Spring Renewal is our annual event bringing together Christians from our fellowship and community for a time of refreshing through worship, learning, and fellowship.

This year’s event features special guests Mark Buchanan (Calgary, AB) and Phil Vanderveen (Abbotsford, BC) as our keynote speaker and worship leader respecitively. Class sessions will be led by local presenters, known within our city and/or fellowship.

 

Date: March 4, 2016—March 6, 2016
Event: Glen Elm Church of Christ - Spring Renewal
Venue: Glen Elm Church of Christ
Location: 1825 Rothwell Street
Regina, Sask
Public: Public

Rev. Darrell Johnson, Dr. Gordon T. Smith ‘Preaching the Book of Ephesians’

Ephesians presents the gospel in all its height and breadth and depth, drawing out the implications of Christ’s cross for our daily lives, worship, work, marriage, parenting, and more. The 2016 Ambrose Pastors Conference features two seasoned biblical expositors, Darrell Johnson and Gordon T. Smith, opening up the letter’s riches. Other presenters include Terry Fach, JoAnn Badley, and Mark Buchanan.

For a conference schedule click here.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016 at 8:30 AM – Thursday, 18 February 2016 at 12:00 PM

Date: February 17, 2016—February 18, 2016
Event: Ambrose Pastor's Conference
Venue: Ambrose Seminary
Location: 150 Ambrose Circle SW
Calgary, AB
Public: Public

Arms Wide Open

me and jesus

Recently I spoke three times at Ambrose University, where I teach, on the theme of hospitality. I used three texts –  John 4, where Jesus meets a Samaritan woman, Luke 19, where Jesus meets a tax-collector named Zacchaeus, and Matthew 25, where Jesus divides all people on the basis of who ministers to him in the guise of anyone who is thirsty, hungry, naked, imprisoned.

Besides all three stories being about hospitality – welcoming those whom we instinctively want to turn away from – each story implicitly asks a question: how do we sustain such hospitality? How do we keep overcoming our own inertia and aversion and suspicion and weariness to care about people who, frankly, we don’t care about – who have no natural claim on our affections, and maybe have done things to forfeit our generosity? They’re not kin. They’re not friends. They’re not like us. Some have hurt us. Tax collectors have gotten rich on our backs. Samaritan women are home wreckers. Refugees – the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the imprisoned? They might take away our jobs.

Why care?

The answer is hidden in plain sight: because this is exactly how Jesus welcomed you and me.

He sought me, loved me, welcomed me, forgave me, fed me, gave himself to me when I had done exactly nothing to earn it and precisely everything to forfeit it.

He did it, not just by being generous, but by taking my unworthiness on himself. Jesus says to people like Zacchaeus, like the woman at the well, like the prisoner, like me, “Blame me. Really, put all the blame on me. You can never, not if you had a thousand life times to live, make up for all the ways you fall short of the God’s glory. So give it to me. Hand it over, and I’ll take full responsibility for it. You can blame me.”

In my talks, I said the primary way Jesus showed us what God is like is by arms open wide. Arms spread wide is the classic gesture of welcome. But it’s also the necessary posture of crucifixion. It’s only because Jesus was willing to open his arms wide on the beams of the cross, taking all the blame on himself, that he can open his arms wide at the foot of the cross, welcoming all who are thirsty.

Why welcome those from whom I’d rather turn away?

Because he never turned away from me.

I Am the One Jesus Loves

David

I am preparing (among approximately one thousand other things) to teach this spring at Regent College a course on the story of David.[*] So I soak daily in his story and his songs, and then scrounge and rummage around in a multitude of commentaries, biographies, novels, reflections. Though David has been for me an almost constant companion since I first came to faith over 30 years ago, the better I know him the less I understand him. He is a walking contradiction: poetic, barbaric, tender, ruthless, holy, lusty, child-like, serpentine. He shows extravagant mercy at one turn, gaudy blood-thirst at the next. He can switch from piety to villainy quicker than blinking.

The man embodies paradox.

I’ll try to draw all this out in the course I’ll teach on David, as I’ve tried to draw it all out in the novel I’ve written about him (forthcoming). David is not our role model: he’s our mirror. He is not our exemplar: he’s our brother. He often inspires us, but just as often startles and disgusts us, puzzles and enrages us. He exposes our own heart’s strange wild mess, the chiaroscuro of light and dark raging in our own bellies.

But the deeper and longer I inhabit his story, the more and more one thing stands out above all: God loves David, and David knows it. “Like everyone else,” Harold Bloom writes, “from Samuel, Saul, and Jonathan down to the present, Yahweh is charmed by David…. Yahweh is the God who fell in love with David.”

In Louis Ginzberg’s monumental 7-volume work The Legend of the Jews, a skillful compilation of the Jewish haggadah or oral tradition, he retells the story of David in Paradise. According to the legend, David is the superstar of the afterlife, a personage of “glory and grandeur,” whose throne sits opposite God’s and from which David “intones wondrously beautiful psalms.” David’s “crown… outshines all others, and whenever he moves out of Paradise to present himself before God, suns, stars, angels, seraphim, and other holy beings run to meet him.”

But the main thrust of the legend is David’s relationship with God. God throws a lavish feast on the Day of Judgment, and God at David’s bidding himself attends. At the end of the banquet, God invites Abraham to pray over the cup of wine. Abraham declines on grounds of his unworthiness. So God asks Isaac, who for similar reasons declines. God then turns to Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua. All beg off for reasons of unworthiness.

Finally, God asks David to bless the cup. And David replies, “Yes, I will pronounce the blessing, for I am worthy of the honor.”[†]

At first blush, this shocks us. It seems brazen effrontery, damnable hubris, reality-defying delusion. Who do you think you are?

On second thought, this sounds biblical. The heart of the Bible’s message, muted in the Old Covenant but shouted aloud in page after page of the New, is the improbable, astonishing, breathtaking good news that I am the one Jesus loves.

I am the tax-collector whose house Jesus had to enter, so that salvation could invade it. I am the leper who cried out to Jesus on his way past Samaria, so that he could speak wholeness into me and then woo me back to worship him. I am the lame man whose friends lowered me down through the rafters, so that Jesus could speak forgiveness and healing to me. I am the invalid Jesus found in a dark part of town, bed-ridden and complaining, so that he could say to me, “Get up, take up your mat, and walk.” I am the prodigal he saw a long way off, who ran to me, threw a feast for me, put his robe and ring and sandals on me. I am the elder brother who refused to join the party, and so he went out to me and begged me to come in. I am Lazarus, the one he raised from the dead and then invited to recline with him at the table.

I am not worthy to bless the cup, except he makes me so. At great cost, all by his own doing, Jesus makes me his own, loves me without condition, forgives me without remainder, places his own name on me, puts his own Spirit in me, and goes ahead to prepare a place for me. He’s made me a chosen people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, one who belongs to God.

I am the one Jesus loves.

As are you.

I never tire of telling my students at Ambrose Seminary[‡] this. It is the wellspring of all we do and all we are. All life and ministry is overflow. And the inflow is this one thing: knowing and relishing and never forgetting that I am the one Jesus loves.

There is a famous story about the theologian Karl Barth, maybe as legendary as the story Ginsberg tells about David – and yet, like that story, resonant with deep truth. It goes like this: near the end of Barth’s life, having written the most monumental theological work of the 20th Century, having read virtually every other theological work ever penned, a journalist asks him, “What is the greatest truth you’ve ever heard?”

To which Barth replies, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible the Bible tells me so.”

Amen and amen.

 

 


[†] Louis Ginzberg, Legends of the Bible, 550-551.

 

[‡] https://ambrose.edu