30th January 2011 – 4th Sunday After Epiphany

One day, one Sunday in particular, nothing will go wrong with the worship or preparations for worship, and everyone will agree that the music and everything else is wonderful… and, on that day I will know that I have died and gone to heaven!

We get on pretty well here, despite the fact that there are different traditions, needs and wants in worship… and I believe we have been truly blessed with tolerance during the last few weeks as we have combined for one service.

The fellowship after worship is particularly refreshing. It is wonderful to see the welcome given to new comers and the sharing within our parish family. We are blessed!

In saying this I am mindful of a concern that has been raised, relating to our enthusiastic fellowship… or, more particularly the times and places it is expressed.

In the midst of our worship, after we have heard from God’s word, prayed together, confessed our sins and received absolution, we share God’s Peace. Truth be told, the sharing of “The Peace”, at St Paul’s, is usually anything but peaceful! For many this is disturbing and breaks the flow of worship.

The “Peace” is not a time of fellowship! It is not the time to greet everyone, welcome people home, ask after someone’s health or share other news. These are conversations of fellowship and are best shared over morning tea.

“The Peace” was introduced as a symbolic act (after hearing from the Scriptures, examining our consciences and receiving absolution) signifying, to those around us, that we have accepted God’s forgiveness and are at peace in the “body of Christ”. We therefore greet those in our immediate vicinity, with a sign of God’s Peace – usually a simple handshake or (sometimes) the kiss of peace.

Sharing the “Peace” can be a moving experience – particularly when individuals or groups have been involved in conflict and are finally able to come together in “the Peace” – but – there is rarely a need to shake the hand of every member of the congregation.

Be enthusiastic, love one another, but please, can we let “the Peace”, be a time of peace?

Many Blessings

Reverend Shan

23rd January 2011- Responding to Jesus

I was preparing for Thursdays service at Lota House and thinking about a number of conversations I have had about church attendance and faith in general.

Reflecting on Mark 3:7-12, I observed three distinct groups of individuals…

a. The disciples of Jesus – Committed to Jesus

b. The great multitude – The Curious

c. The unclean spirits – The Condemned

It occurred to me that these three distinct groups correspond to Three Responses to Jesus, and that everyone responds to Jesus in one of three ways.

THE COMMITTED…  Would include those who make up the Lord’s church, who heed Jesus’ call to discipleship – Who offer their energy and resources to the spread of Christ’s kingdom by developing a Christ-like character and developing a Christ-like service.

THE CURIOUS… Would include those who may visit churches, even regularly, but they never fully commit themselves. Perhaps they attend just to appease their conscience but they never obey the gospel – they just put it off. Hopefully, one who is curious will eventually take the step to follow Jesus completely.

And, finally, there are those whose response to Jesus is entirely negative, whom we can categorize as… THE CONDEMNED, or LOST … This group would include those who persist in sin and refuse to repent – Who often think lightly of sin, and mock those trying to do good – Yet they will one day have to answer, even confess Jesus.

God does not force us into faith. Each of us is called to respond… the choice is ours. If someone refuses your invitation to “come and see Jesus” remember… it is not you but our Lord Jesus who they are rejecting!

Blessings

Rev Shan

2nd Week After Epiphany – 16th January 2011

Dear friends, I wonder how you are travelling at present? And you know I am not referring to your means of transport but simply asking… “In your journey through life, how is it with your soul?”

It has been a difficult week… in fact, for many it has been a difficult month or so. Here in South Eastern Queensland we have been inundated with seemingly endless downpours. Our son, daughter in law and 2 grandchildren were home for a few weeks over Christmas and hardly saw the sun.

The floods around Christmas were devastating, and we here, on the coast could do nothing but offer aid in the aftermath. But nothing could prepare us for the horror of the events, which unfolded during the last week. Those affected, at close range, by the raging torrents that rushed through Toowoomba and the surrounding areas could not possibly be prepared… and neither could we be prepared as the horror unfolded on our television screens. We sat stunned as we tried to absorb the immensity of the destruction and the loss of life. It will take months for us to assess the true cost of the floods, in terms of lives lost, livelihoods destroyed and homes wiped out!

So, I ask again… “How are you travelling, my friends?” I know I have felt frustrated and helpless, as I have heard stories from friends who have lost so much.

There have been jokes about our need to build an ark and this comment was posted (on face book) by a former student of mine I don’t think we’re such horrid children that God would bring about the apocalypse just yet”.

Let me offer you a little reminder, which, I am hopeful, will offer you some peace and encouragement. In this weeks gospel we read … 38When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi where are you staying?’ 39He said to them, ‘Come and see.’

Jesus calls us to continue following him… trusting that, though we can’t see where we are being lead, He knows the way and will guide us through our present concerns. We simply need to place our feet in His footsteps… one foot after another! Come and See!

Love and Blessings

Reverend Shan

9th January 2011 – New Beginnings

I had a number of interruptions, as I tried to gather my thoughts this week. It was one of those occasions when putting my thoughts in order was more difficult than usual. I wasn’t sure exactly where or how tho begin… until I remembered a recent conversation with someone who wanted to talk about a concern. When I arrived I asked “Where would you like to begin?” to which this person replied, “I think I need to go back to the beginning.”

It struck me that this is exactly what we do, within the secular and Christian worlds, at this time every year…. We go back to the beginning!

Now, we can’t wipe out the past. Today and tomorrow build on the foundations of the past. But, the fact that people make New Year resolutions and promises (about “turning over a new leaf”) is indicative of our occasional desire to clear out the debris, to start again, fresh and clean… rectifying the failures or mistakes of the past… and refocussing.

As Christians, striving to follow our Lord, we are constantly focussing on His life and His teachings, along with the inspired writings of the people of God, leading up to and immediately following the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We don’t forget that Jesus was born, lived, ministered, died and rose again… but, each year we begin at the beginning again. We await His coming, we celebrate His birth and we journey, with Jesus, to Jerusalem and the Cross.

Each year, however, we come with our past understandings as the foundation on which to build. Then we join the journey, as it is shared, from the perspective of the early evangelists… Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. This year we see, predominantly, through the eyes of Matthew, who is usually credited with writing for a Jewish audience, in order to show that Jesus is the promised Royal Messiah… the fulfiller and fulfilment of God’s will as it is disclosed in the Old Testament.

This week, we jump from the beginning of Jesus’ life to the beginning of His earthly ministry… He, the sinless one, is baptised in the river Jordan, in solidarity with sullied humanity. Life begins in humble surroundings then, despite the richness of exotic/royal gifts, Jesus begins his ministry by this ritual cleansing. He begins as he will finish, showing the way for fallen humanity, rather than lording it over us.

By His death on a cross, Jesus paid the price for our sin and made it possible for us all to start again. As the water is sanctified in our baptism service, the priest prays for those being baptised… “May they die to sin, rise to newness of life and continue forever, through Christ our Lord…”  Because of Jesus we can go back to the beginning, “wipe the slate clean” and start afresh through confession and absolution.

Many Blessings,

Reverend Shan

Reflection – Epiphany 2010

Today we remember the original gift bearers to our Lord and king… Jesus. We are never really told how many were present, but we do know that they gave expensive gifts, befitting a King… Gold and Frankincense and Myrrh!

I wonder how many people considered what sort of a gift they might offer to our King? The little drummer boy, in the carol, says “I have no gift to bring, that’s fit to give the king,” but, “I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum 
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum”

Maurie and I celebrated the Birthday of our savior and king, very quietly, but over the weekend we were also invited to the 50th birthday party of a friend, who asked for our “presence not presents.”

In reality, I am sure that our presence is far more important to Jesus as well… like the little drummer boy we are to give the best of ourselves, our hearts and our souls… but how many offered even a thought for Jesus on the day when we celebrated his birth?

I was saddened that attendance at services was down this Christmas… though not just at St Paul’s. Someone commented that the heavy rain may have been to blame but the rain seems not to have impacted negatively on attendance in our shopping centers. If I was saddened, and other clergy I spoke to were distressed (and depressed) I wonder what our God must feel about the total disregard shown by so many of His children.

Let us pray that hearts may return to our God and that we may find new means to share the gospel with those who have turned away and seem to have forgotten the way home.

Christmas blessings

Reverend Shan