The 7th verse of the advent hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” says this:
‘O come, desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease
And be Thyself our King of peace’
Peace is woven into the very identity of Jesus. ‘Prince of Peace’ is one of the names of God that we get from the writings of Isaiah, and it’s part of the proclamation that was heard at Jesus’ birth. Yet, even though we live in “peace time” here in Canada, we seem to be short on the stuff. Our 24 hour news-feeds are rife with conflict, with outrage, with fear. This Sunday, we’re going to consider these words of Jesus from John 14:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage.”
Advent is the beginning of the Christian Calendar and introduces us to the Season of Light. It is a time when we intentionally prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. This Sunday, we will explore the first week of Advent: Hope. At the darkest time of the year, hope is the growing light we hold onto. It is the promise of what is yet to come.
“What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of life.” ~Emil Bruner
If there’s one thing that has emerged thematically through our reflection on what it means to follow Jesus into questionable living (the kind of life that prompts questions), it’s that following Jesus results in a surprisinglife. An encounter with the Love of God the Father is always surprising… it is not easily overlooked or dismissed. The call of Jesus on our lives is again, full of surprising “yeses” and surprising “noes”. His call can sustain and surprise us for a lifetime.
This Sunday we’ll consider 5 practices that help to empower and sustain the surprising in-breaking of the love of God in and around us.
Mark 1:16-20 – “As (Jesus) went along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishermen). Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people!” They left their nets immediately and followed him. Going on a little farther, he saw James, the son of Zebedee, and John his brother in their boat mending nets. Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.”
Jesus has returned from his experience in the wilderness and he is a man on fire. He has a gospel to preach; a Kingdom to proclaim. He soon encounters four men going about their business and offers them an exchange: ‘Leave everything you’re competent in and follow me into uncertainty’. This Sunday we’ll explore this: Why in the world did they say yes?
*Editors note: There was wonderful interaction and questions from the congregation throughout this talk (notably from our youth). We’ve tried to optimize the recording to allow you to hear the questions/comments… There is notable “hiss” during these portions of the recording, and some of the comments are still difficult to make out due to the constraints of our recording equipment.
“At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness,”
The very next thing Jesus encounters following the amazing event of his baptism… is the wilderness. He comes up, soaking wet, the waters of the Jordan river dripping off him. The Spirit descends on him like a dove and he hears the words of God: “You are my Son whom I love, with you I am well pleased.” And then that same Spirit sends him into the wilds of the Judean country-side to be tempted by Satan. This Sunday we ask the question: “What’s up with that?”
“You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
This week we continue our teaching series that considers what it means to live lives that provoke questions. In this talk, we’re going to put this declaration of the Father about Jesus right into the foundation of Jesus’ understanding of himself. How did this affect how he lived his life and conducted his ministry?
What would look different in your life if you could hear these words spoken over you? Was this just God the Father addressing God the son, uniquely? Or does this reveal something of the heart of God towards you and me too? What would be transformed in the knowledge that God loves you, specifically, that your being in this world causes Him pleasure?
***Spoiler alert, I think a deep revelation of this would result in change that would cause our friends to start asking some questions.
Jesus lived his life in such a way that He never seemed to need an icebreaker with people. Wherever He went, questions would follow. His words, His actions and His very presence provoked curiosity. In this new series we’re going to take some time to consider how, like Jesus, God is calling us into “questionable living” (hint: isn’t so much about “mission”… it’s about the radical love of God).
In his first letter to the Thessalonian church, Paul encourages his hearers to “give thanks in all circumstances”. He goes on to say “…for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It’s worth noting that this is a community of people who knows a thing or two about “all circumstances”. They are, in the time of his writing, part of the suffering church. They are under persecution. Whatever their thankfulness is about, it’s not grounded in anything we might understand as “the good life” as it is typically sold to us these days.
Thanksgiving, while it’s not part of the traditional Christian calendar of Holy-days, in many ways, it can be among the most Christ-oriented days of the year. This Sunday we’re going to ask the question, “What needs to be true so that, in Christ, all of us can share in this all-circumstances-kind-of-thankfulness that Paul is championing?”