The revealing of a role model for all humanity

by the Venerable Brian Newing.
Fr Brian has been a priest of this Diocese for over 50 years, faithfully serving the South West.

We are all living through a breathtaking revolution in electronic communication which is changing almost every aspect of our life. Nearly all communication is through the written word and not face to face conversation. This change is being driven by business and picked up by institutions such as Centrelink and Medicare. Have you ever tried to speak to a police officer in the middle of the night? By the time you have pressed two sets of number buttons, confusion reigns supreme. Even worse, trying to get your NBN phone to work when it has failed.

Comments fly to and fro on Facebook making all sorts of comments and allegations. All this communication takes place without seeing the face of the other person. There is no way of knowing how the other person is feeling, laughing, crying, disappointed or even in shock. Things are written that can never be retracted. I recently attended a Supreme Court trial where the judge addressed the jury and instructed them to disregard all they had all they had experienced using social media because it had led people to making snap judgements on limited evidence. He further stated it had cost people their jobs, destroyed relationships and driven people to suicide.

I am not trying to say all in the social media are wrong, but I do believe there are very real danger signs and it is against the way God wants us to live in the community.

The incarnation

In the fullness of time the God of all creation chose to communicate with His beloved people to reveal Himself to the world for all generations. The wisdom of God was to communicate with His people face to face in the person of Jesus Christ. The scriptures reveal to us Jesus was the exact image of God. “Not what God looks like but what is”. Jesus lived in community first with His family and later with His disciples and followers. He spent countless hours teaching them and preparing them for their ministry.

He taught them stories centred on everyday experiences they could easily remember. The shared His frustration and disappointment when so many people failed to comprehend or refused to hear His simple message of salvation. The disciples experienced the pain of Jesus trial and crucifixion. Following these events, they also shared the joy of His resurrection and the birth of the Christian church on the day of Pentecost. The Christian faith has come down through the centuries because people have shared their faith stories from generation to generation.

The Epiphany of Our Lord

The Epiphany means the revealing of Jesus to all people throughout the world. Peter declares, following Pentecost, that he now understands that God has no favourites but loves all people equally. This was the theme the disciples and Christian converts carried throughout the known world, from India to Britain, from Africa to northern Europe. Despite persecution, the Christian faith flourished and transformed the lives of millions of people. The new Christians were recognised by the love they shared with one another.

Down through history we have been called to shape and mould our lives on the role model of Jesus Christ. To look at the world through the eyes of Jesus. To make our decisions in accordance to the moral values of Jesus. To love sacrificially as Jesus loves us even to the cross. To forgive one another as Jesus forgave the repentant thief crucified with Him.

The word Christian means to be a Christ-like person. May we all strive to be a little more Christ-like during 2019 and reflect His glory to a world that is in need of a perfect role model to follow.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

A Prayer for Christmas and Epiphany

Blessed are you, Lord our God,
our eternal Father and David’s king:
You have made our gladness greater and increased our joy
by sending to dwell among us
the Wonderful Counsellor, the Prince of Peace.
Born of Mary,
proclaimed to the shepherds,
and acknowledged to the ends of the earth,
Your unconquered Sun of righteousness
destroys our darkness and establishes us in freedom.
All glory in the highest be to you:
through Christ, the Son of your favour,
in the anointing love of his Spirit,
now and for ever and ever.
Amen

From the Prayer Book for Australia (p.436)

United in Prayer

‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Each Sunday at St. Nic’s we have a prayer and worship service at 6pm, which (although I know you’re not meant to have favourites) is most definitely my favourite service to attend! It’s usually a smaller gathering of around 7-20+ people who come together, firstly to spend time worshipping God through song, then to pray.

Each week this looks different. Sometimes we sit in smaller groups and pray into different situations that have become apparent in church or in the community. There are some great testimonies to how God has answered prayer following this dedicated time of prayer – but again, that’s for another blog post! We have also used prayer stations, prayer walks and often we spend time simply seeking God’s face and asking Him to speak to us to share a word or a vision that He may have for us as a group or as a church.

Churches Together, united in prayer

The most recent Churches Together united prayer service was represented by 7 different churches and had 41 people attending, who gathered together in Jesus’ name, believing in the power of prayer. And how amazingly powerful it was. We began with a time of worship, and it was a real testimony to how ‘where two of three gather together in [His] name, there [He is] with them’ (Matthew 18:20). It really was beautiful to see different churches, people of different nationalities and of different denominations come together to worship the same God.

Prayer stations and a prayer walk were the two main ways that had been set up for our time of prayer – and we were asked to choose one. Then in small groups, we spent time praying into these different circumstances. We prayed for individual churches, for leaders, for streets and areas within Australind, Bunbury and the surrounds, highlighting places that were placed on our hearts and praying over them. We also prayed for the leaders of churches and over other aspects within the community.

There was also an area dedicated to quiet time in prayer, with Bibles available and scriptures available to provide a starting focus for prayer. I spent some time asking God to speak to me and I was really encouraged with a word for everybody, from Romans 12:4 ‘For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts according to the grace given to each of us’.

Together we are one body

It was a real encouragement for the individual churches represented there to continue doing what they’re doing and that they each have their own gifts that they can use to bless different areas of the community in different ways. Not every church needs to be great at youth ministry, and it would be unrealistic and unnecessary if we all focused on that one aspect! Similarly, not every church needs to provide a playgroup to bless the local community. However, together we are one body, united; with all local churches individually doing a great job at what they’re already doing! Isn’t that encouraging?!

Fortunately, as I spoke about in my previous blog post, we are called to pray into and focus on the areas that God has placed on our hearts according to our passions and interests. So this applied directly to churches too. What are people specifically gifted at in your church? What are you passionate about that you could serve your church in? Maybe God has placed one of His desires on your heart and has been nudging you to act upon it; something that you are personally deeply passionate about that you could serve God in.

Give it back to God

I would really encourage you to pray about this – give it back to God and ask Him to give you the reassurance or the nudge that you might need to act upon it! God calls us, just as we see in Jesus’ life on earth, to serve others. ‘For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45). Don’t get me wrong; we are not all called to give our lives, but throughout scripture, we are reminded to ‘serve one another humbly in love’ (Galatians 5:13). I would love you to share any words or passions that God places upon your heart following this blog post. Let’s come together, united in prayer, believing that prayer changes things.

Blessings, Zoë x

Prayer Changes Things

‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14)

The thing that struck me the most about St Nic’s when I first started attending almost 2 years ago, was their heart of prayer. Prayer that supports, prayer that heals, prayer that changes. It changes circumstances, it changes hearts, it changes relationships and it changes lives! All we need to do is call upon the Lord, pray to Him and He will listen to us (Jeremiah 29:12). There are so many promises throughout the Bible of God promising His people (that’s us!) that if we engage in a relationship with Him through prayer, He hears us and responds. Although that response may not always be in the way that we imagine or hope for, we can trust that ‘as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are [His] ways higher than your ways and [His] thoughts your thoughts’ (Isaiah 55:9).

Recently I have been wonderfully blessed by two separate events at St. Nic’s: The Australian Prayer Network (APN) Foundational Level prayer course, and the Churches Together united prayer evening. I just wanted to share some of my experiences, some of what I’ve learnt and how I have been encouraged me in my own prayer life in the next two blog posts…

Prayer Changes Things

The APN has several ‘levels’ of different prayer courses and this was the first one which focuses on the beginnings of really learning about how prayer works and how we can put into practice some Biblical truths. I want to focus on HOW prayer works. The main thing that I took away from this session was that prayer only changes things if we do what God tells us to do in response to our prayers to Him. There is no point in us praying and hearing a response from God then completely ignoring what God is telling us to do! Prayer requires action.

Prayer requires action

Prayer is an activity of God and it requires our cooperation: to be ‘totally available and radically obedient’! He wants to work through people – through you and me – to change the world. There’s a thinking that prayer requires God’s cooperation; that when we pray we want God to do exactly what we want and exactly how we want it. But that’s where we’ve got it completely wrong! God is far bigger, far greater than our circumstances, and if we focus on trying to simply find the right words to say, or believing that we have the answers then we’re losing sight of WHY we pray. Prayer is praying into God’s plans and purposes which are already known; ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

You know that feeling of when you’re praying for somebody or something, and you just can’t find the right words to say? That you don’t really know what to pray for? That the circumstance feels too big or too out of your own depth that you are lost for words? I want to encourage you and reassure you that THIS IS OK. It is not our words in our prayers that change the world. We need the power of God to change the circumstances. All we need to do, in every aspect of our lives INCLUDING our prayer lives, is to ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…’ (Proverbs 3:5-6) And prayer is one beautiful way that we can reach out and touch the power of God, and allow it to flow through us in our lives! While I am aware not all of us pray in tongues, I have found this I have found that using this gift can really help me personally when I don’t know what to pray for – but that’s for another day!

Prayer and your passions

One of the big questions that many people have is ‘what do I pray for? There’s so much to pray for: my own family, friends, my community, my nation, the world… Where do I begin?’ Don’t worry. God has it covered. Start by understanding the passions of your heart; those individual talents and passions, remembering that He created you in His image (Genesis 1:27) and that He knit you together in your mother’s womb and that you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14). This is where to begin. God wants to use these things that He has given you to make changes in your life and others’.

I spent some time in prayer after this challenge and I wanted to share one of my biggest passions – people. For people who are hurting, people who are in need or who are suffering. And also just to love people, to connect and encourage people as they are, where they are. For those of you who know me, this may not surprise you (ha!) but I’ve been really following God’s passion and trying to take every opportunity that presents itself in action and in prayer whenever I can, on a whole new level. It’s something that comes very naturally to me and I just love meeting and connecting with others wherever I go. But this is what God wants to use! He wants to use what we already love and are already passionate about to increase His kingdom here on earth!!

What you need to pray for every day

So I want to encourage you to seek God’s face and to ask Him what He wants you to pray for. Consider what are your passions? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What encourages you to keep going? These are the things that are God’s call on your life – and what you need to pray for every day.

Lift these things up to the Lord. Place them before Him and then ask Him want He wants you to do – then act on it! Remembering that faith moves the hand of God. Passion moves the hand of God. God searches for our hearts and uses those passions. So keep praying – passionately praying. We can’t NOT pray if we carry God’s heart for something. And we can stand secure in the faith that God will hear us, and He wants to work in us and through us to change the world. All we need to be, is ‘totally available and radically obedient’. That’s my challenge to you today.

Blessings, Zoë x

The Good Gift of Power at Pentecost

You can move a car by pushing it or you can turn the ignition key and harness the power of the engine. It will travel for longer and with a great deal less personal effort from A to B if there is sufficient fuel. Using fuel and the car’s engine, is using the car as it was designed to be. It’s the same with being a Christian called to be Jesus’ witnesses. We can attempt to live out the Christian life in our own limited power (this will result in failure) or we can welcome God’s design for the Christian and the necessity of being clothed with power by the Holy Spirit.

In Luke 24:49 Jesus asks the disciples to wait in Jerusalem in order to receive what the Father has promised, clothing in power. This power is in Greek the same root word from which we get dynamite! It is the same word that describes Jesus in Luke 4 as he returns from his trials in the wilderness and begins His public ministry: Luke 4:14 ‘Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.’ Furthermore, it is something promised by the Father through the prophets as Peter later points out in his address to the cords on Pentecost in Jerusalem. Here, he begins to literally fulfil the call to witness to Jesus (Acts 2:16ff).

Not just an encounter, but on-going…

This is not just a one off. The scriptures testify that the Holy Spirit’s work and presence in us makes all the difference. As we trust in Jesus it is the Holy Spirit who helps us know and experience the love of God assuring us that we are his children (Romans 8:16). We often see this is the main thing that happens on the Holy Spirit day in our Alpha course. Likewise, it is the spirit who enables good fruit to grow in our lives reflecting the character of Jesus: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to be effective witnesses through transforming our own lives; equipping us to witness in our actions and words to Jesus- risen from the dead, saviour of the world.

We recognise this is an ongoing need. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled and continue to be filled with the Spirit. Consequently, in each Eucharist we pray ‘Renew us by your Holy Spirit,’ and conclude with a heartfelt prayer ‘send us out in the power of your Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory.’

Clothe us in power…

On Saturday, as part of the prayer movement ‘Thy Kingdom come’ encouraged by Archbishop Justin Welby, we waited upon the Lord for 8 hours, looking to pray in His kingdom in differing areas and across a number of issues . However, we were waiting especially for the Lord to clothe us as a church with His power to be effective witnesses here to the South West of Australia.
This past week in Alpha it was a delight for us to see someone come to that place of trust in Jesus and commit themselves to follow Him. That wonderful moment happened in part through the ongoing witness of Christians in her family and the witness of this church to her. Alpha has helped her think it through further and come to a decision. How beautiful is that? It is a literal fulfilment of what Jesus asks of us and enables us to do through the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:45-49).

Lord, may your kingdom continue to come in us and through us. Holy Spirit, clothe us with power that we might be your witnesses to the ends of the earth, even the South West of Australia.

Amen.

Be Still, and Know the Presence of God: Morning Prayer at St Nicholas

What a better way to start the day then to meet with God in prayer, listening to Him and talking to Him?

It is good for Christians to come together to pray. Today there are many resources to enable us to do this. The Prayer Book of the Anglican church, provides us and encourages us to pray together. This has been a custom in many a church and Cathedral down through the ages, where clergy and laity gather together to say the offices of Morning and Evening Prayer.

Where this occurs, one can sense an atmosphere of prayer. I have often visited Durham Cathedral in the U.K. In entering, there is a special atmosphere created by centuries of prayer, over 1000 years. It helps one to be still and know the presence of God.

Prayer is of paramount importance for St Nicholas; if we want to seek God, to follow Him and to see the Holy Spirit at work, not only in our own lives but also in the lives of many who do not yet attend a church. We want to see St Nicholas as a house of prayer and in so doing people will enter into a special atmosphere. When God’s people draw near to God, He will draw near to them.

As I was saying the office and reading the Bible readings for the day, I was struck by the example of the early church. One of the readings was Acts 2:37-47 where we see the new Christians not only helping one another and having fellowship with one another, but also praising God and praying. What happened? God added to their numbers on a daily basis, new believers. Now that is an exciting picture!

I encourage others to come and be part of this time of seeking God, to pray to Him and to listen to Him as we read the Scriptures. Who knows what God will say to us as we open ourselves up to God?

by John Jarvis

Morning Prayer, every Tuesday, at 7.00am.

Where is your sacred space?

Where do you go when you need to pause, ground yourself, and reconnect with the Holy Spirit?
We live in a noisy world and live in a place where we have noise coming at us constantly, 24/7, trying to unplug and listen can be difficult. Needing to connect to God in a meaningful way is a daily thing but how do we do that if we are not at church?

Sacred Space in Godly Play

In Godly Play we help the children enter into a sacred space in a number of ways.
This starts with them being greeted by the doorperson, asking if they are ready and then crossing over the threshold into their space. Each child has their own mat to sit on signifying their spot in the circle.
We then get even more ready for our time with the Word. A stillness settles over the children as we breathe in and listen to our surroundings. The story is told slowly. The storyteller focuses on the objects and places moments of silence in the story. These silences are so that the children may start to wonder.
The Godly Play ‘room’ is not just a place for the children in church to go but a sacred space and, like the church, a liturgical space. Ideally it is designed to help us come close to God and prepare us for God to come close to us.

Connecting with God throughout the week

But how does this help us during the rest of the week? Do you have a space where you can cross the threshold to find your spot? Is there somewhere that you can read or listen to God’s word?
For some people that may be a cosy chair in a corner; some, a walk along the foreshore. For others it might be an exercise—a treadmill, a jog—wherever you are able to connect with God and find the sacred, to be able to disconnect from the distractions and simply listen can become your sacred space.

Where is your sacred space?

An Easter Reflection on Psalm 22: The Suffering God for Suffering People

On the cross Jesus cried out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

Jesus, the Son of God, had been rejected, tortured, insulted, humiliated and left to die. In the midst of excruciating suffering and approaching death, Jesus quoted Psalm 22. This is a psalm of suffering. An expression of loneliness. A pleading to God for help.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.

However, it is also a psalm of hope. The psalmist is turning to God for answers in his time of need. It is a psalm which expects God to come. It expects God to act in times of suffering.

I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
You who fear the Lord, praise him!

For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

On the cross Jesus revealed more than the depth of his suffering. He revealed more than his agony. Jesus revealed his trust in God his Father. He experienced the mystery of how God uses suffering to accomplish good. The cross is the revelation of the holy love of God dealing with the sin and evil of the world, and it is utter agony. But it brought life, healing and hope. We see this in the resurrection when Jesus conquered death itself.

Suffering is a problem we all face. It takes many forms. Rejection. Loneliness. Illness. Grief. Loss. Humiliation. Jesus shared in our suffering and invites us to bring our suffering to God and ask ‘why?’ Why are we suffering? Why is God not removing our suffering? Why does God appear far away?

We can ask ‘why’ because we know that our loving God is present in our suffering. He has suffered, he understands our suffering; he is never far away. We can expect God to act. But the deep mystery is the God can, and will, transform even our worst sufferings into good. His action may not be what we expect, it may be much more.

Written by Paul King.

How do we follow Jesus?

A blessed and Happy New year to everyone. My hope is that you have gained refreshment and created some good memories over the 12 days of Christmas. I have enjoyed a blessed break with family and come into this year looking to Jesus to guide us. I want to know His purposes for His Father’s kingdom here and in our diocese and I want to walk in them. Do you? So that’s a goal and aspiration. New Year is often linked to resolutions and goal setting. However there is a growing body of research suggesting goal setting handled incorrectly leads to self defeat and actual avoidance of change!
We know here at St  Nick’s that growing things change and we are invited into ongoing transformation by God to bear the fruit of His Spirit and to do His works. Yet how we frame things impacts what we actually do i.e. setting goals can be good but we tend to forget transformation takes time and involves daily rhythms and choices. It’s easier to set a goal than make a daily change. So if I am serious about looking to Jesus to guide us what does that mean in practice?
Today I will be exploring a little of what it means to follow Jesus. The bottom line is recognising He wants to be close to us and then choosing to be close to Him, learning to look and listen for Him through the day. Beginning and ending the day with Him; pausing and inviting Him into the moments of the day, thanking Him, asking Him, praising Him complaining to Him, groaning with sighs beyond words ( on a bad day) . We don’t do this alone. We have the Holy Spirit who walks alongside us and is within us who can enable us to do just that. Looking to Jesus to guide us and walking in His purposes is the outcome of a series of small continuous steps…. That’s how we follow …steps, foot fall by foot fall, day by day, month by month until our last day here and then the glorious step into eternity with Him.
Shalom Jamie

Keeping it Real: Praying the Psalms of Lament

We don’t have to go very far into our day to be reminded that we live in an imperfect world. Yes, Jesus has won the victory. Yes, Jesus is making all things new. But this side of his coming again, we still live in a world that’s groaning. A world that is not yet set right. We live in the place of now, but not yet. 
 
We see people around us suffering and we suffer ourselves; physically, emotionally, psychologically. We can ache in our soul and weep in our hearts for the injustice we see around us. Prayers of praise and thanksgiving can seem hollow and distant. We feel our indignation rising, our anger, our hurt. We can feel unable to connect with God. Where do we go with these feelings? How do we pray?
 
A method of prayer that has largely been lost in our churches today is the prayer of lament. This is strange, since over a third of the psalms in our bible pray this way. But often in our focus on New Testament joy and praise of the risen Jesus, we can sometimes ignore the side of us that still hurts, and is waiting for his return to set everything right. The psalms are God’s Word to us that we can pray back to him. So we can trust that they are good prayers to use! Let’s look at the nature of this style of prayer:
 
They are relational – Psalms of lament most often begin with a heartfelt cry to God. There is a recognition that God is our ultimate source of help, even if our complaint is about him.
 
They are honest – There is a brutal and shocking honesty that is throughout the psalms of lament. This is a relationship that is direct and personal. The psalmist is not worried about getting their manners, morality or theology right before they speak. 
 
They are evocative – The psalms of lament use poetry and image that is raw and passionate. They seek to evoke and emotional response that will become action. Lament psalms expect God to act.
 
They are faithful – The psalms of lament are not psalms of doubt, they point to a faith that takes God seriously, even when God himself is seen as the enemy. This doesn’t mean all our questions about suffering are answered, but it does drive us towards God rather than away from him.
 
They are a journey – Nearly all the lament psalms conclude with expressions of trust or praise. It can seem strange that the psalmist makes such an abrupt turn around. We need to keep in mind that the psalms represent a compression of time and experience. Sometimes we will need to wrestle with God for days, weeks or years before our lament turns to praise on a certain issue.
 
The lament psalms are invaluable to our journey as a Christian. They can give us words when our anguished mind cannot. To continue the dialogue with God, even when he is the one we are most angry with.  They take us on a journey from complaint to praise, from despair to hope, from sadness to joy.  Let’s rediscover this ancient method of prayer and put words to our honest thoughts and feelings before God. He is big enough to handle them all.
 
Blessings
Carli
 
Psalms of individual lament: Psalms 3; 4; 6; 7; 13; 17; 22; 25; 27; 31; 35; 38; 39; 41; 42; 43; 51; 54; 55; 56; 57; 59; 61; 64; 69; 70; 71; 77; 86; 88; 102; 109; 139; 140; 141; 142; 143.
Psalms of corporate lament:  Psalms 9; 10; 12; 14; 44; 53; 58; 60; 67; 74; 79; 80; 82; 83; 85; 89; 90; 94; 106; 108; 137; 144