Fixed On Jesus Part 3: In Non-essentials, Liberty. What are the Hot Buttons?

This winter marks the return to our “Fixed on Jesus” series. We’re going to be exploring three Hot Button topics that you think the church should be talking about (thanks for participating in the survey).

The point is to hear each other –  to listen deeply – to love well, especially those we may disagree with

As mentioned previously, the point of this series is not to nail down where we stand (as a church or as individuals) on these nor any other hot button issues we may encounter. For this series, the point is to hear each other –  to listen deeply – to love well, especially those we may disagree with. Our model for this is Jesus, and our tool is GYVE. We explored this in November and have provided a resource booklet for your use.

The Hot Button topics we’ll be addressing (and we may address more as time goes on… there are many) are:

  1. Creationism & Evolution (our origins and how we came to be)
  2. Affirming & Traditional (human sexuality / LGBT2SQ+)
  3. Poverty & Prosperity (our relationship with money)

There are a few other topics that were also high on the list, and some of your suggestions didn’t really fit into a neat and tidy category. We tried our best to accurately categorize the various topics. We are going to tackle them in a very systematic manner.

Each of the topics will have a Sunday morning devoted to sharing the various perspectives of the issue, zoning in on how each perspective is represented or interpreted in scripture. We will then have two Sunday evenings devoted to hearing two people do GYVE together for the first two Hot Button Topics. We encourage you to come to both evenings (Jan 21 & Feb 11) – they will be special and it will be helpful to have a witnessed the model in action before we get to the hottest button (Affirming & Traditional / LGBT2SQ+)!

In between these Sundays, we will be exploring how the church has either nailed or failed dealing with diversity in the past. There are many examples, some quite humorous to our sensibilities. Of course we will also be digging into scripture, as is our habit. All along we will be engaging in ways to “double down on our centre” – we also have a Celebration Service scheduled which will help keep us focussed on Jesus as we tackle some of these “non-essentials.”

Here’s the schedule:

  • January 14: Introduction & Call to Prayer
  • January 21: Creationism & Evolution
  • January 21 Evening: Doing GYVE with Creationism & Evolution.
  • January 28: Nailed it, Failed it
  • February 4: Affirming & Traditional
  • February 11: Nailed it, Failed it
  • February 11 Evening: Doing GYVE with Affirming & Traditional
  • February 18: Celebration Service
  • February 25: Poverty & Prosperity

 

>>Listen to the sermons here.

>>Read the articles here.

>>Download the GYVE booklet here.

 

 

 

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.

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

 

Streams of Living Water: Get the book, follow along

This Spring and Summer we’re going to be embarking on a new series called “Streams of Living Water: exploring unity and diversity in the church”.  We’re going to be exploring the wondrous and varied expressions of the body of Christ – streams, if you will.  There are many streams that comprise the whole body of Christ.  We hope to place ourselves in a position in which we can be challenged by and learn from other streams and, ultimately, come to love Jesus more through the beautiful expressions of his Bride.  In John 4, Jesus offered the Samaritan woman a drink from a stream of “living water” that he promised if we drank from we’d never thirst again.  In John 7:37-38 Jesus said, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me!  Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.”  This is what we want for each of us and we believe that this will happen through the exploration of these streams of the church.

This series will be based on a classic book by Richard Foster called “Streams of Living Water”.  Perhaps you want to grab a copy and follow along.  We’ve heard from many of you that this would be a good idea – so let’s make it happen!  We’ll be starting June 4.

Why On Earth?

We’re embarking on a new series entitled, “Why On Earth?: David, calling and the pursuit of God”. No matter where we are in life we all need to grapple with the big questions like: Why on earth am I here? What’s my calling? What kind of person has God called me to become? And, how can I figure it out or get more clarity on it?

These are some of the questions we’re going to be exploring together as we look to David’s life for some guidance. We’ll let his story be our guide in this process of pursuing God’s will for our lives – of gaining clarity on some of those big questions. We’ll trace the ups and downs of his failures and successes and glean what we can to apply to our 21st century lives. We are also going to be looking to a few others along the way who will help us contextualize God’s invitations for us today. In particular, the 16th century’s St. Teresa of Avila and her “Interior Castle” and the “7 Stages” of our own Vineyard founder, John Wimber.

Our hope is that through this series, God would clarify his calling for each of us, and encourage us on our journeys as we follow Jesus throughout our lives. For some of us, it will be a journey of self discovery. For others, we’ll gain new insights on our calling as we already understand it. Ultimately, as we see God’s heart for David, we’ll be able to also see his heart for us and those around us. Fredrick Buechner stumbled screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-11-24-12-amupon some wisdom when he wrote, “the place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  (in Wishful Thinking: a theological ABC). We pray that each person in WCV would find that sweet spot, and that we’d be a people “after God’s heart” (1 Sam 13:14, Acts 13:22).

 

 

 

 

Diving In – series & invitation

Have you been baptized before?  Can you recall what happened?  Do you remember what was going on in your heart?

Perhaps you haven’t been baptized yet.

In this series called Diving In, we want to explore the sacrament of Baptism.  For those who have been baptized, we want to help you recall what happened that moment you followed Jesus into the waters.  But it’s not only about remembering – we also want to explore how God is continually calling us to dive into his presence and welcome his life into our lives on an ongoing and daily basis.  As we go deeper with Jesus, we all encounter things in our lives that hold us back and that we must be let go of – repent of – die to.  Baptism is a one time event, but the realities it signify beckon to us as we follow Jesus throughout our days.

Baptism SplashFor those who have yet to be baptized, we hope this series will give you a solid understanding of what Baptism is and why it is a critical part of following Jesus.  In some ways it will function like a baptism class that we all take together.  We’d like to encourage you to be baptized on July 3, 2016 as part of our WCV Sunday Gathering at Bird’s Hill Park.

For all of us, we want to encourage and deepen our faith and experience of God as we follow him – even into the hard things life throws at us.

If you are interested in getting baptized, please contact the office or talk to one of the pastors.  Also – this is a great opportunity to encourage your youth, or others you know to consider getting baptized.

The Word Made Fresh

The real Jesus – the one we read about in the bible and not the one whose name is commonly invoked to justify all manner of violence, exclusion and judgement – the real Jesus is winsome.  There is something about him that surprises, challenges, comforts and wins people.  Even non-religious people love him and more often than not, are surprised by him and what he stood for.

Jdashboard Jesusesus showed us the way to the Father.  John records “the Word was made flesh and dwelled among us” (John 1:14).  Later in John’s gospel, Jesus himself says that if we’ve seen him, we’ve seen the Father (14:9).  This was his primary mission on earth.  As his followers, we are to walk in his footsteps.  We are to emulate him.  His mission is to become ours.  Yet, in general, the church has a bad reputation.  If relevant at all, followers of Jesus are typically known for who or what we are against, which may or may not have anything to do with what Jesus stood for.

There is a tremendous disconnect at work.  How do we repair the breach between Jesus and our neighbours?  How do we introduce our friends to the real Jesus – not the one who hates “the gays”, or bombs “the Muslims”.  How do we shed the negative stereotypes of the church?  How do we become winsome without being weird?  How do we remain faithful to scripture and be relevant to our culture?  What does the way Jesus lived his life say to our contemporary situations?

Jesus signIn this series, “The Word Made Fresh”, we will explore these questions and, together, we’ll discover how to connect the dots between the real world’s biggest needs and the real Jesus.  We will unpack some of the best known and most misunderstood stories about Jesus and some of the ones he told.  By the end of this series, we will fall in love with a Jesus that perhaps we’ve never known before and, in the process, we’ll discover a loving Father through the revelation of the Holy Spirit.  As we learn the ins and outs of Jesus’ life, we will get to know him better and we’ll be able to talk about him naturally in the places we go.

We are praying that as we do this, Jesus will come alive to us and our neighbours in new and exciting ways.  Jesus – the Word – will become fresh!

LeafCheck the website or your email for “The Word for the Week” – our weekly scripture challenge.  At the beginning of each week we will send out the Jesus story we will be studying the following Sunday.  We will encourage us all to read and meditate on these scriptures.  We want to read the stories, live them and be able to share them with those around us!

Read it – Live it – Share it!

You can also listen to the introductory sermons in this series here (March 8th & 22nd).

 

 

A Fruitful Vineyard – winter series

As the pastoral staff and elders have been praying and seeking direction for the coming year, we’ve been drawn to the idea of knowing who we are and who we’ve been called to be as a Vineyard family.  It’s important to tend the roots of a plant if you want to produce good fruit.  So, we’re going to be taking the beginning part of this year to explore not only our history but the soil in which we’ve been planted.  We’ll ask:

  • What is a Vineyard?
  • What are the particular distinguishing features of the Vineyard?
  • What shape of church has God called us to be?
  • What role are we to play in the body of Christ?
  • And, what is our particular calling as Winnipeg Centre Vineyard?

We’ll explore all these questions and hopefully posture us to continue to grow into the kind of people God would like to visit!  In the end, we want to be a Vineyard that is fruitful – one that both encounters God in real and tangible ways, and extends this awareness and reality to those around us.

Isaiah 27:2, 3 & 6

“In that day,
    sing about the fruitful vineyard.

I, the Lord, will watch over it,
    watering it carefully.
Day and night I will watch so no one can harm it….

The time is coming when Jacob’s descendants will take root.
    Israel will bud and blossom
    and fill the whole earth with fruit!

Let this be said of us!

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 12.03.49 PM

 

“On This Rock” Visual Art

We’ve been exploring points along Peter’s discipleship journey for the past few months (and we’ll continue for the next number of months).  The audio recordings are posted here.  Along the way, we’ve commissioned various artists – both visual and performance – to share their interpretations of what they’re learning.  It’s like looking at the subject through a different set of eyes.  The artists among us can help us see a new way.  It’s been really fantastic – thanks to all the artists who have participated in a variety of media – from writing songs and poems to performing raps and dances.  Here are the visual representations at this point in the journey (click on any pic to view a full size):