Jesus tells two short parables in Mark 4:26-34. They’re both about seeds. In the first, seeds that grow up mysteriously overnight after a farmer has scattered them far and wide across the ground. In the second, the tiny mustard seed grows into a great shrub that then gives shade and shelter to nests of birds.
We know that Jesus did a lot of teaching through stories, perhaps because they invite us in and expand our imaginations, revealing something of God’s work beyond our understanding. The mysterious life of seeds paints the Kingdom of God as a living, growing, extravagant reality. Jesus invites us to participate in it.
This is our last lectionary podcast episode before the summer. Join us around the virtual table as we close the season with these hope-filled parables.
Can anyone really understand the Holy Trinity? Many people have fought and wrestled and argued over how to understand God through the many different ways that God is revealed in the Scriptures.
We approach this topic from two angles this week. First is the Gospel reading from John 3:1-17. Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night to try and figure out what Jesus is all about. Jesus doesn’t give a direct answer. Instead, he talks about the Holy Spirit, and God’s only Son given for the love of the world.
A Long Struggle to Articulate the Nature of God Faithfully
From there, the church through time has extended and developed its understanding of the nature of God through prayerful study in community. You may have noticed that the word trinity doesn’t actually appear in this reading, nor indeed anywhere in the Bible. Jesus just talks about God, the Son, and the Spirit, but he doesn’t say anything about how they all relate. Are they the same? Are they different? That was left for the following generations to wrestle with.
So, we must turn to how Christians have articulated the one God as three ‘persons’ in the centuries that followed. This is the reason we celebrate Trinity Sunday, the great feast of the church that takes place this week.
Knowing God More Through Understanding the Holy Trinity
Don’t make the mistake of assuming this is just a dry, dusty intellectual exercise! Indeed, the doctrine of the Trinity is the best way the Christian faith has found to capture the heart of a God who is both perfectly united and relationship-driven, willing to dive into the messiness of human existence. Paradoxically, the mystery of the Holy Trinity gives us the clearest possible picture of who God is, and who we are in relationship to God.
Please join us around the virtual table this week for this celebration of God as unity and trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Pentecost* is one of the great feasts of the church. It celebrates the coming down of Holy Spirit on the first disciples. As a result, it sets the beginning of that great family of Christ we call the church.
Acts 2:1-21 describes the events of Pentecost. In this story the disciples are gathered together for a yearly Jewish agricultural feast. By this time in Jewish history, they had long been dispersed across the known world. Even so, those in the diaspora continued to return to Jerusalem for the feast days.
On this Pentecost, something profound happened. The room shook and there was the sound of wind. The disciples found they had tongues of fire on their heads, and they could suddenly speak other languages. They cascaded out of the upper room, proclaiming with boldness the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The lead apostle, Peter, explains what is going on. This event indeed marks the beginning the fulfillment of all that the Scriptures had pointed to. God’s Holy Spirit would be poured out for everyone.
Join us around the virtual table this week as we talk about Pentecost and the work of the Holy Spirit, the expansiveness of the mission of Christ, and what it means to live in the breath of God.
Christians celebrate Ascension Day every year exactly 40 days after Easter, to echo the 40 days that Jesus stayed with his disciples after the Resurrection. During this time, he met with them, taught them, and opened their hearts to understand the Scriptures. Finally, the disciples witness him lifted up out of their sight as he returns to God.
Even though this feast doesn’t get as much attention as Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost, it is crucial to how we understand Jesus’ ministry of salvation. It is also the catalyst for the arrival of the Holy Spirit ten days later.
The Ascension marks the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, launching the church to take up the Jesus movement. Join us around the virtual table as we explore the joy-filled Ascension Day.
Today, we are looking at John 15:9-17, one of the core teachings for which Jesus is best known. It centers on the command to love one another, such that our lives reflect and display the love and life of God. This is not often easy; embracing the challenge of love stretches us at every turn.
The instruction to love one another resonates within and beyond the Christian faith. Jesus says to his first followers and us: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” He then goes on to elaborate that he no longer calls them servants, but friends. They are his friends if they love one another like he loves them.
This simple but profound teaching forms the heart of Jesus’ message and underlies everything he does. His love takes him all the way to the cross. Sharing and participating in that love in big and small ways shapes and challenges us more than anything else. Join us around the virtual table this week as we delve into the challenge of love.
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We are excited to share with you our conversation with Dr. Joy Berg. Dr. Berg is well known in the Edmonton area as a musician, scholar, educator, and choir director. We enjoyed talking with her about worship and music. During the conversation, she drew on her considerable experience to invite us to go deeper in our understanding of these central parts of congregational life. We hope you enjoy listening to her insights.
This is part of a Hope Canteen series called Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing. In this series, we are talking with people about many facets of worship, and how it enriches our life together. Along with people whose ministry involves leading the church in music and worship, we hope that you will join us in these conversations as we look ahead to worship beyond the pandemic.
Dr. Joy Berg received the Companion of the Worship Arts for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada in 2014. She holds a Doctorate of Music degree in Choral Conducting as well as a Doctorate of Worship Arts. As a longtime church musician, she focuses her research in hymnody, liturgy, Canadian hymn-writers, and worship planning. She is actively involved in local and national church events. You can visit her website here: sanctuarysounds.ca
Last week, we explored the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Today, we look at a very different metaphor from John 15:1-8: we are called to abide in Jesus Christ, who is the true vine.
Jesus introduces this teaching by saying, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.” He follows this metaphor with four images. First, he says that if he is the vine, then the disciples are the branches that come out of the vine. Second, he tells us that the branches must bear fruit. Third, he tells us that branches that don’t bear fruit need to be pruned back. Fourth, the relationship between the branch and the vine is one of abiding. Like the branch abides in the vine, so we must abide in Jesus.
Join us as we reflect (with too many gardening metaphors!) on bearing good fruit as we are nourished in the life of God.
This week, we are turning to John 10:11-18. Jesus describes his ministry through the well-loved image of himself as a shepherd who cares–and ultimately gives his life–for the sheep. But it isn’t just a pastoral scene; this teaching challenges the religious leaders. It also places us where we are truly held: in the heart of God.
Join us around the virtual table for this week’s conversation on Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Click here to listen.