First Nation Celebration
Respect Relics Agreement
OVERSEAS MISSION Nepal
OVERSEAS MISSION RWANDA
CAN'T GET TO CHURCH
RITES OF PASSAGE
ST. MARKS HALL
Church vs Church
December 25, 2018
Rejoice in Christ
A discussion re epistle preaching
SERMON: Paul on Giving, 1/7/18, Woodbridge
July 4, 2018
Called to be his church, Woodbridge 3/6/18
Love one another 6/5/18, Woodbridge
June 16, 2018
Jesus the Messiah
January 28, 2018
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!
May 29, 2017
Easter 2, 23 April 2017
Readings – Acts 2: 14a, 22-32. Psalm 16. 1 Peter 1: 1-12. John 20: 19-31
Easter is a time when we think of rebirth and new beginnings. With that in mind I want to share a
few experiences that I have had during the past week which have caused me to think about
discipleship and the need to reform or redefine the meaning of church.
I will start with the question “what does it mean to be church?” which was mentioned in two radio
The first that I heard was the Late Night Live that went to air on Easter Monday. Entitled “Papal
Report Card” it reviewed the achievements of Pope Francis in his first four years in office. Philip
Adams had two guests, Robert Mickens a Vatican correspondent and English language editor for La
Croix and Fatima Measham a writer and consulting edition for Eureka Street magazine. The
ensuing discussion was wide ranging and covered more than the immediate past four years but two
points stood out as important and worthy of note.
The first was Robert Mickens' description of Pope Francis, whom he insisted be called the Bishop
of Rome, as a man who has “joy in the gospels” who sees the church as a bruised and broken
organisation that needs to change and “dirty its hands” in the lives of the people. It struck me that
this fits with the findings of the recent Royal Commission which found all churches to be too bound
up in clericalism and not concerned enough with the lives of real people.
The second point concerned the job description for this Bishop of Rome. According to Robert the
cardinals who elected him felt that he was the best person to achieve reform of Vatican finances,
which was a very high priority. However, as well as reforming the finances he is reforming the
Papacy itself, which is an unpleasant surprise for some cardinals. In reforming the Papacy he asking
what it means to be church and is doing that by referring directly to the teachings of Jesus as
recorded in the gospels, which makes him evangelical Pope (or Bishop).
The second radio programme was The Spirit of Things that went to air on Easter Sunday. The
whole programme was devoted to ESM in Tasmania and the first 15 minutes looked at our
experience in Channel – Cygnet with both John Middleton and James Collins, our first enabler,
being interviewed. Once again I noted two particular issues.
James talked about the changes that had been necessary within Channel – Cygnet to allow ESM to
be introduced and explained how steps had been taken to ensure that in the end everyone was
accepting of the changes. Meanwhile in his interview John looked to the future, raised the
difficulties of growing the church and identified two main groups that it was hard to work with. He
suggested that many older people who may have had previous unsatisfactory church experiences
would be reluctant to try again, while younger people with no experience would find a typical
Anglican service too “foreign”. Both valid observations that led me to the conclusion that we again
need to seriously consider and discuss what it means to be a church and to find ways to make the
experience more acceptable to current non-church goers.
At the end of the programme Rachel Kohn had a brief interview with Bishop Richard who
described himself as an evangelical and told her about his desire for all baptised people to “recover
the ancient practice of disciple making” unfortunately for many of us it is so ancient we do not
know how to do it. He also said that many people in the community liked Jesus, it was the church
that “was on the nose”. He felt that Church has been damaged by the sex abuse scandals and said
that we need to find a way to recover. While I agree that many people do regard the church as being
in terminal decline I do not agree that it was only the sex abuse scandals that caused this and I don't
think that Bishop Richard meant that that was the only cause. The church has had problems for
years but the child abuse scandal gave many people a hook to hang their dislike on.
So what did I discover from these programmes. It was that at least two evangelical bishops are
keen to see the church reformed or redefined and both see congregations as playing an important
role in this. I assume that this is why Bishop Richard invited everyone to be involved in the current
exercise to develop a new mission statement for the church in Tasmania and it will be interesting to
see what comes out of that.
The second point that I want to consider briefly, I promise, is the desire that Bishop Richard has for
us to all exercise a disciple making role. This was not news as there was the conference “Confident
Disciple Making” last November which many of us attended and during Lent we shared a series of
sermons by Peter Adlem that identified important elements to help us prepare for disciple making.
I am sure that you remember the sermons as they had the acronym PLEBS which stood for Pray,
Listen, Eat, Bless, Share. I missed the first two but from the accompanying study guide I see that he
was asking us to pray for those who do not know Christ which could result in unexpected
opportunities to work with them. Listen meant listen carefully to hear what God might be saying to
us as he might be pointing us towards opportunities to work with others. Eat was Peter's way of
explaining a need to be hospitable and welcoming to strangers, this sermon introduced the Greek
word “philozania” which means love of strangers. Blessing humanity is a fundamental principle of
God's relationship with us and we need to mirror that in our dealings with others. Finally, Share is
what we need to do when we spread the message and for many of us that's the hardest thing to do
with non-believers. Even if we know them well it might be difficult to know how to start the
conversation and what to say but Peter pointed out that if we have done the preparation, especially
praying and listening, God will help us find the right opportunity and say the right things.
And that brings me in conclusion to our readings today. If I have one complaint about the gospel
authors it's that they did not devote much space to what happened after the resurrection and before
the coming of the holy spirit at Pentecost. A few verses that's all but during that time the original
disciples grew so much. If we look at them when Jesus was arrested, tried and executed the
description that springs to mind is “headless chook”, in fact “terrified headless chook”.
As our Gospel reading showed they were not much better even after they knew that Jesus had risen.
They were still shut up in a locked room and seemingly had no idea what to do. What happened
next? The gospels tell of a few meetings with Jesus and a a fishing trip but they do not detail how
the disciples grew into their new role. Then we have the Ascension and the coming of the Holy
Spirit but Jesus would not have sent the Spirit to them if they had not already undergone a
tremendous change. Something happened during the few weeks between Easter and the Ascension
to give them the confidence they needed to become the great emissaries for Jesus that they were.
Look again at Peter's speech as reported in Acts. He is confident and able to give the message to a
huge crowd that included those who had been responsible for the crucifixion, in fact the very people
that the disciples were hiding from when they were locked in the upper room.
We will never really know how the change came about but the advice that we have, to pray and to
listen is a good way for us to try to work through the process to become better disciples and the
imperative of the two previously mentioned evangelical bishops, to go back to the teaching of Jesus
in the gospels and to learn from them also needs to be followed. And what about the need to reform
a broken church. That is also important and it's a process that needs to be worked through at a
structural level, which is what Bishop Richard appears to be doing at the macro level. Meanwhile,
at the local level as we need to ensure that we can truly welcome the stranger to a situation where
they feel comfortable. Please give that need thought and prayer.
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