29th May 2011 – 6th Sunday After Easter A

This week, rather than share a reflection I would like to tell you about our next bible study, which will commence on Wednesday 2nd of June.

The study is based on the novel, The Shack, written in 2007 by Wm. Paul Young. It has proved to be so popular that over 5 million copies have been printed to date. Having said this, the book is quite controversial, in a number of ways, and is certainly not everyone’s “cup of tea”, though most comments I have heard (from clergy and lay people alike) have been very positive! Whether you like the book or not, it is certainly thought provoking and raises issues regarding faith, the way in which we view God and the call to forgiveness.

While the novel is our starting point, our studies will draw on scripture so you will need to have your bible alongside you during our sessions. This book is, after all, a work of fiction, and matters of faith should be checked against our proof text, which is, of course the Bible! Before commencing the study it is recommended that you read the novel… then, over a period of 5 weeks, we will explore the following faith related topics – “The Mystery of Human Suffering”, “The Power of Forgiveness”, The Effects of the Fall”, The Mystery of God’s Grace”, and “The Mystery of God’s Love”.

I am very much looking forward to sharing this study with those of you who are able to be with us. I was incredibly moved by the novel and found that, whether or not I agreed with all of the theology, I was certainly forced to examine my own faith. I hope you might like to do the same.

At this point of time we are only offering a day time study, but should the interest be great enough there is the possibility of an evening session.

Love and Blessings

Rev Shan

NOTICE – SUNDAY SCHOOL

I have become aware that some questions have arisen around the issue of the discontinuation of St Paul’s Sunday School.

When I arrived there was a Sunday school operating alongside our 9am service. It was overseen by Bev Constable and run by a number of volunteer parishioners on a rotating roster. All of those involved expressed a desire to use a slightly different approach and Bev, alongside most (if not all) teachers was in need of a break. Added to this was the concern by teachers that, while they were with the children they themselves were not being “fed”.

In view of the fact that we no longer had anyone to organize the program we met, early in 2011, and it was agreed that the Sunday school would need to fold, for the present. I offered, as an alternative, the possibility of a more inclusive/interactive style of worship to cater for the needs of a multi age congregation. This was to be a trial… but, in fact, without teachers we have no other alternative if we want to include younger family members in our worship. Contrary to some stories I have been hearing, I did not choose to close the Sunday School!

The current arrangement requires a much greater workload for me, in the lead up to Sunday’s worship – and the preparation of 2 separate sermons for each Sunday. It also adds to work of the volunteers… however, I believe that the 9am congregation appreciates our efforts. Perhaps some of those who haven’t attended a 9am service since the beginning of 2011 might like to join us and experience the difference for themselves. Regards Rev Shan

22nd May 2011 – 5th Sunday of Easter

INNOCENCE IS PRICELESS

Last Sunday I was moved to remark to a friend that I had found the fellowship of Saturday evening and the Worship of Sunday morning incredibly uplifting.

The Family service was particularly inspiring because of the involvement of our young people and the interaction of all who gathered, even our visitors, Damon and Bruce.

You know, our children have a deeper wisdom than we sometimes give them credit for? The following story about a child and his pastor, however, had me considering the types of misunderstanding that we need to be careful to avoid.

One Sunday morning, the pastor noticed little Alex standing in the foyer of the church staring up at a large plaque. It was covered with names and small Australian flags mounted on either side of it. The six-year old had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up, stood beside the little boy, and said quietly, ‘Good morning Alex.’

‘Good morning Pastor,’ he replied, still focused on the plaque. ‘Pastor, what is this? ‘

The pastor said, ‘Well son, it’s a memorial to all the young men and women who died in the service.’

Soberly, they just stood together, staring at the large plaque. Finally, little Alex’s voice, barely audible and trembling with fear asked,

‘Which service, the 8:30 or the 10:30?’

Quite seriously, his words gave me reason to consider the way in which our use of language can sometimes lead to misunderstanding. I thank God for parents and Grandparents who take time to really listen and explain and correct these misunderstandings.

Many Blessings

Rev Shan

4th Sunday of Easter – 17th May 2011

I read this reflection in my book of Celtic Daily Prayer the words I share are those of Aidan Clarke as quoted for 10th May

“I read a story about a boy who lost a dog in New York City. As he walked up and down the streets, systematically and slowly, a friend complained that he wasn’t even looking for the dog.

He answered, “I’m not looking for him. I’m letting him find me. Sooner or later he will discover the trail I am putting down and follow it until he comes to me.

In the same way, Jesus is not looking for converts. He has set down a trail which different people pick up at different points and follow until they find Him. The person who prays is also not looking for converts but setting down a track which others will find and follow to Jesus. Maybe a perfect evangelist is one whose work and love is never recognized, who is never acknowledged or thanked by anyone this side of the grave. May Jesus bless the millions who pray in secret.” (NB 1)

My apologies to Aidan Clarke for not citing any other reference, but I couldn’t find more on the author. I am thankful for the reflection as it got me thinking about the way in which our prayers impact on others… we are “setting down a track which others will find and follow to Jesus!”

How blessed are those who see the fruit of their prayers and how much more blessed are those who continue to pray regardless!

Love and blessing

Rev Shan

(NB 1) – Celtic Daily Prayer- Ispirational Prayers and Readings from the Northumbrian Community – Collins – Copyright 200, 2005 The Northumbra Community Trust.

3rd Sunday of Easter – 8th May 2011

Being “gluten intolerant” in a world where bread is a staple in most diets can be incredibly difficult and downright frustrating… especially as it is such an important, easily prepared and economical form of nourishment. I was reminded of this as I read from one of our worship resources’ (Seasons of the Spirit) in preparation for today…

“Bread is a part of common life for most people in Western civilizations. Morning toast, peanut butter sandwiches, and warm rolls are the stuff of everyday life. Bread is a symbol of life and well-being. For many diverse cultures and religious traditions, the breaking of bread during meal times symbolizes a physical link to the generous Giver of life. In this pleasurable action and through the friendship of those who gather, the presence of the Divine can be more fully acknowledged and thanked.

It is no surprise, then, that perhaps the central ritual within the Christian tradition – the Eucharist or Communion – borrows a great deal from such an everyday and earthed practice as this. Not only does the breaking of bread signify the vital presence of God- in the receiving and eating, Christians are invited to see the world through the perspective of God; with eyes for justice, peace, and a fully welcoming love.”

With consideration for “eyes for justice, peace, and a fully welcoming love” I feel it is necessary to comment on one of the more notable news stories of the week. Apparently, in news to hand as I write, it seems that Osama Bin Laden is dead, at the hand of US operatives, and with the aide of authorities in Pakistan.

There have been rowdy gatherings applauding this action and, as one who abhors violence, I understand the sentiments expressed. As the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden circulates … thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been victims of terrorism and violence…  and also for his immediate family and friends. If we deny compassion to those who grieve (even for someone such as Osama) then the terrorists have won because they have hardened our hearts.

Let us also keep in mind that there are likely to be acts of reprisal. Sadly, friends with connections in Europe have already noticed messages of hate and revenge being expressed on Face Book status updates as a result of Osama’s death – from supporters and opponents alike. As Gandhi once said “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” When will we learn?

Prayers and Blessings

Rev Shan