Category Archives: Church sign of the week

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beautiful feet

Speaking recently  with a friend as he told me the story of his adopted sisters arrival,
he himself is adopted, and this story was relayed to me as we prepared the funeral service for their father.

He described a time when his dad was still in bed and he and his wife heard the foot steps of their daughter as a toddler coming down the hall , on hearing her foot steps, that they knew they had made the right choice in adopting her.

It is said ‘how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news’.


As we  many of us prepare to celebrate the arrival of  Jesus, and as we consider those who were trusted with the task of bearing the good news, the dodgy, the mistrusted, the ‘low life’, the confused, the bewildered, the marginalised and the vunerable it  is true of them that they indeed had beautiful feet.

GOOD TIDINGS (NEWS) OF GREAT JOY

DONT BE AFRAID I BRING GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY

FOR ALL PEOPLE


(painting By Gabby Willmott: based on my partners feet)

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Aspire not to have more but to be more

These words were said by Oscar Romero who was a Roman Catholic Archbishop who was assassinated for his beliefs. He was a strong advocate for social justice and peace.

We are about to enter the silly season – advent is upon us and Christmas is just around the corner. A time of indulgence and excess – a time to give loads of presents and eat loads of food and maybe, if we have time, to remember the little baby in Bethlehem.

I love Christmas and I really don’t want to take any of the fun stuff away from it but the more Christmases I have the more I realise that the stuff is not what it’s all about. Presents are brilliant and I really like getting them but  I’m seeing that it’s the reason for the gifts that is important not the gifts themselves. 

Someone wants to give me a Christmas present – great but why do they want to? Because I mean something to them and they are thinking about me at this time.

I want to give my friend a gift for Christmas because I want them to know I’m thinking about them and I value their friendship. What the gift is isn’t really that important (although I do try and give people something they would like) it’s the fact that I’m thinking of them.

And that’s what Christmas has always been about us knowing that we are being thought about. That is true of the first Christmas – God gives us Jesus as a present to let us know he is thinking about us and we do the same year after year.

This week we enter Advent – that time of waiting for the whole Christmas thing to start. If you are anything like me its a time for buying all those presents we mean to give and writing those cards you want to send. 

This year, as you do that, remember why you are buying gifts and writing cards and remembering all those people.

This Christmas aspire not to have more but to be more.


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Love Others Radically

Love others so radically they wonder why.

This weekend it was announced by the Prime Minister that he wants to pass a law that says that anyone who has tried to come to Australia, illegally,  by boat since 2013 will NEVER be allowed to enter the country. It is being done as a “sign to the people smugglers of how serious we are” about border protection. That’s great , Mr Turnbull, but it’s not the people smugglers who are being effected by this, its the little people desperate to find a new life away from tyranny and oppression – they won’t find it here apparently. (Yes, I know that some of the boat people are trying to jump the queue and beat the system but the (documented) majority are trying to escape terrible lives. Just think, what would have to happen to you and your family to make you jump into a boat and risk your life? It’s not a decision that most of the people make lightly.)

I was listening to the radio yesterday morning and a politician (I don’t remember her name) confirmed to the interviewer that if someone has tried to come to Australia to seek asylum by boat, even if they are found to have a legitimate claim, they will not be allowed to enter the country EVER! My friend (who works for the United Nations as a lawyer) cannot work out how many U.N. statutes  and Internation Laws this new law (if passed) will contravene. Where is our nation’s compassion? Where is our love for our neighbour? When we will stop singing the National Anthem that says, in the second verse, “For those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share”?

Please don’t think I’m advocating that we do away with our immigration laws – I’m not. I went through the system to be allowed to live here, it was fair to me. I am questioning the fairness and justice of a law that contravenes many International laws and treaties for those legitimate people who have been so oppressed in their own country that they have had to make the difficult decision to flee and will be denied the right I have because of the way they travel; for many the boats are the only way they can get out. (And I’m very aware of the amazing privilege I have to be able to write this blog, granted to me because I do live in a ‘free’ country.)

The sign this week speaks of the Christian value of love – that love that Jesus speaks about and shows to others. To those who, in the eyes of the government of his time, didn’t deserve love; to those that did him all manner of wrong; to those who oppressed him and, eventually, killed him.

This ‘radical’ love is what we, as Christians (I would say decent humans), should strive for; a self giving love that sees others as equals; a love (and a way of life) that doesn’t judge the worth of others by what their job is, or where they come from.

Love one another because love is from God – to quote a book a read from time to time.

A very appropriate meme!


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I will not stay silent so you can stay comfortable

Not long before I left for my holidays someone came up to me and said that the sermon I had preached had made them uncomfortable and I shouldn’t preach like that again.
I wasn’t quick enough at the time to say that that is what the Gospel does – make people uncomfortable. Christianity is not meant to make people feel like everything is ok – following Jesus is meant challenge us into action, revolutionise what we think, say and do.
It has always been like this, form the beginning – as a reminder of what sort of faith we have here are just a few (of many) sayings of Jesus that always make me squirm a little as I think about what they actually mean and how I can make them relevant in my life….


“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:11


“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24


“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear … “ Matthew 6:25


“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,’ he said, “Why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:31


“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.” Matthew 18:8


“Love your neighbour as yourself.” Matthew 22:39


These are just 6 quotes taken from Matthew’s Gospel. Think about these and if they don’t make you slightly uncomfortable then read them again as you may not have have completely understood them first time. And remember there are a lot more quotes in Matthew as well as another 3 Gospels.

Christianity certainly isn’t for those who want to be comfortable…


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Every book you’ve ever read is just a different combination of 26 letters

WOW!

Think about that – Charles Dickens uses the same letters as Justin Bieber’s song writers! Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump use the same alphabet.

Your favourite author and mine, as different as they are, use the same number of letters.

I have no amazing religious truth to draw from this – it just made me think…


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The meek may inherit the earth…

This week is a huge week for sport in Melbourne.

The Storm (our rugby league side) are in the Nation Rugby League grand final on Sunday and, of course, there is the small matter of the Australian Football League grand final on Saturday. (The Western Bulldogs v the Sydney Swans, in case you’ve missed who is playing.)

There is nowhere you can go this week where you will no see evidence of the biggest day of sport in our city (yes it’s bigger than the Melbourne Cup, if you ask me.) We even have a public holiday on Friday because of the Grand Final Parade. What other country (in fact what other city) has holidays for a sporting parade and a horse race?

Our sign this week is a quote from an AFL coach Mick Malthouse. He is, apparently, famous for his quotes and especially for his quotes of other people’s quotes. A quick search finds Mick quoting, or paraphrasing, Confucius, Mao Tse Tung and Jesus.

“The meek may inherit the earth but they will never win games of football.”

In some Bible translations the word ‘meek’ is written as ‘powerless’ (and the Greek word has both meanings). In a society where the Roman invaders dictated every aspect of life this translations of Jesus’ words can make a great deal of sense.  He was saying to his listeners that even though it seems that you can do nothing; you will prevail; and read your history books – where are the Romans now?

In a world where 1% control almost everything from media to banking and beyond it is easy for all of us to feel powerless and sometimes even useless. It is true that we may never change the world by our own individual actions but we can change the world of individuals. We are not powerless to alter the reality of people around us – a word, a smile, a offer of help can make the difference in people’s lives. I was in the city the other day, waiting to catch a tram – ahead of me in the queue to get on was an older lady with her bags of shopping. As she was getting onto the tram one of her bags split and cans and packets dropped everywhere. The first two people there to help her were two young men; they looked as if they were too cool to help an old lady but no, on their knees they scrambled about and picked up all her shopping – more than that they sat with the lady on the tram and chatted and laughed and shared time with her. It was lovely to see. When she got off they sat together and I heard one say comment on how lovely the lady was.

There were four people who had their views changed that day – the lads found out that not all older people are uncool; the woman found that not all young men in big baseball hats and baggy jeans are thugs and I saw that we are not powerless to make a difference in people’s lives.

Mr. Malthouse may be right; the meek will never win games of football but they will change the world.

p.s. This week most of Melbourne will be hoping that the Doggies will  head out on Saturday to beat the Swans to win the Grand Final for the first time in 1000 years (or nearly) and the Storm can win the NRL final on Sunday. A big week for Melbourne sport, c’mon the Doggies and the Storm.


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Irony

Christian
Non-Christian
Oh, the irony
Before I go on I must say that the person mentioned in this blog does not express the views of all Christians or, for that matter, all non-Christians.
I had the dubious pleasure this morning of listening to a prominent church leader (an archbishop, I think) chime in with his ideas on the marriage equality debate. It was an entertaining few minutes, I actually laughed once or twice. Then it sunk in that this man was representing to the radio audience the views of the whole Christian Church and that horrified me because what he said is certainly not my view nor the view of most of my Christian friends (and non-Christian friends as well.) 
The two things that will stick in my mind from his, most illuminating, speech were these – 

  • that anyone who supports the proposed marriage equality laws is not ‘a whole person.’ 

and

  • there shouldn’t be a vote in parliament on the marriage equality debate because it is too important an issue to be decided by politicians. 

I have to admit that this is not an ridiculous idea, or so I thought until the speaker followed up, answering a question, with the idea that yes, politicians have been given the mandate to start wars but not change the marriage laws, they shouldn’t be allowed to change the marriage laws as they are not qualified to do so.
If these weren’t such stupid statements I’d laugh. 

How can someone say that anyone who supports the proposed marriage equality laws is not ‘a whole person’? Does that mean that the 73 years old grandmother of 5 I was speaking to yesterday, who supports the idea of marriage equality, is not a ‘whole person’. According to a recent poll 72% of all Australians are not ‘whole people’ because they support marriage equality. 

I’ve heard the view about who is a whole person before from (primarily) Roman Catholic clergy and I’ve read the same view in (primarily) Roman Catholic publications, but it has always been aimed towards gay people. The Roman Catholic Church seems to view all LBGTQi people as not whole but never before have I heard it expressed that ANYONE who supports marriage equality is not a whole person. 

It seemed to me that I have to agree with the speaker on everything to be considered a whole person. I don’t and yet I feel quite whole but then again am I qualified to speak about that? Which brings me on to the second point.

Politicians are not qualified to make a decision on marriage equality.

What qualifications do they need? Is there a test that politicians should take to work out which laws they can change? 

They have the power to send our military away to die but they are not qualified to decide if legislation needs changing. From the way it was worded by the archbishop this morning it seems that it’s not just the marriage equality legislation they can’t change, it’s all legislation. They are unqualified. 

How does it work then? If they are able to drive a car can they debate the traffic laws (which relate to cars but not trucks obviously, unless they can drive a truck)? What about the laws on adoption and fostering – if they haven’t adopted a child should they abstain from the debate? Do they have to surf the internet to take part in a debate on the N.B.N.? They are elected to do this stuff. It’s what they do and, despite what I say sometimes, they do it quite well on the whole.
But this isn’t a blog about politicians, this is about Christians and how some of them don’t seem understand irony especially the irony about preaching one thing and yet doing another. I could go on and on about this but I’ll end with a short story and a Bible verse to demonstrate what I mean.
I have a friend in the U.S. (who happens to be gay). She works in a bar/restaurant and is given Sunday mornings off by the atheist owners to go to church because she is a Christian. One Sunday she went to one of the big churches they have over there. After the service the pastor came up to her and asked her not to come back to his church as he doesn’t want “her kind” in his church. The passage he had just finished preaching on was the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:40 – “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” 
She feels more welcome in the atheist’s bar – 
Oh the irony.


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Spread love as thickly as you would Nutella

Here’s another “What would Jesus say today?” blogs.

2000 years ago Jesus said; “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

In 2016 I would like to think he would say something like “Spread love as thickly as you would Nutella.”

This is not a new concept – this ‘love another’ stuff has been around for millennia. The church has been proclaiming it for as long as here has been a church. The work of loving our neighbour is what we should be doing. This is what the church is about (and by the church I mean the people that make up the church, that is you and me!).

Loving your neighbour is a simple concept – read the story of the Good Samaritan – the idea is that everyone is your neighbour and we should lavish as much care on them as we would do on ourselves. Easy idea – you’re already understood it, after just reading that sentence.

Now do think about doing it – think out spreading love around the place as thickly as I spread Nutella on bread (I at least need to see teethmarks when I bite it).

Think about treating people the same way you would treat yourself. Think about caring for someone, anyone, that person walking past on the street right now, as you would yourself.

Not so easy now is it? The concept is simple – the reality is anything but, the concept is really difficult.

But just because it’s difficult it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it to the best of our ability. Let’s be honest – we should strive for, but we will never manage, to love our neighbour as ourselves. We will attempt, but never quite, spread the Nutella as thick as we would for ourselves.

But let’s give it a go. Spread that stuff – love each other, love your neighbour who ever he or she might be.


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Out of difficulties grow miracles



Last night we held another “A Night Off the Streets”. It was a brilliant night – so many good things happened.
We had about 30 people turn up. We had so much lovely food, including apple pies that went down a treat to many variations of, “I haven’t had apple pie since I was a kid.” 
So many people form the church are being so generous – with food and clothes and time. With your help we are making such a difference in some of the lives of the homeless and street people of Melbourne.
Yesterday we had a success story too. On the first week we opened (and for a couple of times afterwards) a homeless lady came for food. She had been living on the streets for a while and was doing it tough. She stopped coming and we didn’t see her for a while though,. She returned again last night and told us that this week week she had been given a place to live. She was so excited and wanted to share her news with us. We are all so happy for her!
We have issues too of course. One of the biggest problems we have is having enough stuff to give out. There is always a need for various things; blankets, socks, undies etc etc. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve seen the miracles that our sign talks about.
Firstly there was the Sock Run. Shepherd’s Victoria organised this and brought us 2,500 pairs of socks, and blankets etc. Here is a message I got from Dean (the organiser) about one of the donations he received.
On Saturday around 2:30pm, a young man arrived with his mother and sister, I was so upset when I found out as I was away due to nature calling. My wife (Lee) was at the table with Jess and Mick and luckily they took a photo.
His mum pulled up and woke him up, he had been at karate training and was tired. She advised that they had driven in from Lancefield and that he came to be there as he came in to see his mum and was very concerned about the homeless, he had saved his money ($3) and wanted to know how he could help. His mum had seen our page and talked to him about it. This little champion went out and collected 220 pairs of socks and a pair of runners. 
They had left before I got back so I posted his picture on our site and thanked him and his mum for their incredible work and compassion. His mum contacted me yesterday on Facebook and told me his name is James and he is 6 years old. 
Miracle 1
but wait there is more –
Yesterday we took delivery of a car full (and I mean full) of blankets, clothes, toiletries, sleeping bags etc from the Social Justice Group of Goulburn Valley Grammar School.
The attached picture is a copy of the letter they sent.


Miracle 2.
We are so grateful to everyone that helps, for all the miracles (great and small) that happen weekly. 
Thank you all.


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This too shall pass

“This too shall pass” is a phrase with a long history. Abraham Lincoln sums that history up well in a speech he gave in 1859 – Lincoln said;

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!

For some people this has been a great week. A new grandchild; a new job; a long deserved holiday; it could be a thousand different reasons.

For some people this has been an awful week. A relationship breakdown; bad news at work; an unwanted sickness; again a thousand different reasons.

Our sign this week can be read and understood by both of the above groups, it should teach us to enjoy the good times for the do not last forever and also have hope in the bad times because they, too, do not go on indefinitely.

There is a verse in Paul’s letter to the Romans which reminds me of “this too shall pass” – Paul writes “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” To me it reminds me to be in the moment with people, if they allow you to share in their lives then sit with them, be with them, show up and live the moment with them. Reading my Gospels I find that this is what Jesus did. He shared with people where they were, in what ever circumstances he found them, with a grieving centurion or a joyful healed woman. 

Over the past few weeks we have been opening the church hall on a Sunday evening to serve food and offer shelter to anyone who wants it. Those who have helped out have had the privilege to sit and eat with many people – the happy ones (like the chap who learned he had just been granted housing), the unhappy ones, the addicted ones, the lonely ones, the ones who just want to listen. We have also been heard and helped by those who have joined us, this community stuff is not just a one way street – we (the volunteers) get as much out of it as those who join us week by week.

Last night I arrived at church to find the place buzzing – people everywhere, eating, talking, joking, one even crying. There was rejoicing and weeping going on and Jesus was there sharing in all of it. I cannot thank the Melbourne Welsh Church, and the elders in particular, for allowing us the opportunity to minister like this every Sunday evening.

So wherever you are in life; with whatever is happening remember that this too shall pass – enjoy the good moments, have hope in the bad for, as in all things, this too shall pass.


Upcoming Events

Dec
23
Sun
11:00 am NATIVITY SERVICE
NATIVITY SERVICE
Dec 23 @ 11:00 am – 12:15 pm
FOLLOWED BY A VISIT FROM SANTA AND A CHRISTMAS LUNCH
Jan
27
Sun
10:00 am CHURCH PICNIC
CHURCH PICNIC
Jan 27 @ 10:00 am – 3:30 pm
 
Mar
3
Sun
3:00 pm 2019 St. David’s Day Gymanfa Ganu
2019 St. David’s Day Gymanfa Ganu
Mar 3 @ 3:00 pm – 5:30 pm
A wonderful afternoon of traditional hymns and music held at St. Michael’s U.C. on the corner of Collins and Russell Streets. Features the Blue Ribbon winner from the 2018 National Eisteddfod of Wales, Andrew P.