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.

20th January 2019

I have been praying lately for us (myself included) to have a clearer grasp of the glory of God.  When we hear that phrase, we are likely to think of God’s good qualities, such as his love and mercy and wisdom.  Those are certainly aspects of God’s glory.

However, in the Bible, God’s glory is the magnificent splendour and brightness of his presence.  “Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around.  His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles.  The mountains melt like wax before the LORD” (Psalm 97:3-5).  God dwells in “unapproachable light” (1 Tim. 6:16).

The experience of the prophet Isaiah is a good example of what happens when a human is granted a vision of God’s glory (Isaiah 6).  He was first of all terrified and filled with a sense of unworthiness, and then, when God had lifted him up and assured him that he would not be destroyed, Isaiah wanted to go and tell others of the glory he had seen.

In our world, and perhaps especially in Eastern Suburbs life, people are kept from seeing God’s glory by the constant bombardment of the senses with the things of this world – particularly pleasure, but even our work and our difficulties can be the veil that keeps us from encountering the glory of God.  This leads to a warped perspective on what is important and indeed on what is truly glorious.  As lovely as they are, sun, sport, food, wine, family life and work satisfaction are less than nothing to the glory of God.

For you and me, the way to encounter God’s glory in Christ is primarily through his word the Bible and the work of his Holy Spirit.  We need constant feeding with the word if we are to get, and keep, a true perspective on the glory of God.

30th December

Welcome!  If you are looking to connect with a new church, now is a great time to connect with St Jude’s.  I am excited about the plans we have to grow in Christlikeness and reach out to our community in the coming year.  Here are some of the things we are looking forward to in 2019:

  • A fresh emphasis on meeting together in smaller groups to read the Bible and pray together.
  • Kat Cowell joining our team as Women’s and Families Minister Kat Cowell (from Sun 13 Jan)
  • Launching an after school kids’ club for K-6, aptly named Kids’ Club (Wednesdays 3-5 pm, starts 13 Feb)
  • Youth moves to 7 pm Friday
  • A new look Sunday Evening Service (at the new time of 6 pm), specially designed for Year 6s and up to join in worship with people of all ages (starts 3 Feb)
  • A $100,000 facelift to our Childcare centre playground.

Things are little quieter around here in January, with some regulars away on holidays, and Sunday School and Youth on a break until February.  God’s people continue to gather here on Sundays (8 am, 9.30 am and 6.30 pm) to hear God speak and respond and prayer and song.  During January our sermons are on some “hot topics”.

6th January        Other Religions: Can they get to God?

13th January      Miracles: Straightforward or symbolic?

20th January      The Bible: Inspired, or just inspiring?

27th Janary        Science and Christianity: Friends?

23rd December

At Christmas we celebrate the miracle of the incarnation, that God became a human.  I suspect we have lost (or perhaps never gained) the sense of wonderment we ought to have at this mighty deed of God.  It is mind-boggling to contemplate that the One who, in the beginning, commanded countless billions of stars to exist was able to become a baby in a manger.  Isn’t this the greatest of all the miracles?  If God could become human, then obviously to calm a storm or raise the dead would be simple.

Not only is the incarnation an amazing exercise of divine power, but it speaks profoundly of God’s character that Jesus would choose to join us on our microscopically low level.  We are taught by the writer to the Hebrews that Jesus “is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters” (Heb. 2:11).  You may think that you don’t make such a bad brother or sister, but for the One who is accustomed to commanding armies of angels to do his bidding, to let us be his brothers and sisters is to come down more than a few notches.

Jesus became like us – “fully human in very way” (Heb. 2:17) – in order to break the power of death over us.  As a result of his humanity, he also understands our temptations.  “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Heb. 2:18).

Praise God that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14).

2nd December

“For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven.”  These words, which we say in the Nicene Creed, explain how the God the Son, who is truly God and has existed forever in glory with his Father, became the man Jesus of Nazareth.  God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, “came down from heaven”.

This is something that Jesus frequently spoke about with his disciples and his opponents.  “I have come down from heaven”, he said in John 6:38.  Jesus also said, “He who sent me is true… I know him, for I have come from him, and he sent me” (John 7:28-29).  It is truly mind-boggling to think that Jesus, a man who walked among us, could speak naturally of having been with the Father in heaven before he came to us.

In his prayer before going to the Cross, Jesus said, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5).  Jesus is God the Son who came down from heaven.

Jesus’ prior existence in heaven with his Father was glorious and perfect.  He did not have to come down, but he did it for us – that God might share himself with us by revealing what he is truly like – and for our salvation – for it was only through the death of the incarnate Son that we could be saved from God’s righteous anger at our sin.

I urge you to stop, and give a serious length of time to reflecting on the life-changing truth that the Son of God “came down from heaven”.

25th November

Lately our staff team has been thinking a lot about next year and how we want to keep developing the ministry.  Obviously it is going to make a big difference having our new Women’s and Families Minister, Kat Cowell with us, together with her husband Nigel who will be a student minister.  These will assist the new focus on small Bible study groups.

But today I want to highlight our plans for youth.  In 2019, our youth group (called Youth) will be moving to Friday nights, 7-9 pm.  We are also moving our evening service a little earlier (to 6 pm, as of Feb 2019) and designing it especially as a place for Year 6 and up to gather (with others of all ages) for fellowship, prayer, song, and hearing God’s word – plus dinner once a month!

Friday night Youth is for games, hanging out, Bible talk and discussion groups.  It will be different from church, so that it’s worth coming to both Fridays and Sunday evenings.

Sunday morning church is still a great option for youth, and we know this will suit some families.  We won’t be having a separate Youth Bible study as part of Sunday School, so high schoolers can choose to tag along with Sunday School, or to join in the main church gathering.

As well as all this, we’ll be kicking off a new after school Kids’ Club for years K-6 on Wednesday afternoons.

In brief, I’m preaching through the book of Malachi today and through Advent, during which our gospel readings will track through the lead-up to Jesus’ birth in Luke’s lengthy first chapter.  This evening’s 6.30 pm service is Choral Evensong: I hope to see you there.

18th November 2018

What a wonderful day we had for our Fair last Saturday!  A mighty army arrived for set up, including several new faces.  The grounds were buzzing with visitors soon after 9 am.  The bands created a fun atmosphere.  The ponies and climbing wall were in constant use.  By early afternoon, we had sold out altogether of scones, sausages, kids’ plaster painting, and flowers.  The cake and jam stall scored another record result.  Clean-up was impeccable, with hardly a sign of detritus from the Fair in evidence on Sunday morning.

Lots of people had a fun time; we pray that they can be connected further into our community and be drawn to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Fair raised a little over $21,000 in gross terms, and about $17,000 after paying for attractions like the ponies and wall.  As you know, the Parish Council had decided to give 25% of the Fair’s profits to the drought relief through Anglican Aid.  This figure was rounded up to $5000.

While on the subject of money, it seems a good time to offer a brief review and reminder of the work currently in progress on our amazing church property. The brand new news is that the Parish Room is to be air conditioned!  Work commences tomorrow, and the new system should be operating next Sunday.

As I mentioned a while back, with the final repayment on our loan being made this year, the Parish Council decided that we ought to make a significant new investment in the Childcare Centre, by redeveloping the playground. Designs for this work are currently being prepared.

As well as this, a sculpture is to be created to celebrate the ministry of women in our parish throughout its history. We have invited special gifts towards the $15,000 cost of this sculpture, and have received a number of generous contributions.  This invitation is still open.

Next Sunday evening we will hold a choral evensong at 6.30 pm.  Why not come to church twice – both morning and evening?  See you then.

11th November

You have probably heard of the kerfuffle this week over the letter signed by the heads of 34 Sydney Anglican schools, calling on our Federal Parliament to enact a positive right to religious freedom.  This has been the subject of grossly misleading media reporting, which is the cause of the significant hurt that has ensued.

The Archbishop has repeatedly stated that Anglican Schools are not seeking the right to expel students or sack teachers for being gay.  This very clear statement has been completely left out of most newspaper articles and social media fulminations.  What our schools are seeking is a positive right to employ staff who are committed to the Christian ethos of these schools (as distinct from the current unsatisfactory exemption from anti-discrimination legislation).

Could I urge you generally not to jump to any conclusions about our Diocese based on mainstream media.  You can get a more direct view from sydneyanglicans.net, which, incidentally, this week also featured a photo of our very own Angus Gilchrist and others in the ringing chamber at St Andrew’s, as part of an article about the ringing of bells across Sydney to mark the Centenary of the Armistice.  Our church services today will reflect on that very significant event, and on God’s gift of peace.

Thank you to everyone who worked so hard for yesterday’s Fair.  I will bring a more detailed report next week.

4th November

Isn’t it amazing to think that the Fair is upon us again?  It’s hard to miss, of course, with the build up of second hand goods in the Parish Room.  Thank you to our volunteers who have been working hard sorting and pricing the goods.  On Saturday it will be all systems go, with all the stalls plus petting zoo, jumping castle, ponies, BBQ, musical performances and more.  Please pray for good weather, and invite friends along, and be here bright and early on Saturday to help set up.

Next weekend is also significant because Sunday is Remembrance Day, and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.  As well as the preaching being on this subject, we will be marking this in two other ways.  We will have some guests from the UNSW Regiment, one of whom will address us in the 9.30 am service.  Also, as part of a plan to have church bells ring throughout Australia at 11 am, our tenor bell will be tolled 100 times, followed by the ringing of a full peal (about 3 hours of ringing). I hope this will help us reflect on God’s gift of peace which has prevailed in Australia now for such a long time.

21st October

Today is Mission Sunday, and we welcome Helena and Doug Painting, whose work at Bookham Community Church we support through BCA.  I am sure we will be encouraged by their news and learn more of how we can support and pray for them.

At Synod last week, I was reminded of the paramount task of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost.  Of Sydney’s 5 million people, only around 1% are in Anglican Churches each Sunday.  While there are, of course, other churches, clearly a vast number of people in our city are lost without Christ.  They need to hear the good news of salvation, and be invited to join in Christian fellowship.  Who will tell them, and invite them, if not you and me?!

Synod decided to provide a much needed cash injection to the Bathurst Diocese, to enable it to continue to have a bishop and registrar.  Sydney will contribute $250,000 for each of the next six years, to help that Diocese get back on its feet and provide for the gospel needs of that significant part of rural Australia.

Closer to home, our Diocese continues to establish new churches in greenfield areas like Leppington and Oran Park.  There is so much to do to reach the lost for Christ, without even leaving NSW!  Please pray, give sacrificially, and speak of Christ to others.

Don’t forget your Operation Christmas Child box must be returned next week.  However it’s not too late to take one today and return it next week, which is our Patronal Festival 10.30 am combined service and picnic.  See you there!

14th October

It’s great to be back from holidays, and a busy week awaits me, with the Synod of the Sydney Diocese starting tomorrow afternoon.  Please pray for me and our two parish representatives, Doug George and Karen Calayag, as we play this role in the governance of the Diocese.  It involves a lot of listening and a small degree of conflict, but I believe it is highly necessary and worthwhile to discuss how we can work together in stewarding the resources God has given to Sydney Anglicans.

The Fair, Saturday 10th November, is almost upon us (four weeks away). It is one of the key days of the year when hundreds of non-church goers will be in the church grounds and have a positive experience – creating good vibes with the community.  The Parish Council has decided to donate 25% of the Fair’s net proceeds to the Archbishop’s Drought Relief Appeal.  Please plan to come along, and to help with set up, and/or a stall if you can.

Even sooner is Mission Sunday, next week.  We welcome Helena Painting to share about her work in Bookham, which we support through BCA.  Also, don’t forget to be filling your Operation Christmas Child box, which needs to be brought back by St Jude’s Day special service and picnic in two weeks’ time.