We have commenced Advent, which is the season leading to Christmas. There are four Sundays in Advent, but this year the season is shorter than usual because the Fourth Sunday of Advent is also Christmas Eve. This is rare. The sermons on 24th December will have very different themes for the morning and then for the evening.
Latin Adventus means arrival or coming and our thoughts turn to the first coming of the Lord Jesus, but we hold those thoughts in tension with his second coming. We tend to look back and at the same time look forward, and yet we have an urgent need to live in the present. Since the twelfth century, and the time of Bernard of Clairvaux, Christians have spoken of the three comings of Jesus: in the flesh in Bethlehem, in our hearts daily, and in glory at the end of time.
This year at St Agnes’ Church we shall have a blue Advent, organised by The Reverend Clem Taplin. If you haven’t experienced a blue Advent please do come along to services in December to see how Clem uses the colour.
Christmas is a timeless story, which appeals to very young children. I always have the opportunity to share the story at St John the Baptist kindergarten in Sandringham. Children listen carefully and are enthralled. They love to touch the figurines and very quickly are able to tell the story. All of us find it easy to reflect back and consider the earthly birth of Jesus. It is a greater challenge to accept the promise that Jesus will return and in such a different way. Yet if can accept that he will return then that truth will impact daily living and hence we shall find a place for Jesus daily in our hearts.
So, you know the earthly story – baby at Bethlehem, came as a servant to seek and save the lost and teach us how God expects us to live in response to his grace. Yet his second coming will be to rule over the entire earth. Instead of being the tiny baby he will be recognised as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The very thought gives me goose bumps.
Amidst the excitement and hype of Christmas, which hijacks the season of Advent (which should offer us a quiet time of reflection), find time to ask the living God, who is ever present, to give you a moment of focus to see something new and fresh about this familiar story, which will nurture you in preparation for his coming again.
Bless you as you do so.
Do you come to church on Sundays or do you come to worship?
There is a big difference in attitude between coming to church and coming to worship. In her book, Parenting in the Pew: Guiding Your Children Into the Joy of Worship, Robbie Castleman states:
"Worship is not about refuelling to get us through another week. Worship is not a system of traditions built up over many years of congregational life until everyone feels comfortable. Worship is not a time to unwind, relax, tune out or take a mental vacation. Worship is not an hour of Christian entertainment…..Worship is the surrender of our souls to a God who is jealous for our attention, time and love. Worship is a challenge."
Worship is something we do, not something done to us. It is God focussed – it isn’t about me or my preferences.
Do you come on Sunday to be fed or to help with the feeding?
At a conference I attended last week, a pastor said he allowed people to be fed for the first 5 years at his church but from then on he expected people to help with the feeding. It made me think of Jesus feeding the 5000 – the disciples fed the people, not Jesus – and Jesus telling Peter to “feed my sheep”. We all need feeding at some stage until we are able to feed ourselves. Once we can do that, no matter what age we are, we are capable of helping with the feeding.
May you find yourself more fully in God’s presence this week and be willing to “feed His sheep”.
Leonie Dekker - Family Ministry Coordinator
I'm sure you would know that clergy of the Diocese of Melbourne say the daily office, (ie they say morning prayer and evening prayer). To do this one needs a Bible, prayer book, lectionary (to find the set readings for the day) and possibly another book of prayers. As you can imagine it is a case of praying joyfully as we change books constantly. Yet now it is possible to do all that online, and hence do away with all books.
Go to https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-worship/join-us-in-daily-prayer.aspx and everything will come onto the screen at the appropriate time. On my recent holiday this made travelling so much easier as there was no need to cart around several books. If you can go online, check out the site. There are options for traditional or contemporary services – I select the contemporary options. There are options to read one scripture passage or two – it simply means scrolling over the one not required.
Prayer life can be difficult at times, but this online method of having an entire service laid for our convenience takes away one hurdle. Give a go!
Of course, there are other times of prayer – short arrow prayers when certain needs arise. Sitting in silence and waiting upon the Lord. A huge variety of styles exist. The important thing is to experiment and see which style suits you best, but at the same time, least we get into a spiritual rut, it is always good to try something new.
Bless you as you pray, Philip
At the last parish council meeting it was agreed that we should be more committed to mission giving beyond the parish. It was agreed to prepare a budget for next year whereby 10% of our income will go to mission – aiming for 5% to local mission and 5% to overseas mission.
When we consider how God has blessed us financially we appreciate that it is our duty to share what we have and be proactive in promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Last Wednesday a group of 34 gathered at All Souls for the Bush Church Aid (BCA) lunch and to hear The Rev’d David and Mrs Crystal Fells. This couple live and minister on Norfolk Island. Interestingly on Norfolk Island our church is still called the Church of England and David is the chaplain to the two congregations there. A number of people helped to make the lunch such a success and I want to thank Barbara Harrison, Bev Wyld, Chris Wallis and Jan Rich for providing such delicious soups. Naturally other items were on the tables too. Greg Mariner, Keith Ainley and Keith Thompson helped greatly in setting up and putting things away afterwards. We all left the lunch knowing a great deal more about the ministry of BCA and in particular the work of David and Crystal. David Fells was particularly moved to have one member of the All Souls’ congregation say how pleased she was to meet him given that she prays for him regularly.
Of all the churches we visited in the UK on our recent trip the last one was the most conservative. It was St Mary Abbots in Kensington, close to the hotel in which we stayed. Amongst notable parishioners were David Cameron, PD James, Beatrix Potter, Sir Isaac Newton, The Princess of Wales. I imagine now that my name has been added to the list. It was a church in which I was very aware of the church wardens undertaking their duties. They had special pews, marked by their wardens’ wands, and certainly took their roles very seriously. If a child but whimpered the wardens would turn around and absolutely glare at them. The child or the parent responded as desired and either fell silent or left the building. I sat thing that I was glad that the wardens in Black Rock and Sandringham were far more generous in their attitudes to children – even loving. Amazingly there were a lot of children at St Mary Abbots Church. Does anybody know who St Mary Abbots is?
Margie and I have enrolled in the summer conference of the Church Missionary Society from 17th – 20th January 2018. Next year the theme will be People of the Cross. Why not take advantage of the early-bird registration and enrol now to join us there? Look for the brochures in the narthex or go online to www.summerundertheson.org
The Youth camp will be from 16 – 20 January 2018 at Rawson Village Campsite with the theme
Hope of the World. Go to https://www.summerundertheson.org/youth for more details.
Many of you will recall that at our last Strategic Annual Meeting (I’m using the new diocesan terminology as previously we would have talked about our annual parochial meeting) we discussed developing the Garden of the Resurrection so that we might make fuller use of the space provided there. In fact, in the past year, some of the plants died and we have been made aware that in the ‘tomb area’ there are some lose rocks and, in fact, the low rock walls are a safety hazard.
The parish council is determined to improve the look of the place so that it is a fitting place for the ashes of loved ones, but also a useful space for parish activities. We have had some plans drawn up and some of you have seen them – not that they were a secret, but we shall make them available for a couple of Sundays for you to familiarise yourselves again with them.
We shall take some space from the vicarage garden and so create a larger garden for the parish. The early part of the development will consist of removing that which is past its use-by date. Then we shall be able to imagine how the space might more fully be utilised and so confirm the plans drawn up.
The parish council wishes to maintain the traditional purpose of the garden as a resting place for loved ones, but also to create a space for adults to relax outside of the building and provide an area where children can play. As you all know sometimes parents get hurried along by their children after church and yet we want people to ‘hang around’. We plan to have some areas where children will be happy to spend time together whilst they wait for mum and dad.
Anticipate the work commencing soon. Imagine the improved spaces. Encourage the members of the parish council to get on with the work.
The Bible is filled with the stories of people who have defied authority. Moses stood up to Pharaoh then led the Israelites out of Egypt. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego all refused to worship any other god but Yahweh—and were then thrown into the lions’ den and fiery furnace, respectively. (Spoiler alert: God saved them all, and for His glory.)
Stephen defied the ruling Jewish Council, preached the gospel of Jesus, and was stoned to death for it. Paul and other apostles were martyred by the Roman government during the persecution of Christians.
And yet this same Paul, who likely later died at the hands of his government, urges believers to honour and respect those in authority. Paul—who knew many examples throughout Jewish history of standing up to corrupt rulers—says to obey, seemingly without question. What are we to make of this?
Both Peter and Paul tell early Christians to honour their government, but they do so in the context of the whole story of Scripture (and their own writings), affirming that Jesus is Lord over all. Therefore, we obey the government when it doesn’t contradict God’s commands—and we do it joyfully, as a way of honouring God.
John Piper says it this way: “And it is very important to stress that, just as we may have to disobey the civil authorities for Christ’s sake, so all our obedience should be for His sake as well. We never have two masters … Every time we say yes to any law, it should be a yes to Jesus.”
Our every action should be motivated by our identity as followers of Christ and citizens of God’s kingdom.
The Bible offers many examples of what godly citizenship looks like in an earthly kingdom. Let us pray continually that we will seek first God’s Kingdom, listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as we engage thoughtfully with our own earthly governments.
Melanie Rainer www.shereadstruth.com
On the first Sunday of Spring, the Banksias on this pretty coast are flowering as are the Australian emblems the Wattles, in all their profusion and variety, whatever the weather throws at us!
As we welcome Philip and Margie’s safe return to us, thank you to Leonie for her support in keeping us all informed and organised so carefully. Thank you to the 8 am congregation at All Souls for our warm shared worship and breakfasts!
In the midst of the present state of the church with regard to abuse, Fathers’ Day is a good moment to give thanks for God’s ‘fathering’ of us. It was Jesus who first shocked his listeners when he spoke of God loving us like the father of the prodigal son, always on the lookout for us and our welfare and who is merciful and welcoming to us whatever our state. Only Christian faith makes this claim about God in relationship with each of us.
We can give thanks for any life-giving fathering, grandfathering, god-fathering and ‘fathering in faith’ that we may have received over our lives. I am hugely grateful. I give thanks for young adult men who spoke of Jesus as if they knew him well, when I was a teenager; the kindly fathers of friends, whom I ‘adopted’ as uncles and mentors because I had only a nuclear family in Australia; the marvellous men who have nourished my soul and spirit in church and ministry and helped me laugh at myself!! We pray for all fathering, for any in painful situations and for any who have caused pain to others.
St Paul ‘s letter for today inspires us all in our fathering and mothering, to live the challenging love of Jesus, in our relationships of God’s kingdom.
As this will be the last time writing for the blog for a while , I would like to take this opportunity to give a big thank you to Jenny Mill for taking services at All Souls over 2 weeks while Philip has been away. I would also like to give another big thank you to Clem Taplin for taking our 8am services (when not at St Agnes) and for her support to me through this time.
Please note that even though there won’t be a Communion service at St Agnes next Wednesday there will still be Morning Prayer.
Over the last couple of weeks I have attended workshops concerning faith formation in children.
A couple of things that resonated with me were:
A quote to ponder on from Dutch priest and author Henri Nouwen from his book “The Wounded Healer” (1994): “I am afraid that in a few decades the Church will be accused of having failed its most basic task: to offer people creative ways to communicate with the source of human life.”