Each week, Andrew our Rector writes a short column of church news and Christian reflection in the pew bulletin.  If you miss a week, you can catch up here.

19th May

Who would have thought, six months ago, that the final week of campaigning towards yesterday’s election would involve the contenders trading theological pronouncements about hell?  Although there was not much substance or authority to the statements they made, I think I am pleased that hell is in the news, because unpleasant as it is, there is no more important subject.  Long after the taxation, labour market and environmental policies taken to yesterday’s election have been forgotten, every Australian voter will be either in heaven or in hell.

This is the clear testimony of Scripture (e.g. Luke 12:5, Revelation 21:8).  And for all the talk of a “vengeful God” that we have heard in the media, it should be obvious that Scripture warns us about the reality of hell because God does not want us to go there.  At the centre of our faith is the death of the Lord Jesus Christ who underwent the punishment of hell to redeem sinners from the hell that we all deserve.

Hell is not reserved for especially heinous sinners.  Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate.  For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  But the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).  The way to life is through faith in the crucified Christ.

If you are not sure you are on the road to life, tell me at the door, and let’s talk about it urgently.

12th May

On this Mothers’ Day I am grateful to God for my mother, who taught me to believe in God and loves me unconditionally to this day.  I am grateful to God for one particularly good friend of my mother, who never had children of her and own and has been very generous towards me and my children.  And I am grateful to God for my wife, with her endless patience and devotion, and timely Christian encouragements, for our children (and for me!).  God gave us our mothers and mother figures.  Indeed, God invented motherhood and occasionally describes himself in motherly terms (e.g., Matthew 23:37).  Therefore, while it is right to thank and acknowledge the women in our lives today, let us genuinely acknowledge God for his wisdom and kindness in providing them.

You may have seen article about our Sculpture dedication in the Southern Courier, 30th April, page 17.  It happens that on the very next page, our choir is mentioned for their participation in the Anzac Day Dawn Service at Coogee Beach.  It’s nice to get some media coverage!

This week it would be remiss of me to say nothing about this Saturday’s federal election.  I want to encourage you to vote Christianly.  By this I mean to start with the realisation that your vote is a gift of God to be used in obedience to him.  In deciding how to vote, our self-interest, and our tribal loyalties to one side of politics or the other, must give way to our Christian identity.  We must make a judgment, as best we can, as to what political outcome will be best for the advance of the gospel.

There is no such person as the perfect Christian candidate.  All have strengths and weaknesses in the way their character and policies align with the gospel.  As a result, Christian people can legitimately differ in their political judgments and end up voting for different candidates.  The key, however, is to recognise in our vote a God-given responsibility for which we will give account. So please pray sincerely for wisdom, and vote with the wisdom God gives you.  I have written a prayer which you may like to use (see inside).

Also, this month’s edition of the Southern Cross contains an excellent column from our Archbishop in relation to the upcoming election.

In brief, Fireworks is in three weeks’ time (Sat 1st June, 5 pm).  Please plan to come, and invite a friend.

5th May

A warm welcome to church today.  I trust you will grow in joy and hope through what takes places in the service.  Sunday School (9.30 am service) returns today after a holiday break.  Children join in the main gathering at the start, and then head off to their programs after the children’s talk.  There is also a creche operating in the Parish Room during the 9.30 am service.  Feel free to drop off babies and toddlers there and pick up after the service.

Thanks to everyone who made yesterday’s Autumn Concert such a great event.  I trust you enjoyed it very much.  Next week I will be able to announce the amount we raised for the Bush Church Aid Society’s 100th Anniversary Appeal.

Today we welcome Jono Campbell, of SRE East, to our 8.00 and 9.30 am services to speak to us about his work in teaching SRE (School Scripture) in Randwick Boys’ and Girls’ High Schools.  This is exciting work for which we pray regularly.  (Our own Martin E. Robinson is also involved in teaching some of the classes).

Next week, of course, is Mothers’ Day.  At church we mark this fairly simply, by giving thanks and praying for all the mothers and mother figures that God has given to us.  I know that some mums take this as an opportunity to invite family to church.  Please do this!  We are prepared for visitors both in the service and in Sunday School.

In brief, the countdown is now on to our annual Fireworks and BBQ, Saturday 1st June.

28th April

It was during the course of last Sunday (Easter Day) that news broke of the terrorist attack on hotels and churches in Sri Lanka.  The death toll now stands at over three hundred.  My initial reaction is simply shock and sadness at yet another attack in which the perpetrators’ love for their own ideas has led them to inflict such dreadful suffering on fellow human beings.  This was truly perverse.

At the time of writing, no-one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.  However it is telling that churches (both Catholic and Protestant) were targetted, and on the greatest day of celebration in the Christian calendar.  The Bible teaches that “all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12), and these brothers and sisters have paid the price for gathering in Christ’s name.  Sri Lankan Christians will now be thinking twice before they gather.  We ought to pray that they would not be frightened to return to church, because gathering is a fundamental part of the Christian life.  For our part, we must also decide not to neglect gathering as Christians, whether for fear of violence or (more likely) simply having other things to do.  It is precious to God that we take the time to gather with his people, even though it is difficult.

Even in the face of such horror, we can confidently pray to God that he will do justice, and enable the families of victims to find true hope in Christ.  “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15).

In brief:

  • Our Autumn Concert is this Saturday, 3.00 pm. Please come along and invite a friend.
  • Don’t forget the SRE East Supporters’ Afternoon Tea this afternoon. We also hope to see Jono Campbell at St Jude’s next week.
  • Kids’ Club, Youth and some Bible study groups return this week (see back page for details).

21st April

At this time of year, we rightly focus on the deep, deep love of God our Father and his Son, expressed in the saving death of Jesus.  As his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane showed, Jesus was sorrowful, abandoned, and in dread of the pain he would endure as he drank the cup of God’s wrath on the Cross.  Yet he willingly chose it, out of love for his Father and for us whom he would rescue, by his death, from eternity under God’s wrath.  Samuel Crossman beautifully puts it this way: “Yet cheerful he to suffering goes”.

Someone may ask: but why was this necessary?  Why could God not simply forgive and forget, without any sacrifice?  At this point it may helpful to consider human households and societies.  No household can function if parents freely accept disobedience by saying, “It’s OK.”  And no society can function if its authorities freely accept being ignored.

Not only that, but when a wrong is committed, the victim wants to see a consequence meted out to the perpetrator; otherwise the victim feels that they are not valued. If God, therefore, is the wronged party when we sin, then to require no punishment for sin would be equivalent to saying that God is of no value.  Although this is precisely what many people think, it is obviously untrue.  The God who lives in unapproachable light is of supreme value, and worthy of our praise.

All of this is why the Bible says of the sacrifice of Jesus at the Cross, that God did it “to show his righteousness” (Romans 3:26).

In brief:

  • There is an afternoon tea for supporters of SRE East next Sunday
  • Please plan to come to our concert in two weeks’ time, Sat 4th

14th April

On Wednesday afternoon, my “fill the church” vision was briefly fulfilled with over 600 students from Randwick Public School attending their Easter Scripture Assembly here.  It is amazing how they are able to pack in.  Reggie the puppet was in fine form, and we presented the story of Jesus’ trial before Pilate, in which Pilate tried to set Jesus free by offering them the murderer Barabbas.  But, of course, the crowd in a fit of insanity chose Barabbas to go free, and Jesus to be crucified.  All of this serves as a remarkable illustration of the achievement of Christ’s death, for he was the innocent one who died in place of the guilty – you and me.

Thank you for your prayers for the Scripture Assembly, and please continue to pray that God would use our efforts to his glory.

We are going to hold a concert here at St Jude’s on Saturday 4th May, at 3.00 pm, with brass, cello, choir and organ.  I hope you will plan to be here for this great event.  A collection will be taken up for the Bush Church Aid Society’s 100th anniversary appeal.  Also, we will have afternoon tea following the concert.  Please bring a plate if you can.

In brief, this is definitely the last week to take and deliver Easter flyers, and also to put your name down for Maundy Thursday dinner, which is of course, this Thursday.  I am looking forward to seeing you over Easter as we celebrate the central event of all history in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ.

7th April 2019

Last week was the big Sunday we had spoken about for many weeks, with the Sculpture Dedication and Choral Evensong as well as our three regular gatherings. Our prayers for good weather were answered spectacularly, as God gave us truly perfect autumn weather to enjoy the dedication ceremony under the fig tree near Frances St. Around sixty people gathered to hear prayers, scripture and words of tribute to women who served in the body of Christ here at St Jude’s, without making the history books.

The sculpture itself is a beautiful piece of work, which exceeds the expectations aroused by the computer generated image we had in advance.  We are grateful to God for his creative gifts to the sculptor, Tory Richards.  May I encourage you to take the time to walk down to the graveyard – which has enjoyed its post summer haircut and is a very pleasant place to be – to have a close look at the sculpture.

Evensong was also most enjoyable, with a good sized congregation in attendance to hear 1662 Evening Prayer and the choir in fine voice.  Thanks to Angus and the choir for organising this.

Thank you to everyone who has taken Easter flyers to deliver.  I hope that our tag line “The Humble King” will resonate with the community.  Jesus, the humble king, is the king the world needs.  Please collect more flyers and try to get them into letter boxes this week.  Next week is Palm Sunday and then Easter is upon us!  Also, please plan to come to Maundy Thursday dinner, and put your name down.

31st March

It was excellent to see such a good gathering (around fifty) at our Annual Vestry Meeting last Sunday.  I reported on the flourish of new ministry taking place (such as new Bible study groups and Kids’ Club) and our new staff members in Kat and Stephanie.  The wardens reminded us of continued work on our buildings and grounds (including air conditioning the Parish Room).  Financially, while we ran a significant surplus last year, our budget this year shows the church running a slight deficit due to our now having a full complement of staff and the planned upgrade of the Childcare Centre Playground.  To read more, you can find the papers here: 2019 Vestry Meeting Papers.

Following the meeting our office holders are:

Wardens: Alan Clark (Rector’s), Diane Hill, Philippa Skuja (People’s)

Parish Councillors: Crispin Arnall, Vjera Arnall, Tracey Bates, Karen Calayag, Jacqui Guy, Robert Kaziro, Glenn Lockwood

Parish Nominators: Christine Alexander, Alan Clark, Diane Hill, Karyn Lai, Justin Playfair

Synod Representatives: Karen Calayag, Doug George

Pam Brissett and Karyn Lai retired from Parish Council and were warmly thanked by the meeting for their service.

I am thankful to God for everyone’s willingness to serve, and looking forward to working prayerfully with all of these dedicated people toward our goal of “filling the church!”

In brief:

  • Sculpture dedication (11.15 am) and Choral Evensong (4.30 pm) are both on today!
  • You can pick up the second volume of our Lent notes (on 1 Peter 5 and 2 Peter) if you did not receive it last week.
  • Please take a bundle of Easter flyers to deliver if you can.
  • Maundy Thursday Dinner and Communion, a great all ages event, is on 18th April, 6.00 pm.

24th March

Given the State election yesterday and our Annual Vestry Meeting today, this is rather a political weekend!  Somewhere in Aristotle’s Politics (I am pretty sure), it says that politics is the art of living together.  Our political processes are our way of working out how to live together: what rules and principles to live by, how to share our common resources, what will be acceptable in our community and what will not.

The reason politics is often difficult and rancorous is because it’s not easy for sinful humans to work out how to live together.  If you’ve ever lived in any sort of proximity to another human, you’ll know what I mean!

We often are disappointed and complain about our professional politicians, but the truth is that they, as our representatives, are trying to work out how we can all live together in harmony, and if their job is difficult, that’s because of you and me!  We cannot completely evade responsibility for the politics of our elected representatives.

The main political responsibilities that the Bible places on us as Christians are: (i) to pray for those in authority (1 Tim 2:1-2); (ii) to respect those God has put over us (1 Peter 2:17); and (iii) to obey them (Romans 13:1) – except of course when to obey them would directly disobey God (Acts 5:29).  With that in mind, we will be praying for the newly elected NSW State Parliament in church today, and I hope you will also keep our representatives in your private prayers.

Our Vestry Meetings at St Jude’s have usually been friendly and encouraging occasions, reflecting what I think is our people’s general happiness to be a part of the congregation here. While I have no reason to think today’s will be different, we should not take this for granted, but keep on working at living together in harmony, “bearing with one another in love”, and seeking to agree together in the truth of the gospel so that we grow up into him who is the head, our Lord Jesus Christ.  I hope you will be able to be at today’s meeting, and also keep our wardens, parish councillors, nominators and synod reps in your prayers.

In brief:

  • The second volume of our Lent notes (on 1 Peter 5 and 2 Peter) is being distributed today.
  • Please take a bundle of Easter flyers to deliver if you can.
  • Don’t forget the Sculpture dedication (11.15 am) and Choral Evensong (4.30 pm) next Sunday, which is also Mothering Sunday.

17th March

In our time reading the Bible with the ministry staff team this week, we came to Hebrews 7:7: “Without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater.”  For me this crystallised a recurring thought I have had lately, that it really is difficult for us late modern Australians to think in terms of an order of lesser and greater.  We are such an egalitarian society!  We know that there are inequalities of wealth and opportunity, but we do as Australians instinctively believe that all humans are of equal value.  There is something deeply Christian about this instinct, although it is also mixed with the anti-authoritarian larrikin spirit.

However, I do wonder whether these strong egalitarian instincts make it difficult to grasp the very real sense in which God is higher and greater than we are.  His power over us is legitimate.  He has a right to know everything about us.  Against God we have no right to privacy! He knows all our thoughts and desires, as the Prayer of Preparation says.

Someone remarked to me that it was a challenge to their faith to be asked to believe things about God that are simply so difficult for our minds to grasp, such as that God has planned and predestined all things in such a way that our free choices lead to his plans being fulfilled, and he still judges us for the choices we make!  This is undoubtedly the Bible’s doctrine, but it is hard for us to understand!  Yet surely if God is higher and greater than we are, it is to be expected that our minds will not fully grasp everything he has done.  With God, the fact that our minds cannot fully grasp him does not make the doctrine untrue.  This is because Aussie egalitarianism does not apply to God.  He is indeed greater!

In brief:

  • Please come along to the Annual Vestry Meeting next Sunday 11.30 am.
  • We are trying a new time slot of 4.30 pm for Choral Evensong. I hope this earlier time might make it easier for more people to make it.  Everyone is invited to the service in two weeks’ time.
  • See inside for your invitation to the Sculpture dedication, also in two weeks.’
  • Finally, please disregard the recently published date for Fireworks. The new date, in June, will be announced shortly.