Last Sunday was the 25th anniversary of Emmanuel Uniting Church. On the first Sunday in Advent 1994 the first worship services were held at Everton Park, after a number of local congregations were concluded the previous Sunday.
Since then a great deal has happened. There have been great celebrations of Christian life and community – baptisms, confirmations, weddings, funerals, camps, Alpha, youth events. We have sent out people into mission, both local and overseas. We’ve opened our Bibles together and tried to live as missional disciples, encouraging and supporting each other. We have worshipped together, using our gifts for the common good. We’ve welcomed newcomers and farewelled old friends.
This was all possible because the members of other congregations, the majority of whom are not here today, decided to surrender their status quo, with all its comfort and familiarity, and follow God into something new. Here we are thanks to the faithful stewardship of those folk.
As we reflect on all that’s happened over the last 25 years, and realise how much has changed in that period, it’s somewhat daunting to contemplate how much will change in the next 25 years. We too are called to be good stewards – continuing to surrender our status quo and following God into something new. As we continue to grow and change we need to hold fast to the unchanging building blocks of our faith – we are created by a loving God, Christ has restored us through his death and resurrection, we are called to a life of discipleship in the Holy Spirit, the Bible is the living Word of God. I sincerely hope that Emmanuel continues to grow as an effective witness to our local community, that people come to know Jesus as Lord and Saviour, and that the passion for missional discipleship is never lost. I pray that God will raise up leaders who grasp the original vision of building a vibrant and relevant regional church.
So let’s reflect and celebrate, and pray that we will be good stewards for the years ahead.
We are pleased to announce that the JNC is ready to commend the name of a new Minister to the congregation. This will occur at a meeting at 10.50 am on 15 December. We hope this is the start of a new chapter in our life and witness together.
Church Council Chair
Relationships, Stepping out, and Being Church
Barry Jardine recently shared a message on the story of Eutychus, a young man who died and was raised to life again. Within his sermon, Barry highlighted three major points: the importance of relationships in discipleship, the need for a church in action to step outside its doors, and the reminder that God still performs miracles and chooses to work through people.
Relationships are so important to discipleship, and it helps to find ways of building relationships that resonate with our passions. One of the examples that Barry gave was to build relationships around the meal table, and share in the joy of good company and food. Some find that sports are the means through which they connect, and for others it's the opportunity to collectively be creative. As we consider the importance of relationships, it is helpful to remember that, sometimes, it is not a matter of starting something new, but seeing an opportunity where relationships already exist. Pray for the people who listen to you, help you, and like you yet do not yet know Jesus. You might find yourself in a space where you are struggling to identify people to share Jesus with, in times like these, we are reminded that the church in action is called to step outside its doors.
Stepping outside the doors of the church building, to be a people who are the church, can be daunting. Part of the answer is to be consistently authentic in our expression of faith throughout our lives. In doing so, we are able to express a distinct reason for our behaviour. It is easy to see that generosity is not “owned” by the church community, however should anyone question a Christian’s reason for their generosity, the answer should point to Jesus. Similarly, kindness has been displayed to me by people who are not believers in Christ, but if someone were to question a Christian as to why they express kindness the answer should point to Jesus. When we step outside the doors of the church building and participating in the world, the people who are the church are doing so with the love of God propelling them, the sacrifice of Christ inspiring them, and the Holy Spirit empowering them. This is because what we do as a church, is joining what God is already doing in the world, we just need to remember that God makes the choice to use us in his mission.
As Barry reminded us, “God continues to be miraculous and he works through us.” At times it can be difficult to see what we can do to help God, our reach seems so short, but God is always speaking into our lives and leading us. We need to remember to listen to his prompting and have the courage to step out in faith.
How have you responded to Barry Jardine’s challenge to pin up the question mark in your home? If you’ve found a place to pin it up to help you to remember that God works miraculously and works through us, may I encourage you to take a photo of it and post it to the Emmanuel Facebook page or send it via email so we can post it to Facebook.
Grace and Peace
Last Sunday, Nathan Robertson encouraged us to engage in a culture of asking:
“Can you pray with us?” and “Can I pray for you?”
As we have been reigniting the passion for fervent prayer at Emmanuel I have been reflecting on what it means for us to pray and have come to an understanding that prayer is primarily about surrender.
Prayer sometimes feels like the “most and least we can do”. On one hand, it feels like the “least” we can do: in today’s society, some of us find it difficult to believe that it is responsible for us to let go of control and “let someone else” take the reigns. On the other hand, it is the very most we do: bringing to the almighty creator our burdens and entrusting the most powerful one with our cares. These two aspects of “most” and “least” however have a commonality: they recognise that within prayer is surrender. Even as we break down prayer into Worship/Praise/Thanksgiving, Confession, and Intercession/Petition/For Others we can see that prayer, at its core is about surrender.
When we consider what we are doing through Praise, Confession, and Intercession, we can see that our prayers should be geared towards surrender.
Through Praise we are surrendering to the glory of God, and recognising the greatness of our lord. Often, we will also include thanksgiving as we recall that God’s goodness is not separate from us but is in fact experienced by us daily.
As we Confess, we are surrendering to God as we bring our sins before Him and repent, an action made possible through the overwhelming grace of God. We are surrendering our own self-centredness to God and inviting Him to transform us to become more like Him.
When we Intercede or bring forward our Petitions we are surrendering to God as we put our trust in Him. The tension of the “most and least we can do” often pops up here as we grapple with our desire to take matters into our own hands, and recognising that we have to trust God. Part of this is that we sometimes put “action” and “prayer” on opposite ends of the spectrum. However, action and prayer do not oppose one another, and are instead intertwined.
It feels like so much of our language surrounding prayer is about speaking to God, however it is helpful to be reminded that we must also listen to God, and act accordingly. When we believe that prayer is only about speaking then we ignore the relational nature of God. Paul Jones, in the Trinity Unplugged reminded us that God does speak to us personally, but we have to recognise that our self-centred thoughts are what gets between us and hearing from God. Essentially, we have to surrender our self-centredness and put God first.
So as we engage in the culture of asking “Can you pray with us?” and “Can I pray for you?” may we allow the space to listen to God.
May we set aside our self-centred and put God first.
May we pray with hearts of surrender to God.
Today marks the culmination of our 2019 Stewardship Campaign – the day on which we renew our Pledges before God.
Over the past two weeks, I trust that, as we have read the letter each of us received and pondered upon the Daily Reflections, we have sought God’s guidance as to what our Investment in His Mission through Emmanuel should be.
In the past two weeks’ sermons, we have been reminded that:
Just as Jesus said to his disciples when they sought His help to feed the 5000 – “you give them something to eat” – He expects us to do our part in God’s work through Emmanuel and within our community. If we will provide the “wherewithal”, we know for sure that Jesus will bless and use ALL that we bring to Him.
As the Israelites who allowed other “life things” to get in the way of the rebuilding of their Temple, we often allow similar “things” to get in our way and these hinder our desire to make God and His Mission “Number One” in our lives. Hopefully, Haggai’s instructions to his people will have touched a chord and encouraged us to keep God as Number One in our lives.
In today’s sermon on the parable of the talents, we will again be reminded of just how much God has given us – ability, intelligence, possessions and, above all, He GAVE HIS ONLY SON – Jesus – who died on a cross, taking our place, for our sins. We have so much to be thankful for and yet, there is still so much still to be done as we seek to be Real People with Relevant Faith for our Community – a community where, sadly, so many people today have not heard the Good News of God’s love and grace.
Our stewardship focus is not, and should never be, simply an appeal for “donations”. Hopefully, through the past fortnight, you have been able to focus on what God has done for you, what He expects of You and what you plan to return to God (from what He has first given you). From a financial perspective, yes, we do have budgets to meet and a regular, proportional commitment to give - either through the preferred Direct Giving or via Envelopes - enables us to more clearly plan for future Ministry through Emmanuel.
However, above all, we trust that God has filled you with a spirit of generosity which has led you to cheerfully and joyfully commit to giving financially in response to God’s great love for you. Thank you, in advance, for your ongoing investment in God’s Mission through Emmanuel.
Barry Jardine – Elder & Treasurer
Today sees the start of our Stewardship fortnight – so here are some common questions and answers in relation to stewardship/offerings:
Q. Why do we give a monetary offering?
A. It is an act of discipleship. The Israelites were commanded to bring the first of their crops as an offering to God (Deuteronomy 26). Jesus says in Mathew 6:24 “you cannot serve both God and money.” When we choose to give a regular, pre-determined amount to the church, we are choosing to put God first in our lives and to rely on God to meet all our needs.
Q. What are our offerings used for?
A. They are investing in God’s work through Emmanuel. Our worship, discipleship, care for each other, families and children’s ministry and outreach is financed through our offerings. The salaries of the ministry team, payment for resources, training, electricity, insurance and all other payments come from our offerings. In addition 20% of our offerings are given for the wider work of the church.
Q. What other sources of income does Emmanuel have?
A. The congregation receives a contribution from Tiny Town whilst some other groups within the congregation make smaller contributions. Modest rental income comes from the hall and the manse. Money is also received from donations and interest on some invested money. These other sources of income represent about 20% of our income.
Q. I’ve heard that our offering levels have decreased, is this correct?
A. Yes. Sadly, due to the departure of a number of families for various reasons (including relocation, illness or passing away), our regular offerings have declined by around 15%.
Q. How much should I give?
A. We believe in the New Testament principle of proportionate giving (2 Corinthians 8:11, 12). This principle encourages us each to identify and give a proportion of our income, and allow the actual amount to increase or decrease proportionally with our income. The bible identifies 10% as the proportion that God sees as worthy of himself.
Q. What is the best way for me to give?
A. Direct debit. This method is safe, reliable and convenient. Some people feel that using direct debit disconnects their act of giving from being an act of worship. However, there are laminated cards available in the foyer for you to place into the offering bag as a physical reminder of your giving through direct debit, if you wish to use these.
Q. How do I give through direct debit?
A. Our preferred way is for you to arrange through your own bank an automatic payment from your account into the church’s account. The church’s bank account details are on the back page of our fortnightly Newsletter. Another way is to obtain a direct debit request form from our Church Treasurer and complete the form and return.
Hang onto the Vine!
Ralph is a retired Minister who was asked to explain what kept him going, through the good times and the tough times of his long ministry. (He had a reputation as a trouble-shooter Minister so he had been through a testing mix of ups and downs over the years.)
His answer was immediate and simple - PRAYER!
This is how he then elaborated, in his own words…
“I can still hear my Mum telling my own children this story about me as a little boy.
‘When your Dad was a small boy like you’, she’d tell them, ‘he’d be out playing in the back yard for hours. Then he’d come running into the house, and he’d leap into my arms and give me a hug. Then he’d run out and play again. Sometimes he’d almost knock me off my feet.’
‘Why did he do that, Grandma?’, I can hear my kid’s asking.
Without fail Mum would always say ‘I guess he just needed to check in to see if I was still there!’
Mum’s little story also helps me understand and explain why it’s long been important for me to pray. At meals, at church, or just casually anywhere, anytime for a few moments when I’m doing something else, I need to pray. I need to check in and see that God and others are still there, that I’m loved and needed, and not alone. That’s how I have always kept going. I guess I’m just a little branch trying to make sure I am always hanging onto the VINE!”
Tomorrow I officially conclude my time as Supply Minister with you - although I will still be with you a while longer, once a month on communion Sundays. I thank you very genuinely for the warm and kind way that you have welcomed me amongst you in what has been a difficult and testing time for everyone. I know I will miss you, and you can be assured I will be remembering you constantly in my thoughts and prayers.
In recent weeks, you might have noticed your Ministry Team and leaders gently challenging you to help wind up the ‘prayer engine’ of our congregation - reminding us how important prayer is, as we look to the future and trust God to lead us safely forward.
I am extremely heartened by very encouraging signs of good spiritual health within the Emmanuel church family, despite (or maybe because of) everything that has happened. I have been especially impressed by the spirit of genuine goodwill and caring that I have found across the congregation. It has undoubtedly helped you ride out the storm that has tested you this year. I am equally heartened by a very evident desire, to stay focused on Jesus Christ and the mission he is giving you in this community. Jesus is still the VINE and you are still his branches - nothing changes that, even in challenging times!
My parting encouragement - keep praying AND keep hanging onto the VINE (Jesus) - in God’s hands, the best is always yet to come!
Rev Glenn Mulcahy
Last week we explored the story of Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers and dove sellers in Matthew 21. It’s a fascinating story that challenges the ‘gentle Jesus’ stereotype and, if he wasn’t already, sets Jesus on a collision course with the Jewish authorities. In overturning those tables, just after triumphantly entering Jerusalem, he signals that the coming Kingdom of God is very different to the status quo in the temple at that time.
I wonder how the money changers and the dove traders would have reacted to Jesus’ rebuke? The scriptures don’t say. Would they have yelled and waved their arms around? Would they have cursed under their breath and just set up their stalls as if nothing had happened? Would they have been so surprised due to Jesus’ reputation that they were left speechless?
I suspect it was a combination of all three. It would have been hard for them to comprehend because their daily practice was probably so normal. Maybe they had been selling doves for years. They knew they could sell at a premium, so they did. The established practices of the temple were so engrained and so normalised that the reasons for Jesus’ behaviour may have been lost on these traders. I wonder what would happen if I went to the café at the airport, threw all the sandwiches on the floor and berated the café owner for exploiting people by selling overpriced sandwiches? I suspect I’d get acquainted with airport security! And they would tidy up and keep selling the sandwiches as if nothing had happened.
Herein lies the challenge of challenging our status quo. Our life’s practices are so established, so engrained and so normal that it’s very difficult to apply the image of Jesus turning the tables to our own life or personal situation, identifying areas of our life which God wants us to reform. So how do we hold up that proverbial mirror, examine our faults, and strive to become more like Jesus?
One helpful way is to meet regularly with a small group of Christians and mutually support each other in this task – by praying, reading Scripture and being mutually accountable. In an age of individual liberties this seems odd. However, it was a key part of Wesley’s evangelical work, and similarly part of growing churches in the 21st century. People who connect with a huddle or small group have a great opportunity for discipleship growth. If you’re already in a small group I’m sure you’ll agree. Of course we also have a great opportunity (and responsibility) to love and support the other members of our group as they likewise grow to be more like Jesus.
Where is God upsetting the status quo in your normality this week? How will you respond? Who’s there to help you on that journey? And how can you support someone else?
Church Council Chairperson
Over the last few weeks we have been intentionally pausing to think, reflect and remember about the things that we are thankful for, and there are so many things! Thank you for your contributions to our tree of thankfulness and the reflective notes in worship on Emmanuel Day. Reading through them I was struck with the sheer volume of things that we have to be thankful for. The tree below on the front page of the newsletter is a snapshot of the things that we as a community of God’s people living in relationship with him are collectively THANKFUL for...
I want to add to this list all of you, the congregation and community who faithfully support the work of God in this are, who show up and step out into mission and ministry in and for our community everyday. Please keep it up. “I thank my God every time I remember you” Philippians 1:3
God Bless, Jess
“With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: ‘He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.’ ” Ezra 3:11 (NIV)
Recently, my daily devotions have focused on Ezra and the sheer joy which his people felt as they began to return to Israel after 70 years in Babylonian exile. Despite their exile, the verse above captures this message of joy and thanksgiving!
We, at Emmanuel, haven’t been in exile but, in recent times, we, perhaps, haven’t felt in control of our future. However, despite all that has happened, God has been good to us and, as we seek to rebuild and regroup, we too should bring our praise and thanksgiving to God – and shout out “Yes, God is good. O yes, He’ll never quit loving Emmanuel.” As we recognise His love which “endures forever” and see His hand in so many areas of our congregation’s life we will be able to confidently move forward on our discipleship journey.
So, how has your 21 Days of Thankfulness been going? I hope that you have been referring to your chart each day and taking that little bit of extra time to pause and give thanks – to God, but also to our family, friends and others in our community. I hope, also, that you took the opportunity last Thursday to treat yourself to something special – you deserve it!!
It has also been wonderful to read the numerous “thankfulness leaves” on our tree in the foyer – even if you’ve already placed a leaf on the tree, please feel free to add more. Can I briefly share three special items for which we can give God thanks and praise:
We’ve been a part of the Kids’ Hope program next door at Enoggera Primary School for 14 years and are so thankful to God for this opportunity to show our community God’s love in this way. We are also thankful to Vicki our co-ordinator and the mentors too – 2 have been mentoring for the whole 14 years and all current mentors have given at least 5 years of their time, energy and faith.
Through our Community Helping Hand outreach, we have made contact with a family who, in the past few months have not only attended Mens’ Breakfasts but have enrolled their children in Girls and Boys Brigade. We give God thanks for this opportunity to share our resources and our programs with our community.
A few weeks ago, I was overjoyed to see the young people leading our 9.30am Worship – Bella and Emily singing, Nathan and Mitchell on guitars and Andrew on drums. Of course, these young people were ably led by Dom who tirelessly gives of his time and talents each Friday to encourage members of the Youth Band. Another reason to give God thanks.
I hope that this has encouraged you to give thanks and praise - could I also, please, encourage you to seriously and prayerfully consider your Thanksgiving Offering for next Sunday.