Things are moving ahead – but slowly. As you listen to/read the news you will know that there is a 3 stage plan to recovery. Last Friday NSW entered Stage 1. It is assumed that it will be 3 – 4 weeks between each stage but that will be dependent on how well people keep to the rules and whether there are new outbreaks. Do not be misled by the reopening of schools. Churches, because of the age of many in our congregations will be much slower in being given permission to open.
I have determined that we will do nothing until Stage 2. When Stage 2 begins we will have plans in place and I will tell you about them as soon as I can. The Diocese will have to approve everything we do. They are working in co-operation with the other Dioceses in NSW although each will make their own decisions. There are a plethora of rules and regulations in place. Some are silly and nit picking but all are designed to keep us all safe.
Any decisions I make will be in conjunction with the Wardens. We are starting to get a fair idea of what will be required. I have called a meeting with the Wardens this Sunday and this will set things in motion. My next pastoral letter will set out what we decide and once that is in place we will just have to wait for a start date.
In the interim we will still provide Sunday services on our web site. We are getting better at it! Thanks to Frank who works hard to put it all together it looks more professional each week. However, I still can’t get used to talking to a camera rather than a congregation. This week we finish our series on Lamentations. I have found the preparation helpful because it speaks so much to our present situation. You should also watch John West’s services. As always, John’s teaching is very helpful.
You will notice that last week we included music. Frank organised it with Annette Williams and Denise Callaway. We will continue to do that though we have had to pay extra on our licence to be able to use it on You Tube. This seems to me to be a racket. If we used Amazing Grace, for example, the writer John Newton died in 1807. He wrote the hymn in 1772 and published it in 1779. In most places copyright lasts 70 years after death. After that the work becomes public domain and anyone can use it free of charge. When we pay our licence fee to use hymns (especially at 7.30am where most, if not all, the hymns are more than 70 years old) who gets paid? Just asking – are we being ripped off? Further, it gives rise to the “modernisation” of our hymns. This I hate but it is lucrative. For example, even though Amazing Grace was removed from copyright in 1877, if you put a new tune to it you pay copyright until 70 years after the death of the composer. If you add or change words (as happens in the version of Amazing Grace we often sing at 9.30) the writer of the new words owns copyright for 70 years after his/her death. I will never feel good about such abominations.
Annie has been putting together a new Parish Directory. I have noticed that there are people on our parish role who are not in the directory and I hope they will be willing to have their names added (and preferably a photo – I find that most helpful). At the same time I have noticed that there are many people not on the parish role who are in the directory. This means that we need a new Prayer Diary. Please find it attached. There are probably still mistakes – please let me know so that we can eventually get it right. Please use Prayer Diary No 2 each day – it is great to know that we are praying for each other.
Life has been tough and we can all do with a good laugh. One of my gym buddies sent me this – I enjoyed it – hope you do to.
Kids were asked questions about the old and new testaments. The following statements were written by children. They have not been retouched or corrected and incorrect spelling has been left in.
- In the first book of the bible, Guinessis. God got tired of creating the world so he took the sabbath off.
- Adam and eve were created from an apple tree. Noah’s wife was Joan of ark. Noah built and ark and the animals came on in pears.
- Lots wife was a pillar of salt during the day, but a ball of fire during the night.
- The Jews were a proud people and throughout history they had trouble with unsympathetic genitals.
- Sampson was a strongman who let himself be led astray by a jezebel like Delilah.
- Samson slayed the philistines with the axe of the apostles.
- Moses led the Jews to the red sea where they made unleavened bread which is bread without any ingredients.
- The Egyptians were all drowned in the dessert. Afterwards, Moses went up to mount cyanide to get the ten commandments.
- The first commandments was when eve told Adam to eat the apple.
- The seventh commandment is thou shalt not admit adultery.
- Moses died before he ever reached Canada. Then Joshua led the Hebrews in the battle of Geritol.
- The greatest miricle in the bible is when Joshua told his son to stand still and he obeyed him.
- David was a Hebrew king who was skilled at playing the liar. He fought the Finkelsteins, a race of people who lived in biblical times.
- Solomon, one of David’s sons, had 300 wives and 700 porcupines.
- When Mary heard she was the mother of Jesus she sang the magna carta.
- When the three wise guys from the east side arrived they found Jesus in the manager.
- Jesus was born because Mary had an immaculate contraption.
- St. John the blacksmith dumped water on his head.
- Jesus enunciated the golden rule, which says to do unto others before they do one to you. He also explained a man doth not live by sweat alone.
- It was a miracle when Jesus rose from the dead and managed to get the tombstone off the entrance.
- The people who followed the lord were called the 12 decibels.
- The epistels were the wives of the apostles.
- One of the oppossums was St. Matthew who was also a taximan.
- St. Paul cavorted to Christianity, he preached holy acrimony which is another name for marraige.
- Christians have only one spouse. This is called monotony.
I have added another 2 Reflections from Bishop Peter Brain. Number 15 is the first of 3 based on sermons he has been asked to preach on Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity.
Yours in His service,
REFLECTIONS No. 14 God’s common grace: another reason to rejoice. Peter Brain 16/5/2020
For many years we have enjoyed watching, and been greatly humbled by Landline on Sundays. The lock down has meant that we are always home for the 12:30 pm start. A couple of weeks ago, was no exception as we recognised afresh, God’s common grace to us all through the enterprise and perseverance of farmers across our nation.
Wayne Grudem defines common grace as: the grace of God by which He gives people innumerable blessings that are not part of salvation. The word common here means something that is common to all people and is not restricted to believers only… (Systematic Theology page 657).
The farming enterprise is one such manifestation of this grace which enables us, especially in our land, not only to eat, but enjoy & export many kinds of food. Our Lord’s words in Matt 5:45 are a reminder that God is kind to all people in sending sun and rain. Here is a reason why believers ought to pray for and love our enemies (44) thereby showing distinctive Father like kindness to all people (46-47). Common grace enterprises like farming and the kindness of non-Christians will not save nor even merit grace for salvation (Article 13 & Eph 2:8-9), but is an opportunity for us believers to be grateful to God for their kindnesses and skills. It is a stimulus to be quick and ready to work hard, and show kindness that accords with our calling to be salt (5:13), Christlike and Father-like (5:44-45).
I have been reminded of common grace during the pandemic in a number of ways including:
- The welcome and unusual bi-partisan leadership. One of the classic means of common grace we all enjoy in Australia is the stability of government. The water flows, the electricity works, villains are usually brought to justice, people normally drive on the left and stop at the red light. We take it for granted, and even when we see political point-scoring, we rarely experience lawlessness on a macro scale. This is why we happily pay taxes and pray for our leaders, Christian or otherwise (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Tim 2:1-8).
- The remarkable fruits of scientific research and analysis that has helped leaders make informed decisions remind us that God’s common grace gifts are given to believers and unbelievers alike. This is a creation gift (Gen 1:28), and when used unselfishly, brings enormous benefits to many. The same can be said for the care exercised despite the risks, of nursing and medical staff, along with school teachers and many others.
- The slowing down of normal activities for many of has given us opportunities to smell the roses and enjoy a consistent supply of food. This has not been the lot of many around the world, especially persecuted believers, but it has been the case, through common grace kindnesses for most of us in Australia. Put another way we are able to enjoy the beauties of God’s varied creation. These common grace gifts (Acts 14:16-17) are meant to lead to thanksgiving and render every person without excuse, if they exchange this truth about God, for the idolatry of ascribing this gift to ‘mother-nature’ or our own ingenuity (Rom 1:21-23).
- Those of us who experience both common grace and saving grace (Eph 2:8-9) are wise to ponder what God might be saying to us at this time. Is the pandemic a wake-up call for our nation, our denomination, our local church, ourselves? We would be wise to take stock, especially as believers in Australia, since we have been given so much common grace from God’s hands as inhabitants of earth, and as members of Heaven by new-birth, the saving grace of adoption, pardon and the Holy Spirit. We may even have become more concerned with common grace gifts than His salvation gifts which sees us drifting back into the idolatry of Phil 3:17-21. The good common grace gifts of work, thrift and saving might lead us away from the saving grace trust and security in our Saviour, keeping us from the generous giving that this hour invites (demands?) of us.
- Like all of our Father’s gifts, common grace gifts can easily terminate upon ourselves rather than flow through us. It is too easy to become cattle trough Christians rather than living spring Christians. Cattle troughs run dry whereas living springs keep fresh as God’s gifts flow through us to others (1 Thess. 3:12). Just as farmers pay a premium for land with springs, so our salvation has been purchased at the premium of our Lord’s substitutionary atonement (Mark 10:45, 1 Cor 6:19-20, Heb 13:11-14, 1 Peter 3:18, 1 John 4:9-12).
- On Landline we saw the kindness and enterprise of a flower grower, who rather than plough back her unsold abundant harvest of flowers, with the help of crowd funding, gave away much of her crop to medical and front line workers as thank you gifts. Common grace is seen at every level of this generosity. It will not save the lady, only faith in Christ can do that, but it was the kind of display of largesse that enriches our community. We believers, saved by that remarkable grace of God to us in Christ, must surely thank God for such displays of kindness, and be stimulated to an even increasing generosity, of the kind encouraged by Paul for the famine stricken Judean believers (2 Cor. 8-9) and motivated primarily by our Saviour (8:9).
REFLECTIONS No.15 Looking up so we don’t trip up down here! Peter Brain 19/05/2020
I often repeat to myself a phrase dad used to say to me, “lift up your feet and your body will go with you!” It was good advice for a boy who sometimes dragged his feet! With Ascension Day approaching, it is good advice for us when we feel like dragging our feet through life, to look upwards. I have been asked, to reflect upon our Lord’s ascension, His giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the doctrine of the Trinity, to show how they might encourage us through the pandemic. As I have cogitated on these themes I have warmed to the challenge. It has made me even more grateful for my mentors in the Faith, who always saw Christian doctrine as something to instruct our minds, warm our hearts by driving us to apply biblical truths in every aspect of our lives.
Those who preached in our parish church and who taught us in Sunday school and youth group were exemplars of the truth that sound theology applied, would always be good pastoral care and good for us. I hope that these reflections (over the next three weeks) on the two historical events, our Lord’s bodily ascension and gift of the Holy Spirit, along with the wonderful doctrine of the Trinity, might serve as a tribute to them and prove a help to us all.
As I seek to apply the truth of our Lord’s ascension, I’m reminded of the prayer for Ascension Day (AAPB following BCP): Grant, we pray, almighty God, that as we believe your only begotten Son to have ascended in to Heaven, may we also in heart and mind there ascend, and with Him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen
Here are some ways that this event, with its meeting of earth and heaven, might encourage us:
- The philosopher Plato opined that “never can man and God meet”. George Whitfield with the benefit of living this side of Jesus, saw far more than Plato could ever have hoped when he said, “Jesus was God and man in one person, that God and man might be happy together again”. This happy togetherness begun at Jesus birth, made ours at our new birth, is experienced when we pray and in the Holy Spirit’s indwelling.
- That Jesus ascended bodily, as Dr Luke teaches us (Luke 24:50-53 7 Acts 1:9-11), means that He remains, in Heaven, the one person, fully God and fully man. Article 4 puts it succinctly, establishing this, along with Jesus’s bodily resurrection as Anglican teaching: Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man’s nature; wherewith he ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until He return to judge all Men at the last day.
- This is taught by the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:5: For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. Only one who is fully God and perfect man could deal with our sin. This Jesus did willingly (2:6 reminds us that he gave himself as a ransom for all men) and continues to do as our mediator. We can come before God’s throne with confidence, because the one who came from God, bridged the gap between our sinfulness and his holiness. After standing in for us on the Cross, extinguishing the impossible debt of God’s wrath on our behalf (Matthew 26:39; 27:45-46, John 19:30, 1 John 2:2), He remains seated at God’s right hand as our gracious mediator, advocate (1 John 2:2), intercessor (Romans 8:34), forerunner (Heb 6:20) and sympathetic high priest (Hebrews 4:14-16). Our confidence in coming to Him with our fears, concerns, sins and temptations is bound up with His incarnation, atonement and ascension.
- The Hebrews passages (4:14-16 and 2:18) are a special help to us at this time (as with any personal, family or national crisis). By reminding us of his humanity and temptations, we are confident that he understands us as we pour out our hearts to Him. As we do we realise that we are never alone and fully understood when we open our hearts to him in prayer. He deals with us gracefully, helping us in our time of need (4:16).
- This means that the difficulties we experience as Christians are fully understood by our Saviour since He already experienced them when He dwelt among us. Is it anxiety for the intransigence of unbelieving friends, misunderstanding of family and friends because we are believers, concerns for the welfare of the hungry, the plight of persecuted brothers and sisters, the grief we face at the death of loved ones, or the weariness of standing firm in a sinful world? These He experienced, to an even greater depth, since He never succumbed to the temptation to sin. We can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Heb 4:16).
- All this means there is no need to drag our feet but opportunity to find 20/20 vision as we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith (Heb 12:1-3). Having written us into the script of God’s unfolding perfect plan, of which this pandemic is also playing its part, He can be counted upon to strengthen our weak knees and help us to walk in his level paths (12:12-13). More than that, run the race with perseverance, knowing that He will meet us in prayer at every turn and greet us when we arrive.