As we begin activities for the coming year, we are also beginning a new preaching series looking at the early church. It is positive to see the similarities between the two. Whether we like it or not COVID has affected us as a worshiping community and in many ways we are like the early church seeking to re-build. For the early church the key element was the Holy Spirit. They started with no buildings, very few followers, the loss of their leader and persecution. What they did have was the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised that he had to go and one reason was that this would enable the Holy Spirit to come in a new and empowering way. As we explore the life of the early church over the coming weeks we will see how that is lived out. Similarly as a church we have been asking question ‘What is God calling us to. Our experience, and the experience of the church through history is that the first step must be to seek God and align ourselves with his will. As a result we are seeking to encourage a greater commitment to prayer. There are regular gatherings of people praying for ministries such as our brigades and for ministries at Enoggera State School. Our elders have been encouraged to form prayer triplets that meet weekly or fortnightly to pray and encourage each other. We have a prayer evening planned for Tuesday 8 March. We are serious about seeking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us as we look for the future direction of Emmanuel. To ensure that it is God’s church not our church. we need your help and support. Continue to uphold the church, and particularly its leadership in prayer. Form your own prayer triple. Get together with 2 friends and pray for the church. Make a plan to ring someone up on a weekly basis and pray together on the phone. The encouragement I want to give you is to just do it. Find the ways, the rhythms and the patterns that make prayer an integral part of your life and your relationship with God. God has great plans for this church, “'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. '” — Jeremiah 29:11. That is plans for us as a church and for us as individuals. That doesn’t mean that bad things can’t happen. But it does mean that God has plans for us and in acknowledging his kingship over our lives it is about aligning ourselves with his will. Prayer is not a shopping list telling God what we want but rather about aligning ourselves with God’s will, whether we like it or not. The more time we commit to time with God, and prayer the better off we will be. As we look at Jesus life we are reminded about how often Jesus prayed. He prayed at his temptation, at his baptism, when he selected the 12, at his transfiguration, the garden of Gethsemane. Luke also records that Jesus went repeatedly to the wilderness to pray and He spent whole nights in prayer. Jesus modelled a life centred in prayer and so should we. Centred and focussed through prayer and relying upon the Holy Spirit. Please continue to pray for your church, for its leaders as we continue to seek God’s purpose and direction going forward.
As I’ve been writing my Annual Report this week, I have been reflecting on all the things that we achieved in 2021 despite the many challenges that we faced. I am proud of what we have achieved in Families Ministry and the lives that we have transformed, even in small ways, through the year. I thank you all for your continued ministry, support, prayer and encouragement to be and make disciples and be Real People with Relevant Faith for Our Community.
Throughout the year we managed to continue to serve, encourage and build relationship with 106 children from 66 families in our community through Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade, Playgroup, Sunday School and Youth Discipleship. If we add in the work in Tiny Town and Enoggera State School through RI, Kids Hope, Chaplaincy and, I believe that we have managed to serve hundreds of children and families in small and large ways. What we do is not about the numbers, but about the relationships that we build, and why we do what we do.
As we plan and prepare for children’s and families ministries 2022, we need to keep that why in mind. Our why is found in both of this week’s readings. Matthew 28:19-20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” and Acts 1:8 “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
We are called to go, make disciples, and witness wherever we go, and that is what we have done for many years, and will continue to do for many more. This week in worship we take time to commission and dedicate those who faithfully serve in ministries in and through our church. And there are many who do faithfully serve, but unfortunately, it’s really not enough.
Across Sunday School, Playgroup, Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade and Youth Discipleship, we have barely enough leaders to be able to properly build relationships and serve the families that walk through our doors each week, and we will likely have to cancel programs this year because of it. In serving Tiny Town and Enoggera State School through RI, Kids Hope and Chaplaincy, we often have to say no to ministry opportunities because we can’t find someone to help, or those that are serving are so stretched that they just can’t do anymore.
As I dwell on this, I am reminded of Matthew 9:35-38 “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he 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 his harvest field.”
This year my hope and prayer is that we would find workers for the harvest, and I invite you to consider today, and this what might God be calling you to this year? And what are you going to do about it?
New year is often a time when people make New Year’s resolutions. I wonder how many of you do that. And how many already have broken the resolutions and put them off until next year. As we enter the start of 2022 its worth reflecting upon what your hopes and dreams are for this year. What is it that you want to achieve, and more importantly what do you think God wants you to achieve this year. As much as 2022 already looks as though it will be driven with uncertainty and apprehension driven by the COVID pandemic, as Christians we should be looking forward with a sense of hope and promise trusting in God and the Holy Spirit. This doesn’t mean we are not careful or prudent but it does mean we need to be intentional about our relationship with God so that we can hear and respond. The only way to get clarity around what God desires of us is to spend time in prayer and in his word. As a church we have been listening tio God who is calling us to seek him more faithfully in prayer and to strengthen our relationships with each other. That God wants us to strengthen relationships with each other and that he calls us to share our faith through personal relationships.
This is and always has been God’s master-plan. God’s plan lies in the gospel (the good news of God’s love made real and known in Jesus) transforming people as they are filled by the Holy Spirit. They then “infect” those around them through their friendships and relationships – at home, sport, work, school, interest group, family etc) with the love of God. They do this through how they live, what they say, do, how they serve and share with their family and friends. It is this life on life sharing of faith that transforms lives. And so as wqe share with people they too become infected by the ngospel and want to be part of God’s story. The problem for many of the mainline churches is that we have stopped doing that. We are almost scared of our faith ad what people will think of us. My hope for this year is that this will describe us here at Emmanuel. That we will be infectious (not with COVID but with the gospel.) That because it flavours who we are, and flavours our lives, it becomes a natural outpouring of what God is doing. And we are able to share with those we love and care about. But this doesn’t happen by accident, it is natural but it is also intentional and focussed. It is not hard but it needs to be deliberate. It begins with a focussing on our relationship with God, deepening our prayer relationship so that we spend time with God and better sense what he is calling us to. And then as we get a better sense of what God has in store for each of us it involves stepping into that space, grasping the opportunities that God provides. Despite COVID I am hopeful that we will support each other to take these opportunities this year. To share faith with people we love and care about, to meet and pray regularly with other brothers and sisters. I am excited about what can and will do through us this year.
23 January 2022
Welcome to the New Year.
It will be interesting to see what 2022 has in store for us. I hope and pray that everyone has had a good Christmas and is looking forward to the coming Year. Claire and I had the joy of meeting our new grand-child Elowen for the first time, and catching up with their parents Dan and Ginny. They have safely returned to Moree, NSW. As we look forward to the coming year, I am reminded of the hope and expectation that a new child brings. We are so excited to be grand-parents and new life is a sign of hope and promise. It is a belief in God, and a world that can be a better place. As we look at our world it is easy to be overwhelmed by what is happening around us, the effects of the COVID pandemic, natural disasters, droughts, floods and famine. But as Christians we believe that in God there is hope, there is peace, there is joy and there is love. I have certainly experienced all of those things this Christmas as we have had the time to share with Elowen and her wider family on both her parent’s families. And I carry that hope forward to looking at what lies before us as a church this year. Christians are in the business of hope, peace, love and joy (yes they are the themes from advent). We believe that God will prevail and that this is his hope for the world and all its people. We are a people who know and experience God’s love and power in our daily lives. And we do not do it alone. Let’s remember God’s promises to us and live them. To know that God does have control and that we can trust him. That God is faithful to us. People are right to be careful and we do make decisions that minimise risk. More people are joining us online at the moment, we are following the government protocols, some of our activities are being postponed. This is not about a lack of hope or faith. We still hold the big picture that God is in control and God will prevail. And so as we gather on Sunday in either format we celebrate and rejoice in God who is counter to the world and its values and calls us to continue to demonstrate God’s values of hope, peace, joy and love through our daily lives.
Well this brings us to the last newsletter for 2021. As I look back I want to thank you everyone for an amazing year. We have done well in challenging times and maintained a focus on growing disciples who exalt, explore, embody, and engage. On being the church that we are called to be in this place. We have done this because of the amazing people and I want to acknowledge the amazing and talented people that are a part of this church family. In doing so I will apologize now because I will inevitably leave some people out. Not deliberately but because there are so many people who help make this church family what it is. First I would like to acknowledge the ministry team. You are so fortunate to have gifted and talented people like Jess and Dom who are passionate about their calling to serve God in this way. We must also acknowledge Helen’s work and service over the past 10 years and give thanks for the way she has served the church over that time. Thanks for the leadership that is offered by the Church Council Executive, by Nathan, Chris and Ross and the extra time and effort that they have put in is huge. We are so blessed to have them. The leadership offered by the rest of Church Council and the oversight, particularly Spiritual oversight they offer, thank you. Then we have the leaders and volunteers in the various ministries that we offer and come under the Emmanuel banner. They aer many and varied and come out of the passion and commitment of many of you. In no particular order we have those involved in Community Helping Hand, Boys and Girls Brigade, Play group, Sunday School, Youth discipleship, any of our schools ministry, teaching RI, Kids Hope, supporting chaplaincy, supporting our ministry in the Solomon Islands, those leading or supporting our worship each Sunday, our musicians, worship leaders, bible readers, prayers, Dennis our COVID expert, our cleaning volunteers, those in our explore Groups, those discipling others and providing pastoral care that encourages people to grow in their faith. Those helping with the ongoing maintenance of the property, volunteers offering support i the office, particularly since Helen finished. You see what a massive list this is, and I am sure there is more. The strength of this church is all of you, serving the church and seeking to be more like Jesus in our everyday lives. My hope and prayer is that we have helped and encouraged you on that journey. That we are helping people to be more like Jesus everyday. Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to lead you and encourage you on that journey. As we look towards 2022 may we have more opportunities to develop as disciples who help others to become disciples as well. Thank you everyone and blessings over this Christmas and New Year period and into 2022.
Grace and peace
It is a week before Christmas and the time of our Community Carols. Carol singing gives us such a wonderful opportunity. On a personal level singing has been proven to be good for our health, our mental well-being, even our immunity system. To sing with joy and hope the message of Christmas is so healthy for each of us. But carol singing is also good for us as a community. It unites us as a Christian community and provides an opportunity to invite friends, neighbours, work colleagues. In essence who are the people of peace, the people who are open to you that you can invite and encourage to hear the Christian message. Make no mistake someone coming to carols (or to church) does not make them a Christian. However inviting someone to carols (or church) provides an opportunity for you to share your life and faith with them. At Emmanuel we are on about growing disciples who grow disciples. This is you. If you come to Emmanuel we hope you are with us on the journey with Jesus. How do we help and encourage you to be a disciple who shares your faith and helps other people to know Jesus and to grow Jesus in their own life. Christmas is such a wonderful opportunity to understand the real reason about Christmas. The challenging part is to help people see past the decorations and distractions to the real meaning of Christmas. The message of God’s love and grace and forgiveness is hard to grasp when God is not a part of your normal everyday life. We have to get past the almost fairytale story of a baby in a manger with shepherds and wisemen to the truth behind the story. The truth of God’s love. And it becomes even more important for us who know the truth, to live it and celebrate it. Christmas is about celebrating God’s love. John 3:16 reminds us so powerfully of the true meaning of Christmas “16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Christmas is more than a baby born 2000 years ago its about Jesus and the Holy Spirit born in us each day. Let’s try and share the truth of Jesus with someone this Christmas.
Grace and Peace
Christmas is a beautiful time to remember how thankful and grateful we are. It is a great time of celebration as we prepare to celebrate both the birth of Jesus, and the truth that he will come again. A time when families get together. Join us for the prayer night this Tuesday either in person or online as we gather as a church family with our Father in heaven. Please don’t miss the opportunity to be a part of this important event in the life ofour church. The last two years COVID has changed many lives and families and for most of us our family gatherings havebeen different. Those with families overseas are learning to skype and connect electronically. Its not the same but it a wayof connecting. COVID has also affected our church family and we would like to encourage our church family to re-connect with each other. Our relationships across the congregation have been affected by lock-downs, limited social events, social distancing, so we are hoping that these events, the family picnic, morning teas, carols etc will encourage us to mix together and provide opportunities to invite friends and others along. COVID has had other effects. Some people have lost employment, and though government assistance has helped families, many are struggling financially and our Community Helping Hand is one way that we seek to assist people. Yourcontinuing support financially or with time and skills enables this ministry to continue and people’s lives to be changed for the better. Thank you to Ros and Jo and the team. Through the hampers of hope and joy we have been able to reach to needy families who have sought assistance from our local school chaplains. Next week’s lunch for those who are a part of Community Helping hand sees us reaching out to those in our community. Others have suffered bereavements and our service of Solace next week provides a gentle, reflective way to honour those we have lost. This is also an opportunity to invite friends or others who are more on the edge of our church community. They are welcome as we gather andcelebrate. Take some time this Christmas to pray for those who are in need. For those refugees and those seeking asylum, for those in quarantine waiting for permission to go home, for those who live rough on the streets. Though we can not meet everyone’s needs we need to start somewhere and make a difference. Thank you to those members of our congregation who do just that. In this Advent/ Christmas season think about how you can enrich and bless the life of at least one other person. Share with them the truth of Emmanuel, meaning God with us this Christmas.
There are so many good things happening this week and so much to be thankful for. It is the end-of-year Boys and Girls Brigade Parade, which is a great opportunity to celebrate the partnership between the Emmanuel Congregation and Boys and Girls Brigade. This partnership is real and it is fruitful as witnessed by the young men and women that are currently, and those that have been in the past, blessed by the leadership and programs of the Brigades to grow and develop in faith. There are men and women in our congregation who owe some of their Christian growth and development to the energy and effort of their Brigade leaders. It is a tremendous opportunity today to celebrate that partnership. Today is also the beginning of Advent and the start of the church year. Advent is a time when we take seriously the desire to prepare well. The lead-up to Christmas and to the end of the year is always a busy time. There are lots of events and activities both within and outside the church. Advent is a time when amidst the hustle and bustle we take time to reflect on what Christmas is really about. Christmas is about the coming of Jesus and so we prepare ourselves by looking back and celebrating Jesus’ birth and also to look forward to celebrate Jesus coming again. Both are important as we think about what Christmas is about.
Amidst all of the celebrations that happen at this time of year let’s make sure that Jesus is in the middle of our celebrations. I encourage you to use our Advent devotional material. The Jesse tree material reflects on the people and events from Creation to Jesus birth following the genealogical line of Jesus family. It reminds us of God’s saving grace through the lives of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Ruth, Samuel, David, Solomon, Elijah, Esther, Isaiah, Jonah, Habakkuk, Daniel, Micah, Zachariah, Mary and Joseph leading up to Jesus’ birth, reflecting on a different person each day. We have an event packed Advent season here at Emmanuel so please have a look at what is happening and how you can be a part of things.