Folks, this is our final week at the trailhead of The Path Called Compelling. Before we head out on the path, I want to spend this Sunday addressing three primary questions: first, why is it that the Jesus Path compels some but not others? Second, how do we know when we have encountered Jesus on the path? And finally, who is this path for? I hope it is a fun and meaningful morning for us all.
Back at the trailhead this Sunday, and let’s address some elephants in the room as we get this series going. Am I trying to convert you to Christianity with this series? That will take some unpacking as I try to explain to you why being compelled BY something will always be more powerful than being converted TO something.
So, lots of fun ground to cover. For instance, did Jesus come to end religion? Why does evangelism feel so insufferable? Why were early Christians accused of being cannibals? And how did I end up in a pair of extensively used underwear, sweating profusely in a yoga class?
Last week we talked about why we all need a path in life…this week is about how we all need a path that compels us, and how the Jesus Path promises the most compelling thing of all – life.
Well friends, this is the Sunday we begin our journey onto A Path Called Compelling. I have been so excited to share this with you and the time is finally here. But let me give you a little background on why I feel so passionate about this series.
You see, you don't need to be a sociologist or have studied census data to know that Christianity in the West faces trying times. Young people are walking away from the faith, older congregations are just barely holding on, and any church that is managing to grow is doing so by transfer growth. Everyone knows that religious affiliation is in decline.
To make matters worse, the Christian faith, once looked upon by our culture with indifference, is now viewed with suspicion. In Canada alone, the Church has suffered from being a willing partner in our residential school system, clergy sex and power scandals, partisan politics, and resistance to COVID-19 safety measures. This new reality for the Christian faith in the US and Canada means trends in decline are not likely to reverse course anytime soon.
This strange new world for faith can provoke intense emotions among those trying to hang onto faith. There is fear and anxiety over Christianity's fate, and anger and resentment over how the Christian faith has been used to hurt others. There is also confusion about how to reimagine our faith for this time. We know that how we understand and live out our faith must change.
In previous generations, the Church sought to convert unbelievers through rational argumentation. Those efforts largely failed, and in the cultural milieu of suspicion and religious pluralism, no one wants to be converted, especially by losing an argument.
What I hope to do throughout the course of this series is offer a bold and new apologetic for the Christian faith. Rather than attempt to demonstrate how the Christian faith is right, what I hope to do is give us a stunning portrait of the Christian life that feels compelling. I want to help us discover a faith that feels more like an adventure, a way of life, or that road trip you have always wanted to take, because I am convinced that being compelled by something will always be more potent than being converted to something.
And so, this series is my attempt to offer a map, compass, and guide to help us navigate our way into a brighter and better future. I hope this series can help us recover faith from the shame and scandals of the Church. I hope it might be a rallying cry for a new generation of Jesus followers and a companion for weary travelers already on the path. So, from now until Easter, I hope to act the role of part expedition guide, part raconteur, part pastor, part seasoned park ranger, helping us get lost in stories and wisdom about a terrain and trail we thought we knew, but know we need to rediscover.
I mentioned in Week 1 of our prayer series that I would do a final Sunday where I answered any questions people have on prayer. I received five questions. They are these:
- Why pray if I’m totally willing to accept whatever God sends my way? When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer I did not pray for healing. I prayed that God would help me deal with whatever resulted in a God honouring way. Was that a demonstration of submissive faith? Or was it a cop out; afraid a prayer for healing would not be answered?
- Some Christians believe that if many are praying for something the more likely it will be answered. Wouldn’t that mean a famous preacher is more likely to be healed than an usher?
- Do you think that substances that alter our state of mind (alcohol, cannabis, or psychedelics) could be a tool for prayer?
- You have talked a lot about how prayer is about our own formation…what is God’s role in all of this? What is God doing while we pray? Does God answer prayer?
- Sending "thoughts and prayers" has become a ubiquitous phrase people offer up in the face of tragedy. But it seems to be a cheap platitude for doing nothing. Does prayer make a difference in the face of suffering?
Well…this ought to be interesting.
One final teaching on prayer. I know for some of you this series has been a bit of a slog…our questions and doubts around prayer seem too insurmountable to find any real value in prayer. I get that. Thanks for tracking with us anyway.
For this final teaching on prayer I want to look at evening (or night) prayers – the prayers we might utter at the end of the day or when restless nights find us. To do that, it will be helpful to have on hand the “morning and evening prayers” I gave you earlier in the series. If you don’t have a hard copy, it is attached here.
I want to take you through three parts of my evening prayer routine: Examen, Evening Prayer, and Prayer Before Sleep. For me, these three have become incredibly meaningful to me and I am fairly confident they could be the same for you. Of course there are plenty of pit stops to make along the way. Beyond that, I have something exciting to share with you this Sunday, so I hope you will join us this coming Sunday for The Things That Keep Me Up At Night.
In 2016, Martin Scorsese released a passion project film – Silence. It was immediately lauded by critics as a thoughtful and moving meditation on faith and Christianity. Scorsese had turned theology into art. In making the film, Scorsese consulted with the Jesuit priest, James Martin, to ensure he conveyed Jesuit spirituality as accurately as possible. The leading actors in the film, Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver, spent a year learning under James Martin so they could play the role of Jesuit priests well. You should check out some of Andrew Garfield’s interviews about his experience making the film – fascinating stuff.
The film has stayed with me since I first saw it in 2016, but what I was particularly struck by was a specific question Martin Scorsese asked of James Martin. Scorsese wanted to authentically capture Jesuit faith under pressure. One scene in the film depicts a Jesuit priest facing a crucifixion drowning. Scorsese asked Martin what a Jesuit priest would pray for in such cruel circumstances. James Martin’s response (which makes it into the film) has stayed with me for years, and I want to share his insight with us all this Sunday. As we move towards the conclusion of our prayer series, this Sunday I simply want to ask the question, what should we pray for?
Today is Karla’s first sermon, tackling some words of Jesus that are curious, sarcastic, nuanced, paradoxical, and challenging. We’ll explore questions of faith (What is it? Do I have enough? Enough for what?), consider the power of gentleness, and explore other tensions and paradoxes on the Jesus path including a really tricky one: What is the best condiment?
So, how much mayo do you add to tuna from a can to make a tuna salad sandwich? More or less than 2 tbsp? Just curious. My fam thinks I go a little heavy on the mayo. I think they don’t know what a good sandwich tastes like.
Anywho…this Sunday is all about opening the tuna can. By that, I mean I want to continue our prayer series by inviting you into my own prayer routine. I am going to simply show you what I do with prayer every day (ideally) and why I do it. This is something I have never done before at Nexus, and I am excited to fill you in on the prayer routines that work for me. In fact, I have a whole little handout for you and everything.
- Brad Watson
Seems like a pointless question…we know what prayer is…that thing you do where you talk to an invisible God. Yet, many of us have inherited what I think are unhelpful notions about prayer and so I want to help us reimagine what prayer is and what it is supposed to do.
To that end, I want to start the morning with a little game I am calling, “Would you, or would you not, pray for that?” It will be a fun little exercise, no need to keep score or publicize your results, but it will be a fun little way for us to get a sense of what we honestly think about prayer. For instance, if I asked you to pray for the Blue Jays to win tonight, would you do it? I will take us through that before drawing upon the wisdom of Jesus and those within our tradition to help us craft a better understanding of prayer. We will need to explore why pragmatism ruins prayer, what I learned when Glenn Pascoe took me clothes shopping this summer, and what wrestling with my kids has helped me understand about the nature of prayer. I hope it will be an enjoyable and thoughtful morning for us all.