Images of Jesus for Today
Wellington, April-July, 2023
In this new teaching series, over four evenings across four months, we took up four key images of Jesus from the gospels: Jesus our Bread, our Light, our True Vine, and our Good Shepherd. These may be overly familiar images; but they’re actually life-changing and profound. They help us to reflect not just on who Jesus is, but also on what real life looks like. These statements challenge us to seek genuine life and to turn our backs on false alternatives.
Practices of Scriptural Immersion
Auckland & Wellington, September-November, 2022
“Once I was a scuba diver in a sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a jet ski.”
Writer Nicholas Carr is talking about reading generally, but his words name well the experience many of us have with Scripture. The Bible is a deep sea of words, a world full of strange and complex life, but we often only skip along the surface. We’ve forgotten—or perhaps we never knew—how to dive deeper in, to immerse our whole selves.
Christians have always been “people of the book”. We are called to live out of the rich library of stories and prayers and poetry and prophecy and history that is the Bible. Scripture is a place where we encounter God and a means through which God frees and forms us to be his people in and for the world. Our habits of inattentive reading cost us and they cost our communities.
Together we learned together centuries-old practices the Church has used to help immerse ourselves in this lively, challenging, strange, life-giving, and beautiful book. The three practices of scriptural immersion covered were Lectio Divina, Imaginative Reading, and Close Reading.
These Three Things Remain: Faith, Hope, and Love
Auckland & Wellington, April-June, 2022
When you think about a life well-lived in the midst of uncertainty, what comes to mind? What marks such a life? Christians are women and men whose lives are marked by sharing in the life of Jesus—they are seeking to live in Christ. But what does this look like? And what does this require of us? What are we to believe, feel, and do?
Theologian Oliver O’Donovan posits that at the very heart of Christianity is the great triad of faith, hope, and love. He writes that “faith in Christ is the foundation of Christian existence, hope its grounds for endurance, and love its social embodiment.” Faith, hope, and love are not abstract concepts, but are to infuse our daily lives—all the aspects of our living, relating, and working.
Over three evenings, we considered Faith, Hope, and Love. Together we opened Scripture and wrestled with the importance of this great triad of the Christian life for our lives.
The Lord’s Prayer
Auckland & Wellington, April-November, 2021
In 2021, we explored the wonder and significance of the Lord’s Prayer and sought to reclaim the contours and clarity of this Prayer.
In Luke’s Gospel, we read a conversation between Jesus and his disciples. Jesus had just been praying and, as good followers of their rabbi, the disciples were observing him. One of the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. In response, Jesus gives them a set of petitions and words, a model for how they might pray to God: the Lord’s Prayer.
Two thousand years later, we receive the same invitation to learn, recite, and own these words of God, and to allow this Prayer to shape our identity and calling as Christians in the world.
But like a coin too often used, the words of the Lord’s Prayer often lose their clarity, sharpness, and essential meaning in our lives. We forget the power and shameless audacity inherent in these words, along with Jesus’s promise to “ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9).
Auckland, April-November, 2019 • Wellington, April-November, 2020
In Auckland in 2019 and Wellington in 2020, we explored Jesus’s Beatitudes as found in the fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. These sayings have encouraged, inspired, and troubled Christians throughout history. Even now, some two thousand years after they were first spoken, Jesus’s words strike us as fresh and urgent, upending much of what we take for granted and pressing on us important questions: What do we really think it means to be blessed? What type of life is being promised to those who follow the way of Jesus?
We sense in the Beatitudes a call that both attracts, but also unsettles. It can leave us asking how we can possibly live out this hard teaching today. In 2020 and 2019, we considered each of Jesus’s beatitudes and what they mean for our lives.
The “I Am” Statements
Auckland, April-November, 2018 • Wellington, April-November, 2019
In Auckland in 2018 and in Wellington in 2019, we explored the various “I Am” statements of Jesus found in John’s Gospel. It has been said of John’s Gospel, “It is shallow enough for a child not to drown, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim in it.” In it we see the most in-depth theological reflections on the person and work of Jesus Christ of all the gospels, and yet children around the world continue to memorise John 3:16, and in doing so learn the essence of the good news.
Contained within John’s Gospel are these “I am” statements of Jesus: I am the good shepherd, I am the bread of life, I am the door, the vine, and so on. These statements have been a source of comfort, encouragement, and challenge to Christians throughout the centuries as they have aimed to follow Jesus Christ and serve God’s good world. As we reflected on these “I am” statements, we sought to come to know Jesus Christ more deeply by considering how he reveals himself in these statements.
Auckland, April-November, 2017
In Auckland in 2017, we engaged with the book of Psalms. Wonder, joy, gratitude, frustration, fear, anger, and grief, wrapped in prayer; the book of Psalms is rightly called the prayerbook of the Bible. Found within its pages are a diverse number of prayers that give voice to the full compass of human experience. The Psalms help us express aspects of our everyday lives to God. They invite us to hold the totality of human experience before God and to reorient our lives towards God’s continual faithfulness and help. Through the Psalms we are also invited to identify with others’ experiences and pray on their behalf.
For these reasons, the psalms are a source of power for God’s people. Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it well: “Whenever the Psalter is abandoned, an incomparable treasure is lost to the Christian church. With its recovery will come unexpected power.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Prayerbook of the Bible: An Introduction to the Psalms). Throughout the year, we prayed, reflected on, and studied various psalms, to help us grow in prayer and serve our communities.