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Matthew

Parables of Grace

Parables of Grace

Our lives are a collection of stories. The ones we find ourselves in. The ones we watch and read and listen to. The ones we invent and create.

And what’s curious is how Jesus’ life and ministry were shaped by these same contours. His lived experience...the Hebrew Scriptures and traditions he learned...and, of course, the stories he told.

In our walk through Lent this year, we turn our attention to a particular set of tales Jesus gave his followers. Parables of lost sheep, midnight visitors, and trees that don’t grow fruit.

In the end, we come back to the words of Jesus each year to understand the Divine story and its connection to the meaning of our own. And we hope too that, whether we ‘get’ the parables or not, we begin to see them as “first and foremost God’s way of getting to us.” –Robert Farrar Capon


Lent

Ash Wednesday is the traditional beginning of Lent, the six week season which precedes Easter. For generations now, Christians have sought to deepen their connection to Christ’s death and resurrection by journeying through a season of preparation. We give something up–we create space and lack–in order to participate fully in the moment of resurrection.


On Lost Sheep

We talk about extravagant love that leaves the ninety-nine to look for the lost one, and how when it touches our hearts we want to at least try living in the way of Jesus; to love in the way that does not make sense.

Discussion Notes

Bonus Material

Part 1: Jesus has this remarkable ability to spot the Divine everywhere. We could certainly learn a lesson from his creativity.
Part 2: Grace calls us to live toward a world we can’t quite grasp yet.


The Good Samaritan

This week we are looking at the story of the Good Samaritan and how grace invites us to transcend our categories and see ourselves in the person across from us right now.

Discussion Notes

Bonus Material

Sunday was the parable of the Good Samaritan and one of the really intriguing elements of this story is the question that precedes it: Who is my neighbour?


The Unmerciful Servant

This week were are talking about how our experience of grace allows us to extend it to others.

Discussion notes

Bonus Materials

The parables aren't designed to give you black and white answers, they are meant to help learn how to think theologically.


The Unhelpful Friend

Today we are looking at one more story that explores the dynamics of grace in our lives and shows what prayer is about.

Discussion Notes

Bonus Material

There are a couple clues that push toward my reading of this parable.


Mustard Seeds

This week we are looking at the mustard seeds and how Jesus challenges the assumptions of the religious establishment of what the kingdom of God is like.

Discussion Notes

Bonus Material

I think René Girard can add a new layer to our understanding of the mustard seed parable.


The Problem with Prayer

The Problem with Prayer

We can be honest. Prayer is hard sometimes. And yet, prayer is perhaps the most precious and most under- utilized gift we have. For a multitude of reasons, people who follow Jesus often struggle with it. And the more capable you think you are, sometimes the more significant the struggle becomes. Perhaps this is because we fail to see the profound practicality of prayer, the deeply connected way it can reorder our lives. Perhaps we need to look at life, and ourselves, in a new way.

In this series, we want to imagine the Lord’s Prayer as a series questions we can ask daily. We want to take the practice of talking to and being with God, and see this way as something solid and tangible, something daily, something that matters to our experience of life.

If you have grown a little stale in your personal prayers, this series promises to re-energize what is most basic. Prayer is more practical than you ever dreamed.


Part 1 - Jeremy Duncan

Discussion Notes

This past Sunday we acknowledged the problem with prayer, talked about learning the language of payer, the role of liturgy and imitation of the “masters” in our prayer life, and the call to align our prayer with God’s vision of us and of the world.


Part 2 - Jeremy Duncan

Discussion Notes

This week we looked at the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer - “Our Father…” as pointing us both towards God and towards one another. We were reminded that our prayer is an expression of intimacy with God to the extent it engenders the expression of God-like care extended out of us to those around us.


Part 3 - Jeremy Duncan

Discussion Notes

In this last session on the Lord’s Prayer, we’re looking at a series of questions, sometimes called petitions, that Jesus gives as a framework for prayer. And, hopefully, they can become tools for your own creativity in prayer or will help you to say and to hear the Lord’s Prayer differently.

Ritual

Ritual

We believe we need a recovery of sorts. Contemporary culture has pushed us to think that public life is mostly structured (show up on time, fulfill your obligations, do your job), but private life is mostly unstructured (free time to use as you see fit). But what happens then when spiritual life is relegated to the unstructured part of life, to our private“off work” world where there are few obligations? Well, it tends to exist in emotional spurts, through momentary impulses. It tends to lose focus. You know what I am talking about.

And so the recovery we need is the wisdom of basic spiritual ritual. Grace is not only a gift, grace is also a way of being. Grace is the life we are called to enter, the life of form and formation.

It’s been said that we don’t so much think our way into new life but instead live our way into new thinking. In this way, our spiritual identities are shaped through sustained commitments to gracious practices: practices of time like honouring sabbath, practices of stewardship like generous giving, practices of self-forgetfulness like service.

This is a series about some of our central rituals: work, rest and play.


The Ritual of Work - Jeremy Duncan

Discussion Notes

If what drives our imagination of work is hoping we won’t have to, that’s a problem— because work was created by God to be holy. In fact, the very beginning of Genesis starts with God doing work. And then humanity is tasked with doing more of the same— more work. They are instructed to take care of the land around them, and be fruitful, and to reproduce. Work wasn’t originally supposed to be just about surviving. It was (and is) the way we participate with God in the ongoing creation of the world.


The Ritual of Rest - Jeremy Duncan

Discussion Notes

This week we spoke about how work and rest depend on one another— all rest without work isn’t healthy, nor is all work and no rest. Sometimes rest is actually harder than work; while work tends to have tangible outcomes, rest can feel unproductive. We may think that sabbath rest is something God wants from us… but it was actually something God wanted to give to us. Sabbath shows us that while we are loved for what we offer, we are equally loved for what we don’t.


The Ritual of Play - Jeremy Duncan

Discussion Notes

Play is the space where we can give ourselves what we need to be who we are, and where we can give to something outside of ourselves. Giving time to that hobby you never seem to have time for, investing in the relationships that matter to you, and serving those in your community… this is all play. It is where we create and contribute and participate in the stories that sit somewhere firmly between work and rest.


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. 


Alone Vs Lonely - Jeremy Duncan

Discussion Notes

If we don’t figure out the balance between self care and self forgetfulness everything will be out of whack for us. If we focus all our energy on what we need and looking after ourself, we will find ourselves very lonely. But at the exact same time if the only thing that drives us is looking after others and caring for their needs and we don’t spend the time to look into ourself, well then ironically we will find ourselves just as lonely. Human beings are built for this give and take and often loneliness is the result of finding ourselves stuck at one end of the equation.


Vulnerability Vs Over-Sharing - Jeremy Duncan

Discussion Notes

Vulnerability is as much about who we choose to share with as it is what we choose to share… and that means loneliness is as much about the health of the relationships we invest in as it is the volume of people we engage.


Sex Vs Intimacy - Jeremy Duncan

Discussion Notes

Intimacy is where we ultimately land when we built this series. As we walked together through this series we learned that being alone is important so that we come to know ourselves, vulnerability is opening what we learn about ourselves with someone we trust, and finally this week we talk about how intimacy is when we give someone complete unguarded access to ourselves.


Audio

Anxiety

Anxiety

The Temptations of Christ

The most common Biblical command is “do not be afraid”. Search your Bible and you will find it repeated dozens of times. It began when God told Abraham, the first man of faith, not to be afraid (Genesis 15:1). And actually, the command could be translated, “stop being afraid!” In other words, Abraham was told to stop fearing as a way of life.

And that is the issue, isn’t it. The lingering fears, the constant low-level dread. While momentary fears can come and go, if there is something we are all too familiar with, it’s the anxious life as a way of being. Anxiety is a kind of low-grade fear, the constant gnawing of uncertainty, the constant dread that doesn’t go away. Anxiety can stay with us.

Jesus had something to say about this very practical area of our existence, painting a picture about how anxiety happens, and how the un-anxious life is actually possible. In his famous temptations Jesus faces head-on three of our most powerful latent anxieties: security, esteem, and control. Let’s face them as well.

Video


Audio