Congregational Commitment 2019

It’s easy to become complacent about both our faith and our relationships in the church. That’s why, here at Sanctuary, we renew our commitment to each other and the congregation every year. During the service, each of us is invited to join with the church. Then together, those who are willing affirm the faith in which we stand, promise to love and serve one another and the wider world, and pledge themselves to a common congregational commitment. Continue reading “Congregational Commitment 2019”

Ask, seek and knock for the presence of the Holy Spirit. And that’s it.

Many believe that prayer is a transaction between ‘good’ people and God; but is this what Jesus is really on about? (Listen.)

An old friend of ours, Monique Lisbon, once wrote a satirical song with a chorus that goes like this: God can’t keep track of the human race / when everyone’s praying for a parking space. The song is her response to those Christians who quite literally ask God for everything: personal prosperity, a perfect spouse, a big house in a nice suburb, and a parking space right outside the front. Jesus says, “Ask, and you shall receive,” and so they ask, and ask, and ask some more: for the verse has been widely interpreted to mean that God is a fairy godmother just waiting to reward our earnest prayers by granting our heart’s desire. Continue reading “Ask, seek and knock for the presence of the Holy Spirit. And that’s it.”

Blow through me, Breath of God

Did you know that, in both Greek and Hebrew, the word we translate as ‘spirit’ means ‘air-in-movement’? In Hebrew, it’s the feminine ruah, or breath, which hovers over the waters of chaos in Genesis. In Greek, it’s the gender neutral pneuma which descends from heaven and fills Jesus’ disciples. You get a sense of the Greek word from the English words ‘pneumatic’ (containing air), and my ten-year-old’s favourite word: ‘pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis’, a condition seriously restricting air flow caused by the inhalation of silicate, possibly from a volcano. Phew! Continue reading “Blow through me, Breath of God”

#34: Pester, Persist: #40ways40days

Jesus told his disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’ (Luke 18:1-8) 

I have a seven-year-old granddaughter by marriage named Madeline. She is blond, skinny, and tall for her age. When she comes to visit, we cook together. Our most successful dishes to date have been mashed sweet potatoes with lots of butter and crescent dinner rolls made from scratch. From the day Madeline was born, we have been able to look each other straight in the eye with no sentimentality whatsoever. The tartness of our love for one another continues to surprise me. It is easy to forget she is seven years old. Continue reading “#34: Pester, Persist: #40ways40days”

Discerning the spirits: Six approaches

Many of us have had the experience of feeling driven to do something, barging off and doing it, then experiencing that sick realisation that it was not the right thing at all. Many of us have also had someone tell us that ‘God has laid it on my heart and …’; yet their words have left us feeling confused, anxious, coerced or manipulated. Many of us seem to lack confidence in discerning the spirits or testing whether a prayerful experience or prompt is from God; and as a result, many of us seem to mistrust or deny any spiritual experiences at all. And yet, we have faith that God works through the Holy Spirit and prayer: and so, rather than denying all such experiences, we must find ways to discern the work of the spirits, good and bad. Continue reading “Discerning the spirits: Six approaches”

#17: Listen: #40ways40days

A woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!’ (Luke 11:26b-27)

Listening is a gift we all can develop and use. In fact, listening is probably one of the most important things we do in our daily lives, in growing, and in developing relationships. Listening to those who choose to talk with us and share their thoughts, observations, and ideas can really enhance our lives. This is a gift each of us can give to others, and truly be a friend to them. Continue reading “#17: Listen: #40ways40days”

#15: Pray: #40ways40days

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ (Luke 11:1)

My father taught me how to practice prayer. Every night before I went to sleep my father would have my sisters and I kneel with him to pray a prayer. Every night, same time, together, we would pray this prayer. Continue reading “#15: Pray: #40ways40days”

Dodging the non-religion dogma

One night in my late teens I found myself having a long, deep, 3am conversation with a friend of a friend I hadn’t met before. This young woman was in her mid-twenties and initially couldn’t get over the fact that I went to church (‘you’re religious?! re-huh-eeeallly?!’).  For me, I had recently heard someone making the neat distinction between being ‘religious’ (bad, apparently) and ‘a follower of Jesus’ (good). So the poor other girl got more and more confused when, throughout our conversation, I kept repeating ‘oh no I’m not religious though … I just go to church and read the Bible and try to live how Jesus taught us to.’ You won’t be surprised to hear she and I never hung out again. Continue reading “Dodging the non-religion dogma”

Infant dedication, Baptist-style

Just under a year ago, we welcomed baby Tessa to her first service and gave thanks for her safe arrival. Now her parents are ready to dedicate her into the life of the church, so we will do this during the service on Sunday. For those of you from non-Baptist backgrounds, it may look a little different to what you are used to: there is no water, and she will not be christened. So what, then, are we doing? Continue reading “Infant dedication, Baptist-style”

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