New Year Celebration!

Let’s welcome the New Year with a celebration!

On Sunday, Dec 31 at 10am we will have a Celebration Service. We will look back at 2017 and take it all in. The good, the bad, the ugly – and give it all to God with gratitude. We will look forward to 2018 with anticipation. We will come together to encounter the living God! Emmanuel – Jesus – the very representation of the Father made present to us by the Holy Spirit. Living in us – active amongst us. Healing, restoring, reconciling, renewing.

Join us!

 

GYVE: How To Love Well (Part 3)

>>GYVE: How to Love Well (Part 1) 

>>GYVE: How to Love Well (Part 2) 

 

Experiences

Despite protests to the contrary, none of us hold our deepest values through simple logic. We have all had events or relationships in which we learned to treasure these things from experience.

When you listen deeply to a person’s story, it is much less likely you simply relate them to other people that have hurt or broken your trust in the past.

When we share what we value, we are making our heart vulnerable. But when we share the events or relationships in which we learned to value that thing, we go even deeper in offering insight into ourselves. We are giving people an opportunity, then, to empathize with the process that created us to be us.  While it is hard to argue with someone’s story (and obnoxious!) it is possible that they may not treat with respect
the painful or sensitive nature of these events. To risk that disrespect for the sake of the possibility of them knowing you is an act of the deepest courage.  It is choosing to hope rather than to be cynical. It is hope for understanding and compassion. It is hope for someone who may not share our values on the surface — to potentially share our values at a deeper level of resonance.

What is it about sharing our deepest experiences that can create such compassion and understanding?

The first thing is nuance. Your ability to see nuance in a person happens when one’s heart stops saying, “oh, i know your type, you guys always…” When you listen deeply to a person’s story, it is much less likely you simply relate them to other people that have hurt or broken your trust in the past. Their story sets them apart because of its nuanced details, and you begin to perceive them more deeply as a unique person, not just a category. Their needs or beliefs often seem more sensible, given their unique experience – even if you still disagree with them.  And your overgeneralizations about them fall away.

When you see a person in a nuanced way, new possibilities emerge of being together with them. For instance, if you previously just thought of them as a person who was selfish, now perhaps you can view them as a person with outstanding legitimate needs, that can sometimes be selfish but at other times, very valid, given their story. It becomes possible to imagine a true friendship with them, because it’s now apparent that they are not purely selfish. One can imagine that if there were boundaries in place, and a permission to talk honestly about moments when they seem selfish, they could actually be an ally or friend.

There is often a gentle dialogue that happens between one’s head and ones heart as their story is heard. The heart may say, “But they are just like so-and-so who I have no respect for” while one’s head may respond – “but wait! Maybe I have too swiftly judged them.” Or conversely, one’s mind may say, “they are wrong,” but one’s heart might grasp that they have deep reasons for not doing what we think they should.

The surface of our storylines may seem worlds apart, but when we reveal the deepest story of what happened to us to form us, there is often a surprising common ground that we share.


Besides the nuances that we begin to see in people, this level of listening also reveals our common ground. Henri Nouen wrote, “anyone trying to live a spiritual life will soon discover that the most personal is the most universal, the most hidden is the most public, and the most solitary is the most communal.” The surface of our storylines may seem worlds apart, but when we reveal the deepest story of what happened to us to form us, there is often a surprising common ground that we share.  People that have taken opposite positions on an issue have often done so for profoundly similar reasons: self-preservation, perhaps, or love for a child. These are unexpected glimpses into the reality that we are all made in God’s image.

What happens at the bottom?

Perhaps, nothing. If no compassion or understanding has been created, people can detach, wanting to go separate ways. This is simply tragic, if it happens because we have refused to let our own ego let us see compassionately or deeply. It is possible to grieve the Spirit of God as it works to show us how God sees them.

It can also be legitimate to realize that while we have new compassion or understanding, it would not be an easy fit to have our lives aligned closely.  But could it be that that work is what God is asking of us?  Jesus, who taught us that being his followers would be shown by how we loved each other across many divides, will often lead us into the hard work of this kind of love. When His followers shirk this greatest command (John 14) in favour of making things easier on ourselves, we are often spurning the greatest gift, the greatest sign, that the church can show to the world: the love that crosses differences, the love that made Christ ‘die for us, while we were yet sinners.” This is self-indulgent.

Unity and diversity can blend in many creative ways.

On occasion, is it legitimate to say goodbye? It is true that sometimes we are at such cross-purposes that it is better to love each other from more distance. But only after deep self-examination of our ourselves, in which we question whether we are just wanting to indulge either our pragmatism at the expense of the miracle of love, or simply to make things easier for ourselves by avoiding the hard work of figuring out how to support each other given our diversity.

When some distance is needed, our minds can simply reach for an either-or, all-or-nothing solution. But unity and diversity can blend in many creative ways. If we are slow and deliberate, asking many “I wonder if this could work” questions, perhaps the way of being together may appear after time. Almost always after some time!  And with it, the miracle of love.

In that moment, Christ is revealed. And so is a more beautiful way to be together, moving forward, at higher trust.

 

>> Missed the teaching our sermon series “Fixed On Jesus” Part 1: Our Essentials, or on Part 2: In all Things Charity (GYVE)? You can listen to the audio here.

Christmas Greetings

Dear WCV,

We’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a merry Christmas and a joyful New Year. In this season of busy-ness, may you encounter the Prince of Peace. In this season of gift-giving, may you experience the Giver of Life. In this darkest time of the year, may you be guided by the Light of the World. In a time that for some is painful, may you know the care of the Comforter. In these days of celebration, may the Lord of the Dance rejoice over you and fill you with joy and strength.

We love you and are grateful that God has brought us together.

With affection,

~The Pastoral Staff

 

A Few Notes:

  • Christmas Eve Service will be 10am – 11:15am (no evening service). You’ll want to arrive on time… I hear there’s a special surprise…
  • New Year’s Eve Service will be an all-out celebration! Starts at 10am.
  • The Office will be closed between Christmas and New Years. It reopens Jan 2.
  • Drop-ins will resume Jan 9.
  • Year-end gifts need to be received by December 31. If they’re mailed they need to be postmarked (stamped by Canada Post) in 2017. If you can’t make sure your gift will arrive in Dec 31, please email Lillian regarding your intention.

 

Image Credit: Jesus image by Stephan Recksiedler!

 

 

Reflections on Hospitality, Connecting and Gathering Together

A guest post by Janet Blatz.

What does my table look like?

As a single lady in her late thirties my table looks different than those of my friends, who are married and who may or may not have kids. But that doesn’t say that having meal at a table isn’t as important but, in fact, it may be more important than those who have a built-in community. For the most part my table would look like an oversized comfy chair accompaniment by the sounds of Netflix.

For me, having people sit at my table over a wonderful meal is something new and exciting. You see, for the past two years I had lived in an apartment that was so small there wasn’t room for a table. There wasn’t room for people to gather; to share their stories; to create a space where people come because their stomachs need to be filled but left with their hearts full. Now that I have a place where people can gather to connect and feel at home, it makes my table feel sacred.

Sacred, because the moments of being and listening as people share who they are, are moments we see a glimpse of Jesus. Glimpses of heaven and earth touching. Moments that are stored away making us long for the close fellowship that took place so long ago in the garden of Eden.

Sometimes these sacred moments and meals have started because of desperate need and longing for community but have ended wondering where the time has gone. It hasn’t always been easy but I know that the more I practice creating space for people the easier it becomes, especially with those I don’t know well.

As I am creating and dreaming of this culture of community and sacredness in my new home a quote that my Grandpa often said and demonstrated to me comes to mind – “Come join the table there is always room for more.”

Come join in. Come join in the conversation – the community that has already begun. Come and take a seat with us – share your story, your wisdom and your humour. Share who you are and in turn you will receive our story, our wisdom and our humour. We will take the time and effort to weave and graft who you are into the already grafted community that is sitting around the table.

There is always room for more. There is always room for more people, more stories, more food and more diversity. Not one of us is the same but we are all created by our loving Abba. His DNA is flowing through our veins; His DNA of welcoming in the stranger, the widow, the poor, and the fatherless – the ones that don’t have a community around them and those who are outcasts for one reason or another – the ones that are broken and ashamed because of circumstances that were beyond their control. You are welcomed.

Physically, my table right now looks like a plastic fold-up table because the real table is out in the garage being sanded with the dreams of it getting painted. The process of constructing a sturdy table out of an old door and some old lumber takes time, patience, tools and vision for what the outcome could look like.  I spent many hours stripping the 4 layers of paint of the door and sanding. Through this process, I have noticed and felt all the imperfections of the door and lumber. Some of the imperfections will disappear in the sanding process but some of them will always be there, but the rough edges of the imperfections won’t be. Through all of this I am dreaming and praying for the imperfections of the stories that one day will be shared around that table. I am praying that those stories will share the same grace and humility that Jesus shared with the lady who poured perfume over Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair – the same grace and humility as Jesus displayed while asking for water from the Women at the Well. I am praying that just as these women were forever changed because of their encounter with Jesus, that the holders of those stories will be impacted by Jesus and forever changed, and maybe, just maybe, they will leave the table feeling as if their imperfections of their stories are sanded away.

Janet Blatz is the Network Administrator at Forever Families Canada.

GYVE: How To Love Well (Part 2)

>>GYVE: How to Love Well (Part 1)

When someone says “We” and someone else knows that there isn’t real heartfelt agreement, what’s needed is a pause. Otherwise, low trust follows.

Either side can press pause. Both sides must respect the other’s right to take exception. Of course, this moment can be difficult for both sides, and courage is needed. Nonetheless, communities that love each other can have an agreement, sometimes tacitly, or better yet, openly, that anyone at anytime can press pause and request exploring deeper. When the culture of a community permits this sort of moment, even celebrates it, dread diminishes and people are much less likely to resort to gossip and sneaking around to strengthen their own position behind others’ backs. Every group’s health can be partly judged by how easily anyone can press pause on a presumptuous we. This is not a technique; it is a basic ingredient of love. Groups that do not give themselves freedom to do this violate the freedom that love gives.

This is not a technique; it is a basic ingredient of love. Groups that do not give themselves freedom to do this violate the freedom that love gives.

Pressing pause does not mean that people stop serving each other. In fact, one of the beautiful things about this moment is that people can choose to continue acting in ways that serve the other side. What does change, however, is that there is no pretense that the needs, perspectives, or feelings are the same for everyone. This state cannot go on forever; it’s transitional. This service is a gift; a gift that enables a community hanging together to go deeper in GYVE. Without this gift, the community is destined to swiftly fracture.

 

Yours and Mine

Once pause is pressed, two individuals or groups can choose to go deeper instead of rushing forward. This can be done by three successive questions, each of which leads to more deeply understanding each other and, possibly, mutual compassion. They progressively break the power of a presumptuous we and pave the way for a new, authentic we that takes account of both sides.

The first question simply asks, “How are you and I different? Your perspective – how is it different than mine? Your needs – how are they different than mine? Your feelings?” Perhaps it is also important to ask if we have different roles in the discussion (i.e. regarding leadership involvement and thus power differentials). Perhaps one of the parties is more vulnerable to certain outcomes. These are both different kinds of needs.

Comparing the different needs, one side to another, is sometimes necessary, but often fraught with difficulty. However, Jesus seemed to consistently weigh conflicting needs by considering whose needs made them most vulnerable.

Jesus seemed to consistently weigh conflicting needs by considering whose needs made them most vulnerable.

The needs of the priest to get to his destination were clearly outweighed by the needs of the man laying bleeding beside the road. The point of this parable was to notice and respond to vulnerability. However, comparing needs can set us up for a competition between apples and oranges, so to speak, and can introduce an element of trying to outdo each other: whose need is more valid?

Because GYVE attempts to create a gentle differentiation of needs based on the hope that, later on in the process, room may be made for both sets of needs, it is often better to leave the comparative weighing of needs for the deeper levels. There it can be done with both more accuracy and compassion.

Yours and mine must be gentle and patient, with no hurried push to get quickly back to we. If there is impatience in getting through this phase, back to being able to generalize again, it backfires. The differences that emerge become like trench warfare, stubbornly dug-in positions from which and to which assaults are made – and now with more accuracy. It is in this moment that we must persistently refuse to try to convince each other with pressure.

In simple situations, obvious room needs to be made for the others’ differences. In such a case, an authentic we can be reformed at this level, integrating both sides. More often, however, in any deep discussion, the parties cannot rest simply recognizing differences. We must know why they are important to each other. Thus, we ask each other the question that drops us down to the third level of GYVE: “Why is that position important to you?” This is about what we value in our heart.

 

Values

Behind every significant difference revealed as we explore Yours and Mine, there is a deeper fear or a hope, something our heart is running from or towards. To put this into words and to reveal it to someone at apparent cross-purposes with us is bold; it is giving your adversary a gift and treating them with great dignity and respect.

it is giving your adversary a gift and treating them with great dignity and respect.

“Why is this important to you?” must be followed by “Here is why it is important to me.” If honest sharing is not done by both sides at this level, it has the potential for one side to stay aloof.

This is a depth where it is indeed possible for a sort of miracle of compassion to emerge. It does not occur often above this depth. It comes in a moment when that which was formerly at odds with one’s needs, purposes, or perspectives suddenly seems valid at a heart level. It may not be obvious how the differences can exist in our life together, but in a moment like this we know deeply, in our heart, that our adversary has a profoundly valid reason in their heart. You begin to see with their eyes and while you cannot always agree with the positions they have built upon this value, heart meets heart, and you recognize common ground. When this happens, it is truly a work of the Spirit of God.

This doesn’t always happen at this level. The depths of compassion may still evade us. We may express a value but still withhold how our life has formed around it. We can avoid sharing the landscape of our life despite stating what we value. Drop down, then, a final level. Ask, “Where did that become important to you? In which events or relationships did that value form?”

>>GYVE: How to Love Well (Part 3)

>> Missed the teaching our sermon series “Fixed On Jesus” Part 1: Our Essentials, or on Part 2: In all Things Charity (GYVE)? You can listen to the audio here.

Hot Button Topics Survey (we need your input)

We are going to explore our top three “Hot Button Topics” during Part 3 of our Fixed on Jesus series. Together we’ll explore the “in non-essentials, liberty” part of our series. Having determined that Jesus (his Kingdom and activity as described in the Creed) is our centre – “in essentials, unity” – and having explored how to do “in all things charity”, we’re going to step forward bravely and with great amounts of humility and tenderness, into whatever topics YOU choose! We will model GYVE (how to love each other in diversity) with each of those topics in a combination of Sunday mornings and a few special Sunday evening gatherings.

We invite you to pray. The Pastoral and Lay Elders have been praying for some time about this. We’ve sensed God’s guidance, received some significant prophetic nudges and encouragement from other churches. However, we must love well in the process. Hot Buttons are by nature feisty. Emotions can run high and disagreements can run deep. We’ve been holding the centre for 20+ years. We’ve done this already – we’ve just not been so explicit about it. Even so, let’s move forward with prayer and love.

  • And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)
  • …love your neighbors as you love yourself. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18)
  • Above everything, love one another earnestly, because love covers over many sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
  • …the only obligation you have is to love one another. (Romans 13:8)
  • My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action. (1 John 3:18)
  • No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in union with us, and his love is made perfect in us. (1 John 4:12)
  • Do all your work in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14)
  • Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together. (Ephesians 4:2-3)

>>Thank you to everyone who submitted to our survey! We will compile the results and explore the top three in January and February.

If you have any more Hot Button Topic suggestions, our survey is now closed, but you can still email the pastors with your suggestion!

Thank you dear church!

 

GYVE: How to Love Well (Part 1)

In November we explored what it looks like to love well. We used the acronym GYVE (explained below) as one tested way to do this. We also explored how Jesus modelled this movement for us throughout his ministry. This is all part of our “Fixed on Jesus” series which has been framed by the saying:

“In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”


GYVE is our model for doing the third part of that saying, “in all things, charity”. In the New Year we’re going to do this together with our top three “Hot Button topics” – three “non-essentials”. Before then, we must understand the ground rules. GYVE is our attempt at that.

How To Love Well (Part 1)

“We.”  It’s a simple word, apparently.

When you can use it authentically, it means there is honest agreement. We need… we feel… we think; a sameness of circumstances, emotions and beliefs. There is a pleasantness to be able to say it and know that there is true unity. So pleasant, in fact, that even when it’s no longer true, we’re tempted to want to keep thinking of ourselves as a “we” anyways, and don’t talk about the differences. If we keep on using “we” language then, we no longer use it authentically, we use it presumptuously.

Those moments come when people become too complicated to fit inside that simple word. For those of us who thrive on a sense of togetherness, this can be terrifying. Even for those of us that don’t mind some conflict, it’s hard work to name the new realities, identifying and speaking out about the ways we’ve grown different. Despite the fact that differences can be either neutral, a result of compromise, or from increasing maturity, they can give us the same dread. And it’s never certain whether or not these differences will dramatically affect the way the group has been. Unspoken questions lurk in our minds:

“Will they be able to love me if I disagree with them? Will they try to control and change me, maybe with great pressure? What about our ability to work together closely for a common purpose?”

Differences are not in themselves bad, but many of us do not have positive memories of differences bringing anything good when they surface. Memories of conflict that brought devastation shout inside us, “don’t do that again!” Some of us have felt abandoned when our parents or leaders in the past couldn’t resolve their differences. Much has been lost by conflict that surfaced and never resolved, and the grief of these things remains in some of us. Sometimes, too, leaders see the potential of loss of momentum that disagreement has often produced, and they can be reluctant to pay the cost of honesty.

The “Presumptuous We”

If we go on saying ‘we” even if it does not represent the new situation, it can smooth over our fear of splitting up, of rejection, or of unending conflict. And so, despite the fact that it is presumptuous to say “we” anymore, we continue to generalize, one side speaking for the other without it being accurate. It becomes taboo to tell the truth about the differences, out of these fears. So when one side says “we”, the other side falls silent. At times, the side doing the speaking does not even know that their voice has become inauthentic to the others – but maybe they don’t really want to know, or bother ask about it. Both sides can lack courage to say that “we” is no longer completely true.

But why can’t we just be positive, silently forgive each other, keeping these things from disturbing us and threatening so many good things?

Because the alternative – accepting the pressure to conform – is also devastating, in different ways. In the long run, worse ways.

When we outwardly conform, continuing to say “we” when we have a feeling we are betraying our true thoughts, we no longer trust that we have permission to be real. We don’t know if we are being loved for ourselves anymore, or just being used. There is no sense of unconditional love, because agreement has become the condition of being together. And now, we don’t know if the conflict that we’ve smoothed over would be handled with great forcefulness, indifference, or worse. We have chosen not to know. In the meantime, no one grows or learns from the other viewpoint, and so positions harden, and become strident in the silence. And throughout the community, trust decreases. Low trust becomes normal.

The end of that path is almost surely the same disintegration that comes down the first path. Only now, the differences have corroded both our hearts and our relationships. And how much more violent the war, or severe the withdrawal!

Is there a way to let differences emerge that can be both loving and productive?

When differences are faced at high trust, there are very different outcomes than when those same differences emerge at low trust.

There is no guarantee that the differences won’t prove too much to stay together in the old way. Certainty must be let go of; it is an idol. Change can be severe, but it will be more severe if it is left too long, and then conflict comes at low trust. What we can be certain about however, is the one thing that we have control of: our own willingness to let differences emerge without trying to control or marginalize the other side. When this is done, in the three ways outlined below, trust and compassion have the best chance of growing. When differences are faced at high trust, there are very different outcomes than when those same differences emerge at low trust.

At low trust, there is war or withdrawal.

At high trust, two sides can hear each other deeply. Then they can decide how closely they can continue to live and work together without the threat of rejection or contempt hanging overhead. They can also find creative ways to make room for each other to be different. These “third way” possibilities never reveal themselves at low trust. Following Jesus’ teaching to love those who are different than ourselves, a community can often go beyond just managing to make room for each other; they can actually serve the purposes of those different than themselves. In the teaching of Jesus, both in the Sermon on the Mount and the Unity Prayer he prayed before his death in John 17, this love that crosses the great divides, serving even its enemies, is seen as the greatest sign of the Kingdom of God.

But to get to this place of unity without suppressing differences, there are four courageous things that must be done:

  1. Press pause on generalizing.
  2. Make it safe for differences to come to light.
  3. Find the heart values behind these different positions.
  4. Hear the stories of how these values were formed.

We’ve summed up these four stages in the acronym GYVE:

  • G (Generalizing)
  • Y (Yours and Mine)
  • V (Values)
  • E (Experiences)

>>Read Part 2 here.

>> Missed the teaching on Part 1: Our Essentials, or on Part 2: In all Things Charity (GYVE)? You can listen to the audio here.

Christmas at the Vineyard, 2017

Hey folks! So the Christmas season is upon us once again! (Hold on as I pour myself another mug of eggnog).

Below are a few events I’d like to highlight that will be happening at the Vineyard for this 2017 Christmas season:

  • Our kids and youth will be leading us in worship and throughout the morning on December 10th for our annual Kids Service Sunday.
  • On December 17th right after the service we want to celebrate and feast together as a family and community for the annual Christmas Feast!
  • On December 24th, as it is both a Sunday and Christmas Eve, we will gather in the morning for a shortened Christmas Eve Service from 10-11:15 a.m. Please note there will be no evening service on this day.
  • We will also have a shortened service on December 31st from 10-11:15 a.m. for a New Year’s Eve Service.

Through all the hustle and bustle that the Christmas season brings, let’s remember our Centre, whom we are celebrating.

Blessings!

Metanoia Reflections

I had the privilege to be involved in Vineyard Canada’s Metanoia West gathering in Langley about a month ago. It was a great time of coming together with other Vineyard friends from across the Prairies, the North and BC. We gathered in the historic Friends Langley Vineyard. It seemed significant that we were there in the first Vineyard in Canada, which birthed so much. Yet, we weren’t nostalgic, nor caught in sentiment. There was a palpable sense not only of God’s presence with us, but his passion, excitement and vision for us as a Vineyard family in Canada for the future. Building on a wonderful foundation – and continuing. How do we continue well? What is he inviting us into? Who has he specifically called us to become? How might God be inviting us to reimagine our future? Who are we becoming as we practice following the way of Jesus? – all questions that were asked and that I’m left asking. Answers will come as we continue to follow Jesus and pursue his Kingdom.

Below are videos of the first two sessions. The first is David and Anita Ruis orienting us around the theme “Health Begets Health”. The second is Jared Boyd unpacking the Sermon on the Mount. He does a great job taking a second look at these verses that are quoted so often, yet mostly misunderstood and misapplied. There are two other sessions available here.

I was there representing WCV, part of the Regional Leadership team, and as a national catalyst for Vineyard Engage.

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

 

Two Psalms by Brent Woelke

The first Writer’s Circle happened last Friday. A lot of great material was shared. Here are two modern day psalms that Brent shared.

If you were to write and pray your own psalm to the Lord, what would you say?

The next Writer’s Circle is November 24th.

A Lament

The hand of the Lord is on me,

for I am still being broken.

Who can I call to for rescue?

Who can pull me from your grasp?

 

The Lord has humbled me,

The Lord has brought me low.

What more can be taken from me?

What more can be stripped away?

 

Everything I had hoped for in the Lord

is in cardboard boxes.

Everything I loved

is sold or is sitting in the back lane.

Everything I cherished

has walked away;

it mocks me, speaking lies and accusations.

 

But the Lord will be my judge.

He has weighed my actions

He has determined my punishment.

Who will come to defend me?

 

My friends gather around me,

they look upon me in silence.

They whisper about me,

for you have exposed my sins.

 

They say,

“Here is one who trusts in God,

here is one who calls on Jesus’ name.”

 

A Song of Ascent

My son, consider the path of God.

His laws are stones that ascend His mountain.

Study and search so that you may find your way.

 

For His path is not obvious or straight

and all who approach Him must toil and labor.

The path of His Son is a path of suffering.

See now that His blood lines the trail,

His precious blood shows the way.

Has He not placed every stone before you?

Every rock as a firm foundation under your feet

every boulder as an obstacle and trial to overcome.

 

Take heart in your time of need.

Call out so your strength is failing.

For all who seek Him, shall be found by Him.

All who look to Him, will be lifted up.

 

For the Lord is high above all the earth.

He sees all who travel upon His hill.

None escape his sight,

and all things are subject to Him.

The very roots of the mountain are in His hands.

The mountains rise and fall by his decree.

 

But those who trust in the Lord will not fall.

Those who fear Him shall behold His majesty.