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.

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.

10th March

It was excellent to see such a good turnout to the Ash Wednesday communion and seminar last week.  I was encouraged by everyone’s presence, and I hope and pray that we were uplifted by the service and spurred on by the seminar to seek God through our devotions (“quiet times” of Bible and prayer) during Lent.

Lent is known as a time of self-denial, and I think it can be helpful to “give something up” for Lent, as a reminder that we are in ourselves desperately needy in the absence of God’s provision.   However, self-denial has never been the only aspect of Lent.  It has also traditionally been a time of reflection on one’s spiritual situation.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” (2 Cor. 13:5).  This should generate some self-awareness of my own sins and deliberate plans for working against these sins in my life in order to be more pleasing to God.

For all of this, there is nothing more helpful than reading the Bible to be reminded of just how good God has been to us and of how he wants us to respond to his grace.  To this end, I hope you will pick up a set of our Lenten readings in 1 Peter and use them each day.

In brief, our Annual Vestry Meeting (annual meeting of the members of the parish) will be held in two Sundays’ time, on 24th March at 11.30 am.  The main activities are hearing reports regarding the ministry and the property and finances of the church, as well as electing important officeholders: wardens, parish councillors and parish nominators. Let me encourage you to come along.  If you are involved in any ministry activity, I would love you to submit a report, ideally by the end of this coming week.

3rd March

Excuse me, Captain. Haven't we forgotten to thank the Lord?

At her first meal with the von Trapp family in The Sound of Music (a movie I have watched dozens of times), Fraulein Maria admonishes them for not saying grace: “Excuse me Captain, haven’t we forgotten to thank the Lord?”  Shamed into it, the Captain complies with Maria’s earnest desire to give thanks for the food.

Perhaps that cinematic prayer was a little hammy, but I want to urge you that saying grace before a meal, if it’s not already your habit, is an excellent practice to adopt.  It is the easiest way to bring regular prayer into your household, and may be the beginning of a deeper prayer life.

“Gratitude” is a buzz word these days; gratitude is apparently good for our wellbeing, and you can even buy a gratitude diary!  I think this is salutory as far as it goes, but what the Kikki K generation lacks is a Giver to receive their gratitude.  Gratitude without a God to thank is simply a feeling of being lucky.  Perhaps this makes for a positive outlook on life, but the Fraulein’s complaint still applies: we’ve forgotten to thank the Lord!  As the Prayer Book says, it is our “bounden duty” that we should always thank our Mighty Creator.

At meal times, we are reminded that we’re not self-sufficient.  Our bodies could not keep functioning without God’s bountiful provision.  Every morsel comes from God’s gracious hand.  So don’t forget to thank him before you eat.  I would be enormously encouraged to hear of anyone who adopts this practice for the first time.

In brief, Ash Wednesday communion is on this Wednesday at 7.00 pm, followed by our seminar Making the Most of Devotions in the Parish Room.  All finished by 8.30 pm, so it’s not a late night.  Looking forward to seeing you there.

24th February

The season of Lent this year begins on Wednesday 6th March (Ash Wednesday). Lent represents the forty days (in practice a few more than forty) leading up to Easter, and is traditionally a time of heightened awareness of sin, often with a degree of self-denial, in order to focus on our relationship with God.

This year I don’t have particular plans for us to deny ourselves food and drink, but I want us to take the opportunity to focus on relationship with God in one very positive way, by setting aside ten minutes each day for personal devotion through Bible reading and prayer.  I believe every single one of us can find those ten minutes a day if we want to.  We will be reading 1 and 2 Peter.

Several things are going to happen to help us with this challenge:

  1. You can buy your own Bible (New International Version, which is the translation we use in church) from the stall in the Parish Room.
  2. We’re producing a booklet with the passages printed together with some reflection questions and prayer suggestions.
  3. There will be a special seminar on Ash Wednesday evening, after 7.00 pm communion, called Making the Most of Devotions. This will give us an introduction to 1 and 2 Peter, with some practical hints on reading the Bible privately.  Presenters are Kat Cowell and myself.  Kat will show us in a very practical way how she seeks to make the most of her own quiet time in the Bible.  I will give an orientation to the very interesting letters of Peter.

I am hoping that the seminar will encourage plenty of us to make it to Ash Wednesday communion, and that communion will encourage many to make it to the seminar!  For those who cannot get out at night, the whole seminar will be repeated on Thursday morning a week later, 14th March at 10.00 am.

17th February

It has been a good few weeks of launching the year’s ministries.  Both Youth and Kids’ Club have had their first gatherings for the year.  I was thrilled to see around twelve children at the first day of Kids’ Club last Wednesday, some from St Jude’s and others from further afield. Everyone enjoyed themselves while learning (or being reminded) of God’s love for them in Christ.  A team of our parishioners is involved in providing afternoon tea for the children.

Our Bible study groups have begun meeting.  My group on Wednesday nights starts this week (7.30 pm at the Rectory).  You are warmly invited to try it out.  Details for the other groups are on the back of the bulletin.

As well as this, choir, craft group and Friendship Group are up and running for the year.  And I’m not sure if our bell ringers even had a break from faithfully heralding the 9.30 service week to week!

In keeping with my big message at the moment of urging us to “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” God’s life-giving word, the Bible, I would like to encourage everyone to read a portion of the Bible during the upcoming season of Lent.  We will be making available the Bible text and some reflection questions to lead us through reading 1 and 2 Peter during those 40 days.  These will be available to collect soon – but I wanted to flag it to you now and encourage you to join in with this program when Lent begins on 6th March.

10th February

I have been speaking for quite a while now about one of the themes for 2019 being a fresh emphasis on small group Bible studies.  Now it is time to put all of that talk into action!  Our groups are starting up for the year, and I want to invite you to try one out.  Here is why…

One of the great insights from a School Scripture conference this week was that “Memory is a residue of thought.”  This is a fancy way of saying that we remember what we have thought about.  A small Bible study group is a setting where you can think slowly about what the Bible is saying, and so be more likely to remember what you have personally learned from God’s word.  It’s often easier than reading the Bible on our own, because we have others to bounce off.

The need to learn the word of God is not merely to increase our head knowledge, but because the word of God is the seed, the water and the fertiliser that makes us grow in our salvation (1 Peter 2:2), becoming more and more like the Lord Jesus Christ who is the perfect image of God.

These are the groups (all of which start this week, except for mine!):

Women’s Group, Tuesdays 7.30-9.00 pm
led by Kat Cowell in the Parish Room

Mixed Group, Wednesdays 7.30-9.00 pm
(starts 22 Feb)
led by Andrew Schmidt in the Rectory

Women’s Group, Thursdays 10.00-11.30 am
led by Kat Cowell in the Parish Room

Men’s Group, Thursdays 7.30-9.00 pm
led by Martin Robinson in the Parish Room.

People are most welcome simply to show up, but it’s helpful to let the leader know in advance if you can!

27th January

The meaning of Australia Day seems to vary significantly from person to person.  For some there are the Aussie values of mateship, and … well, mateship is the main one, isn’t it?  I sometimes wonder whether there is a bit too much self-congratulation in this approach to Australia Day.  Mateship is a great value, but I’m not sure if we are better at it than anyone else.  On the other hand, for some Australia Day should be painted negatively as an invasion day.  For still others, it’s simply an extra day off for a long barbeque or day at the beach.  In a sense I think this third approach – just have a good time and don’t overthink it – is the most Australian of all.

All three of these Australia Days can easily miss the point which, from a Christian viewpoint, should be made of our national day.  Surely any national day must be an opportunity to acknowledge God’s goodness to us in allocating to us this amazingly beautiful, diverse, well-resourced land to live in.  With God we are sojourners, and tenants in his property.  But as Australians he has blessed us with a plum location!

More than half of Australia still identify as Christian, according to the 2016 census, yet how many of these will take even a moment this Australia Day to offer their thanks to God for the gift of our “wide brown land”?

In brief, next week is our Vision Sunday (in which we will commission people for ministry in various roles in 2019), Sunday School returns, and we hold our first Family Service for the year with a sausage sizzle.  Looking forward to seeing you there.

3rd February 2019

Welcome to St Jude’s on our Vision Sunday.  I have been looking forward to this day when our Sunday School and choir return from holidays, our new look evening service starts up, and we get excited about the year’s ministry.

Excitement!  Excitement is something that we often experience.  In our highly sensory age, we’re constantly riding the wave from high excitement to the biochemical dip that follows, and so on and on.  I want more than that sort of excitement for us at St Jude’s.  Paul writes to the Romans, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:11).

“Zeal” has a bad name in some circles, and it has even been quipped that a “fervent Anglican” is a contradiction in terms, but all these words really mean is a serious, sustained, energetic commitment to furthering a cause.  Anyone who is convinced of a cause that really matters will be zealous for it.

Humans get uncomfortable in the presence of zeal that they do not share.  But this does not make zeal a bad thing.  Some discomfort might be helpful if it confronts us with a cause that really matters.

The glory of God really matters.  More than anything else in the world, it matters that all the creatures of our God and King should give him the worship he is due.  My prayer today is not just for excitement but zeal for God’s holy name.