Welcome to everyone reading this newsletter. This is our month! Our church is named Emmanuel which we know means God with Us and in this season of advent we celebrate not only His presence amongst us as a man, 2000 years ago, nor only His presence amongst us now, by His Spirit, but his future presence amongst us as King of the universe! God is with us and this is the month to really think hard about what difference that makes to us and how to communicate that difference to others.
To help us with that we have three special events, as you know. Our Community Christmas Carols, on Dec 23rd, will be an extravaganza of fun, food and carols interspersed with a re-telling of the Christmas story. Invite your friends, family and neighbours – especially if they don’t normally go to church – they’re going to love it and we’ll have a really good time together.
The Carols will be led by Dom and the worship team but we will also have two specially assembled choirs, one from our Sudanese brothers and sisters and another from our own congregation. (If you’d like to be part of that choir, please meet with Mel Herron and the others in the meeting room at 11am this Sunday).
We’ll also have a dance performance from our Holiday Club led by Jess Pinkerton (what a great job she did with the all-age message last week!) which is happening on 20th & 21st December for Primary-aged children. Get your kids registered as soon as possible and invite your friends’ kid too. All our events are designed with people who don’t normally attend church in our minds – so they are suitable for everyone. If you can volunteer for those two days we really need you to sign up ASAP also so that we can make room for even more children!
Lastly, but by no means least, will be our Christmas Day Service on (would you believe) 25th December. After all the buzz and excitement it will be good to start our Christmas Day celebrations with a slightly quieter service and pray our way into a day that fully honours and sets the tone for one of the holiest days in our calendar. It is a day to rejoice, reflect and respond and will also be an outstanding time to bring someone with you who wouldn’t otherwise come. It’s about belonging to the God who is always with us, no matter the day or the season. It can be a lonely day but it doesn’t have to be! Come, bring your friends and introduce them Jesus and his people.
God bless, 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!