Lonely

Lonely

It’s good to be alone sometimes–we all need our space–but “lonely” is something else; something far more difficult to find our way out of.

In 2000, Robert Putnam’s famous book Bowling Alone detailed the breakdown of community and civic society. Today studies show that “zero” is the most common number of confidants, reported by almost a quarter of us and in fact, the average number of people we feel we can talk to about ‘important matters’ has fallen to just two.

Linked to depression, anxiety, interpersonal hostility, and increased vulnerability to health issues, loneliness is a real problem. And yet ironically it’s one that only an active engagement with vulnerability can begin to mend.

We want to start this year by talking about what it means to be lonely, what it means to work towards health in our relationships, and how to push ourselves to appropriately begin the movement towards a more open existence in community. 


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Week One
Week Two

Truth to Power

Truth to Power

Every culture and time needs a good prophet or two. We’re not talking about people who can predict the future, but people who can speak truth to power in creative, vibrant, and life-giving ways. People who look out for the purposes of God and the integrity of all humanity. Prophets paint a picture of what life should look like in the economy of God’s generosity and love.

Amos is one such prophet. He worked from Judah with a message for Israel thirty years before its fall. The tradition says that in his day, he spoke warnings to the wealthy who built their kingdoms on the backs of the poor. This was an unsustainable arrangement with power and Amos was charged by the Divine to deliver that message.

Let’s wonder together what it looks like to regain a prophetic edge. We are empowered to speak truth to the power of anything that holds more sway in our lives than it should. In this identifying and naming, we’ll nd ourselves living towards a vision like that in the last words of Amos – where we enjoy the generosity and the abundance of God. 

 

Discussion Notes:
Week One
Week Two

Theotokos - Advent

Theotokos - Advent

Blessed Mother, Queen of Heaven,
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Theotokos, Madonna, Mother of God, Mary of Nazareth. These are just a handful of the titles given to Mary, the mother of Jesus. If you’ve ever walked through a world class art museum you’ll know how varied the renderings are of Mary as an icon in Christian devotion.

The mystic and theologian Bernard of Clairvaux wrote about Mary like this: “God’s decision to indwell in Mary and her consent to this decision made the incarnation, and therefore redemption, possible.”

This Advent we’re exploring Mary’s story as it comes to us through four snapshots in the gospels, trusting that her narrative can walk with us in our Advent longing, waiting, and wondering. Advent, after all, means “coming.” What better way to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christmas than to look to Mary, the woman who agreed to let God come through her so that God could come to us in Jesus. 


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Jacob

Jacob

When a story is true, not just in fact but in its connection to life as it really is, it becomes a source of life. We get carried along with gracious surprise, finding pieces of ourselves, and who God is for us. This fall we follow the story of Jacob, that conflicted and restless man who wrestled with God.

One of our favourite theologians, Abraham Heschel, teaches us that the Bible is more about God’s search for us than our search for God. Jacob’s story is proof of that concept. For what we see here, in vibrant detail, is how God chases Jacob, pursuing him through his wanderings and failures until at the end of his story we see him fully caught by grace. He realizes all that has happened: “[Jacob] worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff.” (Gen 47:31)

This story has it all. The mystery of birth order, the stress of sibling rivalry, the common seeds of relational breakdown, the consequences of falsity, the hope of romance, the long years of labour, the burden of an unreconciled past, the glory of forgiveness, the life- changing effect of wrestling with God. It’s all here. 


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Surprise! It's twins - Genesis 25:21-26

Even before Jacob and Esau are born their destinies seem predetermined. Their mother receives a message from God and even their names seem to describe the stories that will unfold in their lives. But if that's the case what does it means for us to engage with these ancient tales trusting that God is wiling to experience our journey alongside us, both the predictable and the unexpected?

Discussion Notes - Part 1


Birthrights - Genesis 25:27-34

So the boys grow up. One loves the outdoors and the other stays home near the tents. One is impulsive and brash and the other is crafty and opportunistic. Both have something to teach us.

Discussion Notes - Part 2


Hairy Arms - Genesis 27

Sometimes it feels like we need to take things into our own hands. But often when we do, and when we let loose our moral compass in the pursuit of what we think is 'good' we end up causing more damage than we imagined. God is interested in where we go. But God is equally interested in how we get there.

Discussion Notes - Part 3


On the Run - Genesis 28

The surprising thing about grace is that not only does often meet us in unexpected moments but that when it does it often speaks unexpected words. And here even as Jacob runs from his failures, his encounter with the divine is characterized by a scandalous grace and peace. 

Discussion Notes - Part 4


7 (14) Year Wedding - Genesis 29

Just when Jacob is starting to get his life back on track things take a strange turn. And this time Jacob is one who gets cheated. What does it mean when our best intentions don't produce the kind of results we imagined. Is God any less near to us?  * In the sermon Jeremy references a video about the #MeToo hashtag. You can find that video here.

Discussion Notes - Part 5


Face to Face - Genesis 31

Often times when we are deeply ashamed we attempt to cover our face. Sometimes even physically, more often by hiding behind a gift, or an email, or a gesture. However, somethings can only be done face to face and this is something Jacob will have to learn.

Discussion Notes - Part 6


Wrestling with God - Genesis 32

Well, this is it. The throwdown in Torah. The wrestling match between Jacob and YHWH. What a mysterious encounter as Jacob wrestles 'a man' but comes to know that somehow in the midst of his struggle he has encountered God directly. 

Discussion Notes - Part 7


Reconciliation - Genesis 33

Everything comes full circle as Jacob and Esau stand face to face once again. But this time both men have become something very different than they were at the start of this story. There is growth and maturity and reoconcilaition to encounter in this final story of Jacob.

Discussion Notes - Part 8


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Our Next Steps

Our Next Steps

It’s our third birthday! And we’re excited.

September always feels like a new start. School is back in session, the pause of summer vacation has come to an end, and there is a fresh focus on moving forward with renewed vigour. It’s no different for us at Commons. And so every year we like to start September with a reflection on the central concepts that guide our community. This year however, being on mission is even more important than ever because this year we hope to launch a new parish community in the city. To replicate what has made Commons so unique means we need to remind ourselves about the vision God gave us when we started.

Intellectually honest. Spiritually passionate. Jesus at the centre.

Can’t wait! 

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