I'm sharing this journal entry from one of our sheep / shepherds for your encouragement and invite you to share your stories to keep us connected David
Thursday April 2, 2020: A journal entry:
A Morning mist of low cloud wrapped soft around the hills.
I read John 6 and tried to ponder on Jesus the living bread. But the mist beckoned and drew me outside, quickly enfolding me in its clammy embrace.
There was no pausing to choose direction. I headed straight up the hill blanketed in the foggy stillness, only birdcall echoing the inner certainty – she’s coming to pray.
Pray up the hill. I haven’t prayed up there for a while. I’ve prayed. But not there on God’s hill, my place of retreat.
At the summit, as cloud drifted and lifted, it was my heart that rained out its anguished plea, the cry for help with COVID19: LORD HEAR OUR PRAYER. Help us Jesus.
That was it. No wordy waffle. I perched on the rim of the damp bench, poised in grief and need; heart, mind and spirit turned to God, “Yet still do I praise you Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Living God.”
A lull then settled over me, like a mute button had been pressed to hush the turmoil of my distressed thoughts and wretched emotions concerning the plight of the world’s people. Wait. Be quiet!
Jesus wept. The words from last Sunday’s reading came to mind loud and clear.
33 When Jesus saw her crying, and the Judaeans who had come with her crying, he was deeply stirred in his spirit, and very troubled. 34 ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Master,’ they said, ‘come and see.’ 35 Jesus burst into tears. (John 11:33-35 NTE)
I too burst into tears, and as I wept, there at the top of the hill, I knew he was weeping with me. Weeping with all the world. Weeping for us all.
Turn to me. And I, turning, vision all awash, could see clearly, he was there. Feed my sheep. To this I shook my head, and thought, I’m no pastor. You are a minister of my word. Therefore, speak my word to others. Speak my word to one another. And suddenly understanding dawned. “You aren’t just saying this to me, are you? It’s your call to all of us: Feed your sheep. The responsibility is ours collectively.” And I pictured the scattered sheep, isolated from one another but belonging together and needing creative new ways of being church and speaking grace and hope to one another and others.
I plunged, then, down the hill, not following the worn paths but winding down the steeper slope, weaving through knee high weeds, around rocky mounds and patches of slippery flattened grass, to emerge at the wider base track.
Now is the time to forge new paths. Jesus is still the Way, the “base track” of my faith remains the same. It’s the network of familiar paths that represent how we have lived out our faith, that have fallen away, not God’s word or his kingdom, or his love.
I am thankful for this love that comes to us where we are: scattered sheep weeping in the mist of uncertainty. I’m thankful that Jesus wept and that his way isn’t set in stone. That he comes and calls us to discover a new and living way, today and tomorrow and the next day. Hallelujah! This is a new day! And the Jesus who weeps with us in our distress will renew us and lead us on beyond COVID19.
The autumn sun filtered a pale ray through the drifting grey. A reminder that the God who weeps, also sheds light as well as tears.
At this moment we can’t gather together in our church buildings but that doesn’t stop us from being the church.
We’re the church, the body of Christ, and we normally gather together in a ‘church building’ around God’s word and sacraments. As we worship together we support and encourage each other.
How do we support and encourage when we can’t meet together?
We can use our phones to text, talk or FaceTime. We can send emails. We can skype and use social media.
We can remember that the Holy Spirit unites in Jesus Christ.
While we’re away from each other physically we’re united spiritually as we continue to worship in our separate places. Jesus promises to be with us and so whether we’re alone, in a family, or in our church gatherings, Jesus is with us.
We could compare this time to the time of the early church. On the Day of Pentecost 3000 people became believers in Jesus and were baptised. They came from many different places and went home with the good news of their new life in Christ.
Those who were in Jerusalem, or close by, met regularly in the temple and Luke tells us They spent their time learning from the apostles, and they were like family to each other. They also broke bread and prayed together. Acts 2:42
Bible scholars tell us that ‘broke bread’ is shorthand for celebrating the Lord’s Supper. Those who were close enough to the temple celebrated the Lord’s Supper as a community at the place of worship.
But what about those who were scattered? Luke also tells us in Acts 2:46 that the believers ‘broke bread’ in their homes. Some argue this is simply eating together but it’s just as likely the believers were celebrating the Lord’s Supper in their homes.
Can we celebrate the Lord’s Supper in our homes in times like these?
For the sake of good order we’d normally only have the Lord’s Supper in public worship. But public worship is currently not possible and therefore is this a time for special orders? Would our decision be based on how long public worship is banned?
For the sake of your spiritual health I’ve provided you and your family with an order that does include the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. You’ll need to decide whether you make use of this order or not.
Whatever you decide - God’s love and grace is with you.
This is a picture of a stake and its tree. Or is it a tree and its stake? The stake was once a pine tree and even now you can see signs of the way it grew. It was sacrificed to become a support stake for a little gum. This gum tree will never be a giant but it has completely outgrown the stake. The stake is now redundant but it remains there as a reminder that this tree was once little and in need of support. Can you imagine someone coming across this stake and its tree many years ago and noticing the tree was getting taller than the stake? What if that was considered disrespectful and the tree lopped just short of the height of the stake? It might have killed the tree and if it didn’t it certainly would’ve stunted its growth. The past is like a stake which has done its job and has often done it well but the present is where we live and wouldn’t it be sad if the past killed us or held us back and restricted our growth. We celebrate the past and learn from the past but we can’t live in the past. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8) but he speaks to us in today’s language. God is the God of the living not of the dead. (Matt 22:32) His truths are timeless but they are also timely. We read and study his word not so we can live like the ancients but so we can discern how we are to live today. I think if the stake could talk it would tell us it is very proud of what its tree has become. Are we doing our forbears proud by who we are and what we’ve become and will become as God’s people in this time?
As we begin 2020 large areas of our land are still in the grip of drought. Fires have been ravaging our land and destroying the homes and livelihood of people and animals. We might like to ask is 2020 going to be a year of destruction and death or a year of goodness and grace?
Some will say that because it’s begun so badly it can only improve but others might say this is just a foretaste of much worse to come. What about us?
What is our vision for the year of the Lord 2020 and can we claim to have 2020 vision to explain the current circumstances?
If we want to throw Bible verses around to prove our prediction or our version of the truth we’ll easily find them. But that’s not what the Bible is for and not a very helpful way to proceed. It’s much more important and helpful to have a holistic view of the Bible and the nature of God and to allow that to inform our thinking.
We know that
· God is love and nothing can separate us from his love.
· Our lives are in God’s hands.
· God will never leave us or forsake us.
· No matter what happens God’s always doing his best for us.
· We live in a broken and sin-filled world.
Therefore if you say 2020 will be a year of destruction and death, I’d say, you could be right. And if you say 2020 will be a year of goodness and grace, I say, you’re absolutely right because we’re children of God. Our hands are prayerful and we’re holding hands with our loving God.
In 2020 - Lord, teach us to pray.
Whatever 2020 brings - Lord, teach us to pray.
At the end of 2020 - Lord, let us look back and thank you for the privilege of prayer.
Prayer is conversation with God and therefore all prayer is by its nature relational. Some prayers are more relational than others and sometimes we’re more aware of the relational aspect than
When Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them to pray he gave them an example and model for prayer which we call the Lord’s Prayer.
This amazing prayer is relational from beginning to end
but we can rattle it off rather than relate to our God
Not only is it addressed to our heavenly relative, our Father (Dad) but Jesus taught us to pray ‘our’ Father rather than ‘my’ Father.
As God’s children we’re related to God and to all God’s people. We’re all brothers and sisters. The Lord’s Prayer focusses on both of those relationships.
We pray for God’s name, kingdom, and will. We’re at the same time asking for and committing ourselves to a good relationship with God. We praying to the God of the universe and therefore the prayer has a universal focus.
There’s no ‘I’ in the Lord’s Prayer.
It protects us from selfishness
We pray for the daily needs of the world-wide family even though we might be thinking about what’s in our own pantry.
We pray for good and lasting relationships. Because we often muck them up we ask God to forgive us so we can keep on
We pray we’ll neither lead our neighbour into sin or be led into sin by our neighbour.
Our prayer for God to deliver us from evil applies equally to ourselves and our neighbour. We desire as much good for our
neighbour as we do for ourselves.
Lord, teach us to Pray!
How much more do we need?
How much more do we want?
How much is enough? Sometimes we might feel we haven’t got nearly enough and at other times we’ve got more than enough.
Have you ever wondered whether God is enough?
Jesus says lots about how much God loves us, cares for us and provides for our needs. He makes it clear that our God has more than enough for all of us. Our heavenly Father has more than enough love for everyone. God has than enough grace to save us all. God is more than enough.
Jesus says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt 11:7)
Jesus also says, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13
This is wonderful good news. Regardless of our situation and how we feel about what’s happening in our lives God is more than enough for us. No matter how much we need his love, his gifts, and the Holy Spirit, God is much more willing to help us than we are able to imagine.
God’s love and grace are so amazing and so consistent that it’s hard to comprehend. Our minds are too small to appreciate how much more our God is both doing and willing to do for us.
I pray we’ll live contented and thankful lives in the blessed assurance of God’s “how much more!”
Way back in the beginning, when the Adam and Eve mucked up by disobeying the one and only command God had given them, they hid themselves in shame. But God searched for them and called out for them.
Where are you?
Despite them damaging their relationship with God, he still wanted relationship. They’d lost their way and felt utterly lost to God and to each other but God came looking like a shepherd looking for lost sheep.
God called out in love to his image bearers because he couldn’t bear to have part of his image separated from its loving source.
God seeks and God speaks
God continues to seek for his lost ones and continues to speak. The whole of creation ‘speaks’ of his wonder. God speaks to us through his Word, through the words of his people, and directly to our hearts and minds through the Holy Spirit.
One of our parish - prayers shared this quote with me;
“God speaks to those who take time to listen and
God listens to those who take time to pray.”
Are we listening? Do we have time to hear? We can’t make time but we can take time. We can set aside particular times for communication with God. It’s good for us to develop good prayer habits or we can slowly slip into a place where we neither listen or speak to God.
There’s no right time or wrong time to listen to God and to speak to him.
Maybe it’s better to say that all the time is the best time. I pray that we’ll have our ears, eyes, and minds open to hear God speak to us and that we’ll have confidence to speak.
God our Father, longs for a close and open relationship with each of us. What a privilege to have an ‘open door’ to our Father in heaven.
Let’s use it so we don’t lose it!
We’ve just had an amazing holiday. Four of the highlights of our holiday involved water. In each case the area immediately around the water was really dry. The water had either travelled long distances in creeks and rivers or had come from deep underground. The results were amazing.
The life and beauty generated by the water attracts people from all over our country to these places. The vegetation, birds, and fish that are part of the spectacle are all dependent on the water but, no doubt, don’t give it a thought, just take it for granted.
We’re also dependent on water and can’t live without it. We might also take that for granted but we shouldn’t.
Water is one of God’s good gifts. All the water we saw on our holiday fell as rain at some stage even if it was no where near where we saw it or many years before. Without continuing rain all these places would eventually go dry. Thank God for his life-giving rains.
God declares his commitment to supply the needy with water through the prophet Isaiah. He says,
When the poor and needy are dying of thirst and cannot find water, I, the Lord God of Israel, will come to their rescue. I won’t forget them. I will make rivers flow on mountain peaks. I will send streams to fill the valleys.
Dry and barren land will flow with springs and become a lake. Isaiah 41:17f
We saw some examples of this prophecy fulfilled at Innamincka, Lawn Hill National Park (pictured), Dalhousie Springs, and Lake Eyre. Amazing!
Even more amazing is the living water that wells up within us, the Holy Spirit, to satisfy our spiritual thirst. John records these words for our encouragement,
On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and shouted, “If you are thirsty, come to me and drink! Have faith in me, and you will have life-giving water flowing from deep inside you, just as the Scriptures say.” Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, who would be given to everyone that had faith in him. John 7:37-39a
God supply your needs and quench your thirsts, today and always!