Sermon by the Sea

Sermon by the Sea

Sermon by the Sea

Most of us know the Sermon on the Mount. The foundational sermon Jesus gives as he launches his public career. It’s a masterful invitation into the life of God. Most of us are less familiar with the Sermon by the Sea. An enigmatic sermon Jesus gives later in life as he is preparing to head toward the cross.

If the sermon on the mount presents us with the common sense life of God and the practical steps we can take to experience it, the sermon by the sea presents us with the strange and paradoxical imagination of the upside down kingdom. A kingdom where Jesus’ death is his crowning glory, and to give away everything becomes the means to receiving what we have always truly, deeply wanted. As we prepare ourselves for Easter, we explore the sermon of Jesus that perhaps most directly pointed to the surprise of Holy Week.

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Thessalonians vs Thessalonians

Thessalonians vs Thessalonians

There are two letters to the city of Thessalonica in our Bibles. Both are traditionally held to be written by the apostle Paul and yet some scholars have questioned that because of the apparent contradictions in the content. One letter seems to encourage its readers to prepare for the imminent return of Christ. The second letter seems to be putting the breaks on and reminding the readers that they will still have to engage in culture, keep their jobs, and pay their bills. But is this really a contradiction? Or perhaps part of an ongoing struggle to find balance in our faith. Let’s explore together how Paul addresses this community, watches as they respond, and pastors them toward a healthy rhythm in life.

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Ashes

Ashes

Forgiveness

In the Hebrew Scriptures ashes were used as a sign of grief or mourning. There are many forms of grief that we experience in our lives. Confusion or despair, lament or pain, loss or even death come crashing into our lives. Yet, one of the deepest experiences of grief we can have is the act of forgiveness.

It’s not easy to forgive. It’s not light to let go. In fact, it means taking that pain that has been inflicted upon us and holding it so tightly that we refuse to let it lash out at anyone else. In this series we return to the topic of grief, and in particular the experience of forgiveness. How can Jesus lead us to let go of hurt?

Part 1 - What Forgiveness Isn't

Forgiveness is not a moment. Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is not for them. In order to understand forgiveness in our lives sometimes we need to start with what it isn't.

Discussion Notes (part 1)

Part 2 - Forgive Yourself

Sometimes our more abstract. high-minded concepts can make it hard for us to access forgiveness in our lives. The Scriptures actually speak in very concrete images of forgiveness. Perhaps this can help us.

Discussion Notes (Part 2)

Part 3 - Revenge and Why it Never Works

Revenge is when we try to take our pain and recreate it inside someone else. This never works and leads to more despair. How can we defuse this instinct in order to work towards wholeness?

Discussion Notes (Part 3)

Part 4 - Boundaries

Don't confuse forgiveness with giving someone unfettered access to your life. For a whole host of reasons we sometimes need to create and maintain healthy boundaries even as we forgive those who may have injured us in the past.

Discussion Notes (Part 4)

Supplemental Content

The response to this series was very encouraging. It was amazing to see people in the community and online interact with the material and share stories of struggle and forgiveness in their lives. Out of those stories a number of questions emerged and so we've decided to put together some additional content to address ideas that weren't touched on fully in the series.

A. It's a Skill to Develop

B. You Can't Forgive an Organization

C. Steps to Start a Reconciliation Conversation

Advent: Before Beginning

Advent: Before Beginning

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
John 1:1–2 NIV11

Every year we rehearse the Christmas story. The baby and manger and sheep and the goats and it’s meaningful every time we do. And yet, as John reminds us in the opening of his gospel, there was a beginning before the beginning. A Jesus whose story runs throughout the entire story of creation. This year as we prepare for Christmas we want to read back Before Beginning to remember the stories of Jesus before the manger.”

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Christmas Calendar

Advent services will be held every Sunday between now and Christmas and we have four special service times on Christmas Eve at 3:00PM, 4:30PM, 6:00PM, and 8:00PM.

Christmas Day falls on a Sunday this year so we will be taking a break so that everyone can spend time to rest, perhaps with friends and family. Therefore no services will be held on December 25th. On January 1st we return with our normal service times at 930AM, 11AM, and 7PM. 

And then on January 8th we will be launching a fourth Sunday service with new services times of 9AM, 10:30AM, 12:00PM and 7:00PM every Sunday. Please note all of these times so that you can join us this Christmas Season.

Merry Christmas

Leviticus

Leviticus

Leviticus

Be honest, when was the last time you looked forward to hearing about Leviticus? In fact, be really honest, when was the last time you cringed when someone quoted this book out of context? It’s true much of this book is anachronistic. At the same time it is part of the foundational scripture (Torah) from which all Judaism and indeed Christianity flows. And as such, we owe it to ourselves to understand what was happening then, so that we might better understand what God is doing now. Let’s make Leviticus interesting. 

Part 1 - Bending the Rules: Lev 1

We are going to try to explore the major themes and movements in this book, and in that we’ll try to understand what God was teaching this ancient culture about himself. As we do that, sometimes we’re going to see how God was preparing the story of Jesus and the connection is going to make a lot sense to us. Other times we’re going to see how just how completely Jesus upends these ancient assumptions about God, and we’re going to see just how incredibly revolutionary the Christian story was in bringing God’s character closer to his people.

However, in the midst of all the rules and the regulations, all the blood and the sacrifice and rituals that seem archaic, there is still present this gracious invitation. The welcoming presence of God that says “bring what you have and it will be enough.“

Discussion Notes - Part 1

Part 2 - Thanksgiving: Lev 2+3

Taken together in this opening sequence of Leviticus, we have a personal offering that announces our presence before God and our commitment to engage with him, we have a grain offering where we remember God’s promise and we become part of how that memory is unlocked and remembered in others,  and we have a peace offering where we pause to be thankful for all that God has gifted to us, lest that realization slip away.

Leviticus is not a one note song - there is this surprising symphony of images and ideas that are being brought together and blended in sometimes unpredictable ways.

Discussion Notes - Part 2

Part 3 - Contamination: Lev 4+5

In Leviticus there was always a concern that we might bring some contamination, unintentionally or otherwise, into God’s presence. In Jesus we learn that God is Spirit and therefore God is with us, and in us, and through us at all times and in all places.

Through that, we come to understand that sin does not contaminate God. In fact, God wants to enter into our brokenness so that he can heal it. But that doesn’t mean we’re off the hook when it comes to sin. In one sense the Jesus story shows us that everything gets easier: no more sacrifices, no more rituals in order to be forgiven, but on the other hand we must now recognize that we are always in the presence of God and we every choice we make is 'before' him.

Discussion Notes - Part 3

Part 4 - Love and Shellfish: Lev 8+11

Distinction and difference, these ideas were very important to the ancient Israelites.

The point of the levitical purity code was to signal a people set apart for God. Once upon a time that looked like ritualized religion and rule following. Today what that looks like today is the counter-cultural, boundary-crossing, surprising love of Jesus. A love that shocks the world into noticing just how near God has come to each of us.

Discussion Notes - Part 4

Part 5 - Scapegoats: Lev 16+17

Part of what we need to explore in the Day of Atonement is how these ancient Levitical rituals informed how the early Christians thought about the death and resurrection of Jesus. We always need in the back of our minds as we read Leviticus the idea that God was seeding the story even in this ancient primitive culture but that the story would only fully blossom in Jesus.

Part of the good news of the gospel is that we don’t have to participate in these scapegoat rituals anymore, because in a single, perfect act of love, God has made them obsolete.

Discussion Notes - Part 5

Part 6 - Sexual Ethics: Lev 18

God is revealed in the totality of scripture; but God is revealed perfectly only as the story comes together and reaches it’s culmination in Jesus. And when Jesus comes and looks back on the law, when God himself interprets the law for us, what he sees is a mission to love the world.

You can’t follow God by not sinning. You can only ever follow God by living and loving and allowing him to transform you as you move through the world. Especially those who didn’t seem to be your neighbour at first glance. 

Discussion Notes - Part 6

Part 7 - Sabbath: Lev 23

The two perspectives on the origins and meaning behind sabbath hold two complementary views: on one hand sabbath is about stopping and resting in God’s presence that we might know him and be formed by his holy character, and on the other hand sabbath is a reminder that we were not created to be slaves, in rest we remind ourselves of everything that God has done for us.  
 
In Jesus, we get reminded that ritual is never really just about ritual, and we are invited into the heart of the ritual by both God in chapter 23 of Leviticus, as well as Jesus in the way he models rhythms of resting in God with caring for those in his world.  

Discussion Notes - Part 7

Part 8 - Social Justice: Lev 25

This week we concluded our study of Leviticus. Every week in this series we have pointed/oriented ourselves back toward Jesus because without that the story is incomplete. 

This week we talk about the Year of Jubilee, a full socio-economic reset in Israel every 50 years. In much the same way that the day of atonement was designed to wipe the slate clean when it came to sin, jubilee was designed to wipe the slate clean economically. 
 
In Luke chapter 4, Jesus arrives on the scene and he tells us a expanded imagination of jubilee starts with him. Jesus says he is here to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour for everyone. Jesus democratizes religion by eliminating the very idea of an outsider.

Discussion Notes - Part 8