Merry Christmas to everyone reading this our last newsletter for the year!
Last week I witnessed one of the most gracious, generous and loving acts of kindness I’ve ever seen. Our very own Jess Pinkerton attended to the needs of two men who came seeking help from Community Helping Hand. They came on the wrong day and out of hours.
They were looking for food but they were in a very poor state in terms of their own health and personal hygiene. They were apparently homeless, looked a bit scary and did smell very badly. They were babbling what sounded largely like nonsense to me & Jess, (I was there for moral support) and we couldn’t do much more than listen.
One man’s feet and ankles were so swollen that he had to wear thongs because shoes would no longer fit on his feet. As a consequence he had badly stubbed his little toe which was bleeding and looked terrible. Jess and I eventually decided we should offer some kind of cleaning – perhaps a shower – but the man said “no, just my feet please”.
As Jess rolled up his trouser legs, we discovered enormous ulcers on both legs which were deep, surrounded by dead skin and had some very grubby bandages on. On one leg the two ulcers were about the size of my fist in width. On the other leg the ulcer was even bigger: as large as my palm and fingers. And they smelled, and it was horrible.
But Jess put on her gloves and bathed his feet and legs; carefully wiped away some of the dead skin and put some decent bandages on. While she was doing this he fell asleep in the chair, right there. His mate had meanwhile gone to sit down on the bench under our church porch and had also fallen asleep.
We learned afterwards from the police that probably they were coming down from an “Ice high” which was why they couldn’t stay awake. There’s a lot more that could be said about this episode but the main point I wanted to highlight was the very practical way Jess found to be “good news” to those men. Sometimes the gospel is not complicated, even if it is difficult.
It seems fitting at Christmas, when we recall God getting his own hands dirty, as it were, to come and live amongst us as Jesus. Next year we’ll be “Digging into Discipleship” and one of things we’ll learn over and again is the need to find a living (if not perfect) example of what it means to follow Jesus. Good on you Jess, for showing us the way!
God bless you all this Christmas and into the New Year, Ian.
Have you ever felt like you were speaking a foreign language? Or talking to a brick wall? The typewriter and the pay phone have been mentioned in recent conversations with our kids. “What’s a typewriter?” or “What’s a Pay Phone?” they asked. They have no concept of these strange, ancient technologies! In these moments we are reminded how quickly technology is advancing and how our children are living in a different world to the one we grew up in (not that long ago!) Sometimes it seems those different worlds speak different languages.
Similarly, our world is becoming more secularised and less familiar with the name of Jesus and the narrative of the Gospels. The Good News of Jesus may be familiar to us, but is increasingly like a foreign language to our neighbours who have not experienced these words before. Faced with this reality, should we abandon any hope of sharing the Gospel with our neighbours? Has the language barrier between the Church and secular Australia become too great? The story of Pentecost in Acts 2 answers these questions.
In Acts 2:3-4 we read of the Holy Spirit coming on Jesus’ disciples, some time after He had ascended. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability (NRSV). Gathered in Jerusalem at that time are Jews from all corners of the World, who exclaimed, “we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Despite a language barrier, religious and cultural barriers, and human cynicism (v.13), the Good News of Jesus Christ is proclaimed to this diverse crowd and many are saved. The evangelists were untrained, they had never been to evangelical rally before – yet were able to share the Good News by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The message of Acts 2 should give us great encouragement as we seek to share Relevant Faith with Our Community. Firstly, it reminds us that we are merely participating in the work of the Holy Spirit and it is not our evangelical prowess at work. Secondly, it reminds us that language or culture is not a barrier. We can share our experience of God’s hand in whatever words we have and know that the Spirit allows others to hear. Thirdly, no barrier, be it language or otherwise, can overcome the Spirit’s work. For the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1 Jn 4:4 NRSV). So we have confidence sharing God’s love in any situation, knowing that God’s spirit is with us, and can give us the right words, in any language!
Grace and Peace
Church Council Chair
The Rock in the Road (A helpful old folktale)
For just a little longer we remain in this time of waiting. I sincerely thank you and commend you all on your perseverance and goodwill as we hang in there together - supporting and caring for one another, and carrying on the day to day life of our congregation here at Emmanuel.
This week I stumbled across this old folktale, which challenged me with a timely word!
“In medieval times, a King secretly organised for a large rock boulder to be placed deliberately in the middle of a much used roadway. Then he hid himself in nearby bushes and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock.
Some of the King’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and, one after the other, walked carefully around the inconvenient boulder.
Many were heard loudly blaming and cursing the King for not keeping the roads clear.
As the days passed the grumbles became angrier, more animated and even louder – but still no one did anything to move the stone!
A poor peasant was also travelling the road carrying a heavy load of vegetables for the markets. When he came upon the boulder, he said not a word and quietly laid down his burden. Immediately he set about trying to move the boulder to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded.
As he picked up his load of vegetables to be on his way, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been.
Opening the purse, the peasant found a number of gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.
The King then came out from hiding and congratulated the peasant for passing the test, that many others had failed!”
Is this a timely word?
The peasant knew what many people never understand: Every obstacle (or rock in our road) presents a learning opportunity to improve our condition!
God often uses the challenging situations in our lives as opportunities to strengthen our faith, and give us invaluable learnings!
One more timely word?
“Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)
Please keep praying, keep caring, keep supporting and loving one another in whatever practical ways you can and keep waiting on God – who never forgets or abandons his people!
(PS Thank you all for kindly welcoming me amongst you for these past few weeks! God be with you always!)
The (tough) Art of Waiting
Something in the human psyche seems to be pre-programmed to dislike waiting!
We want situations resolved yesterday, not tomorrow!
Some people impatiently TRY TO WAIT!
And the longer it drags on the harder it gets.
Are we there yet? Why aren’t we there? I WANT AN ANSWER NOW! I CAN’T WAIT!
We get frustrated, bad tempered, angry and unhappy!
Slowly Hope gets drained away….
But, no matter what, the WAIT still takes its own time!
There is an alternative way ….Don’t JUST TRY TO WAIT but add two more little words …
TRY TO WAIT … “ON GOD!”
Waiting is still hard; it will still be good when it’s over; there may still be emotional ups and downs … and some unanswered questions.
BUT there is one big difference.. people who WAIT ON GOD still have HOPE!
The WAIT still takes its own time – but the way to cope with that time changes!
Emmanuel Congregation finds itself in a difficult time of waiting at present.
We cannot change that – but we can change how we use this time!
Gently, I throw out a challenge to us all.
Let’s seize this uncertain time - to not only WAIT, but to WAIT ON GOD!
What might this mean?
• STEP UP YOUR PRAYING
Do a stocktake on how you ‘really’ pray and what you pray for. Do you ‘wait on God – or expect God to wait on you’?
Why not ‘wait on God’ by keeping a Prayer Journal through this time… (any old pad will do!)
Jesus is a good friend – so talk to him like friends do. Share what’s on your mind, don’t hold back.
Then WAIT ON GOD. Listen for the still small voice of God … trying to get it’s word in!
• STEP UP YOUR BIBLE LEARNING
Do a stocktake on how you listen for God as you read your Bible.
Do you wait on God openly, honestly – or expect God to endorse your own preconceived ideas and prejudices… Start with our Sunday readings, but don’t stop there…
• STEP UP YOUR SUPPORT FOR EACH OTHER
Do a stocktake on how you care for one another, especially in unsettling times. Look for Jesus speaking to us through each other. Make that phone call to check on someone? Or meet for that coffee? Just do something … and Wait on God to see where God takes it.
ALSO THIS WEEK – learn from Nehemiah.
The book of Nehemiah tells a remarkable story of God’s people waiting and waiting for over a century, before God gave them their chance to re-build their lives!
God never forgot them – AND GOD WON’T FORGET US!