The next few months are very important for us as a church here at Emmanuel. We have both Church Council and Congregational meetings coming up where we will be discussing how we move forward as a church. We have responded well to COVID, we have kept things running but we need to move from surviving to thriving. Changes in staffing mean that we are in a position to invest into our future but we need to make sure that we look to the future. What sort of church do we want to be and how do we invest into that? We need to do some dreaming about the church we want to be. We can build upon our strengths, and we will, and bring on people to resource us for the Emmanuel of the future. We will be a church that seeks to minister to all people regardless of age, background or circumstance. We will continue to be a church that wants to grow disciples, encouraging people to come to faith and grow in their faith. We will grow disciples who will exalt God, explore what God is saying them as they engage with Scripture, who embody the Christian lifestyle in their workplace, school and neighbourhood, and continue to engage with friends and family to help people know Jesus and come into a living relationship with him. We will do this through living out our core values of transforming worship, Intentional Outreach , Fervent Prayer, Healthy Relationships , Christlike Growth. These basic commitments of our church do not need to change but the important question is how do we do this? How do we adapt to our changing society and culture so that you are empowered to be the best disciples you can be. What will help you grow to be disciples who grow disciples? As we look at our future as a church then real question is how we help you to be the best disciples you can be?
There have been lots of positive comments about our Easter services so thank you for the encouragement, and thank you to the team that have helped prepare these services. Also for the craft and creative events that were provided. But Easter is over, school is back, life has returned to normal, or has it. As you have participated in the Easter services, how have you engaged with God, and as a result what has changed for you. The events of Easter are so earth shattering and world changing that our life is changed. Our life should be different. When we encounter God, life is and will be different, and we should expect this to happen. God wants to know you and wants you to know him and this should change your life. So the real question is not did you enjoy the Easter services, but how have they made a difference to you, and your relationship with God, with your family, with your world. As much as we might want nice and innovative church services it is far more important that people have encountered or re-encountered God, and that as a result you have drawn closer to God. The questions that are at the core of the Bible Discovery method, Questions that ask
What does Easter tell me about God?
What does Easter tell me about humanity?
What is God trying to say to me?
What am I going to do about it?
Who am I going to tell?
Each Sunday should not be a pat on the back or a feel good session but rather a new encounter with God where we are asking ourselves the questions above. My hope and prayer is that you come to church expecting to meet God and that you actually do. That your relationship with God continues to grow and grow.
Today we begin Holy Week and will take the time to remember and reflect upon the events leading up to Jesus’ death. The week before Easter is celebrated both as Palm Sunday with the emphasis upon his entry into Jerusalem or Passion Sunday looking a little bit broader at the events of Holy Week. Both draw us into the Easter story and encourage us as we reflect upon the events as to what they mean for us as 21st century disciples. Consider these narratives not simply as historical accounts but reflect upon how we experience them today. You could enter today’s passage at one of several points—perhaps as the disciple sent to retrieve the colt. Jesus calls us to do such strange things. Or you could enter it as one called to give your very best, even today, offering the colt simply “because the Lord needs it.” Each of those pathways leads to both joy and sacrifice. Or you could enter the narrative along with the “multitude of the disciples” who greet Jesus as their king. As we walk through Holy week we will contrast Mary and Judas as they recognise what they treasure, we will experience the servant king and the pain of Gethsemane, and Jesus trial, death and resurrection.
In a realm with emperors, naming anyone other than Caesar as king could bring lethal consequences, as it did for Jesus. But what about us today? Those who call Jesus king may be tempted to see themselves as his royal courtiers and favourites, but as we read the Gospels this week and the other texts that we read this week will have none of that. Yes, we’re to follow, as subjects must do, but we are to follow in his way of self-giving love and service. What will that mean for you for this week and for the rest of this year? If you can try and place yourself into the Easter story and what does the easter story mean for you as a contemporary disciple.
Life is messier than a diagram but loosely this is how new Christian communities develop. Listening come first and guides the process. Listening to God and listening to the people we want to engage with.
People can find it really hard to move from the first three circles (listen, love, community) to the second three (share Jesus, church, repeat). It can only happen with intentionality from the leaders and may happen with the people of peace as the existing community continues.
Each of the circles displays an aspect of God’s kingdom.
Listening shows respect which is a kingdom quality (Acts 11:12)
Love can take the form of pastoral care. (Matt 25:40)
Community is integral to the kingdom. We were created for community. (Luke 10:25-28)
Sharing Jesus is to have conversations about the person who announced the Kingdom. (Mark 1:15)
Church and the kingdom will bcome one when Jesus returns (Rev 21:1-2).
Repeat witnesses to the expansive nature of the kingdom, like a seed that grows into a vast tree (Matt 13:31-31).
As much as we seek to move through the circles, each circle has its own kingdom value that continues to be of benefit. Not everything we do will move through all six circles but each is of value. What is more the great commandment (to love others as we love ourselves), and the great commission (to go and make disciples ) are brought together into one initiative.
The retirement of the Australian tennis player, Ash Barty this week has stunned many people. For someone who is at the peak of her career and potentially could go on to be even more successful it is refreshing to see someone who is satisfied with what she has achieved on the tennis court and realises that there is a high cost in other areas of her life. For Ash the gruelling schedule to remain as number 1 comes at a cost of relationships and family. It is refreshing to see someone is satisfied at her achievements and is make the choice of putting family, friends first. How do you manage your life’s priorities? What do you value the most and does your time, your attention and your focus reflect that.
Matthew 6:21 reminds us that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Where is your heart and your desire? Where is your treasure? Stewardship has been an opportunity to reflect upon what I value and what I want to invest into? Our money and possessions allow us to be comfortable but they should not be our treasure? Paul reminds us of our treasure being a spiritual treasure even if it is in the clay pots of our physical bodies (2 Cor 4:7). Our striving is should not be about wealth and possessions but rather on spiritual treasure and a living relationship with Jesus. God and our relationship with him is not just our treasure but hope and aspiration. That is what I strive for? What is it that you strive for? Stewardship has reminded me to reflect upon how rich I am, and being thankful for all that God has provided. And to seek what is important sand of value. Those spiritual treasures that have eternal values. If I can I would love to encourage you to reflect and focus on what are the spiritual treasures that you desire and that you desire for your children and grandchildren. And then what will you do to encourage that space. As much as many will applaud Ash Barty for putting family above fame, and learning contentment in that space, our desire for a living relationship with Jesus, following him is even more valuable and important. What is it that you are willing to invest into with your time, talents and being?
Hear the word ‘stewardship’ and we often cringe. We don’t really want to think about it, so why should we talk about it? And surely stewardship is between me and God. However we do needed to be prompted to consider and review what stewardship looks like for us on a regular basis. At Emmanuel we try and do that on an annual basis. Stewardship is not about ‘you’ve got to give us more money but rather how do I use my gifts, talents and possessions to the best of my ability as a follower of Jesus, and what can I do that will make me a better disciple. At Emmanuel our aim is to help you to be good stewards so that you will be better disciples of Jesus. We have a desire to grow disciples who grow disciples. We dearly want people to come to know Jesus for the first time and to continue to grow and deepen that relationship with him all their lives. We would like everyone to know their place in God’s family and in God’s story. And that includes you. And an important part of this is recognising how God has gifted and blessed you, and how you continue to use that as a disciple of Jesus. Stewardship is acknowledging that no matter how hard we work for it ultimately we don’t earn it but that it is a gift from God, and how we use it should similarly be in alignment with his purposes. If God is truly Lord of our lives then our skills, gifts, talents, time and money should be dedicated to that purpose. How much, and what is an appropriate balance is a part of the challenge. How we work that out takes us back to our daily practices. We should read scripture, we should pray and we should talk it over with fellow Christians. These three practices are at the core of so much of our discipling journey. And they are at the core of our stewardship. Please do commit these commitments to God as you discern God’s call for you and collectively for the church.
Are you rich? You are rich. In a world that never feels as though it has enough, that is never satisfied, that always wants more, as Christians we believe that God will and does provide all of our needs. The start of good stewardship is recognising the blessings and provisions we have and being thankful. Do you recognise what you have and realise how blessed you are. Unfortunately many in our society today are not satisfied with what they have.
A recent survey suggested that the average Australian needs $300,000 as an income to feel that they are rich. However the other interesting part of the survey was that the desire to be rich, and the resulting competition with family and friends over salary and possessions does not lead to happiness but leads to more and more stress, broken marriages, and depression. The survey suggested that the way to be happy is being content with what you have and living within your means. And though this makes sense, our materialistic society is always encouraging us to have more and more. It is a time to get off the treadmill. Instead of seeking more and more, instead of worrying about what everyone else has, focus on enjoying and making best use of what you have. This is what stewardship is all about. Making the best use of what you have. So what is it that you hope to achieve? As a church we talk about being a church that grows disciples who grow disciples. Aboui being a church that is intentional not just about looking after ourselves but about being a place that people can discover Jesus for the first time, and continue to grow in that space. We think this is worth investing in, and believe that is what we are called to do. Join us on this journey, not just for yourself, and your children, who are important to us but for those we have not yet connected to. We want to do better at helping people to know Jesus and need your help and support. We need you to invest in the work of Emmanuel, not just with money, though that is important, we need you to invest your time, energy and effort to be part of this journey. To be thankful for what you have, but to want to make a difference in other people’s lives. How much will you invest of yourself and join us.
As we enter Lent and turn our eyes towards Easter, Lent is a time of reﬂection and to review our commitment and giving towards the church. Stewardship is all about how we use the resources that God has given us. During this time we will be reﬂecting upon a few key words, grace, gratitude and generousity. Stewardship begins with God and God’s grace. It is about recognising how blessed we are by God and acknowledging that what we have is a gift from God. This is what grace means God’s gift or gifts. In a world that says that we make our own way and that we can earn what we want and do what we want, when we want and that we get what we deserve, the Christian view is that what we have is a gift from God. It is by God’s grace that we are born here in Australia at the beginning of the 21st century. And it is by God’s grace that we have the family we do and our health and other circumstances that surround us. The Christian life of discipleship begins with our recognition that what we have comes from God, and as we follow Jesus what we have we give to God. As followers of Jesus our life is shaped around seeking to grow closer to Jesus and more like Jesus. That is what we mean at Emmanuel when we say we want to grow disciples who grow disciples. It means that we want more people more like Jesus. It means that we want to be more like Jesus. And as a church we want to provide the encouragement and resources that help people grow to be more like Jesus. We want to resource you to be the best followers of Jesus that you can be. That involves reﬂecting how you use your resources to best follow Jesus, and to support Emmanuel as it seeks to be a place to support and resource and grow followers of Jesus. This has to start with recognising God’s grace and responding with gratitude to what God has done and is doing for you and in your life. So this week our emphasis is upon gratitude and recognising what we owe to God. And what it means for us to be followers of Jesus who have committed our lives to him.
God Bless, Brian
As followers of Jesus, we want to become like Jesus in our daily living. However sometimes, in fact often, following Jesus is a bit like trying to fly with only one wing. We get lots of support and teaching at church but not much outside. There is a gap between Sunday worship and church and daily living as a Christian. How do we live as a Christian at the local footy club, or tennis court, or in our community living. It can be scary to do these things on our own.
Over the next few weeks I am going to quote from and summarise a book by Michael Moynagh and Michael Beck called ‘The 21st century Christian’. You are welcome to read the book if you want. It is a great book that gives a simple practical and relational approach to being a 21st Century Christian, to living like Jesus did today. I hope this series will encourage you to continue to live as a follower of Jesus today and to better equip you for that role. As a disciple, this is where the rubber hits the road. So let’s start. Like any journey we need a few things
1. A compass to point us in the right direction
2. A map to help us plan the route or way to go.
3. Some food to sustain us on the way.
4. The address of where we are going so we know what to look out for.
Each of these is important for our journey, and we will explore each of these over the coming weeks. Most of all I hope that opening this discussion will help encourage you to explore how you can better follow Jesus in your daily comings and goings. Its hard work, even soul-destroying to try and follow Jesus on your own, so do try and share your journey with a friend or friends. Friends from church and friends from work. This is about how we can encourage each other to live more fully and more authentically. Jesus promised us that he “ came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10. Hopefully this will help you to do so. As we think about who to share with may I encourage you to gather with 1 or 2 others to pray together. To commit to a regular prayer-time with someone else. You will be amazed at what a difference it will make and how deep that relationship will grow. Even if you are in a small group may I encourage you to try a prayer triplet
 Moynagh, Michael and Beck, Michael, The 21st Century Christian (freshexpressionsus.com, U.S., 2020)