November 28, 2020

10:15am I Facebook Live

The First Sunday of Advent: What does it mean to Hope?

Question of the Week

What is giving you hope this season?

Intro

I gotta tell you, I’m not good at waiting, never have been. I’m not sure why, exactly, if it’s a product of nature or nurture, or some mix of the two, but I really struggle with being impatient. But if impatience is the problem, Advent is the remedy given to us by the Church. Advent is all about waiting, anticipation, paying attention to our longings in a deeply formative way. And unlike the end of many periods of waiting, Advent doesn’t disappoint. Advent delivers, if we will let it. 

 

But pay attention we must and that takes intention, effort and practice. There’re all kinds of cheap substitutes and superficial distractions that dull our attention. We need help along the way. One of the best resources I’ve found in recent years are the Visio Divina projects produced by the Center for Christianity, Culture and the Arts at Biola University. Their online devotionals for Lent and Advent are accessible, creative and profound. Google them up and subscribe. 

 

This year there Advent devotional is going to focus on the scriptures used in Handel’s Messiah. Handel’s story, likewise, is incredibly timely for us in this year of pandemic and disruption. George Frideric Handel was originally mostly invested in the Italian Opera genre, writing over 40 operas. But after establishing himself in that genre, interest in opera began to wane in London, his adopted city.

 

Soon he fell into deep debt, so much so he was threatened with debtors’ prison. But when things must have seemed so dark, so disrupted, so bleak, he received a commission from the Lord Lieutenant of Dublin to write an oratorio, something very different from the Operas he was used to composing. The result was The Messiah. Not only did it save Handel from financial ruin, it opened up a whole new genre of music and worship that we continue to use today. 

 

Friends, old things, old ways, and old understandings are passing away. The future is not yet clear. Many of us feel as though we are barely hanging on. Advent this year is especially relevant, a way for us to practice faithful waiting, to discipline our longings, to reorient our affections, to focus our anticipation. 

 

Grace and peace y’all, 

J. Ray and the teaching team

The Big Idea: True Hope is rooted in the revelation of God’s self to us.

Take Away:  All of us must discipline our hope to align with the reality of God’s revelation of God’s self to us.

 

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

At Grace Church we welcome and are welcomed as a reflection of God’s ultimate welcome of us: each of us and all of us. We make room for others and accept the invitation ourselves practicing the welcome for which we all hope to receive from God. This forms our becoming with all the complexity and work this comprehensive belonging entails. As wee experience authentic belonging and work out the details of becoming, our faith is transformed from confession to experience.

Relevant Verses:

Luke 1:46 And Mary said, “My soul exalts the Lord, 47 and my spirit has begun to rejoice in God my Savior, 48 because he has looked upon the humble state of his servant. For from now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 because he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name; 50 from generation to generation he is merciful to those who fear him. 51 He has demonstrated power with his arm; he has scattered those whose pride wells up from the sheer arrogance of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up those of lowly position; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, 55 as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Resources:

The Advent Project

Watch for the Light 

Honest Advent


November 21, 2020

10:15am I Facebook Live

Christ is King. Period.

Question of the Week

How are you understanding and practicing faith this week?

Intro

*Warning: this note contains sports illustrations. As a kid I grew up in a very strange household. We rooted for both the Arkansas Razorbacks and Texas Longhorns equally. When the two played each other, we would agree to root for whoever was the underdog but ultimately be okay with the outcome as long as it was a good game. I know many will read that and say it’s not possible, It’s oxomonic (or simply moronic). They will argue it’s the same as saying a person be a meat eating vegetarian or Shakespearean mime. But is was true, somehow we pulled it off in our house. 

 

But there are some things that we can’t reconcile, that a choice has to be made. The problem is we usually settle for false choices, we’re pressured to pledge allegiance to something superficial while ignoring the necessity of a deeper allegiance. 

 

The confession of Christ as King, that Jesus is Lord, is a radical proclamation of allegiance that denys any and all other allegiances. And while it may sound simple to say, living it out is a whole ‘  nuther matter. Let’s dig in this week and see what we can find. 


Grace and peace y’all, 

 

J. Ray 

The Big Idea: The declaration of “Christ is King” redefines all of our allegiances in a most radical way.

Take Away:  In the wedding of Church and State, it is always the Church that is compromised. In the extreme, the language, imagery and vocation of the Church and Christ followers become corrupt, abusive and toxic.

 

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

Declaring Christ is King opens the door for belonging to everyone previously excluded by previous allegiances. Living into the practices and people this implies is an ongoing task. Our experience of this helps form our beliefs.

Relevant Verses:

Matthew 22:15 Then the Pharisees went out and planned together to entrap him with his own words. 16 They sent to him their disciples along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You do not court anyone’s favor because you show no partiality. 17 Tell us then, what do you think? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” 18 But Jesus realized their evil intentions and said, “Hypocrites! Why are you testing me? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” So they brought him a denarius. 20 Jesus said to them, “Whose image is this, and whose inscription?” 21 They replied, “Caesar’s.” He said to them, “Then give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 Now when they heard this they were stunned, and they left him and went away.

Resources:


November 15, 2020

10:15am I Facebook Live

Yokes and Crosses

Question of the Week

How are you understanding and practicing faith this week?

Intro

I’ll never forget Jane’s exclamation after getting her first full night of sleep after having Hope, our first child. Like many first time parents, we were totally in over our heads on the whole taking care of an infant thing. Sure we read the books and listened to the advice and leaned on friends who had been there done that, but there was so much we were learning as we were going. So much of that learning involved the foregoing of sleep.

 

We were at least three months in when the miraculous happened, Jane was able to string together 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. As she woke up and took stock of the restorative effects of such a stretch of slumber, she said “I feel like I’ve been born again”. 

 

There’s a whole lotta truth in that statement, both physically and spiritually. Rest does something in us and is irreplaceable. We are created to rest. So why does it seem so elusive? Why do we yearn for it, but so rarely attain it? Well, let’s jump in this week and see what we can find.

 

Grace and peace y’all,

 

J. Ray and the teaching team

The Big Idea: Rest is a key discipline that leads to flourishing.

Take Away: Understanding and practicing rest is critical to our experience of flourishing as followers of Jesus.

 

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

We know we belong to a place, to a people when we can rest in that place, with that people. Resting also creates space for us to change, to grow. Finally, rest speaks to us in unique ways that leads to the revelation of God’s character and presence forming our beliefs.

Relevant Verses:

Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and have revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son decides to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke on you and learn from me because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”

Resources:


Screen Shot 2020-11-14 at 10.45.42.png
Screen Shot 2020-11-14 at 10.45.34.png

November 1, 2020

10:15am I Facebook Live

Practicing Faith in an Anxious Age

Question of the Week

How are you understanding and practicing faith this week?

Intro

I’m not sure when I first encountered the work of Henri Nouwen, but immediately something in me connected with his words. They definitely were not the confident, iron clad guarantee, three steps to whatever you want kinda messages I was used to from Christian authors. These were words of wonder and doubt, longing and loss, hope in the midst of pain and faith in the midst of darkness kinda words.

 

And while they spoke to me they also scared me. There is a great comfort from the just-have-faith-and-everything-will-be-alright crowd, especially when you get a room full of ‘em. It’s easier to block out the questions with production, pain with performance, loneliness with loudness.

 

At least for a while. But eventually, it will all come out. That or it will fester so deeply that everything around it dies.

 

Nouwen is a reliable guide when he says the way forward is “to wait on the Lord. To pray our pain. To accept confusion.” The thing is this really doesn’t sound much like the faith that I’m supposed to have, at least not the one I was raised with. But what if there is more to faith than certainty, escape and success?

 

Well, lets dig in this week and see what we can find.

 

Grace and peace y’all,

 

J. Ray and the teaching team

The Big Idea: Faith is how a follower of Jesus makes their way through the world. Faith makes a way for us that no other way of living can.

Take Away: Faith is worth the risk, worth the costs.

 

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

Belonging, becoming and believing are all “faith acts”. They are things we do with no immediate guarantees. When we choose to identify with a group of God’s people, a church, it is an act of faith. When we as that church welcome others, it is in faithful response to the God who first welcomed us. Our becoming if fueled by and the fruit of faith and our believing, our confessing of the creed and our prayers and our choices to act even when we can’t “see it, is demonstration of this faith.

Relevant Verses:

Hebrews 11, Galatians 3:11

Resources:

NT Wright talks about faith and faithfulness 

Thick vs. Thin Faith with Lisa Sharon Harper


  • Facebook - Grey Circle
  • Instagram - Grey Circle
  • iTunes - Grey Circle
  • Google Play - Grey Circle
  • Twitter - Grey Circle