Fall Sermon Series: the good news according to JOHN

We’re excited to be delving into John’s gospel – the good news about Jesus as John sees it. This book is beautiful, rich and multi-layered and will be an amazing companion for the Fall and beyond. Get ready to have your own discipleship – in other words your journey towards Christlikeness – get an infusion of life and wonder!

“But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.” John 20:31 (NLT)

House Groups are encouraged to follow along in this series and will be provided with study guides with questions for each week.

For now, check out these amazing overviews of John’s book by the Bible Project.

The Holy Spirit and the Road to Pentecost (Spring Series)

Jesus’ resurrection was and is just the beginning. After Easter comes Pentecost, but those forty days is a journey. For Jesus’ disciples the time between the upper rooms was confusing, exhilarating, surprising and empowering. You remember both upper rooms, right? In one they gathered to hear Jesus talk about his betrayal and death. In the other they experienced something so mind boggling that Luke, who records the whole incident, can only say the “blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house” and something that “seemed like tongues of fire came and rested on each of them” (Acts 2)! Whoah…

This Spring, we’re going to explore the person and work of the Holy Spirit on the road to this remarkable day called Pentecost. Far from leaving our Hot Buttons behind, we’re going to explore what gifts God has for us, how we may be empowered and encouraged to live our lives between the upper rooms, so to speak.

Each Sunday there will be supplemental material to the sermon which you can take home for personal use or group study. Make sure you collect them all – One per household.

 

Jesus: The Song of St. Perpetua

For my birthday last year, Jennifer (my wife) bought me a lovely edition of the 1954 volume called “Lives of Saints.” One of my favourite accounts is of St.Perpetua, a twenty-two-year-old who was martyred for her faith in the year 203. Perpetua was married and had an infant; she was one of five catechumens (those at the time who were being prepared to be received into the Church but had not yet been baptized) who were arrested for their faith and imprisoned.

During the subsequent trial, Perpetua’s father appeared with her child in his arms. He pleaded for Perpetua to deny the faith, imploring her to “have pity on the child.” Nonetheless, when the judge asked her “Are you a Christian?” Perpetua said “Yes, I am.” When the group was sentenced and led into the amphitheatre where they would eventually suffer death by wild animals and gladiators, Perpetua was singing.

In the last two weeks, the lectionary has featured several passages which resonate with our current sermon series (Fixed On Jesus: how to hold the centre in an age of diversity). In one particular passage, Jesus clarifies the practical (and radical) implications of having him as the centre of our lives:

Luke 14:26-27: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Later, in verse 33: “None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”

These days – without the threat of wild animals and gladiators, and given the prevalence of much cushy Christian pseudo-psychology that masquerades as authentic spirituality – many of us come to (or stay with) Jesus believing that our most cherished relationships, life, and possessions can remain happily uninterrogated. It’s especially tempting to minimize or altogether ignore the part about carrying the cross; to forget that the way of Christ is the via Dolorosa.

In the passage above, Jesus is straightforward and unapologetic: it’s impossible to follow him without cost, and the cost is everything. I love the great Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor’s take on this reality:

“What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe.”

The “hate” of family and life itself that Jesus speaks of is comparative. The idea is that we’d love him so passionately that our attachment to everyone and everything (including all we own and all our cash) would, by comparison, seem like hate. Paul’s words in Philippians 3:8-9 convey the beauty and power of this movement: “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him […].”

The real heart of Jesus’ words in Luke is an invitation for us to experience, over and above anything and everything, his “surpassing worth.” Experiencing him this way is the only thing that evokes the kind of love for and devotion that obscures everything else. If we shudder at the cost of being without the dearest people, things, or whatever-it-may-be in our lives, it’s likely because we have not yet fully experienced the immense, satisfying, and incomparable joy of Jesus. Gaining and being found in him is having everything, and more.

It’s entirely possible to accept Jesus’ invitation and centre our lives on him in this way. Perpetua’s family, possessions, and very life – significant though they were I’m sure – were negligible compared to the pricelessness of having Christ. I imagine that’s why, even as she “carried the cross” and was processed to her death, she was singing.

May it be that we too so thoroughly experience the unrivalled love, life, grace, and abundance found in the person of Jesus alone that following him – regardless of any and all cost – remains a perpetual song of joy. After all, if we have everything, there’s nothing else we need.

Fall Series – Fixed On Jesus

Diversity is Great but has Some Challenges

We live in a time of immense diversity. Every subject imaginable has a myriad of opposing viewpoints – from politics, economics and science, to arts, religion, sports and more. As if that weren’t enough, adherents to virtually any opinion can find facts and figures to back up their position, adding emotional horsepower to whatever position they hold. Of course, the church isn’t immune from this. Theology can be politicized to the point where it manifests itself in people doing ugly things in the name of truth. How should the church hold to what is true in times like this? What are we to believe? How are we to behave toward each other and toward those who are not yet following Jesus? What are we to do with diversity within the church?

Thankfully, the church has always lived in diverse times.  It is true that today we may face some new challenges, but ever since the birth of the church there have been controversies they’ve had to work through. In fact, much of the New Testament contains stories, advice and even warnings to the early church regarding how to conduct themselves in the mist of differing ideas. Furthermore,  the New Testament church didn’t figure it all out and usher in a period of unity and uniformity (those aren’t the same, by the way!). The past 2,000 years of the church is full of all kinds of controversy. At times, this diversity has led to divisiveness – in the extreme it’s even become violent. In other instances, the church has managed to stay true to what its called to do: to love God and love each other like we love ourselves (Mark 12:30-31) and to make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son

the church has always lived in diverse times
and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all Jesus commanded (Matt 28:19). But how does one actually do this in such turbulence? What are the keys that the early church held that can help us through our times? What mistakes have been made that we can avoid? And, what authority does the Bible have in all of this?

This Fall we’ll be exploring how to hold the centre in the midst of tremendous diversity – we’ll be attempting to speak to these and other important questions for our time.

A Model:

In the 17th century a German Lutheran pastor named Peter Meiderlin lived during incredibly difficult times.  The infamous 30-Year War was raging and all of Europe (almost literally) was fighting (literally) over theology. Doctrine had become politicized to the point that Christians were killing each other over points that might seem ridiculous to us today. In the midst of this, and with the help of a God-dream, Meiderlin coined a catchy little phrase (well, it’s catchy in Latin) which reads: “In essentials, unity.  In non-essentials, liberty.  In all things, charity.” In other words, keep the main thing the main thing – everything else that is not essential to salvation, even though it’s important, should not be given central priority – and love each other through it all. While this rubric didn’t put an end to the fighting of his time, it has become helpful to many Christians since.

We’re going to use Medeirlin’s phrase (although mix up the original order) as an outline for this series.  

What are the essentials that we must hold on to?

What are the “essentials” that we must hold on to? Far from nailing down a set of theological ideas, our centre is a Person – Jesus – who is both fully God and fully human. We must always keep him at the centre, and anything or anyone who begins to displace him must be named and put back in its proper place. This means that good ideas, moral ideas, holy ideas, even good theology is not our centre. They are all good, but we are not to anchor ourselves in them. Like the writer of Hebrews says, we are to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 11:1-2). Next we’ll explore how to have charity in “all things”.  In other words, how do we listen well to those we may disagree with over non-essentials? How do we love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ amidst diverse opinions, theologies, experiences and values?  Lastly, in the new year, we will begin to explore some of the many ways our community is diverse – the “non-essentials” – which may still be important, but just not our centre – not what defines us. At our annual retreat in the Spring, the elders identified 12 issues (and there are likely more) in our church that people will deeply disagree with others about. However, before we get there, we must keep the centre in view and always posture ourselves in love.

Resources:

We will be compiling some additional resources for those who want to go deeper.  For now, here is an article by Gary Best (former director of Vineyard Canada) called “Unity and Truth – A Historical Reflection”. We’ve found Gary to be very helpful in setting the tone for this conversation. In this article, he articulates how one should be concerned with taking a good posture before taking a position on any given topic. Check it out and let us know what you think either in the comments below, or by contacting any of the pastors or elders.

Notes:

>> This series may bring up some anxiety in some of you. If this is the case, please, please, please find a healthy place to process. The Pastoral and Lay Elders have been praying for this process for some time now and are all prepared to provide support and care where needed.

>> Both the Upstairs Gatherings and Downstairs Gatherings will be exploring the same topics throughout this series.

“…And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…” 

Hebrews 12:1-2

 

Why On Earth?

We’re embarking on a new series entitled, “Why On Earth?: David, calling and the pursuit of God”. No matter where we are in life we all need to grapple with the big questions like: Why on earth am I here? What’s my calling? What kind of person has God called me to become? And, how can I figure it out or get more clarity on it?

These are some of the questions we’re going to be exploring together as we look to David’s life for some guidance. We’ll let his story be our guide in this process of pursuing God’s will for our lives – of gaining clarity on some of those big questions. We’ll trace the ups and downs of his failures and successes and glean what we can to apply to our 21st century lives. We are also going to be looking to a few others along the way who will help us contextualize God’s invitations for us today. In particular, the 16th century’s St. Teresa of Avila and her “Interior Castle” and the “7 Stages” of our own Vineyard founder, John Wimber.

Our hope is that through this series, God would clarify his calling for each of us, and encourage us on our journeys as we follow Jesus throughout our lives. For some of us, it will be a journey of self discovery. For others, we’ll gain new insights on our calling as we already understand it. Ultimately, as we see God’s heart for David, we’ll be able to also see his heart for us and those around us. Fredrick Buechner stumbled screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-11-24-12-amupon some wisdom when he wrote, “the place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  (in Wishful Thinking: a theological ABC). We pray that each person in WCV would find that sweet spot, and that we’d be a people “after God’s heart” (1 Sam 13:14, Acts 13:22).

 

 

 

 

Windows Open: how to pray like Daniel

This Fall brings a new preaching series.  We’re going to be looking at one particular aspect of Daniel’s life – his prayer life.  We’ll ask together, what fuelled his walk with God?  What was it that propelled him and his friends to have such confidence in God?  What caused him to “open his windows to Jerusalem and pray as he was in the habit of doing”? (Dan 6:10 paraphrase)  There are some keys that we’ll explore together over the coming months which we’re confident will revolutionize our own walks with God.

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 1.52.09 PMNear the end of this series we are going to have a 30-day Prayer Challenge.  During November we will challenge each other to put into practice what we’ve learned from Daniel’s prayer life.  There will be daily meditations and practical challenges to implement into our lives.  Our vision for this time is that each person involved in the Vineyard would be inspired and given resources to encounter God’s presence in their lives on a daily basis and have it spill out to those around them!