Unexpected

Unexpected

Christmas is packed with personal traditions. Every year we hang up the same tree decorations. Every year we gather with our loved ones to celebrate the same big holiday. Every year we try to come up with a creative gift for someone special and basically get the same gift we did the year before.

So the question is, can the story of Jesus in a manger really surprise us one more time around? Can Christmas hold more meaning than all the ornaments, intricate family meals, and presents wrapped under the tree?

Advent is a time to return to the story of Jesus’ coming. And in returning, we find that we aren’t the same person we were even a year ago. The Divine’s coming to us in human flesh is charged with the unexpected. There’s the unexpected way an old story becomes new. There’s an unexpected baby who holds the mystery of the universe. There are unexpected angels sent to declare that heaven has come to earth and nothing is the same anymore.


Advent 1: The With-ness of God - Jeremy Duncan

DIscussion Notes

Today we are looking at how in the birth narratives both Luke and Matthew draw inspiration from and transform the text of Isaiah.


Advent 2: The Magnificate - Bobbi Salkeld

Joseph

Joseph

Over the past few years, we have been seeing what the Bible has always known: that human stories, when viewed through the lens of faith, teach us how to live. Together we have explored the stories of Abraham and Jacob. This year we come to the story of Joseph.

The journey of Joseph’s complicated relationship with his brothers will be our focus for this fall season. This is a common and extraordinary tale: sibling rivalries, dreams of destiny, acts of betrayal, realizations of loss, sudden reversals, acts of kindness, restored peace. And in this whole mix, there is God. In fact, like any really good story, there is more going on here than at first meets the eye.

Joseph was a person in process, just as we continue to be. We see him grow up from a despised younger brother to a respected leader, from one presumed dead to the centre of life and action. And if we pay close enough attention, we might see what perceptive readers have always noticed: that Joseph’s story carries an uncanny resemblance to the story of Jesus himself.


Joseph 1: But First… - Jeremy Duncan

Discussion Notes

We will not do justice to Joseph without remembering where he comes from. When the Hebrews called their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, it was their way of rooting their identity in their experience of God and their history as a people. 


Joseph 2: Big Dreams, Bad Timing - Jeremy Duncan

Discussion Notes

Nahum Sarna describes the story of Joseph as “set forth by a master storyteller who employs with consummate skill the novelistic techniques of character delineation, psychological manipulation, and dramatic suspense.” You are invited to pay attention to how this beautiful narrative is put together and to listen to those particular moments when it speaks to us about what it means to be human.


Joseph 3: Brothers Gone Bad - Jeremy Duncan

Discussion Notes

This week we’re looking at how the brothers’ hurt that has not been dealt with turns into rejection and sets off a series of events that will eventually shape Joseph into a person of welcome. 


Joseph 4: #metoo - Jeremy Duncan

Discussion Notes

Today we follow Joseph to Egypt and see how the presence of God manifests itself in small and big ways in Joseph’s life and creates an alternative reading of reality that exposes the imbalances of power.


Joseph 5: In the Pit - Jeremy Duncan

Discussion Notes

So far the intent of the story was to get us to listen to the voices we do not usually listen to and to pay attention to the more complex and nuanced perspectives of the world. Today we are talking about what it feels like to be stuck and forgotten, and yet never outside of the Divine presence and grace.


Joseph 6: Smart v Wise - Jeremy Duncan

Discussion Notes

Last week, we were invited to pause our conversation after the chief cupbearer forgot all about his friend Joseph and left him in prison for another two years. Today we are looking at more dreams and what it means to speak peace in wisdom.


Joseph 7: Plan Well - Jeremy Duncan

Discussion Notes

This week we are moving from smart and wise to strategy, and we will consider practical plans for big problems. 


Joseph 8: Who Moves First - Jeremy Duncan

Discussion Notes

Today we are bringing the story to a close by focusing on the reconciliation of Joseph and his family. 

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.

Year Five

Year Five

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. So every year we like to start September with a reflection on the central concepts that guide our community.

Intellectually honest. Spiritually passionate. Jesus at the centre.

Can’t wait!

DISCUSSION NOTES

Launch Sunday

Acts of the Apostles

Acts of the Apostles

The book of Acts can present as a collection of hyperboles. Fire from heaven, dramatic exorcisms, adventure on the high seas, earthquakes and arrests. In some ways this seems appropriate, because it’s the story of Jesus’ first followers after all. How they began to share the story of Jesus’ life and resurrection, with the Holy Spirit invariably appearing to add dramatic flair.

But, if we take time to look a little closer, we find that there are a bunch of stories here showcasing the haphazard, serendipitous, and mundane ways in which the first Christians went about trying to be faithful. The ways in which they encountered the divine. The ways in which they discovered, as N.T. Wright says, that the God of the Hebrew Scriptures was “doing a new thing in the whole world.”

Seeing this, we can affirm that while the Church’s genesis was marked by spectacular action, it was also expressed in ordinary human experience. That the Holy Spirit was at work in spectacular events and day-to-day monotony alike. And we can consider how the same might be true for us.


Acts ch2 - Jeremy Duncan

Discussion Notes

This week we are diving into a summer series on the book of Acts. The Acts of the Apostles is a collection of stories about how the followers of Jesus became what we know as the Church.


Acts ch4 - Devon Scott

Discussion Notes

This week’s texts are located in what is known as the Jerusalem passage, and they record some of the earliest persecution that the church experienced.


Acts ch5 - Bobbi Salkeld

Discussion Notes

This week we looked at two stories we find at the beginning of Acts— both these stories are intense and strange and full of drama. And these stories don’t wrap up nicely or end tidily — they are confusing, and we can be a bit uncomfortable with having them in our Bibles.


Acts ch10 - Jim Cresswell

Discussion Notes

It’s been a while since the feast of Pentecost, where this series started. The church in Acts has continued to grow, but with that growth has come serious and deadly persecution. The story of Jesus has started moving outward, and two main protagonists move this narrative forward— Paul and Peter. Today, we focus in on part of Peter’s story.


Acts ch16 - Maddie McBlain

Discussion Notes

This week, we look at part of Paul’s story. Acts 16 shows us what it looks like for people from vastly different walks of life to encounter the good news. We meet a wealthy business woman, a girl in slavery, and a man who works in a prison.


Acts ch17 - Yelena Pakhomova

Discussion Notes

In his speech at the Areopagus, Paul adapts the way he presents the story of Jesus— he puts this story of grace into a language that connects with those he is speaking to. In Athens, Paul finds that the God he worships has been at work in places he didn’t expect. While the city is filled with idols, it is also filled with the Holy Spirit, working through those who worship God.


Acts ch19 - Jeremy Duncan

Discussion Notes

Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen Paul in Philippi and Athens, and this week we follow him to Ephesus. These were the three major cities in the ancient world with their own flavour and customs. Each of the cities presented their own challenges to Paul and early Jesus story. One could tell a lot about the culture of each city based on that city’s particular temple to a particular god of the Greco-Roman pantheon around which the life of that city and its commerce was built. Philippi had Pan, Athens had Athena, and Ephesus was built around the temple of Artemis.


Acts ch27 - Bobbi Salkeld

Discussion Notes

We are nearing the finale of the book of Acts. This summer through the Acts sermons we’ve covered topics like the forward-facing journey in faith, the complicated struggles that come when you start something new, the serious business of being the temples of the Spirit, and so much more. Today, we come to the shorter, colder days for the Apostle Paul. Paul leaves prison after two years. And still as a prisoner, Paul is put on a ship for Rome.