Church Blog

A Message from Ian – April 22 2018

Ian OlverThis is the Sunday before ANZAC day and the reading from John’s Gospel (John 10: 11-18) has a theme which is suited to this day remembering the efforts and sacrifices of previous generations which have resulted in the great lifestyle opportunities that we have today. The theme of the reading is the good shepherd and it starts with Jesus drawing a distinction between the good shepherd and the bad shepherd. The bad shepherd just did the work as a job for a salary which was what motivated him. He had no commitment to his flock. For the good shepherd it was his calling to care for the sheep with which he had formed a relationship and would risk his life to protect them from dangerous wolves or thieves which threatened them.

However, there was a further challenge here. It is one thing to be a good shepherd to our friends and neighbours. Jesus was called to be the good shepherd to all, not just those who thought they were exclusively God’s people. Certainly, he needed to win over his own flock first, but the greater goal was to win over wider world. He was to be the one shepherd and a focus for unity in our world. This sets our agenda to play our role as missionaries, spreading the Gospel to the world.

The theologian, William Barclay tells the story from the First World War of a young French soldier who was so badly wounded that he needed his arm amputated in order to save his life. The surgeon was so upset that he had to amputate that he sat by the soldier’s bed to give him the news personally. When the young man awoke the surgeon said. “I am sorry to tell you that you lost your arm”.  “Sir,” said the man, “I did not lose it – I gave it for France”.

Jesus speaks of laying down his life for his people as God’s will had required. But here it is important to realise that Jesus did not lose his life because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and fell foul of the Romans, he laid down his life voluntarily, of his own free will in order to save his flock from their sins. He did it so they may have life and have it in all its fullness. Against that sacrifice of the good shepherd how could we behave in any other way but by being good shepherds to each other.

A Message from Gary – April 15 2018

Gary StuckeyThe Sign of the Fish  

On Easter Day, in the creative spot, I made reference to the origin and meaning of the fish symbol in Christianity. Afterwards someone mentioned that they had never heard what it meant, so if there are others who have not heard about the meaning I offer a brief explanation.

The symbol of the fish, without the writing in it, is a long held symbol of the Christian faith. It comes from the Greek word for fish, transliterated into English as ichthus. Ichthus is an acrostic where the letters stand for other words.

Iota (i) is the first letter of I?soûs (??????), Greek for “Jesus“.

Chi (ch) is the first letter of Christos (???????), Greek for “anointed” (of the Lord).

Theta (th) is the first letter of Theou (????), Greek for “God’s”

Upsilon (y) is the first letter of (h)yios (????), Greek for “Son”.

Sigma (s) is the first letter of s?t?r (?????), Greek for “Saviour”.

Taken together the word ichthus stands for “Jesus Christ God’s Son Saviour”.

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The symbol first appeared in the second century and its use became widespread through the third and fourth centuries. It is, of course, connected to the many stories involving fish in the Gospels, including the scene following Christ’s resurrection when Jesus cooked fish to feed the disciples.

It is said that the sign itself became a sort of secret code whereby Christians could identify one another at a time when Christians were persecuted. If two people met on the road, for example, one would draw one arch of the symbol and if the other completed it with the second arch, you knew you were in the company of a companion disciple.

 

A message from Rob – 8 April 2018

Rob WilliamsSo You May Believe  

Once upon a time there was a very special meeting. I can’t tell you when it took place because it was before “when” ever was. But I do know who was at the meeting. God was there in the person of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The meeting went something like this. God, the supreme creator of the universe said, “Let’s make human beings.” God the Holy Spirit, who knows all and sees all said, “If you make human beings, they’re going to sin.” But Jesus, who is the Saviour of us all, stepped forward and said, “If they sin, I’ll join them to model human life for them and redeem humanity from its sins.”

And as the Son prepared to leave the glory he had within the Godhead, the Holy Spirit said to Him: “When you get there you better show them some signs if you expect them to believe your message and know who you really are.

  • When you turn water into wine, show them your mastery over quality and that salvation is by your wordJohn 2:1-12
  • When you heal the nobleman’s son, show them your mastery over time and distance and that salvation is by graceJohn 4:44-54
  • When you heal the paralytic, show them your mastery over long-term infirmity and that salvation is available to all. John 5:1-9
  • When you feed the 5000, show them your mastery over quantity and that salvation brings satisfaction. John 6:1-15
  • When you calm the raging storm, show them your power over nature and that salvation brings peace. John 6:16-21
  • When you heal the blind man, show them your power over darkness and that salvation brings light. John 9:1-12
  • When you raise Lazarus from the grave, show them your power over death and that salvation brings life. John 11:1-44

Use all of these signs to reveal your deity, that you truly are the divine Son of God. Use these signs so that they might believe and have eternal life through your name.”

 

A message from Gary – 1 April 2018

Easter Sunday : The Experience of Easter  

Many years ago now, while living in Port Pirie, I was sitting at my desk preparing Easter services when the phone rang. There’s nothing unusual about the phone ringing but this turned out to not be one of the usual callers.

The person on the other end of the line identified themselves as a reporter for the local newspaper. They were wondering if I would be able to write something on Easter for inclusion in the issue of the paper due out a couple of days before the weekend. My first question was to ask how long did I have to write it. The answer: 15 minutes! And remember this is before the Internet so I would need to write it and get it to them in quarter of an hour! I eventually negotiated that I could have two hours. Still not much time but a vast improvement on 15 minutes.

However, I was still left with the quandary of what to write. What could I say in a couple of hundred words that would mean something to the readers of the paper (assuming any would bother to read it) and that would convey something of the meaning of Easter? It should have been easy, after all, the Easter story is well-known. But that was part of the problem. What could I say that would perhaps enable a fresh look at Easter?

As I was pondering the Apostle Paul’s words to the church at Philippi came to mind: “All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection.” (GNB) That became the thrust of the little message in the paper: We may not be able to explain the resurrection but we can experience it. That is what the first disciples found. They were puzzled and in awe at the events that had taken place. They couldn’t explain it, but, they said, they continued to experience the presence of the risen Christ with them. And we too have that same experience. Wherever the path of our daily lives take us, through the times of darkness and light, sadness and happiness, the risen Christ goes with us.

May you experience anew the reality of the risen Christ with you.

 

A message from Rob – 1 March 2018

Rob WilliamsToo Good to be True?  

When Jesus burst the bonds of death, who would have imagined he would have followers 2000 years later celebrating that incredible event!

Even on the day of his resurrection, the women’s story of an empty tomb was met with disbelief by his disciples. It wasn’t until the Risen Lord just appeared in the room in which they were huddled away, fearful of the authorities responsible for his crucifixion, that they rejoiced in the One before them – Jesus, alive and right there with them!

Reports of Jesus’ resurrection weren’t met with joy and hope by everyone. His followers were ridiculed – and still are today. Many in the community pack up and head off to celebrate the Easter Holiday Weekend, maybe with just a fleeting thought for the ‘crazy story’ behind their days off.

(This year, Easter Day and April Fool’s Day coincide. See the article ‘Easter Fools?’ on the next page for some more food for thought.)

Maybe as you chat with non-Christian friends and family this Easter, you will be willing to risk sharing why the Easter story is not just a ‘crazy story’ to you, but the story of the One who is alive in you today.

 

A message from Gary – 1 February 2018

Gary StuckeyRenewal: An Inside Out Job  

Is it too late to say, “Happy New Year”? Possibly, but even if it’s too late for the greeting, you may be one of those people who has determined that 2018 is going to be different for you.

Facing a new year, with its hopes and challenges, where so much is possible and so much is at stake, is often a time when people resolve to make changes in their lives. According to some surveys resolutions to bring our finances and our health, mostly our weight, under control top the list. That this is the case year after year suggests that we do not do well in staying with our resolutions.

Why should it be so?

There are, no doubt, lots of reasons, but one I think is that we do not understand that fundamentally change and renewal is something that starts within us. It is an ‘inside out’ job. We’ve all seen those ‘make over’ shows on TV where, for example, people have their diet strictly controlled and exercise is regulated for them. The results can be dramatic, but often, so it seems, the people who make headway in their weight loss goals slip back when the cameras stop filming. Why? Because real change involves an inner change of thinking and outlook, not just a surface change.

In Mark’s Gospel (Mark 7:1-23) Jesus is having an argument with some of the religious heavy weights. The issue being debated came about because Jesus didn’t conform to some of the strict rules governing outward behavior. His point was that if real change were to happen, it needs to take place in the heart, for it is from the heart, the inner life of a person that their actions come. If the heart is right, the life will be right.

There are other references throughout Scripture which make the same point; renewal begins with the inner life and then reveals itself in our outer life. (see Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:10-11)

Wise Elders of our faith remind us of this when they invite us to be attentive to what lies within, to be aware of the depths of the inner life. To be renewed, to be transformed, we need to notice what enhances our well-being as distinct from that which produces or reinforces confusing, destructive thoughts and action.

To become deeply aware of that we need to take time to listen to one’s inner life. We don’t find that easy in our busy, noisy world, yet listening to our inner life presumes being in or creating a quiet environment in which we can begin to recognize what is happening internally.

Those same Wise Elders offer us spiritual practices that bring us to a place where we can be more open to listening to the Spirit working within. Times of solitude and silence are two of those practices. Another is a simple practice called, The Prayer of Examen, a very simple process whereby we pray through our daily lives. Below is a suggested way (but not the only way) of undertaking this practice.

  • Find a time and a place where you can be in quietness. Spend some time slowing down and entering into the stillness.
  • Remind yourself that God is present with you every moment of the day. Ask God’s Spirit to lead you back through your day and open to you that to which you need to pay attention.
  • Review your day by asking two simple questions:
    1) If you could relive any moment which brought you deep contentment, what would it be? What happened that made it life giving? Sit with that moment and allow it to give life to you again. Give gratitude to God for this moment.
    2) If you could go back and change any moment in your day, what would it be? What made that moment difficult? Sit with this moment and allow yourself to feel the emotion of it. Give that moment to God for healing or forgiveness.
  • Reflect on these two moments and take from them what you need to.
  • Conclude by giving thanks to God for all the ways God has been with you, resolving to take with you what has been learned through this reflection.

May you have a blessed 2018.

Peace,

Gary Stuckey (Rev)

 

A message from Gary 28 January 2018

Discovering Your Personal Mission

 

Several years ago a book appeared on the shelves (this is before Kindle!) with the title, “I’d say yes God if I knew what you wanted”. And of course we would. But the problem it seems is that we find it very hard to know what God wants.

              Last week in the Contemporary and Classic services, and this week in Café, I took the text we know well of the voice of Jesus calling four fishermen to follow him. It’s a text which has always intrigued me, mainly because of the immediate and whole hearted response to Jesus by the four, Peter and Andrew, James and John. What was it in the invitation to follow that impelled them to leave their boats? There could be lots of reasons, but one I think is that the invitation of Jesus, the word of Jesus, was a creative word. Jesus’ voice brought into being that which was said. We may not literally hear the voice of Jesus, but when Jesus summons us to follow, his is a voice which creates possibilities of discipleship.

We may not ‘hear’ the summons of Jesus in the way we normally
understand the word ‘hear’, but we can, nonetheless, hear Jesus invitation for us to follow. Each and every one of us is called to follow Jesus in some way. The word I would use is vocation. We all have a vocation. Mostly ‘vocation’ is used as
synonymous with career or job.

However, in the spiritual context it is used differently. There vocation is the way God wants to use your life to make a difference in the world. How, then, do we go about discovering our vocation, that unique life to which God has called us?

We do not invent our vocation. The seeds of who God calls us to be are p0lanted within us and our task is to create the environment in which those seeds can grow and flourish.

In a positive way our vocation reveals itself by asking the right questions.

What seem to be my gifts?

What kinds of things do I do well?

What kinds of activities give me real sense of contentment?

What kinds of things do I find most challenging and fulfilling to do?

In what kinds of activities do I feel most myself?
What kind of people do you most admire? (The people we admire reveal something of ourselves.)
Do you feel an inner nudge that seems to point you in a particular direction? What kinds of things do you think you and God can do with your life that will make a difference for good in the world?

 

“Somewhere under the stars God has a job for you to do and nobody else can do it.”

 

A message from Matthew December 24

Merry Christmas

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9 NIV)

The secret is out – God loves us! We know this because God sent Jesus to live with us. This is what we are celebrating all through the season of Advent and at Christmas. And the celebrations of God’s love continue through the year because God’s love is eternal – it never stops.

Did you know that we need to keep this secret? What would happen if everyone truly knew that God loved them enough to send Jesus into the world? Imagine if every single person you met every single day, was filled with the assurance of God’s great love for them? Perhaps people would smile more? Perhaps people would be more generous, because they would know that the God who created the world and all that is in it loves them and cares for their every need. Perhaps there would be no fear, because people would know the love and protection of God and they would know that every other person in the world was also filled with that love from God. There is no fear in love. But God’s perfect love drives out fear. Perhaps your imagination can take this thought and continue to dream of what our world would be like if everyone truly knew that God loved them?

This is not a secret! We can tell it to the world. Let that little spark of faith that burns inside your heart continue to grow to the point that you can share it with others without the fear of it being snuffed out by a rebuke or critical question that you cannot answer off the cuff. Imagine the newborn baby Jesus, so fragile and vulnerable in the manger – God put everything on the line by sending him into the world and hoping that he would survive to manhood to be the Saviour of us all. God is faithfully protecting that little spark of faith in you too.

 

A message from Matthew December 17

The challenge of last week was to think of and to invite someone to one of our Christmas Services so that they too can hear the good news that Jesus Christ has come into the world to bring us joy.

How did you go? Have you invited someone? Did they say yes?

In the Gospel according to Luke we are given an example to follow.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. (Luke 2:8-18 NIV)

The Good News of the birth of Jesus is still cause for great joy for all people and all who hear this good news will be amazed. Before you invite anyone else to come and share this great joy, I ask you to stop and think – am I taking this good news for granted in my own life? Do I really understand that this good news has turned my life upside-down? Do I believe that Jesus still has the power to
miraculously change lives today?

The shepherds heard the Good News, they experienced it for themselves and then they spread the word. We are compelled to do the same.

 

A message from Matthew 10 December

Get yourself up on a high mountain,
    O Zion, bearer of good news,
lift up your voice mightily,
    O Jerusalem, bearer of good news,
    lift it up, do not fear.
Say to the cities of Judah,
    “Here is your God!”
(Isaiah 40:9 NRSV)

These are the words of the Prophet Isaiah to the people of Israel some 700 years before the birth of Jesus the Christ. I wonder how we can respond to these words today.

At our school ministry this week, as we have been telling the story of the first Christmas, one little girl asked, “Why is it called Christmas?” My answer to her was that the first part “Christ” is the name for Jesus who came to the world to save us and that the second part “mas” is the word for worship and so Christmas is about showing our love for Jesus who came to save us.

I pray that in this Christmas season you will also find ways to say to the world, “Here is your God!”

In recent months, through the generosity of an individual donor, we have given away over 200 Bibles in the foyer of our church. More than 50 of these have been children’s Bibles. Each gift has ensured that the message “Here is your God!” has been received. I have heard stories of grandchildren reading their Bibles and asking wonderful questions of their grandparents as they read. These precious moments are the moments when these children are discovering their God.

We have special Christmas services here at church in the coming weeks to celebrate the birth of Jesus our Saviour. This Sunday at the 10.30am Classic Service we are celebrating the truth of God with us in the Lessons and Carols. Next Sunday, December 17th the
Junior Church will lead us at 9am to celebrate the joy of God with us in dramatic form as the children dress up and act out the story of the first Christmas.

On Sunday December 24th our worship will focus on celebrating the coming of our
Saviour as we worship together at times that are a bit different than our usual Sunday practice.
Classic will be at 10.30am,
Contemporary will be at 5pm
and Café will be at 11.30pm.
That’s right – Café Worship at 11.30pm!
Then on Christmas Day we will worship together at 9.30am.
Each of these times of worship will be an opportunity to get yourself up on a high
mountain and say “Here is your God!”

This information is available on our Christmas postcards that have been delivered to 5,000 homes in the Burnside area and are at the reception desk for you to take home.

Here is a challenge for you. Think of someone you can invite to one of our Christmas
services so that they too can hear the good news that Jesus the Christ has come to us to bring us joy.