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.

16th September 2018

Together with the Parish Council, I am pleased to announce a new feature to be erected in the cemetery.

St Judes’ 150 year history, Summoned by Bells, featured numerous women who have been significant to the parish and the work of the gospel in our region, such as Jane Barker who established St Catherine’s School, Dr Ruth White whose pastoral care ministry is still fondly remembered, and many others.  In celebration of all the work and ministry women have contributed at St Jude’s over 150 years, the Parish Council decided to have a sculpture placed under the old fig tree near Frances St, with a bench nearby.

A brief was sent to various artists, five of whom submitted proposals.  These were to be assessed using as criteria the central idea of women’s ministry, and a Biblical motif from the book of Ruth.  Based on these criteria, two artists were short-listed.   The Parish Council has chosen the artist who demonstrated the best understanding of both motifs and the architecture of the cemetery. Her name is Ms Tory Richards from Queensland. Subject to the Heritage Council’s approval (which we expect to receive shortly), Tory will be given the go ahead to create her sculpture.

The cost of the sculpture is $15,000.  Over the coming weeks, if you feel led to contribute, you are invited to make a special gift towards this project.

9th September 2018

Today the wardens, Parish Council and I would like to give you an update about some of the ideas and plans that have been discussed recently.

With our Childcare Centre turning ten, and the last loan repayment due to be made this year, it seemed appropriate to make a significant new investment in the centre.  There was a broad consensus that this should take the form of completely renovating the playground.  As a result, we have engaged a specialist children’s playground designer to begin this process.  I am looking forward to seeing their work.

It has been an ongoing prayer that God would send us a new member of our pastoral staff team to restore some gender balance to the team and to work amongst women of all ages, families, and in chaplaincy to the Childcare Centre.  A recruitment process is still underway, so please keep up your prayers!

A government grant opportunity may make it possible for us to consider installing some green energy measures, particularly solar cells, on suitable roofs, and possibly air conditioning.  We have not yet decided to apply for a grant, but this is something the Parish Council will be discussing at its next meeting.

Finally, the Parish Council has been working for some time on a proposal for a new sculpture in the cemetery to celebrate the ministry of women in the Parish over its 150+ year history.  You will hear more about that next week!

2nd September 2018

As society becomes more secular, there is naturally less awareness of what Christians believe.  Unfortunately, many still feel quite free to criticise or dismiss what they don’t understand.

One misunderstanding has to do with the causes of events like sickness and drought: what is the relationship between “God’s will” and the scientific explanation?  According to the secularist narrative, humans used to think that these misfortunes were caused by the gods (hence superstitious efforts to propitiate the gods, often making matters worse), but now that we can explain things scientifically, we see that those superstitions were false.

That secularist narrative is true as far as tribal gods and witch doctors are concerned.  But the one true God and Father of Jesus Christ operates on a different level.  He made the world by speaking.  The world he made is orderly and predictable, which is why science is possible.  God is effortlessly in charge of history; not even the smallest event escapes his notice (Eph. 1:11, Matt. 10:29).

As a result, we do not have to choose between scientific explanations and “the will of God”. Both types of explanation can be true at the same time.  This is why when we are sick, we should both pray and see the doctor.  Recent rainfall is a gracious gift of God in answer to our prayers, and there is also a meteorological explanation!

Praise God that he has made a beautiful, orderly world which is under his sovereign control.  If these reflections raise questions (and they should!), perhaps I can tackle them in a future column.

Don’t forget Veralene’s farewell morning tea next Sunday at 11.00 am.  Please bring a plate if you can.

26th August 2018

With the momentous events in Canberra last week, it is good to be reminded that as Christians, the very first way for us to participate in democracy is to pray for the governing authorities.  Paul writes to Timothy:

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour.” (1 Tim. 2:1-3 NIV)

It is with good reason, then, that our Prayer Book always includes prayer for the Queen and all her representatives.  God has put all governments in place, and he overrules all that they do.  Proverbs goes so far as to say:

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. (Prov. 21:1 ESV).

During the week I had the pleasure of meeting our State government MP, the Hon. Bruce Notley-Smith.  He is keenly aware of the privilege and responsibility attached to his position, and was encouraged to hear that our congregation prays for him regularly.

Can I urge you to pray for our new Prime Minister and for all whom God has given to govern us.  In spite of the disappointment we may sometimes feel, God still has given us one of the best systems of government in the world, and for this we should be grateful.

In brief, we will farewell Veralene from her office role at a special morning tea after 9.30 am church in two weeks’ time, on Sunday 9th September.  Please plan to come, and to bring a plate if you can.

19th August 2018

A few weeks back, we began praying in earnest that God would relieve the suffering of those affected by the NSW drought.  Recent forecasts show no immediate prospect of a break in the drought, which means we must persevere in prayer, and wait to see what God will do.  While waiting, we also have an opportunity to help in another way.  The Archbishop of Sydney’s Anglican Aid has established an appeal for funds to assist those whose livelihood has been seriously jeopardised by the drought in northern and western NSW.  These funds will be distributed through Anglican churches across the State.  You may wish to give to the appeal at: https://anglicanaid.org.au/nsw-drought-relief-appeal or using the donation slip that you can collect in the porch.

The Parish Lunch was an excellent occasion which seems to have been enjoyed by everyone.  The light-filled space of the Parish Room is just about the perfect place to eat on a sunny winter’s day!  We enjoyed good food and were stimulated by Dr Greg Clarke’s talk on the work of the Bible Society, which – I was interested to learn – is the oldest continuing organisation in Australia, pipping Westpac by a few months!  He also gave St Jude’s a gift of the Bible Society’s recent publication, a beautiful book of indigenous art inspired by the Bible, Our Mob, God’s Story.

In brief, you can still come to the Gospel Refresher starting this afternoon.  And don’t forget to let Diana know how you can help at the Fair.

12th August 2018

Today we welcome Dr Greg Clarke from the Bible Society as the speaker at our Annual Parish Lunch.  I am looking forward to connecting with other members and friends of the parish over a lovely meal while receiving encouragement at what God is doing in his world.  If you’re coming along, I hope you enjoy it.

For the next few months, our Old Testament readings will take us through the Abraham narrative from the book of Genesis.  Abraham’s crucial importance lies in the fact that God made him a promise that the world would be blessed through his offspring (Gen. 22:18). So influential was this promise that by New Testament times, nearly 2000 years later, the Jews claimed God’s blessing on the basis of being Abraham’s children (Matt. 3:9).

Following Abraham’s life will connect nicely to our sermon series on the letter to the Galatians, which often refers back to Abraham.  At issue with the Galatians was whether Christian people, in order to be true children of Abraham, were obliged to keep the covenant of circumcision that God made with Abraham.  This might seem a finicky ceremonial issue, but often such issues are the tip of an iceberg, as was the case in Galatia.

I’d like to invite you to the Gospel Refresher course starting next Sunday at 4.30 pm.  Please use the sign up sheet in the porch.

5th August 2018

Our prayers are powerful because we pray to a God who is all-powerful.  He is Lord of his whole creation: both the heavens and the earth on which we dwell.   The Scriptures tell us that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

God is in charge of his mission to send the good news of Christ into the world so that people will turn and be saved.  This is why Jesus, as he observed the needs of the people around him, said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field” (Matt. 9:37-38).

Today we have an opportunity to hear of what God is doing to raise up workers for a particular part of his harvest field, amongst aboriginal people, as we hear news from Nungalinya College.  I hope that this will spur us on to pray all the more to the Lord of the harvest to continue his work.

You will be well aware of the drought now affecting almost all of NSW.  This is another matter for prayers over the next few weeks and until God breaks the drought.

Finally, don’t forget to get your ticket for the Parish Lunch with Dr Greg Clarke as our speaker next Sunday.  See you then!

29th July 2018

Today I commence a new preaching series on Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  It will take almost until Advent to work through its 6 chapters, and I am really looking forward to this journey.  Galatians is most dramatic, being the apostle’s forceful attempt to snatch the Galatian churches back from an error which, he warned them, would lead them out of God’s kingdom.  I hope we will enter into the drama of the letter as we hear God speak to us on salvation, the Spirit, and the Christian life.

In some news which took me by surprise earlier in the week, Veralene Lobo, who has worked as St Judes’ office secretary since 2005, has let me know that she plans to finish up at the end of this week.  I do not quite know what the office will look and feel like without her, except that it will be a busy time as the remaining staff adjust.  We are very grateful to Veralene for her service of the parish over a long period.

Finally, we can look forward to next Sunday when we’ll be joined by the Oldfields from Nungalinya College, Darwin, to share with us about the ministry there.  It’s great to be back with you all.

22nd July 2018

Reading the Scriptures recently, I was struck by Psalm 5:3:

“In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.”                                (NIV)

Beginning with prayer is a habit which sets each day in the right context, as a day lived before God, seeking to please him.  That is a great truth, but what especially struck me was that the psalmist “waits expectantly” for the answers to his prayers.

Sometimes we offer our prayers to God, but then forget to have a sense of anticipation for his response!  The psalmist reminds us that we can expect God to answer.  I can think of recent examples where God has answered prayers about which I had not felt very hopeful.  This is does not mean he will always answer “yes”, but he will respond to our prayers for his own glory and the good of his children (Romans 8:28).

In case you did not know, anyone is welcome to write a name in our Prayer Journal, which is kept in the north (children’s) chapel.  The ministry staff pray by name for everyone mentioned in the Prayer Journal at our meetings on Wednesday mornings.

In brief, don’t forget to purchase your ticket for the Parish Lunch, which is in three weeks’ time, and to read Marty’s report on our successful CRU Camp.

15th July 2018

Our CRU Edge Day Camp finished on Friday with a celebration BBQ for children and parents.  It was wonderful to see so many of our congregation leading, hosting leaders in their homes and preparing food for the group.  The twenty kids seemed to have a brilliant time.  For those not yet connected with churches, let us pray that God brings them back to us, and to him.

The Anglican liturgy that we follow is deeply scriptural as well as being astute about human nature.  The Prayer of Preparation is a good example.  Through this prayer at the beginning of our gathering, we acknowledge that God knows our hearts and desires completely.  While the person beside us in the pew does not know all our secrets (phew!), God knows them all.  We cannot hide from him.

Reflecting on God’s total knowledge of my heart makes me realise just what a mixture is in there.  I may well have arrived at church preoccupied, distracted, not at peace with some of my brothers and sisters, or holding onto unrepented sin.  This is why we ask God to “cleanse the thoughts of our hearts”, to bring us to a state in which we can hear God speak, offer up our prayers, and “worthily magnify” his holy name.