When we look back in history, at those who discovered new parts of world, people like Columbus (America) and Cartier (Quebec) we look at these as moments in history. In a sense they are moments because there’s a day/date that their feet touched land. But we know full well that the discovery didn’t end there. Each step they took led them to a new place, a new perspective, a new discovery, all on the same land they set foot on weeks and months before.
I came across a Toronto resident who looks for obscure places in the city, films them, and then shows his viewers what an amazing adventure and discovery it was to get there. Jeremy did this very thing in one of his films called, ‘The Bessarian’. It features a Toronto subway station on the purple line near Leslie and Shepherd. Why did Jeremy choose this station? Because out of the millions of tokens used each day on the TTC, only 180 are used at Bessarian station. The funny thing is that I’ve been close to that station so many times. It’s close to a Starbucks I’ve stopped at, down the street from Ikea where I’ve shopped at, by North York General hospital where I’ve been so many times. Yet I’ve never known of or heard of Bessarian, even though I use the Subway from time to time. It says something about living in a big city – there will always be places we have yet to find; places we have yet to discover.
Our faith experience is and should be very similar. If you’re following Jesus you probably can look back to a moment when things clicked; even if you didn’t realize it at the time. You will also have come to realize that you’ve grown so much since then. It’s like you discovered Jesus once, but continue to discover more about him and the church (and yourself) as your journey moves forward.
I came across this short verse in John 21. After all that occurred at the end of this gospel (Jesus living, dying, coming back to life, and about to ascend to heaven) Jesus asks Peter, the apostle a question. “Will you follow me?” This wouldn’t be a big deal except that Jesus already asked Peter this a couple of years before. You’ll see this question asked to all the disciples, and when asked, they leave what they’re doing and follow Jesus. But why does Jesus have to ask again? Because our faith experience is not a one time thing; it’s not a moment that happens in history only to be left there. Our faith is meant to grow and move and breathe and become all that God intends it to be.
It’s like discovering a city. Just because you’ve entered it for the first time, you’d never assume that you know it well. You may enter it from the east side, the west side, the north side or the lake, but you can’t imagine how big and beautiful it is until you begin (and continue) to discover it. The CN tower, Casaloma, The EX, Cabbage town, Yorkdale, all of Young Street, The Distillery District, High Park – we can go on and on.
This is why DISCOVERY is one of our values, and this is why we take DISCOVERY seriously. We know that we are all on a journey of figuring out what it means to follow Jesus, and that journey is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re thinking from the perspective of community or you’re thinking as an individual, helping others discover Jesus is one of the most important things you can give your life to. Appreciating yours and others journey is one way to both embrace and share God’s love.
To sum this up, let’s look at two places in scripture that are connected simply because they both give us language to explore what God is up. Matthew 7 & Jeremiah 29 have very different contexts, but both urge us to pray, and by pray we mean to seek out God, search for him, long for him, ask of him, knock on his door. Jeremiah specifically says that if we pray, and seek and search, that we will FIND God. The very nature of finding God means that we will spend our lives discovering him. So we value this very process: how people discover God with us…and how we can discover God with others. Together, we will discover the Bessarian stations of our spiritual journey with Jesus. And yes…we take this stuff pretty seriously.
If you’ve been around The Village even a little bit you’ve heard us use this line from time to time. Here it is: ‘We don’t ever want to take ourselves too seriously, but we do want to take Jesus seriously’. Why do you think we say this often? It’s because we desperately want to be humble about who we are and what we know, yet we passionately want to discover who Jesus is and what kind of life he calls us to live. So for the next number of weeks we will be taking some time to narrow down what it is we should take seriously when it comes to our values, and to our faith. There are a number of places in the scripture that do this for us. The writer’s of scripture often leave us with a few things to consider or a few things to take to heart; after a broad stroke of story and principals, they give us smaller bite size pieces to focus on. Take Micah 6:8. The minor prophet is begging to hear God tell him what he wants from him, God in turn leaves him with 3 things: Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly with God. Jesus, in Mark 12 and Luke 15 is asked what the greatest commandment is. Why? Because there were 613 of them and people wanted to know what to focus on. Jesus gives them two: Love God and Love Others. He says, ‘if you can get serious about these two, everything else will fall into place.
Paul does something similar in 1 Corinthians 13. This is known as the love chapter. It’s a beautiful, poetic, lyrical metaphor and description of love. It’s often read at weddings because it’s just a perfect definition of love. The interesting thing about this text is that it’s sandwiched between chapters 12 & 14, both of which are about the church as a body of believers who the spirit enables, with gifts, to serve and build up one another. Corinthians in general is a letter to a church with some issues that need solving. Chapters 12-14 are part of the solution. While Paul is helping the Corinthians to understand community in a healthy way, he throws in a very important tool for it to all come together: LOVE. Here’s how Paul narrow’s things down, with two verses, 12:31b & 13:13, “I will show you the most excellent way… And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
With all that is going on in Paul’s letter, he, like Micah, like Jesus, narrows it down to a few things to consider, a few things to take seriously, they are, Faith, Hope and Love. You can understand why, because even though all the things Paul is teaching about are important (i.e. gifts of the Spirit), faith, hope and love are that much more important. Faith (trust in God) is something that helps you in the present, but leads you to Hope, which is always about the future (knowing that tomorrow is actually better). These first two are key to our journey with Jesus. We must have full trust in God, knowing that our hope in him is secure. But Paul takes it a step further, he narrows down his list of three and turns it into a list of one – LOVE. But the greatest of these is love. Why would he do that? To confuse things, to simplify things? Neither. Paul wants to be very clear, without love everything else we have will not amount to anything; your gifts, skills, works, deeds, reputation, successes, all of it will mean absolutely nothing. What about tongues? What about prophesy? What about knowledge? What about _______? All those other things are temporary, important, but they can only help in the moment. Love (as well as Faith & Hope) launches things forward, it leaves an impact, it makes a difference.
So if there’s anything we really get serious about, it’s faith, hope and love – and if we have to narrow it down even further – LOVE.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be talking about the things that matter most, things like community, generosity, transformation, stories, and discovering what this all means together. Looking forward to it!
Being a part-time, working university student, it’s easy to get lost in the busyness of my schedule. On top of that, there are so many lingering questions like “Where is my future headed?” and “Who am I?” This stage in life has been a scary process – with numerous challenges and constant transition… But if there’s one thing I have been learning these past few years, it’s that God provides – no matter where our circumstances are. God always reveals himself to us in ways we don’t expect.
January 2014: I had just been accepted to the Nursing Program at Ryerson University in Toronto. High school was coming to an end and I was stoked that my plans for university were in place. Fast forward to July 2014: I was cruising through summer break until I received a phone call from Ryerson. Long story short, I was told that my grades were not good enough and my acceptance was revoked. All I remember was a lot of disappointment, fear and shame. That week was awful and all I felt like was a failure. I was a counsellor for a kid’s camp that week and I didn’t want to show that I was upset. I ended up telling some other counsellors what had happened. They were so supportive and told me that they were praying for me. I was praying. My family and friends were praying. My next step was to take some action. I had to look through my expired offers from other schools and see if they would re-consider me. I received a “no” from the University of Toronto. And when I thought all hope was lost, I heard back from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). They told me that they re-considered the offer they had given me earlier that year. God was listening and I put my trust in him during that dark, emotional time in my life.
Right now, I am preparing to enter my third year at UOIT for Public Health Sciences. I look back at what happened and I am so incredibly thankful. One: for the family and friends God has blessed me with. Two: for the challenge that God let me face. And three: that God provides for me when I feel hopeless. God used that difficult time in my life to strengthen my faith and remind me that ALL my plans are in his hands. He continues to do that for me today. I have met so many amazing friends at UOIT and I would not have known them if my life went down the other path. I am now very involved in Campus Ministry and have been offered many opportunities to serve and grow in my relationship with Christ. God always reveals himself to us in ways we don’t expect – we just have to have a lens of faith to see it.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. –Hebrews 11:1
Just recently I experienced God once again providing for me in an unexpected way. I have had a part-time job for about 4 years now but coming into this summer, I wanted to find another job to help with my financial situation. I applied at this one place and I was pretty confident in getting the job. I didn’t get a call or an e-mail for over a month. I was discouraged, so I was going to give up on the job search. Just when I was accepting my summer the way it was, Pastor Jonathan came to me saying that the government gave the Village a few student grants and that I should apply for one. Now here I am, writing this blog post as a summer intern! On top of that, I also was offered a social media intern job with my brother’s band Lightfall. Let me say it again: GOD PROVIDES! I found out that my mom was praying for me and a job opportunity to come my way. An answered prayer for her and for me.
Now I know that when I ask questions like “Where is my future headed?” and “Who am I?” I can find comfort in the fact that my identity is found in Christ and I don’t need to be afraid if I just trust in him. It is so amazing knowing that wherever life takes me, God is walking beside me. I just need to have faith. There are still so many obstacles that I deal with every day. Personal issues and emotional battles. But he is with me through it all. Amidst those dark and painful moments in life, are beautiful opportunities to learn and grow. He has a perfect plan for me.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. –Romans 8:28
It was a great summer working at the Village. I’ve loved getting to spend time with the Manafo family and get to know Lindsay (our children’s director) and Emily (our summer media intern). I look forward to see where God takes our church community at The Village.
Don’t miss our new Fall Teaching Series.
We often say that we don’t want to take ourselves seriously, but we do take Jesus seriously: his words, his life, his love, his invitation. So, to start this fall off we will be looking at some things that we think are pretty important. We’ll take time to re-look at our values, plus a few other things that we should take…ummm…seriously.
Ball Hockey is back on Tuesday Nights. 8:45-10pm at the Brooklin Community Centre/Library.
The Kid’s Christmas Musical is happening again this Fall. If you’re interested in your child participating, you can simply go to one of the Tuesday this September to sign them up. Rehearsal’s are on Tuesdays at 6:30 at the Brooklin Community Centre/Library.