways to follow Jesus everyday in his book Red Letter Challenge. Join ULC this Lent as we engage in a 40 day challenge of following Jesus through being, serving, forgiving, giving, and going. Life won’t be the same after this.
ULC is a unique congregation. We are made up of people who are retired, students just getting started at the university, and everyone in between. We have people who have lived their whole lives in Ann Arbor, and people who are just passing through for a couple of years. We live on the doorstep of a world class institution in one of the more progressive cities in the country. So, what does it look like to be the people of God in our unique context? In this series, we’ll use the book of Daniel as our guide as we focus on the strategies of our congregation to multiply leaders for the church, engage the university, serve the city, and send into the world.
As the new year begins, many of us begin to begin to think about how our lives might be different. We get rid of old habits, pick up new habits, and get determined to turn our lives around. In short, we often want to push the “reset” button on our lives. In many ways, Paul, in the letter to the Galatians, urges the church in Galatia to hit the “reset” button. He urges them to get back to the basics – to get back to the foundation of their Christian faith. And his message is surprisingly simple: you are free and freed by Christ. You are free to believe in the message of Christ, free to receive his gifts, free to belong as a child of God, and free to live by the Spirit, and free to support and build each other up. As we enter this year, we are reminded of this basic message. Pure. Simple. Gospel.
Jesus is given many titles in scripture. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is the Christ. Jesus is King. Jesus is Savior. Jesus is Redeemer. And all of these titles are true, but Jesus favorite way to refer to himself was as son. Jesus calls himself the Son of God. Jesus calls himself the Son of Man. Join us this Advent and Christmas as we consider how Jesus’ sonship shapes our identity and activity as sons and daughters of the Father.
A common misconception about the Christian life is that to be a Christian means you have all of your questions answered. The reality is, much of the Christian life is about being confronted by a God who doesn’t play by our rules and wrestling with who he’s revealed himself to be. In the book of Habakkuk we see a prophet of God wrestle with his faith in the goodness of God amidst the calamity he sees all around him. As Habakkuk wrestles, we see a path forward for our struggles of faith too; a path of honesty, lament, and ultimately joy.
The artist Takashi Murakami has famously labeled contemporary Japanese culture as Superflat. Murakami coined this description because he sees in his culture a people that are visually stimulated but spiritually hollow. Amidst an abundance of consumer choices, technological advances, and a constant stream of entertainment there is no depth. In the same way, it’s no stretch to label much of life in 21st century America as Superflat. The existential questions that humanity has pondered over for millennia are now shoved to the back of our minds so we can remodel our kitchens, scroll through Instagram, or binge watch Stranger Things again. In the midst of a Superflat existence, the Christian story calls out to us and says we’re meant for more. We’re meant to know the God that created all things. We’re meant to love and serve our neighbors. We’re meant to be in deep communion with God, creation, and one another. In this series we’re doing a deep dive in to what it means to be meant for more.
As the song goes, the University of Michigan is home to the “leaders and the best.” But, what does it look like to be the best kind of leader? In his letter to a leader in the early church named Titus, St. Paul lays out what biblical leadership looks like. Whether you’re a leader at your work, in your family, in this church, or in some other organization, we’re all called to lead in some capacity. In this series we look at what Scripture says makes a qualified, faithful, and grace-filled leader.
Of all the characters in the Bible, second to Jesus Christ, none is more prominent than Abraham. He is held up as the father of faith. He left his family, his homeland, and everything he knew trusting that God would show up, and God did! In the story of Abraham we find an ancient faith that inspires us to trust God in all things. As we, like Abraham, put our faith in God, we see that he always keeps his promises.
Justice is a word that is thrown around a lot in our current cultural climate. Even within the Christian Church this can lead to heated conversations about if we should pursue justice, why we would pursue justice, and how we pursue justice. Fortunately, Scripture speaks a lot to the issue of justice, and how God’s people might pursue it. In particular, the Bible shows us a direct relationship between a person’s grasp and experience of God’s grace in Christ Jesus, and his or her heart for justice and the poor. Each week we’ll be joined by organizations in our community who have responded to God’s grace by seeking justice for the sick, the recovery community, and the poor. Join us as we learn how the cross and empty tomb propel us to live life for those in need.
Often times, we look to pursuing God’s mission through big and grandiose displays. But, the reality is, the mission of God is best fulfilled in our day to day life. Vocatio is Latin for calling. Every single follower of Jesus has a specific calling that God has placed them in. Every day life presents every day opportunities to pursue God’s mission in the way he has called us to. In this series, we’ll explore how to pursue God’s mission in our regular callings.
The Gospel of Mark is considered by many to be the first gospel written. In this short book, Mark’s goal is to make it clear that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. For this season of Lent, we take time to listen to Mark’s message as he strips away all that would distract us, and leaves us face to face with our Savior, Simply Jesus.
As we mobilize generations to join Jesus on his mission, we’ve chosen to embody certain values as a church family. In this series we’ll dive deep into our DNA as a church and explore “What makes ULC, ULC?” From that place, we’ll also discover the DNA of what it is to follow after Jesus in our individual lives as well.
The reality of sin is dark: an eternal separation from God. But he was never going to let the story end there. God loves our world so much that he shattered our darkness and sends us out to shine his light. Join us in worship this December as we celebrate Advent and the light it brings with our new sermon series, GLOW.
According to a recent Gallup Poll, 89% of people believe in God, or some kind of higher power. At the same time, the number of people that would consider themsevles religously unaffiliated is on the rise, to 25% of the total population and up towards 50% of young adults (18-29). These numbers tell us there is a general belief in “a” god, but a general disbelief in who or what that God may or may not be. But can it be that simple? Don’t we all wonder if there is more than what we see? If there is a reason for why we are here? We explore those questions and much more in this series.
Whether it’s the Melville’s Moby Dick, Jules Verne’s Nautilus, or Job’s Leviathan, nearly all of western literature uses a “monster of the deep” to describe the chaos we often find in our culture. If you’ve paid attention to the news the last 6 months, you know our culture is in the midst of a chaotic storm. In this 3-week series, we’ll use the book of Jonah to explore what it means to be the prophetic people of God “Facing Leviathan” in a cultural storm.
It’s pretty common for folks to “like Jesus, but not the church.” And often times, there’s a good reason for that. But, what would it look like to be a church that is irresistible? A church that shows the world who Jesus really is? In the book of Ephesians, St. Paul challenges us to be a “Deep Church.” A church whose roots are so deep that it can’t help but continually produce fruit and connect the world to their life-giving savior. In this series, we’ll study the book of Ephesians and explore that possibility for us here at ULC.
Missio Dei is Latin for the Mission of God. The reality is, we have a God on mission. We have a God who is moving and active and actually doing things right now. In this series as we consider the Missio Dei, we will recognize that this is God’s mission. It’s not about the mission of us as individuals, it’s not even about the mission of the church, it’s about the mission of God. And God, has revealed himself to us as the Trinity; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three distinct persons, one being. As we look at each person of the Trinity, we will see a different aspect of God’s mission in this world and hopefully find our place in it. Looking forward to digging into this with you.