Is to die. I’ve mentioned before how we worship in homes with several other families. It’s a very intentional gathering centered on simple worship, togetherness, openness, and mutual learning and leading. We love it. There’s intimacy, confessions, children opening their hearts, testimonies of God’s faithfulness, and worship through song and prayer and dance. The worship and community isn’t contained to Sunday. It’s carried through the week as we interact with each other and encourage one another in our efforts to engage those around us with love and grace. Life happens in this community. And where there is life, there is always growth. Growth, witnessed in the maturing of those already present. And growth witnessed in the increase of numbers by those who want to experience this environment of grace. Growth is good. But in order for the growing to thrive, pruning is necessary. A cutting back of anything that hinders new life. But cutting away that which is living seems contrary to our instinct, indifferent to the very idea of life. Who really wants to snip a flourishing bush or trim the long reaching branches of a tree full of leaves that shade? But since the beginning of time, something must die in order for another to live. Plants picked and eaten, for God’s created people to sustain. Surrounding nations defeated and eliminated, so holy Israel would recognize God’s favor and promise of freedom and life. Human dreams of life and prosperity, laid aside for God’s greater purpose. The identity found in land and family, abandoned for the One who calls us by new names and births new life in us. A savior on a cross, so the sinful could live forever. Life and death have always been intertwined in a relationship our human minds may never comprehend. The families that gather on Sunday, we enjoy what we have together. The circle is large, the fellowship is sweet, and the 35 children absolutely love being together every week. But even this good thing must die in order for us to thrive in the ways that really matter. We are pruning what is big, in order to embrace the blessing of small. So more people will share, so the quiet will feel comfortable to speak, so there is room for others to come, so intimacy is possible, and so small homes can host. Into the basket we placed four number 1s and four number 2s. And we prayed. Then we drew. This month we are gathering in two groups for the first three weeks, but we will come together as one for the last week. And we will pray again, and draw again. The shuffle may not be permanent. But for now it keeps us small, and still connected as one. We believe this will bring new life. And we believe the number 3 will get added to the basket because more will come. I ask you today: What keeps you from growing? In the Spirit,? As a family? As a minister of the Gospel? What hinders new life in you? And are you willing to cut it away for God to expand and create in you anew? For me personally, it’s expectations. The ones I have for myself and the ones placed on me from this time and place. I’m afraid of being different. Of making choices that follow a narrow path. Of living radically, instead of normally. Because saying yes to God means saying no to other things. And yet, if I snipped away my fear and let these expectations die, I believe I will be more fully alive. And there lies the irony: When we learn to die, the one who died for us to live, is able to live more fully in us.