December 6, 2020

10:15am I Facebook Live

Second Sunday of Advent: Love

Question of the Week

How are you cultivating the love of God in your life this advent?

Intro

I knew something was wrong when she showed up at our house. Something really wrong and it was something wrong with my mom. She said mom had been in a car wreck and was in the hospital. I don’t know when I found out all the details, it probably wasn’t until years later, but what the details did do, was confirm what I felt that day; alone, abandoned and although I don’t know if I would use these exact words until right now as I write, unloved. 

 

My mom had intentionally driven her car off the side of a windy road with a steep drop off to the Lake a couple hundred feet below. The pain of finding out my dad was having an affair was too much for her. 

 

I was thirteen. My little sister was ten. Dad had moved out just a few months before. I felt so alone. Even though through the years my relationship with my mom grew and deepened, I think her own pain and abandonment kept her from ever being able to fully allow herself to be loved. 

 

Eugene Peterson writes: “Love is our most mature act as human beings,” and I gotta tell you, this breaks me in so many ways. I’m into my sixth decade on this planet and I am only coming to really understand what it is to love and be loved. 

 

Jesus gets this. Love to God is not a theological abstraction or divine imperative delivered from a distance. Love to God is Jesus coming to us. Love to God is the Holy Spirit dwelling among us. This defines love as intensely relational, personal yes, but never private, always communal. Love is what the Advent is all about. 

 

Let’s dig in this week and see what we can find.

 

Grace and peace y’all, 

J. Ray and the teaching team

The Big Idea: Love is only experienced within the context of Christ formed relationships.

 

Take Away:  Love to God is not a theological abstraction or divine imperative delivered from a distance. Love to God is Jesus coming to us. Love to God is the Holy Spirit dwelling among us. This defines love as intensely relational, personal yes, but never private, always communal.

 

How does this fit into our culture Belong Become Believe?:

At Grace Church we believe it all starts with belonging. Love can never be expressed hypothetically or with conditions attached. That doesn’t mean that love doesn’t radically challenge us to be transformed, that is why belonging is followed by becoming. This process is what forms what believe.

Relevant Verses:

1 John 3:16: This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves.

“Love is our most mature act as human beings.” Eugene Peterson

Resources:

Atypical Podcast Listen to “We are not our Bodies” parts 1 & 2, and “We are not our Talents”

December 13, 2020

10:15am I Facebook Live

Third Sunday of Advent: Joy

Question of the Week

What is bringing you Joy in this Advent Season?

 

Intro

It was a long swim to get out where they were. Even though she was a strong swimmer, she was still young, maybe 8 years old, and this was the ocean, not a pool or a lake. But she had learned to use a mask and snorkel and fins and was able to make it all the way into the middle of the bay. And miraculously they had a stayed there while we made the long swim, a huge pod of spinner dolphins.

 

As we floated above them, looking down through the crystal clear water, we could hear their clicks and see them playing and chasing and spinning. I also began to hear something else, it was Naomi laughing underwater, laughing with the pure joy of what we were witnessing. It was a joy that overcame the daunting swim and the very natural fear of very deep water. It’s a sound I hope I never forget and one that has come to define what I think joy sounds like. 

 

This week we look at a situation where shepherds are confronted with an even more miraculous site, an angel army appearing above them singing in full throated glory. They are very naturally terrified, but instructed to receive it as joy. What about us? Let’s dig in this week and see what we can find. 

 

Grace and peace y’all, 

 

J.Ray and the teaching team.

The Big Idea: Joy is the natural, healthy and wholly appropriate response to the Good News

 

Take Away:  Joy is to be our organizing emotion

 

How does this fit into our culture Belong Become Believe?:

At Grace Church we start welcoming others  belonging as the natural joyful response to the expansive Good News into which we have found our own belonging. This welcome and inclusion begins to reorder and transform our lives. This experience, process and practice then informs our confession and faith.

Relevant Verses:

Luke 2:8 Now there were shepherds nearby living out in the field, keeping guard over their flock at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were absolutely terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen carefully, for I proclaim to you good news that brings great joy to all the people: 11 Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a vast, heavenly army appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!”

Resources:

Dallas Willard on Joy

December 20, 2020

10:15am I Facebook Live

The Way of Peace

Question of the Week

How are you cultivating peace in this Advent Season?

 

Intro

On Monday night, Jupiter and Saturn meet in a “great conjunction,” the first time they’ve been able to be seen in the sky together for nearly 800 years. An astronomical conjunction occurs when any two heavenly bodies appear to pass or meet each other as seen from Earth. But to make one “great," requires an encounter between our solar system’s two largest planets. The last time Jupiter and Saturn appeared so close was July 16, 1623 when Galileo was alive and naming Jupiter’s four largest moons. It’s doubtful he saw or anyone else saw it because of its apparent position near the sun that time. The last great conjunction to appear as close and as visible as the upcoming one occurred on March 4, 1226 when  Genghis Khan was roaming Asia. 

 

After this great conjunction ends, we’ll only have to wait for 60, not 80 years for the next close one. That’s seems kind of random right? One set of humanity has to wait for 800 years between events, another only 60. I think our lives can feel that way at times as well, sometimes things seem to take forever to come about, other times the wait is relatively short. And even though we are “waiting” we aren’t doing nothing. Time doesn’t stop in the meantime, stuff, lots of stuff happens in between. 

 

Israel waited generation after generation for a deliverer, wandering, walking and waiting. Let’s see what it means for us that one showed up, what it means for our own waiting. 

 

Grace and peace y’all, 

 

John Ray and the teaching team

The Big Idea: The Peace that Jesus makes possible is a way of walking in this world.

 

Take Away: Peace is not a static state, but a way of approaching, understanding and responding to what life throws at us.

 

How does this fit into our culture Belong Become Believe?:

Being welcomed and accepted into our community of faith is essential to the walking the path of peace. Peaceful practices are learned by watching and walking with others and then emulated and passed on. The experience of peaceful belonging and becoming forms our beliefs.

Relevant Verses:

Luke 1: 67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, 68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, because he has come to help and has redeemed his people. 69 For he has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from long ago, 71 that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. 72 He has done this to show mercy to our ancestors, and to remember his holy covenant— 73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham. This oath grants 74 that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, may serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before him for as long as we live. 76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High. For you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. 78 Because of our God’s tender mercy, the dawn will break upon us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

What Next? Coming up next week, Blue Christmas service of recognizing loss and lament, Christmas Eve service and Sunday the 27th service.

Resources:

Brian Zhand’s take on Zechariah’s song

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December 27, 2020

10:15am I Facebook Live

What are we waiting for?

Question of the Week

What are you most looking forward to in 2021?

 

Intro

It seemed like we’d been in the saddle for hours, climbing the dusty track in the mountains of Colorado. The views were breathtaking, or maybe it was just the extreme altitude working on our lungs, but whatever the cause we were truly breathless.

 

Riding the Alpine Loop on mountain bikes is not for those who want an easy day out. With each bend in the road, our brain would try and convince our legs, lungs and heart to give just a little more effort for surely this would be the summit, surely this would be the apex and it would be an easy downhill coast from there on. And with each turn, there seemed to be an endless number of “false peaks”, with more climbing to follow. Any athlete or experienced hiker knows there are mental games you have to play to push through the pain and not give up. You tell yourself, just one more hill, just make it to the top of this one and we can rest, but when you make it to the top of one, you start over, just one more. 

 

So my question this week is, what is keeping us going as followers of Jesus? What keeps us pushing through the pain towards the ultimate summit? Or are we even still heading there? Have we settled in on a false summit and given up? 

 

Let’s dig in a see what we can find. 

 

Grace and peace y’all, 

 

J. Ray and the teaching team

The Big Idea: It is the vision and promise of what we have been given and what is to come that should guide all our imaginations.

 

Take Away: We can order our lives, set our resolutions in an attempt to fix what we have broken, attain things through our own effort and resources, even address the disorder, wrong we see around us, or… we can do these things from a deep sense of what we have already received, what we have been given and what we are promised.

 

How does this fit into our culture Belong Become Believe?:

The promise of the universal reign of Jesus and the coming of the Kingdom of God invites us to throw open the doors of the Church to welcome in everyone. Through this practice of radical hospitality and inclusion, we ourselves are transformed more and more into who we are created to be. Our confessions and doctrines, principles and practices all flow from this invitation and promise.

Relevant Verses:

Revelation 21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had ceased to exist, and the sea existed no more. 2 And I saw the holy city—the new Jerusalem—descending out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Look! The residence of God is among human beings. He will live among them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist.”

​Resources:

The Radical Nature of Jesus

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