Front and Centre
Today marks the end of our season of thanksgiving and the time that we need you to seriously consider what your thanksgiving gift to Emmanuel will be. Over the past four weeks we have reflected on how God, as our good shepherd guides and protects us in all circumstances and provides us with all that we need, that provides a feast or banquet for us. But now it's over to you.
If you have not done so already please consider as a family what your thanksgiving offering will be. I have been amazed at the generousity of the people at Emmanuel. Not just at their regular weekly giving but at the value people put into their thanksgiving offering. I am sure this season will be no different.
Today’s reading as we conclude the 23rd Psalm speaks of God’s cup of blessing in the presence of adversity. How true is that in this season where many are afflicted by the COVID-19 and the social and financial implications. As I look around the church on a Sunday I am aware of how blessed we are. Even in this season we have much to be thankful for. St Paul reminds us in 1Thessalonians 5:18 to Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. As we reflect on how God continues to bless us it is good to rejoice and respond.
Rev Brian Hoole
Front and Centre
In each of the three synoptic gospels (Mathew, Mark and Luke) a key turning point is when Jesus asks his disciples the question ‘who do you say that I am? It is a key question for the disciples but its also a key question for us today? Who is Jesus to you? Your relationship with Jesus is the key relationship in your life. How you live and respond in that space is just so important. How is your relationship with Jesus is a key life question? We are called to model our lives on Jesus. Another church says it this way, ‘more people more like Jesus’. As we look at Jesus life and ministry we see him building relationships in 3 ways ‘His relationship with the Father (up), his relationship with his disciples (in) and his relationship with those from the world (out). As we focus on our relationships we too should consider our up, in and out and how we keep that balance. How is your relationship with God? Are you investing into that with daily time of prayer and reading scripture? Then there is the in, spending time with other Christians. And then there are your relationships with people who are not Christian. As disciples and followers of Jesus we should have healthy relationships both within the church and Christian community and outside the Christian community. As i have indicated before one of the challenges I have experienced due to COVID is the effect it has on relationships. How are you continuing to build healthy relationships? We certainly want to encourage that as a church. How do we help and encourage people build stronger relationships with each other. But also as individuals we need to continue to strengthen and build relationships, up with God, in within our Christian community and out with those outside our church community.
Front and Centre
This week I had the privilege in sharing and celebrate the life of Claudia Hargreaves. As someone who has only known Claudia in the twilight of her life it was amazing to hear more of her story and to be reminded as people reflected on Claudia, not just of Claudia, but also of others who are the saints of the past. Those who are the mothers, fathers or grandparents of our faith. Those who shared and discipled us, who shared their faith with us so that we would believe and know the truth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. When I think back on my own life, as someone who grew up and was sent to Sunday School by parents who were not regular church-goers I see those who encouraged and discipled me as I grew into teenage and then adult-hood. I can see God’s hand on me and the faces of those who shared time and faith with me. What about you?
In this season of thanksgiving lets give thanks for our Spiritual parents. As it co-incides with fathers day this year, who would you identify as your father in the faith. Or your mother in the faith. This Fathers Day please, please take the time to give thanks to them. In prayer if they are no longer with us, or in person if they are. Ring them up or visit them, or email them and let them know that you are thankful for them. And while you are at it think of who you are sharing faith with, who are you encouraging, who are you discipling. It is up to all of us to play our part. I am so thankful that we are here and are able to give thanks and encourage each other on this journey.
Rev Brian Hoole
Front and Centre
We are currently celebrating 28 days of thanksgiving. Our thanksgiving season has become a tradition over the last few years as we set aside some intentional time to give thanks for God's love, provision and protection in our lives. In earlier years we regularly celebrated 'Harvest Festival'. The church would be decorated with fruit and produce. We were encouraged to bring our 'first fruits' to God; not just leftovers. In a metropolitan centre with limited agricultural connections, sometimes we would bring symbols of our gifts or talents. This symbolised that our gifts and talents come from God, and that we could, and should, use them to further God's Kingdom. Harvest Festival and similar celebrations of thanksgiving are helpful reminders of God's provision, of our stewardship of our wealth and talents, and the importance of giving thanks.
You may well ask, "is this an appropriate time to celebrate thanksgiving?" It is a reasonable question. With the COVID situation in southern states rapidly escalating, we are as uneasy and uncertain as we've been in the last 18 months. The images coming from Afghanistan are heart breaking. Untold suffering in Haiti following the typhoon barely makes it to our TV screens. How can we come before God in an attitude of celebration and thanksgiving with these issues weighing on our consciousness?
I am reminded of Paul's message to Timothy. What persecutions I endured! yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. (2 Tim 3:11, NRSV) In the midst of great persecution and suffering, Paul was able to recognise God's hand rescuing and protecting him. Elsewhere Paul writes, rejoice always... give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thess 5:16,18, NRSV) For Paul, 'all circumstances' meant suffering, persecution, physical ailment, imprisonment. Despite his circumstances Paul was able to look to God and give thanks.
If the current state of our world is causing you dismay, take it to God in prayer. Try and find something each day for which you can give thanks. Think about how God has blessed and gifted you, and how you can use your gifts for His glory. Many of the people you'll meet this week won't know God's grace in their lives - how can your attitude of thankfulness help them to encounter God in a life-giving way?