In discussing our draft vision and strategic directions, a few people have asked: Why the emphasis on new life in Jesus and renewal? In response, I’ve pointed to biblical verses such as 2 Cor. 5:17
‘If anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come!’ or the Bible’s ultimate vision for our future of ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (Rev. 21:1; 2 Pt. 3:13) and Jesus’ words, ‘I will make all things new’ (Rev. 21:5). In addition, the Bible has a recurring theme of ‘newness of life’ in Christ (Rom. 6:4), with Jesus bringing new birth (John 3:3-7), a new covenant (Matt. 26:28), new hearts (Ezek. 36:36), being the new Adam (Rom. 5) and forming a new Israel (Gal. 6:15-16; 2 Pt. 2) and a new temple (1 Cor. 3:16).
This is not about discarding the old, but of transforming and renewing hearts and lives to become more like the resurrected Jesus.
Creating a Mission Action Plan is an act of stewarding the unique resources and time we have as we enter a new moment in history. Yes, our faith is ancient. It is critical that we constantly seek Jesus’ original message as we read Scripture in the power of the Spirit. Yet we cannot return to the 20th century or a time before the Internet or Coronavirus. Tomorrow will never be repeated! As God’s stewards in this unique time and place, we must go beyond preserving the past, seeking genuine renewal for the new moments and opportunities for inviting people to experience and share new life in Jesus.
There’s a sense of excitement as we approach Christmas but also weariness with the extra activities, concerts, parties and shopping now that restrictions have lifted. For some, life seems to be an uphill battle due to overwhelming demands, fear, grief or isolation.
Today’s advent theme of Joy is more than a happy feeling. It’s a lasting attitude that God’s people adopt, not because of happy circumstances, but because of their hope in God’s love and promise. Amidst our worries and weariness, we can rejoice in the Lord because we are anticipating Jesus’ return and the removal of all fear and loss. The gift of God’s Spirit is a sign of Jesus’ ongoing presence inspiring hope, love and joy in the darkest of moments.
Micah 5:1-6 was written when God’s people had drifted far away from God’s best, with even the kings and priests unable to bring them back. But Micah announced that from Bethlehem a leader would come who would shepherd God’s people back in the strength and majesty of God. On this third Sunday of Advent we anticipate Jesus’ coming and are invited to return to Him, the Good Shepherd who alone can restore our joy, love and peace.
What are you anticipating and trusting that fills you with joy?
Biblical hope involves expectant waiting based on God’s unchanging character and promises. Biblical hope is superior to optimism because it endures even in the most difficult of circumstances. It involves looking back at God’s past faithfulness to motivate hope for the future. You look forward by looking backward, trusting in who God is, what he has done, and what he promises.
After quoting Isaiah 11:10 about the Root of Jesse rising up as a banner for all nations, the apostle Paul writes, ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ - Romans 15:13
Because God is the only lasting source of hope, he will also bring joy and peace to our hearts when we increasingly place our hope in him. By the power of the Spirit, we can then overflow with hope as we choose to cultivate this habit of expectant trust based on God’s character and faithfulness.
In Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we have a ‘living hope’ allowing us to live as new people because the empty tomb opens up a new door of hope. Christian hope is boldly waiting for God to bring about his future based on his character and promises, looking to the crucified and risen Jesus and anticipating his return and renewal of all things.
As we approach Christmas, what are you hoping for and what is the basis for your hope?
All Souls is on a journey of change. Yet change involves loss and grief, even for good changes. Change involves endings so that new beginnings can emerge.
Over the past 12 months, over a hundred surveys have been submitted, dozens of focus groups run, monthly prayer meetings held, our history presented, a special lunch and open-table discussion in May, as well as meetings of committees, Parish Council, and staff to discuss our future vision and directions. For some, this has been an exhaustive/ing process, while others still lack awareness. Currently, we are at the point of drafting our strategic document and making specific goals for 2022 and beyond. More opportunities for your feedback will be available before our launch event in February.
Yet change for established churches is complex and messy. Sustainable development requires the people affected by change to be involved in the new beginnings. It is a process of learning and growth, where the congregation adopts a posture of listening to God and discerning where the Spirit might be at work. It is about disciples of Jesus working with the Spirit and each other to proclaim the story of Jesus afresh and build his kingdom for every generation. Change must not be forced or manipulated, but arise from inner strength and integrity.
Are we ready for change? Different people are at different points on this journey of transition (e.g. shock, denial, awareness, acceptance, experimentation). Regardless of where you’re at, it is important that we work together, express our feelings and listen to each other, and remain focused on our primary task of sharing the gospel afresh to every generation in a changing world.
About 50 years ago, the then rector of All Souls’ Langham Place in London, John Stott, wrote an article called ‘The Conservative Radical’. He highlighted that Anglo-Saxons often ‘polarise’ things, especially the debate between conserving the past and agitating for change. His point is that ‘every Christian should have a foot in both camps.’
Stott wrote that ‘Every Christian should be conservative, because the Church is called by God to conserve his revelation, to guard the deposit (cf. 1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:14).’ But Christians must not focus on conserving our preferred style of expression, including style of church services. A ‘radical’ on the other hand, asks difficult questions and tries to change and reform convention and tradition.
Stott argues that Jesus had a foot in both camps. He did not come to abolish the law and prophets, but to fulfil them (Matt. 5:17-8; Jn. 10:35). But Jesus was also radical in his criticism of the Jewish establishment, sweeping away centuries of inherited tradition to renew and restore God’s people. Thus, Jesus was conservative towards Scripture but radical in how to express the faith.
Another Christian author, Jaroslav Pelikan, wrote that ‘Tradition is the living faith of the dead; while traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.’ It is imperative for us, today at All Souls, to pass on the living faith of the Scriptures – being conservative in how we treasure the good news – yet willing to be radical and in how we express this living faith. Let’s work together to be both traditional and radical for Christ and his kingdom!
Jeremy is on a well- earned break for a week and we continue to celebrate being able to meet together. This week we begin 8 am and 10 am services again and there is much to thank God for.
Our annual meeting went well last week and we look forward to the future with great anticipation, knowing that God is building the church as we walk with the Lord in faith and courage.
Today’s Bulletin has a photo of beautiful hand crocheted poppies. These have been lovingly arranged in the church to commemorate Remembrance Day.
Remembrance Day is held on the 11th November to give thanks for the sacrifice of people who have died in war, so that future generations can be free. The poppies are a symbol of remembrance as they carpeted the landscapes of the Western Front in WW1.
It is a gift to remember and give thanks for those who have gone before as we build for the future. You might like to look at the tributes to service people that are listed on the walls of the church.
May Jesus’ peace be with us.
Rev'd Georgina Magill
All Souls is on the brink of new opportunities! We have just returned to in-person services after 40 weeks of closed buildings in the past 20 months. Today, a new Parish Council will be appointed at our Annual Meeting. Our new Mission Action Plan is nearing completion, to be launched in 2022 as we look to put the plan into action.
But we also face many challenges. Church members feel disconnected and uncertain after six lockdowns and the continued presence of COVID. Our congregation has continued to age, with several servants stepping back from previous commitments. Our property resources are becoming increasingly complex to manage, with our Op Shop struggling to reopen and several roofs, fences and tenancy arrangements needing immediate attention. And our society continues to become increasingly secular, diverse and pluralistic.
Yet the Bible teaches that the biggest challenge we face is sin and our inability to trust and follow God. We can make all sorts of wise plans and strategies, but left unchecked, human wisdom leads to ruin. ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?’ (Jer 17:9).
We give thanks to God for the many godly people amongst us at All Souls, yet we must be vigilant in our reliance on God, offering ourselves as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1-2), and keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith (Heb 12:2). As we enter a new season for our church, let’s put first things first by focusing on Jesus.
Over the past three weeks, we’ve been considering the story of Nehemiah and God’s people rebuilding the broken walls of Jerusalem. Rebuilding the walls was not simply about security or status. The city of Jerusalem and its walls was a symbol of God’s presence with his people. Rebuilding the city walls, after years of exile, was a joint activity of renewing the faith and hope of God’s people.
The impact of the pandemic in Melbourne does not compare to Jerusalem’s destruction at the hands of the Babylonians in 586 BC. Yet we are embarking on a process of renewal and rebuilding as we learn what it means to live and work together again as God’s church. In returning from lockdown, we need to rebuild the patterns and structures for our life as a church community. Our faith in God and hope for the future have been impacted by isolation, disconnection and fear.
Today, you will be invited to participate in a shared activity as we entrust the ruin of our own lives to God. Our relationships, sense of belonging, mental and physical health, and many of the other important things in our lives lie in some sort of ruin. Pandemic or not, we all experience some kind of ruin or breakdown in our lives. But God wants to rebuild us in Christ, as we prayerfully turn to him in faith and hope together.
Modern society is generally divided by age. Children and youth spend most of their time in childcare and school. Adults make up the workforce. Older persons tend to live separately from their family, with some in retirement homes or aged care. Often our modern churches are no different.
All Souls has segregated ministries for children and youth. Morning tea is designed for adults while children tend to go outside or sit in the corner. Our worship service uses language and furniture for adults while the kids’ stuff is stored in the hall. Even our staffing has promoted segregation: Paid musicians for specific services, a paid playgroup leader for outreach, and a succession of children’s and youth ministers who each experienced burnout before resigning...
Instead of separating into silo-ministries, how can we allow the gospel to unite us and transform our worship and community life? What changes should we make for us to truly live as God’s family, with young and old caring for and learning from each other, putting aside our own interests to build up the body of Christ? I’d love to hear your suggestions as we develop our Mission Action Plan together!
There’s no success without succession. In the church and in ministry, there must be a succession plan, otherwise the church will die. In 2 Timothy 2:1, we find four generations mentioned as a model for ensuring the sustainability of the church. The Apostle Paul (1), who has trained Timothy (2), instructs him to entrust the gospel to faithful people (3) who will be able to teach others as well (4).
All of us have a responsibility to entrust the good news of Jesus to others who will pass it on to others as well. This is the biblical imperative that has stood the test of time: Intentionally passing on the gospel in a form that can be received, applied and then passed on to others as well.
For our church to be biblical, faithful and sustainable, this must be central to our strategy. But the key for this, as emphasised in 2 Timothy, is to rely on God’s power and love, rekindling and fanning into flame God’s gift. It involves being strong in the grace of Christ, being intentional about our ministry amidst all the distractions and complexities of life today. It involves remembering the great heritage of faith we are part of, but looking forward in mission because God’s Word is not chained.
What is our succession plan here at All Souls? I’m not aware of one for our current context. That is why we are seeking to develop a Mission Action Plan.
All Souls Sandringham