Grace card single front.jpg
Grace card single front.jpg

April 4, 2021

10:15am I Facebook Live

Watch last weeks message here

Resurrection, again

 

Question of the Week

Consider what difference, if any, the resurrection of Jesus makes in your life

 

Intro

If ever there was a year we needed Easter, it seems this would be the year.

 

Last year at this time, I preached that we needed “two Easters”, the one we celebrated on April 12 last year, and the one we anticipated when things would “open up” again. Here we are, closer, yes, but still waiting. But what are we truly waiting for? Are we waiting for things to “go back” or have we given up waiting at all and have just settled for the way things are?

 

Resurrection, better, the practice of resurrection says no to both. It refuses both nostalgia and fatalism. Practicing resurrection leads us into a new future framed and formed by a Holy Spirit filled imagination and the continuing encounter with Jesus. 

 

But what does all that mean? Well, let’s dig in on this Easter Sunday 2021 and see what we can find. 

 

Grace and peace y’all, 

 

J. Ray and the teaching team

The Big Idea: Resurrection is just a one time event. Resurrection is a practice that stems from the resurrection of Jesus and continues to be cultivated by us, His followers.

 

Take Away: We, the collective followers of Jesus, the Church, are to be a people who practice resurrection in all we do.

How does this fit with "Belong, Become, Believe"? 

Practicing resurrection is exemplified in the practice of hospitality, the welcoming of everyone into the community of Jesus. The work of becoming is based in this first belonging. We find ourselves fit for the work of apprenticing to Jesus by the invitation of Jesus and the encouragement, example and exhortation of others in the community of Jesus. This welcome and participation is what forms our confession. We slowly, in fits and starts, long stretches of doubt and sudden moments of revelation, come to believe what we confess.

Relevant Verses:

John 21:1-18

What next:

We jump back into our study of Isaiah.

Resources

Our Text for the week: John 20:1-18

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

A Kintsugi Generation

Contact Grace Church NWA here

 

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March 28, 2021

10:15am I Facebook Live

Watch last weeks message here

A Different Kind of Triumph

Question of the Week

What are you longing for only Jesus can offer this Lent?

Intro

Mark Twain once wrote “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. ” 

 

Maybe one of the most distinctive things about Grace Church is our commitment to rigorously examining our assumptions when it comes to Scripture, because we all know what happens when we assume, right? 

 

For instance, soon after scientists came to accept light as a wave, researchers went looking for something they speculatively called the “ether,” hypothetical stuff through which light waves were thought to move. The thinking was water waves are disturbances in water and sound waves are disturbances in air, so light waves must be a disturbance in...something.

 

Years of searching and sophisticated experiments couldn’t find it and the theorists worked overtime trying to explain away ether’s experimental no-show. Then along comes Einstein and his theory of special relativity that finally cleared things up. The “ether” wasn’t just hard to find. It didn’t exist at all. 

 

This week we’re going to look at one of the most familiar of all Bible stories. As we look closely, we may find that we’ve made far too many assumptions about it. 

 

Grace and peace y’all, 

 

J. Ray and the teaching team

The Big Idea: The manner of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem perfectly reflects His person and agenda, and like everyone in the story, we so often misunderstand it.

 

Take Away: Making a “fairy tale” of Jesus entry into Jerusalem and the people’s response is a really, really great way to develop a really, really bad theology.

How does this fit with "Belong, Become, Believe"? 

We have to understand the shear, unvarnished humility and hospitality of Jesus if we are to understand God. We understand by imitation, we have to likewise practice unvarnished humility and hospitality. Through this practice we hope to have all our unhealthy habits transformed, our hard and wayward hearts broken and healed and our clouded thinking cleared up. This allows us to understand and confess our believes with conviction and sincerity, even if most of it is aspirational.

Relevant Verses:

Matthew 23: 1-38

What next:

Next Sunday is Easter!

Contact Grace Church NWA here

 

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March 21, 2021

10:15am I Facebook Live

Watch last weeks message here

Til We Have Faces

Question of the Week

What are the places in your life right now where you feel God is absent?

Intro

One of CS Lewis’s most challenging works of fiction is his take on the Greek story of Psyche, Til We Have Faces. Suffice it to say that the title gives us a strong indication of what the story is about, characters struggling to see themselves, and others, clearly. To see other’s “faces” and to see their own. A more modern illustration of this might be The Wizard of Oz, where “The great and powerful Oz” turns out to be a little man behind the curtain. The terrifying face projected just an illusion. Jesus has much to say about all this, about masks and faces, projected illusions and humble realities. And He doesn’t mince His words either. 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: As followers of Jesus, we are called to the courageous and sacrificial task of seeking to live without masks.

 

Take Away: Without the assurance of our belovedness, our acceptance and the affection of God, none of us could face ourselves, truly see who we are and who others are without despair. But even with these assurances, we must relentlessly embrace the warnings of Jesus and respond as Jesus responds.

How does this fit with "Belong, Become, Believe"? 

If one of Jesus’ most clear and stern condemnations of the religious (read “us”) is keeping people who are seeking God out, we would be the most foolish, the most disobedient if we ignored this warning. So at Grace we are learning to practice a hospitality that takes seriously this warning, not just because we want to avoid “woe” but because we desperately want to see the reconciliation that Jesus promises to bring between all people. This costs us, all of us. It costs those who have long been used to the best seat at the table and the power to define the culture with our own preferences our place. It costs those long marginalized and oppressed by making them once again vulnerable to disappointment or worse. But this is how we become something new, not by holding on to the past, but letting go into a future formed by an Active Gospel Imagination. All this leads us to an ever deepening belief, a faith that is mature, durable and life giving.

Relevant Verses:

Matthew 23: 1-38

What next:

Next week is Palm Sunday

Contact Grace Church NWA here

 

March 7, 2021

10:15am I Facebook Live

Watch last weeks message here

When Scripture Offends Us

Question of the Week

What are the places in your life right now where you feel God is absent?

Intro

I have a serious confession this week about this text. I don’t like it. And I don’t mean that I just don’t like the passage, I mean I don’t like the text, the author or, most importantly, the God it seems to describe. It’s tough to admit that. It’s even tougher to resist the temptation to just gloss over it, or come up with some simple explanation of why it’s not really what it seems. 

 

But I won’t. I’ve committed to sitting with this and letting it do it’s work, even if it’s uncomfortable or angering or frustrating. 

 

Maybe you will have a different response? Let’s dig in and see what we can come up with. 

The Big Idea: If we are honest with ourselves, there are large parts of the Bible that offend and confuse us. Don’t be afraid.

 

Take Away: One of Scripture’s primary purpose is to awaken us to the reality and mystery of God, things we otherwise can’t, won’t see.  If we go along with this, it’s going to demand a radical re-orientation of many of the affections, associations and allegiances that we have developed or have been taught to us. This is going to cost us, be uncomfortable. Learning how to lean into that discomfort is essential.

How does this fit with "Belong, Become, Believe"? 

In truth, the radical nature and character of God are almost impossible to grasp alone and intellectually. It is most often only in a truly hospitable community that we can begin to work out what it all means. It is also through the practice of the implications of what we encounter, aligning all of our affections, allegiances and associations that we can begin to truly believe.

Relevant Verses:

Isaiah 24-27

Contact Grace Church NWA here