17 April 2020

This is our 4th Sunday without being able to attend church. I hope that you are making good use of the variety of resources available – both the ones we are providing and the other resources available on the internet.  We are working on improving what we do – it is a steep learning curve.

This Sunday I will be speaking with a follow-up to Easter and sharing some thoughts on ministry.  Next week I plan to start a series on a book I have never studied before.  Lamentations has always seemed difficult to me and I have shied away from it.  However, it deals with problems very relevant to our present situation and I will be using it to try to come to grips with what is happening to us.

I know that some of you are finding this isolation very difficult and the possibility that it may go on for months is scary.  I cannot do more than imagine the problems some people are facing.  Those who live in an apartment must find it very difficult; those who have children must face extra problems – especially if they are playing teacher; those who have to rely on others to provide shopping etc must be frustrated; those with health problems will be facing many difficulties; and I don’t have any idea how people who cannot read or don’t have a computer are able to fill in their time.  I know that congregation members are working hard to look after those in need but if you have any problems please do not hesitate to call your pastoral care leader, our office  (4353 3699) or call me directly (0412 522 731).

It is certainly different.  I went to the doctor this week (to get my flu shot) and that was the first time in weeks that I have driven.  I have only been out of my front gate to walk the dogs. I have spent time doing things I never usually get time to do – planting my vegetable garden, learning to use new computer programmes, fixing things around the house and in the yard, and spending more time than usual with my animals.  I have even started to tidy my study (but I may need another 6 months of isolation to finish the task).  The biggest problem that I have is that I keep losing my phone and when I find it the battery is inevitably flat.

I hope that you are using the Prayer Diary.  It is comforting for people to know, on a particular day, that people are praying for them.  The Prayer Diary is designed for you to personalise it and I have been adding to mine.  The biggest omission is a prayer for a new rector.  While nothing is happening in the Diocese at the moment, God is still at work so we need to keep praying.  The prayer we were using from our Prayer Book should be added to be used daily:

Bountiful God,

give to this parish a faithful pastor

    who will faithfully speak your word

    and minister your sacraments;

an encourager who will equip your people for ministry

   and enable us to fulfil our calling.

Give to those who will choose, wisdom,

 discernment and patience,

   and to us give warm and generous hearts,

for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

I attended a ZOOM meeting between Bishop Peter and some clergy last week.  He made the same statement that I had made in a recent sermon – at the end of this crisis there will be some churches which will not survive.  We are not in that position but we must not lose sight of the problems we face.  We still have bills to pay and we are fortunate to have some resources we can call on.  However, it is important for us all to keep our giving consistent. I am pleased to hear that the number of people who are giving directly has increased.  I hope that others are putting aside their envelopes each week so that, when we do get to meet again, we can replenish those resources we have been forced to use.  If you want to give directly the details are: 

Account Name: Anglican Church of Wyong

BSB: 633 000

A/c Number: 143 181 717

Please remember our Zoom Prayer Meetings every Thursday at 7.30pm.  For details contact Annie in the office – she will also help you to set it up and get involved.

I have included 2 Reflections  from Bishop Peter Brain this week.  He has been producing them more often than once a week.  One is very practical and one is theological.  I found them very helpful and I believe that you will to.

With every blessing

Denis

REFLECTIONS  2020/3.   Boredom does not have to be boring!                Peter Brain 6th April, 2020

One of the books I enjoyed sharing with our children was Bored-Nothing to do! By Peter Spier. It told the story of two boys, whose enterprise was awakened by their mother telling them to find something to do. The detailed drawings revealed their imagination and inventiveness, even if it did mean the dismantling of, and requisitioning of, otherwise in current use objects.

Many are complaining, and feeling the effects of boredom, with normal activities and interactions denied them during the pandemic. Here are some things that I am seeking to employ, to keep me usefully awake, active and happy. Some may be helpful to you as well:

  • I have to remember my own advice to my children to “find something to do”. If it was good for them it should be for me as well!
  • Reading the Bible and praying are never boring once we get started. Satan will try to deflect and discourage us, but once we get into the Bible prayerfully He will teach us. Dr Larry Crabb’s dictum ’I’d rather be a hypocrite to my feelings than to my purposes’ proves its weight in gold as we daily quarry the treasures of Scripture (Psalm 19:7-14).
  • The first part of that Psalm (19:1-6) alerts us to that other Book, the Creation all around us. Pondering and enjoying the Creation with our own eyes, can be guaranteed to drive away boredom, replacing it with wonder, awe and thankfulness.
  • Active thankfulness is a sure boredom buster and habit of happiness. Not only are we commanded to be thankful as believers (1Thessalonians 5:16-18), warned of thanklessness’s seductive pull into idolatry and ungodliness of every kind (Romans 1:18-32) but are given many examples of how/when to be thankful (Ps 35:18;52:9; 107:8; 118:21; Acts 28:15; Rom 1:8, 6:17, 7:25; 1 Cor14:18, 15:57; 2 Cor 2:14, 8:16;Phil 1:3; Col1:3, 2 Tim 1:3; Philem 4;1 Thess 2:13; 1 Tim 1:12 and Rev 4:9. These passages are from D L Bock commentating on the grateful Samaritan leper of Luke 17:11-19, whose gratitude to Jesus, saw him receiving eternal life, far more than the temporal healing he requested. Thankfulness to God opens up unexpected treasures from our Father.
  • Thankfulness keeps us from boredom and opens up for us a desire to serve others by driving away the noxious weeds self-pity, envy, whinging, jealousy, bitterness and greed.
  • Thankfulness will keep us from seeking the pleasure our Father would give us from relationship with himself rather than the fleeting pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:25), idolatry (Col 3:5ff) and addictions like wine (Eph 5:18) and food (Phil 3:17-21). These temptations are on easy offer with more time for TV, endless movies, pornography, gambling, fantasy romantic novels, alcohol and overeating. Thankfulness to God for His promises, the well proven means of relating to Him and desire to meet with us (Rev 3:20) fill us to overflowing with His indwelling Spirit (John 7:37-39; Eph 5:18}. They can be counted upon to give us satisfaction, joy, peace and comfort in increasing measure.
  • Turning off the TV and other media will express and prove our reliance upon the living God. It will also help us sleep better (lessening the pixilations on our eyes and stem the flooding of our brains pleasure centre with dopermine) enabling us to enjoy pleasures from the ordinary things of life. Fasting from a relentless overstimulation we will be much more likely to enjoy the movies we allow ourselves to watch less frequently, in that we look forward to that favourite program as we used to do as a reward for our children. Less, so often proves to be best, and more enjoyable.

Boredom may prove to be a gift from God. Emptying us so that He can fill us with His presence and fuel us for service. Blessed to be a blessing remains true (Acts 20:35, John 7:37-38, 1 Thess 3:12).

REFLECTIONS  No. 4   Letters are worth reading and sending.   Peter Brain 12/4/2020

I continue to be amazed at Easter’s marvellous ramifications, both challenging and comforting. Two things have got me thinking about this reflection. The first an observation of J Alec Motyer commenting on the majestic Philippians 2:5:  “the story of the cross of Christ is told in each of the four gospels; the meaning of the cross is the preoccupying theme of the epistles…we do well to remember that this privilege is given to us not to satisfy our curiosity but to reform our lives.” What is true of Philippians 2 is relevant to many others. The second was an ABC interview of a writer who was encouraging us to write (not type) letters (epistles) to others. Given the length of this reflection, I feel that a quick summary is needed: we read the NT epistles for explanation and application of the Easter events. We discover that we are living epistles, whose transformed lives are the epistles others will read, and may attract them to the apostolic epistles.

What follows are some passages from the epistles that explain and apply the great events we have just remembered. God is doubly kind to us in that He not only sent His Son but He also tells us what we are to make of Him. While it is right for us to reflect on and ruminate on the gospel narratives, it is not an option for us to imagine what we are to make or take from them.  

The meaning of the Cross is seen in passages like:

  • Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2 &4:10 that sees our Lord’s death as the propitiation for our sins. This word means that Jesus’ death makes the erasing of our sins possible because on the Cross He absorbed His Father’s righteous wrath on account of our sins.
  • Galatians 3:13-14; 1 Peter 3:18 & 2 Corinthians 5:21 picking up on Isaiah 53:5-6 and our Lord’s words in Mark 10:45, remind us of His death being in our place.
  • Romans 5:8, 1 John 3:16 teach us that this is where God’s love is most clearly seen.

The application of the Cross is seen in passages like:

  • 2 Corinthians 8:9 as a challenge to our tight-fistedness and the reason for our generosity
  • Philippians 2:4-11 challenges our self-interest in our congregations
  • Ephesians 5:25 as the pattern for husbands to love their wives (and vice-versa)
  • Ephesians 4:32-5:2 as the antidote to bitterness, un-forgiveness and half-hearted service.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 as the supreme motive for sexual fidelity
  • Galatians 6:14 as our only ground for boasting and compelling reason for dying to the world
  • 1 Peter 2:23-25 as the pattern for non-retaliation and grace when insulted and persecuted
  • Hebrews 4:14-16 & 10:19-25 as the ground of our confidence in approaching God
  • 1 John 4:10-12 where we learn that God’s love for us must be replicated by us to others

Turning now to our Lord’s bodily resurrection on the 3rd day we are similarly comforted and challenged.

  • Jesus is marked out as the way, the truth and the life, since His promises ( Luke 9:22.18:31-33, 24:6-8) were vindicated by His resurrection (Romans 1:4,10:9) which means we too can confidently give ourselves to our obligation to live for righteousness (Romans 8:9-11)
  • By which we can be assured that our labour for the Lord will never be in vain (1 Cor 15:58)
  • We affirm the resurrection as the chief reason to believe in our Lord’s return (Acts 17:30-31)
  • We know that Jesus was not only raised but that He continues to live in Heaven as our Advocate (1 John 2:1-2), understanding High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16), Intercessor (Romans 8:34) and Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). We can come to Him in confidence therefore, as penitents for pardon (1 John 1:8-9), children in prayer (Romans 8:15-17) and for nourishing fellowship, especially after failure (Revelation 3:20)
  • He also dwells in us as individual believers (Colossians 1:27). As a way of understanding the Trinitarian nature of God this is normally described as the Holy Spirit who dwells in us (Eph 1:14-15; 2 Cor 1:21 as promised by our Lord in John 14-16 and among us (Ephesians 2:22 and 1Cor 3:16-17). Incidentally this is why the NT can ascribe the resurrection of Jesus equally to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (John 10:17-18, Acts 13:30-35, Romans 1:4).
  • Our Lord’s earthly absence gave way, after His ascension, to His abiding presence. The ascension as His coronation and His Spirit, His coronation gift to all believers (Acts 2:1-28).
  • It is to the risen Lord that we are to set our minds and hearts (Col 3:1-3). We are filled with hope as we wait for His return in glory (Col 3:4) and allow ourselves to be shaped by Christ rather than the world (Col 3:5-4:6). There is life before and after death for believers.
  • Our Lord’s resurrection is the reason for our assurance of a new fully transformed body, fit for Heaven when we die (2 Cor 5:1-10) and then fit for the New Heavens and New Earth at His return (Phil 3:17-21,Rom 3:18-21, 1 Cor 15:20-58).
  • As with our Lord’s death so with His resurrection, there is encouragement to persevere and an obligation to live differently than we used to, distinctive from the world around us (1 Cor 15:32-34, 1 Thess 5:8-11,Eph 5:14). For our (Jn 8:12) and the world’s good (Matt 5:13-16).

And there are two more thoughts about epistles.

  1. That is exactly what we are (2 Cor 3:1-3). As believers we are the living testimony to the work of Christ. We are pardoned by faith in Jesus and we are alive, living for and like Him, as brothers and sisters seeking to serve and encourage each other, as lights in this world (described by Leenhardt as “this tottering stage”). In the apostles priceless language: new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), in the ongoing process of conformity to Christ by the ministry of His Spirit (2 Cor 3:18). Could there be a greater calling than his? And a greater opportunity to be living for eternity now in this pandemic world? I think not. We do well to remember that we are being watched, read if you like (2 Cor 3:3), by a watching world of people, especially our children, many who are uncertain and afraid. The African poem has always been a challenge to me: You are writing a gospel/A chapter each day/By the words that you speak/And the works that you do./Men read what you write/Disturbing or true./What is the gospel to you? There are 6 gospels: the canonical 4, you/I and our churches.
  2. And with the writer from the ABC here is an opportunity for us to be incarnational (an essential pre-requisite to Easter) in phoning, visiting within the pandemic guidelines and writing a good old fashion letter. I suggest this not because I have shares in the PO, but because a letter written brings us hidden benefits ,like thinking thoughtfully how we might shape words of encouragement [Eph 4:29b], but more importantly conveys our love in the act of writing, giving the receiver the joy of receiving when they go their letterbox.

This has been a long epistle though somewhat shorter than Hebrews author’s short letter of exhortation/encouragement (13:22)! I hope it proves to be a help to you, who have glanced at Christ and in so doing found salvation, might see these straightened circumstances as opportunity to continue to gaze at our crucified and risen Lord, as you prayerfully read the canonical epistles. In so doing we are bound to find an ever increasing sense of satisfaction with the Lord Jesus who so loved us at the Cross, along with a growing joy in our ongoing sanctification allowing His Spirit to transform us as we obey His Word written. As this happens His Spirit will confirm in our hearts and minds just how good it is to be His epistles as His Word is increasingly deeply upon our hearts.