Ainsley kicks off our year together by introducing the focus area for H3O this year. She invites us to consider what it looks like for the church to be a lighthouse in our communities as we reflect on what it means for God to be the light in our world.
In this sermon, Ainsley explores how true mercy from God—and others—is a completely undeserved gift. Those who flourish in the Kingdom are not those who somehow made it happen through their own character or actions. Instead, it is those with nothing to offer who are able to inherit the Kingdom. The merciful, Ainsley explains, are those with empty hands.
In this sermon, Jed clarifies the meaning of “righteousness” as something more like restorative justice, and explores how God’s Kingdom is characterised by a reconciling form of justice. And God’s justice does not match our standards of equality. This new way of living, Jesus says, is not based upon rewards for good deeds. There is no principle of proportionality at work here, but a new kind of upside-down economics. God’s economy is an economy of grace, where God showers generosity on those who might least deserve it, and at the same time God is unfailingly trustworthy to those who have nothing left to count on, nothing to hold on to at the end of the day. God’s reign is characterized by restorative justice.
In this sermon on meekness, Jed reminds us that Christ was described as “meek.” Jesus, the gentle and humble in heart, was no coward. There is a difference between being docile and being humble. There is a difference between being weak and being gentle. The humble, the gentle, and the meek have surrendered their wills to God. They won’t compromise when the world wants them to fashion their lives after ambition, wealth, and arrogance. They are, instead, God’s hands and feet on this earth. And as we fashion the world into the image of God’s Kingdom—as we extend God’s radical love—we inherit a world that is God’s world; the meek participate in the world they inherit.
In this sermon on “Blessed are they who mourn,” Jed recommends that rather than be suspicious of mourning, rather than buy into the narrative of our world that is terrified of grief, and which tries to forget suffering, the Christian community is called to bear the world’s suffering. Christ on the cross is a picture of a God who bears our brokenness, and who loves us and dies for us. To model this kind of love is similarly to bear with our world in its brokenness: to be saddened, grieved, and mournful for a world that is profoundly messed up, and then to go ahead and get into those spaces where love can make a way.
In this opening sermon on the Beatitudes, Jed explains that the Beatitudes are an announcement, not an analysis. This good thing is starting to happen. It is gospel, an announcement of a better way. The Beatitudes are not Jesus telling people how to behave, but instead Jesus telling those people who mourn, who are poor in spirit, who are meek, that they are in good shape. The kingdom is open to them.
In the final sermon on the Psalms of the Kingdom, Jed explores Psalm 91’s extraordinary picture of God’s nearness and trustworthiness. It is a record of a traveller in the midst of trouble, who can confidently say that God is our refuge and our sure companion. And it also points to a God that does more than simply speak: for a people who did not call out, did not deserve grace, did not demonstrate adequate faith, did not live lives of righteousness, for those people—who were still sinners—Christ came, and Christ died.
In the third and final sermon on psalms of disorientation, Jed discusses Psalm 73 and the way that it offers us a testimony from one who ventured away, and who discovered, anew, how pleasing it is to be in close fellowship with God. Psalm 73 is a beautiful picture of our wandering hearts, and the journey back to the Father who has never left us. It reminds us that the movement from disorientation into new orientation involves coming to God, and learning that He is with us.