This Sunday, bells at Anglican churches across Greater Sydney and the Illawarra will ring to mark 100 years since the signing of the Armistice which ended World War One.
Archbishop Glenn Davies has requested bells ring for one minute up to 11 am, which was the time of the signing and cessation of hostilities after four years of what became known as the Great War. It’s understood church bells will ring out in other parts of Australia, as they did in 1918 to communicate news that war was over.
From a population of fewer than five million, more than 400 thousand Australian men enlisted, of which over 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner.
At St Mark’s, Picton, we’ll conclude our regular Sunday service with a brief service of remembrance, followed by the ringing of the bell and two minutes silence at 11am.
We do this to remember and say thank you for the great sacrifices made in order to preserve our freedom. May we never take this freedom for granted. We also give thanks and praise to God – who not only gives us all good things, but through Christ, has promised to carry us home to our eternal rest with him.
Yesterday marked 2 years since the Picton flood, which devastated many peoples homes and a majority of Picton businesses.
For the first few months after the flood I was nervous about any rainfall. Now, I find myself rejoicing at a mere sprinkle, and dancing in the streets (metaphorically) for a genuine downpour to drench our parched land.
As we continue to read through Luke chapter 8 this week in Church, we encounter scenarios that are out of our control: a wild storm swamping the boat, an encounter with an out of control demon possessed man, a Father whose daughter is dying and a woman with permanent bleeding. This is life.
Life in this broken world is full of scenarios that are out of our control, of suffering and pain alongside the joys and successes of life. In the midst of the crisis we can be driven to despair by the helplessness of our situation, or to anger and frustration at God for allowing it to be so.
But we see in Luke 8 that Jesus has power and control over every situation we might encounter. We can have confidence that he understands and sympathises with our trials and our suffering. We can also have confidence that he has power to overcome those situations or to give us strength to endure them, as the case may be.
I’m thankful to God for the resilience and resourcefulness of our Church congregations in facing this and other challenges together. It’s a great blessing to be able to look to Christ for strength and to support one another as family in the midst of the joys and trials of life.
Let’s pray for a continuation of this rain (but not too much)…
It is amazing what faith can do for a person.
If I have someone with me who I trust can help and will stick it out with me, I can cope with all sorts of fears and dangers. It’s no co-incidence that psychologists trace our anxiety or other mental disorders back to our relationship with our parents. If we are confident that we are loved by our parents, if we grew up knowing they were always there for us and we could always rely on them, then external fears or dangers didn’t trouble us as much. We had faith that we could always fall back on mum and dad.
When the disciples are filled with fear because they are about to drown in Luke 8, Jesus links that fear to a lack of faith. It’s not that there is anything wrong with being afraid, its an important mechanism to motivate us to get to safety, to fight or flight.
But if we trust in Christ, if we have faith in him, then all the external fears of life are put into perspective. We know that whether we are rich or poor, popular or friendless, in safety or danger, in life or even death – nothing can take God’s love in Christ Jesus away from us.
We like to think we are independent: calling our own shots, masters of our own destiny, and in control of our lives. But there are times when we come to the end of ourselves. Humbling moments where we realise we are utterly dependent on others and we can’t move forward without begging for help.
The current drought we are experiencing is a perfect example – no matter how well managed, no matter how prosperous in the past, if there is no rain, there will be no grass for cattle to eat. Our farmers are calling out for help, and we have the opportunity to lend a hand.
We all face this challenge in different ways and times in our lives. It might be in financial hardship, or relationship breakdown, or inadequate parenting, or just the combination of juggling it all becomes too much. We are not made to be independent of each other, we are not made to be independent of God.
Why doesn’t God send the rain? I don’t exactly know, this is a broken world because of sin and that brokenness is seen even in the weather. But on these occasions we are reminded how dependent we are on God. We are reminded that we need him, and that we need each other.
So, let’s pray for rain, acknowledging our dependence on him, and lets support each other, recognising that none of us can get by alone.
For information on the ‘Dilly Drought Drive’ and to help support local Wollondilly farmers in the drought click here.
Do you ever find yourself in the middle of a conversation, where you have no idea what the person has been talking about? You’ve drifted off, distracted by thoughts about tomorrow, and they’re looking expectantly at you. Did they ask a question? What was it?
You just nod your head and say ‘yes’ – and then seeing the surprise in their face change quickly to a ‘no, no, of course not’. They smile and go on. Relief. You got away with that one.
In Luke chapter 8, Jesus challenges us to listen and respond to the Word of God. Though Satan wants to steal the Word away from us, though there will be challenges, though there will be distractions, this is absolutely vital. As you come to Church, pray that you and others will be able to Listen well to the Word of God. As you go about your day, schedule in a moment to read God’s Word, look for a moment to encourage others in responding rightly to the Word of God.
On the last day, when Christ returns, he will be looking at you expectantly. He will be asking you a very searching question: did you hear and respond to me? And you cannot bluff God.
For the first 3 weeks in January we’re exploring 3 Psalms of David (all laments – or complaints). It’s interesting that such a variety of Psalms exist in the Bible through the collection of 150 preserved for us. The Bible is not like Facebook, or Photoshop – it presents a real and honest picture of God, his people and salvation.
In each of these Psalms, David was not OK. He wasn’t happy with his life or circumstances or the way God was dealing with him. He didn’t pretend everything was OK, he brought his complaints to God by way of these Psalms and he called out to him for help.
More than likely we’ll have many days / months / years when we feel the same. When we’re not OK, life isn’t going as we’d hoped, and we’re not happy with the way God seems to be dealing with the situation. That’s OK, that’s to be expected. Of course we’ll work with others to try to improve this situation, we’ll ask for God’s help and we’ll ask for help from others. But most of all we’ll cling to hope that things will improve. We’ll persevere with the assurance that we are loved and precious in God’s sight despite the difficult circumstances we’re encountering.
It’s OK to be not OK. Let’s trust God and love and help each other in the different life circumstances that we each find ourselves.
Yours in Christ, Ben
Sometimes we are told to ‘keep our religion to ourselves’ or that religion ‘has no place in the public sphere’, but Christianity has necessary public implications.
As we read Ephesians 2 and 3 (and hear it preached on this weekend) we see that God has brought us back into peace with him through Jesus Christ, we have gone from death to life. But Paul doesn’t end there. If we have been brought near to God and at peace with him, then the clear implication is that have also been brought into peace with one another.
In providing salvation by grace through Christ the barrier between peoples has been torn down. No longer are we to compete against one another in virtue or accomplishment. We are all equally sinners, all equally saved by grace. This isn’t just an accidental implication either, it is stated that God’s purpose was ‘to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace.’
This should spell the end to racism and discrimination. Instead of fending people away from our country (refugees) shouldn’t we be welcoming them just as Christ has welcomed us?
During this week we held the ‘race that stops a nation’. Others controversially protested, declaring instead that we are ‘the nation that stops the races’.
How are you letting the grace of God impact your private and public life? How are you going at living in the humility and grace that Christ has demonstrated for us towards ALL women and men? We won’t do it perfectly, but we ought to look to Christ and give it our best!
Two weeks ago I attended the Faithfulness in Service Conference, a once-every-three-years conference, compulsory for all workers in the Anglican Church in Sydney. We were encouraged to trust Christ, look after ourselves and build resilience to deal with the stresses of ministry. We were also hit with some very confronting facts about Domestic Violence in Australia and challenged to do our bit to care for and protect women and to raise awareness about the scourge of domestic violence in our community and in our Church.
The reality is 1 in 5 Australian women will be the victims of some form of domestic violence in their lifetime. On average 2 women per week are killed by an intimate partner in Australia. The NSW police respond to around 400 incidents relating to domestic violence every single day. It is probably the most prevalent issue they are called upon to deal with.
Sometimes men don’t realise they are doing anything wrong because controlling and violent behaviour to women is what they’ve grown up with. For the same reason, some women don’t realise the way they are being treated is wrong. But it is not right. The biblical command to men is to love their wives by leading them in Christ and being willing to lay down their lives for their wives, never to control them and certainly never to manipulate or be physically violent with them. Let’s aim for our Church to be a safe place, where women are protected and safe, and where young men and women can learn to respect one another and relate in healthy and godly ways. If you need to talk about your own safety or your own behaviour, or someone you care about regarding these matters – please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
The Daisy app is a great way of connecting women with a wide range of helpful services to provide help and keep them safe. Click the link to find out more and download to your phone.
Thankyou Mum. You carried me, bore me, fed me, taught me, laughed with me, supported me, loved me, disciplined me, hugged me, and so much more. You taught me and showed me the love of Jesus Christ and the security, joy and hope to be found in him alone. You forsook your own desires and needs in order to meet mine just as Christ did at the cross of calvary. Thankyou.
Mothers Day is a wonderful day to celebrate and be thankful for our mums. But it can also be a difficult day.
This Mother’s Day may come as yet another reminder that you don’t have something you desire. Another year of miscarriages, infertility, or even waiting for a child through the adoption process. Whatever the unfulfilled desire, it tugs at your heart and plagues your mind.
I pray that all of us, mother or otherwise, would know the deep love and grace of Christ and that we’d have the strength to live each day for him. Through the struggles and exhaustion of parenthood, or the grief of childlessness, let’s support and love one another as the family of God.
There are some things we will never understand. As finite human beings, limited by time, space, intellect and life-span, in a vast and complex universe, we shouldn’t expect to know and understand the answer to everything. There will always be mystery, there will always be uncertainty. But that doesn’t mean we should stop pursuing answers, that doesn’t mean we should leave our questions unexplored.
As Christians we don’t know the answer to every question, but we do know the one who does. We can have confidence to be completely open and honest about our faith and about our doubts. We can and should explore the big questions and the challenges to our faith, to find out the answers where we can and to trust God when we can’t.
As we explore the big ‘Reasons to Doubt’ during these weeks – I hope you will grow in confidence in the robustness of the Christian faith and the goodness and comfort of God and knowing him through Jesus Christ. I hope you will feel confident to ask the questions you have on your heart and in your mind. To not just ‘practice religion’ but to believe and trust and learn and defend the truth of the good news of Jesus Christ. Let’s go deeper in our faith and understanding – let’s not be afraid to ask questions and pursue the truth.