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.
As 2019 draws to a close, and we begin to step into 2020 we would like to take the opportunity to thank the Emmanuel community.
2019 has been quite the journey, and as I reflect on the year I can’t help but be thankful for the way the people of Emmanuel have been “Real People, with Relevant Faith, for Our Community.” We’ve had people involved in being God’s salt and light in Schools through Chaplaincy, RI, and Kids Hope. Creating an environment for families to be welcomed into the community through Boys and Girls Brigades, Playgroup and Sunday School. Emmanuel has been a worshipping community supported by members of the worship team - not only those out the front, but the people behind the scenes doing things that others don’t see. We’ve had people working hard to ensure that the building is in working order, and the newsletters are able to be ready for Sundays. We’ve had fellowship groups, explore groups, and leaders that have run both. We’ve had the Church Council leading the church alongside the Ministry Team. There’s been a lot that we have done in the year. However, I realise that what we do is not the whole story of Emmanuel. It’s not the whole story, because our identity is not only in what we do but in whose we are.
We belong to Christ, and our namesake “Emmanuel” means that God is with us. God is with us as we go out being disciples. God is with us when we are with our families, friends, and workplaces. God is with us and I am thankful that we are a Christ following community who reflects this reality. It is an important distinction to make as we step into 2020, beginning with a time of rest over January.
- A time when we prepare for the year ahead.
- A time when we can intentionally make the time to listen to God.
- A time when we can breathe and be thankful.
In this time of rest, a time when a lot of our normal activities are put on hold, how will you spend time with God? How will you remind yourself that you are loved by God and can find your identity in Him?
As we step into 2020 together, I look forward to seeing how God works in and through Emmanuel, and I pray blessings and safety over all who are resting and travelling during this period.
Grace and Peace
As we celebrate Christmas at Emmanuel Uniting Church this year, we are reminded that the carols we sing are an opportunity to reflect on the hope that we have received. At Holiday Club, and throughout the Christmas services, we are digging into the themes “Jesus is God’s Son”, “Jesus is Good News”, “Jesus is the promised Rescuerer” and “Jesus is the light of the World”. As we sing carols such as “What Child is this?”, “Go tell it on the Mountain”, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” we will be exploring these themes together.
Written in 1865, “What Child is this?” is a poem by William Chatterton Dix who wrote it after recovering from a near death experience. His lyrics are a reminder to us that Jesus is God’s Son: the Savior of us all and the King of Kings. Jesus came to Earth in order to save us from our sins and to invite us to be in relationship with God. This relationship with God endures throughout our times of celebration and our times of struggle. While it can be difficult at times to remember the goodness of God during trying times, we are reminded that at all times Jesus is Good News through the song “Go Tell it on the Mountain.”
When the choir director John Wesley Work Jr. added “Go Tell it on the Mountain” to a songbook, people weren’t sure if it was an appropriate choice. Its place in history as a song sung by slaves who were being mistreated made people question John’s decision. However, his reply was to use these songs as a reminder that the fact that “Jesus is Good News” is a message that rings true not only the good times but also the bad. The Good News of Jesus is that he has come to rescue us. He is the fulfilment of a promise made long ago, and continues to fulfil that promise today.
The promise was that God would send a rescuer to save us from sin. The long wait for God to fulfil the promise meant that some people thought that it was a broken promise, but Jesus is the rescuerer that God promised. The lyrics of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” were written by pastor Phillips Brooks in response to his experience travelling the same road that the Magi travelled when they went to see Jesus. It speaks of the coming of the saviour, born in the town of Bethlehem, to cast out sin and enter into our hearts today. The good news that Jesus is the rescuer and is meant for the whole world, as he is the light that shines in the hearts of us all.
In Luke 2: 28 - 32 we read of Simeon’s response to Jesus being brought to the temple: a declaration that Jesus was the means through which God’s salvation would be revealed to the whole world. Interestingly, the music we sing also has a history of celebrating the communication of the good news of God to the whole world. When the melody most closely associated with “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” was written by Felix Mendelssohn, the purpose of the music was to commemorate the invention of movable type printing by Johannes Gutenberg. The movable type printing press was the means through which the western world was able to explore the Bible in their own language. Just as the printing press helped people come to know God, Jesus is the light of the world who helps us to know God.
As we reflect on Jesus being God’s Son, Good News, the Promised Rescuer, and the Light of the World, I hope that everyone has a fantastic Christmas time! If you’d like to Dig In a little more into the Christian Christmas Story then may I encourage you to look at the Dig In Materials on the following page and also on our Church App and Website.
Merry Christmas Everybody!
Grace and Peace
Dom Chan (Worship Pastor)
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