Sunday 28th June, 2015

Standing in the Gap!
Priesthood.  Representatives of God.  One who stands between humans and God to intercede.  In our church we don’t use the word that much.  That’s because it has many negative connotations in our day and age because of the failure of human priests to represent God rightly.  Thus we shy away from using it.  

However, there is a danger in this attitude.  We don’t regard or understand the role of the Priest in our Christian walk.  Now, I’m not talking about Ian or myself.  I’m not talking about human priesthoods.  They fail!  

This failure is exposed and shown for what it is in the book of Hebrews.  Consider these words, 

“If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?” - Hebrews 7:11

Human priests and priesthoods can not attain perfection.  Or in other words, they can not be the means by which you and I attain ‘righteousness’ (right-ness) before God.  It is no wonder that priests let us down...they are only human!  

I’ve been watching an ABC show called ‘Dig’ recently.  It’s fascinating watching as a CIA operative in Jerusalem stumbles upon a secret plot to re-establish the Temple and Levitical Priesthood.  

When I was in Jerusalem last year it was obvious that the re-establishment of the Old Testament system of sacrifices and priesthood in the Temple was no secret.  It was in your face everywhere.  The desire to go back to the Levitical priesthood is palpable as you walk through the Jewish Quarter of Old Jerusalem.

As Christians we can get a bit excited about this sort of thing.  The reestablishment of the Temple and Jewish cult.  I wonder why.  It failed once and will again...it is human.  

Praise God that he has provided an ‘eternal’ Priesthood that has no origin in the flesh.  The appearance of that shadowy figure Melchizedek in Genesis 14 and the coming of Jesus has fulfilled all the Priestly duties and requirements for you and I.  Jesus as Priest offered himself as our sacrifice of atonement.  He entered the holy place after his resurrection, entering glory and the presence of God present you and me before the Father.  

We have no need for human priests.  As Jesus never fails to attain perfection for you and me.  We have a perfect eternal Great High Priest who stands in the gap forever between God and us.

Praise be to Jesus!

Grace and Hope,
Stephen

Sunday 21st June,2015

I’ve had a hectic week!  You know the ones.  Where everything you planned has not happened because of unexpected and difficult circumstances. 

Sometimes I wonder what the Lord is doing in times like this.  But first, let me tell you about a few things that happened first to give some context.

Preparing for this week’s sermon my time has been swallowed up first by the various and predictable pressures at work.  Also, I was asked to listen take time to care for various people at work and in our community.  That took time! 

But when April, my eldest child, came down with a mysterious sickness for three days that saw her in Geelong hospital on Friday (the day I work for St.Matt’s) I began to wonder if it was more than just coincidence.  The enemy was stirring.

I was tempted to panic at that stage.  When was I going to get time to prepare properly for the sermon I so much wanted to preach on Sunday morning?  When was I going to get the chance to prepare the service that I wanted to be perfect for our community?  As I write this I am still wondering and asking those questions.  The things I had as priority at the start of the week have now been forced down the list.

It is tempting to drop your gaze at moments like this and feel like everything is out of control.  But is it?  Control, it’s a funny concept.  We think we have it, when really we have very limited power over the affairs and circumstances of our lives.  I’m certain God uses these times to teach us about control...or the lack there of.

This week we will recite part of Psalm 16 when we gather to worship.  It goes like this;

“Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;

               You have made my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

                Surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;

                Even at night my heart instructs me.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord,

                With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

 How encouraging when this is the foundation of our faith in the midst of difficulty.  The context of this Psalm is David asking the Lord for protection from his enemies.  Today, I ask the Lord also to protect our community from harm from the enemy.  So that in hardship, we rejoice knowing that he has made our lot secure in Jesus Christ.  We have overcome in him, we will not be shaken.

Grace and Hope,
Stephen

Sunday 14th June, 2015

I was blessed on Tuesday night to meet with the Mens Bible Study group.  After an hour and half of looking at Hebrews 6 and praying I was full of joy and eagerness to serve and love God.

One passage jumped out and challenged us in particular.  I want to share it and challenge our entire community with it.

“Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instructions about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” – Hebrews 6:1-2

Wow...do you see what this is getting at? The basics of the Christian faith are great, but we don’t stop there, we must ‘leave’ or ‘keep going onward’ from where we began with God.   We have to grow deeper in our comprehension of God and his plans for our world. 

A word of caution at this point!   This in no way means that we forget or drop the foundation blocks of ‘repentance’, ‘faith in ‘God’, ‘baptism’,  ‘laying on of hands’ which is commissioning, ‘resurrection’, and ‘judgment’.  These are the grounds of Christian faith and life, but we are encouraged to pursue MORE!!!

We are not to become stagnant in our faith, good works, and understanding of God’s will.  We are urged to pursue the deeper wisdom of God as revealed in Holy Scripture.  God wants to give us more.  More joy!   More knowledge!  More revelation!  More JESUS!

Isn’t that encouraging.  We have permission to jump in and plumb the depths of the glories of God.  Why?  Because God knows this brings us joy and grows our love for Him.  It guarantees our salvation and hope of eternal life. 

If you are like me, you have probably felt ‘spiritually’ dry at times.  Left wondering if there is any more to your Christian walk and faith.  I have found that it is usually caused by not delving deeper into the gospel and the Scriptures.  When I pick up the Bible and search and dig for more, more gold, more Jesus, I usually find it and I am overjoyed and refreshed. 

I pray that everyone at St.Matt’s will know that joy as we together explore and dig into the Scriptures.  Let us grow into maturity and build on the foundations of our faith.

 Hope and Grace,

Stephen

Sunday 31st May, 2015

Welcome to everyone worshipping with us today at St Matt's. This is our second Seniors Sunday and unfortunately again we are unable to have the organ as originally planned. I am very sorry about this but we have been thwarted again by unforeseen circumstances. Andy was to have played but must take paid employment where and when he can (this time in Athens!) so he has again supplied us with pre-prepared music and lyrics. It was pretty good last time so no doubt we will worship well this time too! And in the end, it's where are hearts are focussed not how our music sounds . . .

This week in Ireland chronicled a staggering shift in the traditional understanding of marriage. Maybe this will mark the major paradigm shift that changed human history forever. Let me just reiterate that there is nothing in scripture that affirms any other form of marriage than that between a man and a woman.

In this space I want to make two comments in brief response. First and by far the most important issue is that God loves everyone and makes the invitation, through Jesus' death on the cross as payment for all our sins, for everyone to belong to His family. As ambassadors for Christ, we must therefore also make that invitation possible, welcoming and heard. Any conviction of sin and subsequent transformation is the job of the Holy Spirit - not ours. We are all called in the life of discipleship to "deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus", and the challenges, (of what we must "die to"), will be different for each of us. If we could find a way to walk alongside any and every variety of Jesus followers without condemnation, then we would indeed be Good News to our companions on "The Way".

Secondly, we are actually living amidst compromised values all the time. The truth is we already live amongst people with massively different understandings of marriage and many other things. We must learn how to be salt and light without becoming "wowsers" or just plain irrelevant. I must admit that one of my initial feelings was to be dismayed that here was another issue in which I may soon be in the minority over, if I'm not already! I felt alienated, but once I could identify that was how I was feeling, I was reminded of the following scripture from the Apostle Peter.

1 Peter 2:11-15  Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.  (12)  Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.  (13)  Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority,  (14)  or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.  (15)  For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of the foolish.

The answer for us lies in doing good, and keep doing good. Let our good works, and our control of our own sinful desires be the way that light shines in the darkness. 

God bless,     Ian.

Sunday 24th May, 2015

Welcome to everyone joining us for Tate Street Sunday at St Matt's today. As the name suggests, we will be focussing on our ministry to Tate Street Primary School where we have been teaching RE for over 70 years and more recently, have had amazing welcome & inclusion into school life. We give thanks to God for that - truly a miracle in today's anti-religious climate.

Last month's service was a major success on so many levels, what with the marimba band, the Bishop in excellent form and the marvellous hospitality by our church members and the response of our visitors. This truly is what church is about - finding ways of introducing people to Jesus who've never really encountered him before. We are each living "advertisements"; what we do and how we relate to other people at least as important as what we might say.

This last week I was in contact with Camp Wilkin, Anglesea, to see if we could use their facilities to help with the leadership development project I have "cooking" with the Principal and grade 4/5/6 teachers. They were keen to be involved and already had a suitable program which might save us a lot of work! I meet this week with the school staff concerned to discuss this proposal so I would value your prayers for wisdom and discernment; what should we adopt and what should we add, etc?

Meanwhile, I met with two representatives from a relatively new charity called "Ladder" which has been developed on behalf of the AFL Players Association to help young homeless people acquire the necessary life skills to find suitable accommodation and become self-sufficient. Jason Davenport (former Geelong  & Port Adelaide player) & Tegan Philip (current Commonwealth Netballer) came to see if they could use our kitchen for an 8 week course called "FoodMate" to teach 7-10 young people how to cook for themselves in a healthy way. It was pretty easy to say "yes" to them; what an amazing opportunity! This is just another tiny step forward on our way to transforming community. They will be commencing sometime in June on Wednesday evenings at dinner time.

And in some personal news, as some of you will have already heard, I am due to take some Long Service Leave which I will do commencing on Friday 5th June and returning on Friday 31st July. Julie has also got some LSL so will be joining me as we go to visit our long lost children! (And Gemma will be returning home in the middle of August). Most of our time will be spent in the UK visiting family and friends, sightseeing in London and also a couple of weeks in Paris. And hopefully avoiding the worst of the winter . . .

In my absence, The Rev Steve Brown will be the Locum Vicar and he will work Fridays and Sundays. He will introduce himself and his young family in this space in two weeks time - he is a great guy and you will enjoy his time with us. Another ardent Cats supporter but alas, Melissa is a Magpie fan; there's no saving some people . . .

God bless,   Ian.

Sunday 17th May, 2015

Welcome to everyone celebrating with us today! We're celebrating what God has done, is doing and will do amongst us. We hope you will be enthused (literally: be filled with God) by what you hear and that you will stay for a cuppa after the service to hear more stories about what God is up to.

Please join us also as we celebrate the Lord's Supper together during the service. In it we remember the most amazing thing that God has done for each of us: covering our sin by His self-sacrifice on the cross. Indeed, today we celebrate most of all, " . . . that our names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20).

Two weeks ago at our 3dm Learning Community we discovered that Passionate Spirituality (UP), Radical Community (IN) & Missionary Zeal (OUT) are the keys to fiery-hearted discipleship. [Just a fancy way of saying we need to be "sold-out" in our 3 dimensional faith.] We scored ourselves quite low on Passionate Spirituality, but quite high on Radical Community and Missionary Zeal. Our corporate "UP" is low because we find ourselves in a new space and phase of gathered worship. Conversely, our "IN" is high because of the same circumstances. Our "OUT" continues to be high as we power-on with our missional activities - I'm sure we're punching above our weight there . . . (and personally I'm very proud of all that we do responding to God's call to love the last, the least and the lost!)

Today, we'll hear how the disciples came back from mission, absolutely buzzing with excitement because they'd seen God's miracles unfold before their eyes. (Luke10:17)  The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."

We need to see with eyes like theirs. It's time for us to unveil the miraculous from within our own midst. Name me another church that has 40-50 families come out of the blue for a playgroup. Name me another church that doubles its congregation with non-Christians attending a guest service. Name me another church that provides a ginger-bread house to every student in a school. Or one where the Principal writes with prayer-requests. Name me another church that has complete strangers fill in prayer-requests in an op-shop, or has volunteers joining regularly for community outside trading hours. Especially name me one where all this is happening at the same time!

Seriously, my dear friends, God is working his amazing miracles amongst us all the time, in an ongoing way. Community transformation is taking place around us and through us because God loves us and is blessing us. None the less, still let us rejoice more that our names are written in heaven.

God bless,    Ian.

Sunday 10th May, 2015.

Welcome to everyone joining us for Op-Shop Community church. One of the things I love about our new format is hearing from a diverse group of people and embracing others' perspectives. I am also really thrilled with the growing confidence of our open prayer time. It seems pretty straight forward, doesn't it? Just ask God for what you need.

Mar 11:22-24  "Have faith in God," Jesus answered.  (23)  "Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and do not doubt in your heart but believe that what you say will happen, it will be done for you. (24)  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Sometimes the answer is only as far away as the request. Recently, some of us were praying for one of the parents from Tate Street, at the request of the Principal, Terry Scott. When I asked him this week how she was fairing, he told me she had an amazingly fast recovery! I reminded him of the request . . .

Last week, Chris Crook, Jeanenne Thomas, Jo van der Schoor and I were at a learning community held at Crossway Baptist. This was the fourth in our two year commitment to the 3dm program. Malcolm and Cheryl Potts were there along with Andy Goodacre and a hundred or so others. it s such a blessing to be able (now) to mix, compare notes, encourage and pray with others who are using the same model of discipleship and mission. On the Thursday, I helped facilitate a further workshop for another group of churches now considering the model. On the same day, this was happening in Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and Launceston. The previous week it had all just begun in Wellington, NZ.

Friends, what began 12 years ago with a phone call from Malcolm to me, (asking which churches he should look at whilst in the UK), is finally unfolding as we envisioned twelve months later in a restaurant overlooking the Yarra. But that Vision has had to be tested and worked out, in the first instance, mainly by you good and brave folk. Your tenacity and courage to persevere, even when we doubted, is bearing fruit not only in our own context, but increasingly right across our country!

When I tell stories of how our Missional Communities - like the Op-Shop - are transforming lives in big and small ways and how ordinary Christians all have a role to play in the mission; people's eyes light up. We are actually reaching ordinary Australians with the Gospel. And others are influenced by our example. There's always going to be a long way to go but the journey is worth it!

Oh, and Happy Mother's Day!     God bless,      Ian.

Sunday 3rd May, 2015

I'm loving being able to welcome so many new folk to St Matt's! The last few weeks have been an amazing time in the life of our church as we have celebrated all that God is doing amongst us. If you are visiting today you are also very welcome, as are all our regular attenders.  God wants everyone to know that he loves them and helping other find a way to belong to his family is our core business.

We believe this is made possible spiritually, by trusting in the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf on the cross. But it is our determination to be radically inclusive in our community which gives flesh, if you like, to those spiritual "bones". In other words, we may not be the perfect example to follow but we are certainly the only living example many people see of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. And how we relate to each other demonstrates what God's Kingdom is like.

Wow - that's a big call! But notice this passage from the Apostle Paul:

1Th 1:3-7  We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  (4)  For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you,  (5)  because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.  (6)  You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.  (7)  And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.

Thank you to everyone who worked hard last week for our guest service to the Bishop and the families and friends of the Marimba Taters. What they witnessed was a genuine and generous, loving and welcoming community. We can be very pleased with our result as was Bishop Philip who wrote us up in his weekly newsletter to clergy, " . . . Ian and the congregation have rebuilt the relationship after some of those years when secularism and sentiment against RE took hold . . . Our worship attracted "non-church" goers who all stayed long after the service ended. The St Matthew's folk made them all welcome with kindly smiles and fine food for both lunch and morning tea . . . Ian, like others, is deeply invested in this model as a way to re-engage a community indifferent or alienated from the Church, rebuilding trust by faithful and humble service."

You guys are awesome - I love leading this church! God bless,   Ian.

Sunday 26th April, 2015

Welcome to everyone joining us today at St Matt's. We hope you have a great time, meet some new friends and enjoy some good food! We also hope that you will get a good sense of being amongst God's people and hear something of who Jesus is.

A very big and warm welcome to the "Marimba Taters" and their families, some teachers and others from Tate Street Primary School. As you may know, our church has been involved with your school for over 70 years - sending volunteers to teach RE (now SRI), listen to students read, the Brekkie Club (a few years ago) and Kids Hope as well as helping at working bees, etc. We love your school and are so glad to have you join us today J

We also welcome our friend and Bishop, Philip Huggins who will be helping me with the discussion based on our bible reading. He has a big job overseeing close to 100 churches and we are thrilled he could make time to be with us today.

After the service, please stay for lunch if you are able. There are enough baked po-taters (!) for everyone and some yummy fillings so don’t rush away without enjoying what's on offer.

As you will be aware, yesterday marked the 100th Anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli, in Turkey, during the First World War. Many thousands of lives were lost as they are in all wars. Those who died believed they were protecting our nation and we are grateful for all that we have as Australians. During our prayers in the service, the following prayer will be offered - you may like to keep it, read it and think about it all that it means from time to time:

God of love and liberty, we bring our thanks today for the peace and security we enjoy.

We remember those who in time of war faithfully serve their country.

We pray for their families, and for ourselves whose freedom was won at such cost.

Make us a people zealous for peace, and hasten the day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither learn war any more.

This we pray in the name of the one who gave his life for the sake of the world:

Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

At St Matt's, we like to think of ourselves as People of Peace: people who love peace; and people who bring God's peace to others by knowing Jesus and making Him known. If you would like to find out more about our church and our faith please feel free to ask any of us and/or check out our website www.stmatthews.org.au

God bless,   Ian.

Sunday 19th April, 2015

Welcome to everyone worshipping with us today at St Matthew's. If you are visiting for the first time, we'd love to get to know you better, so please introduce yourself and stay for a cuppa after the service.

We had some sad news last week to hear that Cliff Barrand had died. Everyone I've met that knew him, and I certainly agree also, that he was one of the nicest men you'll ever meet. We have not seen as much of him as we would have liked in recent years, due to ill-health, but his warmth and care never diminished. Our prayers are with Kathleen and the family.

In contrast, we're also praying for God's blessings on Paul and Jenny Edwards as they start their new life together after their wedding yesterday J

What with the baptisms over Easter it's been a real "hatches, matches and dispatches" couple of weeks!

That's life isn't it? The passing of time and the coming and going of seasons, even the daily rhythms of waking and sleeping; all serve us and steady us as we each grow older (and hopefully wiser). The sun will set tonight and rise tomorrow morning and we will go on.

I guess Cliff's passing has made me think again of the wonder of eternity. We will go on. In the loving arms of our heavenly Father, as it were, we will know and be fully known. And we will be loved and fully love, no longer hampered by our mortal bodies with all its frailties and sin-marred souls. Finally and forever washed clean, fully reconciled with our creator we will go on in pure and eternal relationships with Him and each other.

The Apostle Paul said, (1Co 15:19 TNIV), "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all others."

And yet we are not to live as though heaven is our only goal. We are called to live out our relationship with God and with other people, in our best and most redeemed manner. That is to say, as we invite the Holy Spirit to be ever more present in our lives He will transform us into the likeness of Jesus Christ and enable us to live reconciled lives.  As the writer to the Hebrews says,

(Heb 12:1-3 TNIV)   . . .  let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  (2)  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  (3)  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Let us go on . . .    God bless,  Ian.

Sunday 12th April,2015

Welcome to everyone worshipping with us today at St Matt's on this "Op-Shop Community Sunday"! As the name suggests we will focus our worship around what God is doing among the people associated with the Op-Shop.

Our Sunday gatherings are certainly taking on a dynamic which would have been hard to replicate in the old pattern - God is certainly using the new pattern to show us how to be community, even family. Easter weekend was a helpful experience of the variety of worship we can now achieve.

I couldn't have been happier with how the two services went. Highlights for me were: the testimony of Jason Odeh, on Good Friday, that it was your welcoming of him and his family that encouraged him to stay and see what God was doing; the very moving baptisms of the two Wilson children on Easter Day - a beautiful  family that God has brought us to be part of our bigger family.

And as I write this, I've just come home from our first Alpha night (in a long while). There were two folk who are not attenders at our church who came along and participated quite happily in the evening, which is what we have all longed and prayed for. A great, renewed start! The Alpha talks we're using are brand new this year, streamed via the internet and are about 30mins each in length. You can find them on YouTube or at alpha.org

We'd value your prayers for the SRI teachers who will commence this week with new material and a new format of combined classes (because of the reduced numbers of parents giving consent for their children to be taught the Christian faith). Tate Street School is working hard for us to make this happen at all so that is something to give thanks to God for. And there is tremendous good will from the teachers and other staff as they appreciate all that our church community does for their community.

So be of good cheer - "Trust in the Lord and do good" we read in Psalm 37:3 (the rest of the psalm is also important and well worth a read . . . ) God will do it J

God bless,  Ian

Easter Day 5th April, 2015

Welcome to everyone joining us over this Easter weekend! Some of our folk have been praying for you all this week, as we asked the Lord to speak to us in a fresh way.

It is nearly impossible to find adjectives adequate enough to describe the importance of the historical events celebrated this weekend. They literally changed the world! No matter what people think of Jesus almost everyone in the world will be aware that this is our big weekend. For close to two thousand years, Christians have been passing on the most astonishing news - that Jesus is no longer dead but alive! The Apostle Paul put it like this:

1Corinthians 15:3-8 (TNIV)  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  (4)  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,  (5)  and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.  (6)  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  (7)  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,  (8)  and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

This was Paul's evidence that Jesus was alive - eye witness accounts. He was in effect saying, "If you don’t believe me, ask some of the others who witnessed what happened". And in our own era, it is our job to be the witnesses. Our own testimony is also that Jesus is alive, and whilst we may not have seen him physically we can point to our own experiences of God at work in our own and other people's lives.

And this Easter we will echo another great tradition of the church - to hold baptisms at Easter. In the early church there was often a long-period of testing, (up to three years!), before finally being admitted into the church by Baptism at Easter.

So we are thrilled to have young Oscar Wilson and his brand new sister, Bailey, baptised amongst us this Easter Day 2015 and we give a special welcome to their family and friends who will join us for the service.

Don’t forget, Alpha starts next Thursday 9th April, 7.30 in the hall at church. If you've never quite thought through what the Christian faith is all about, or you think it might be time for a refresher, please come and join us for a fun evening which includes coffee & dessert, a 30 minute video, and ample opportunity to ask questions and discuss the issues.

God bless,   Ian.

Sunday 29th March, 2015.

Welcome to everyone worshipping with us today at St Matt's and to this our first Senior's-hosted service for 2015. We are glad to be hearing our magnificent pipe-organ played today and look forward to some great congregational singing to go with it!

Today also happens to be Palm Sunday. Although I won't be focussing on the historic occasion of Jesus entry into Jerusalem during my sermon, I can't help but remember the view from the top of the hill at Bethany from where Jesus would have ridden the donkey. In sight for him was not only the temple, which dominated the skyline of the city of Jerusalem, but also the very quarry which was used as the place of crucifixion where Jesus would give up his life for ours, by the end of the week. The point I can't escape is His determination, motivated by love, to move on into that greatest of spiritual trials. Would he continue on unwaveringly along the (literally) sacrificial path his heavenly father had called him to, or would he choose to save himself?

As we contemplate his wonderfully amazing choice this week, it's great that our men's prayer group have invited us to prayer each day, (Monday to Thursday), for two hours from 12-2pm. They will have the church open for anyone who would like to join them.

You may like to use the following resource:

§      Praise God for the work and blessing he has shown in your own life and the world in general

§      Confess the things you know you’ve done wrong  and ask God to reveal anything else in your life that needs dealing with

§      Ask God to show you what he wants you to pray about

§      Think about all you know about your people of peace, your community and networks of relationships

§      Think again about what God's blessing would look like on each of those people and situations, perhaps imagine Jesus walking up to your people of peace and having a conversation with them

§      Beg God to work miracles in their lives, especially that they may come to know him

§      Listen to what he may be calling you to do

§      Respond by singing, laughing, crying, writing, drawing, lighting a candle, sending a text message or an email (or even a letter!), making a phone call, visiting . . .

God bless,

Ian.

Sunday 22nd March, 2015

Welcome to everyone joining us for our Tate Street Cluster gathering this morning at St Matt's. As the name suggests, we will focus on our ministry at our local Primary School and especially pray with thanks for God is doing at the school and the various challenges we have been made aware of.

During this past week we had a Parish Council meeting at which we were able to discuss some money we sent to the school as part of our mission giving. I spoke with the Principal, Terry Scott, who informed me that some of the money has already been put to good use by the Student Welfare Officer for things like uniforms and books, as well as pay for some excursions for a couple of students who might have missed out otherwise.

As Parish Council last year, we approved the sending of $1000 to be used in this manner throughout the year, at the discretion of the Principal. After last week's meeting, I have also been able to assure him that if he has any other specific needs during the year that he should feel free to approach us and we will do our best to meet them.

The Parish Council also felt that perhaps some of the congregation may sense that God is specifically calling them to see this kind of mission giving as a focus for their own additional offerings. In which case, I invite you to think and pray about if that might be you, and if so, to make any such special offerings using either a clearly marked envelope in the offering box, or even better, via a bank deposit to our church account with "Tate Street" in the reference. Please feel free to discuss this with me or Lesley Spurr further if you wish.

This week sees the launch of our new website at www.stmatthews.org.au which I hope to give you a glimpse of during our gathering today.  Feel free to make any comments via the "contact us" section on the website!

One of the things advertised on the site is our upcoming Alpha course.                      

God bless,   Ian.

 

Sunday 15th March, 2015

Welcome to everyone worshipping with us today at St Matt's. This is our monthly Celebration Service where, as the name suggests, we celebrate what God has been doing amongst us in the past month or so.

Today is extra special as we will also celebrate Joseph Pilon's decision to follow Jesus, by reaffirming his Baptismal vows. We welcome all those who are here to support him.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, (current leader of the Anglican Church worldwide), said last year in an interview, "The decision to follow Jesus Christ is the most important decision in anyone's life!" That's a big statement. I happen to agree with him, of course, but what would make us say that?

Firstly, there are some of the things Jesus said about himself in the bible. For example, "I am the way, the truth and the life - no one comes to the Father except through me". He was saying that if you really want to know God, then follow and learn from me. He was speaking in a context when there was no doubt that God was real - the question was more a case of, "How can I know God personally?"

Secondly, there are things that others have said about Jesus of Nazareth.  A Jewish historian, writing in the mid to late 1st Century AD wrote, "Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works - a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure . . . He was the Christ; and when Pilate . . . had condemned him to the cross . . . he appeared to them alive again the third day" .

C.S.Lewis has said, "You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse . . . but let us not come up with any patronising nonsense about His being [only] a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

So, what about you? What have you decided about Jesus? How does it affect your life? St Matt's is offering a ten week course, called Alpha, commencing Thursday 9th April, 7.30-9.00pm, (and then weekly on Thursdays),  at which you can ask any question you like about Jesus and the Christian faith.  You'd be very welcome to join us for lively discussion and /or ponderous reflection - and I guarantee it will help you make your mind up!

God bless,   Ian.

Sunday, 8th March, 2015.

Welcome to everyone sharing in our Op-Shop Community Sunday. If you’re visiting our church for the first time you’ll notice that we are quite different to other churches. Please relax, introduce yourself and enjoy the fellowship over coffee & cake and then, if you’re brave enough, join in the discussion too!

What a fun time we had last Sunday with the children! Aaron’s 2-year-old-laughter was priceless and good for the soul too. I love having the children help us with our gathered worship. At the end of the service when I gave the blessing, one of the boys asked me, “How did you read that prayer without turning to look at it?” I told him I had eyes in the back of my head!

I don’t know if you noticed in last week’s reading; there was a very clear but sobering message about the role of the devil in the midst of gospel work.

Luke 8:11-12  "This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. (12)  Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

It is clear that Jesus understood that the devil does not want people to believe and be saved. It should therefore come as no surprise when we meet opposition to our gospel work. It comes in all shapes and sizes ranging from unreasonable opposition to circumstances beyond our control getting in the way of our ministry.

I mention this because we need to pray and ready ourselves, especially with the Alpha course commencing soon. I urge us all to pray and cover this course: the preparations; those leading; those participating; and each evening that it is run. James says this: (James 4:7 ) Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Examine what’s in your heart and mind – submit it all to God. If the devil tests you, resist him. Ignore his barbs and accusations – there is no condemnation for those who in Christ Jesus. Drive him out in the name of Jesus!

Meanwhile next week Jospeh Pilon will affirm his Baptismal Vows which he made last year (but which his parents were unable to attend). If there is anyone else who would like to affirm their own baptism, please see me after the service today or during the week so that we can chat it over.

God bless,  Ian. 

Sunday, 1st March, 2015.

Welcome to everyone joining us for Playgroup Church today! As the name suggest, our informal gathering will have as its focus young children and their families - but people of all ages are welcome!

I took the Rev Peter Crawford out to lunch on Thursday to thank him for his support and mentoring over many years. He has been the Vicar of St Mark's Emerald for close to 35 years and is due to retire in a couple of weeks. He has been praying for all of us for some time and was thrilled to hear how our new service program was going.

Not so long back he counselled me to think of our church as still in transition and today when we met he was encouraging me to keep planning for growth! I remarked that he was one of three "Peters" who had been influential in my development as an Anglican priest, the other two being Peter Adam and Peter Corney - both of whom also had very long-term ministries in their parishes. (There was even another Peter - Swane. He was the first Vicar I worked with and for and he was awesome also!)

We wondered together if there was anyone from my generation who would stay that long - perhaps I'll get to 14 first and then think about whether it could be me! (It'll be ten years later this month . . .)

In other news, at long last I think we're ready to have an Alpha course again at St Matt's. The Wardens and I have agreed that now is the time so this is advance notice that we will run Alpha in second term, (ie immediately after Easter - Early April, probably of an evening, including coffee and dessert).

 

It is a ten week introduction to the Christian faith so you should come if: you've never done it before; it's so long since you did it last time that you can't remember anymore; your Person of Peace would like to come but won't know anyone else. In fact NOW would be the perfect time to start praying about who you can invite!

God bless,   Ian.

Sunday, 22nd February, 2015.

Hello and welcome to everyone reading this. We’re just a couple of weeks from going “live” on our new website hence the change in title to “Vicar’s Blog”. As soon as we have it up and running I’ll be able to show it to you via our fancy new TV, so you’ll know what I’m talking about then!

This is our fourth week of the new program of services and this week we’ll be focussing on the Ministry done by the Tate Street Cluster which is led by Lesley Spurr – it’s a blue day today . . .

As there’s no 5th Sunday in February, we won’t get to experience that until March – but they say expectation is 2/3 of the enjoyment anyway . . .

Sadly, it’s my duty to report the very sudden passing of Bishop Barbara Darling. She had a stroke about two weeks ago, and then died at about 11:30 last Sunday. Her funeral is today at 5pm at St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne. She had only just begun her Long Service Leave leading up to her retirement. She was a great student of Church History and especially the Church in Australian Society and was always very interested and supportive of what we were doing here at St Matt’s. She will be greatly missed.

In other changes, Marilyn Slade will only be staffing the office on Friday mornings between 9:30-12:30. (This allows her to better help Andrew in their business earlier in the week). This means that it is vital for any inclusions for the Notice Sheet to be on her desk by Thursday. If you wish to leave a note or message at other times, by far the easiest method is to leave a message on the church answering machine. (This gets converted to an email which is collected by Maz, or me, usually within 24 hrs). In fact, any messages are best delivered as emails, although a note in the letterbox will also work. As usual, any urgent pastoral matters should be directed either to me or to Jeanenne Thomas, (our newly licensed Lay pastoral worker!)

God bless,     Ian.