Tag Archives: Jesus

Painting for proclamation

Welcome to St Augustine’s. So glad you can join us today!

Last Sunday afternoon, I got a delightful surprise. I turned up to church at about 4:30pm in preparation for our Sunday evening Growth Group at 5pm, and I saw that the Church Hall door was open. I knew that Samuel Chan and a few others had started work on painting the hall a few hours earlier, so I thought I’d drop in and see how things were going.

The staff had made a decision a few weeks earlier, in consultation with the finance people at Diocesan Office, to paint the hall to help spruce up the interior after we moved the Op shop to the Old School. Samuel got quotes from professional painters, but both were more than we could justify under the current financial pressures. But we were able to source paint for a discounted price. So Samuel bought the paint and other equipment, and started prepping the walls!

We want to use the hall to expand the ministries of the church, and to hire out to the wider community. We want to think of ways to serve the local community. And it seems to me pretty important to make this space as inviting as we can, with the modest resources we have at our disposal.

As I walked through the door, I saw a group of people standing in a circle and I suddenly recognised Mee Ping’s voice… he was leading in prayer. I quietly walked over to the group, closed my eyes and joined in the prayer. He was praying in a very upbeat manner, confidently asking God to bless our use of the hall and asking that Christ’s name would be proclaimed there. As I prayed, I could smell fresh paint, and wondered how much work they’d done, but thought I really should wait until he’d finished praying before I opened my eyes and looked around…

Well sure enough, the prayer finished, we opened our eyes and I saw every single wall painted! A little bit of touching up was needed the following day, but otherwise, it was done.

So THANK YOU to the huge group of over a dozen volunteers who painted all afternoon last Sunday, and ESPECIALLY to Samuel for amazing hard work, initiative and leadership. Come and check out the hall as soon as you have a chance!

The Trinity: Why Stick With A Bewildering Doctrine?

Welcome to this morning’s service at St Augustine’s. We are delighted to have you with us.

Today is Trinity Sunday. The Trinity is definitely one of the more tricky Christian doctrines, and so this is one of the more complex pew sheets for the year!

  • Not three Gods, but one God: Father, Son and Spirit.
  • Not one God who changes from Father to Son to Spirit depending on what he’s doing. Rather, God who is Father in relationship with Son in relationship with Spirit in relationship with Father.
  • Not one God with three different heads that pop up at different times. Instead, the Triune God.

Is this supposed to make sense? And how do we make Christian belief simple and easy to communicate to a desperately needy world if we insist on doctrine that seems to contradict itself?

Interestingly, the Trinity is not explored or even mentioned in the Bible. What we do find though are these sorts of things:

  • From today’s OT reading, Deut 6:4, “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (“oneness’ is a key concept).
  • Psalm 24:10… who would the King of Glory be, entering Jerusalem to defeat God’s enemies? Yahweh Almighty himself! (yet it is Jesus who comes).
  • Jesus is described as God in numerous ways (e.g. “The word became flesh”, “The exact representation of God’s being”, “The Lord of Life”, “The [visible] image of the invisible God”.
  • Jesus refers to God as The Father, and himself as The Son, and talks about himself as having come from the Father’s side (John 17:5). And he promises to send the Spirit once the Son has gone… so in some way God is relational, even though there is only one God.

Yes this is complex. But why do we want God to be simple? What makes me want to explain everything about him, or draw a diagram to depict him?

God wants us to seek him. And he has made himself seekable in the pages of Scripture. But the Bible’s picture of God describes a glorious, unapproachable, incomprehensible, eternal being, who is the source of all life and wisdom. Put simply, I am merely a created being, and my wisdom is therefore limited. The doctrine of the Trinity is the best attempt by theologians to explain how God describes himself in the Bible. And in fact all the doctrine can do is show us what we can and cannot say about God.

So rather than leading us to speculation or cynicism, may the doctrine of the Trinity lead us to humility and worship!

Palm Sunday: laying out the green carpet

Welcome! We trust that you enjoy your time today at St Augustine’s. We’d love to connect with you in some way if you are up for it. Feel free to chat to me after the service, or to contact me using the contact information on the pew sheet.

Today is Palm Sunday and we remember the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. In our Lent Bible Studies we looked at this recently in Mark 11. It is often called the “triumphal entry”. Why do you think this is?

There was certainly a big crowd. Many people spread out their cloaks on the road. Others had cut leafy branches (or palms) and laid them out on the road. So Jesus had a kind of ‘red carpet’ welcome, although it was more likely a green carpet!

In addition to what they did, it is important what they said. In Mark 11:9-10, the people called out a range of things. The first was “Hosanna”, which is a term of praise. But it literally means “Oh save us!” It is actually a cry for help, addressed to Jesus.

The second cry is “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. This is God’s envoy. And to say that he is blessed is to speak with great admiration for him. It’s an expression of great honour.

The third cry is “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” David was promised an eternal kingship for one of his descendants, and to associate Jesus with that kingdom is to say this is promise-fulfilment time. Hopes are high for this man. Not only are they treating him as king, they are suggesting that a new, eternal reality is dawning.

The fourth cry “Hosanna in the highest” implies that heaven is watching on. The angels are participating in this praise of Jesus the One come to save.

And yet… he is riding a donkey, not a king’s warhorse. This is a fulfilment of Zechariah 9:9, which promised that Israel’s king would be … lowly. This means he is simultaneously victorious and humble.

How do you view Jesus? Humble and weak? Victorious and judgemental? Neither of these pairs reflect the Bible’s value system. In the Bible, humility is connected with strength, not weakness. And victory is given (by God), not snatched by superiority.

So this Easter, let us grow in our admiration for Jesus, seeking to know him as he truly is. After all, there is much to draw us to him!

 

Invisible baptism

Welcome to St Augustine’s! We hope you enjoy your time with us.

Today is a very special day: an opportunity to baptise Stella Mak. In the service, we will find out more about Stella’s background and longstanding desire to be baptised. It is an honour for us to share in this significant day for her.

Like Holy Communion, baptism is a physical sign of a spiritual reality. The water just comes from the tap, and it doesn’t make a great deal of difference whether it is sprinkled over someone or whether they are submerged.

When a person becomes a Christian, he or she puts trust in the promises of God and appropriates them personally. It is the difference between knowing that Jesus brings salvation and calling out to him to be my saviour. It’s the difference between facts about Jesus and relationship with Jesus.

When you ask Jesus to save you, an extraordinary thing happens. The Holy Spirit connects you with Jesus. It is an invisible connection – you may or may not feel it – but one that immediately changes the entire trajectory of your life. Instantly, Jesus becomes your representative. His death on the cross becomes a death that pays for your sin. His burial in the tomb enables you to be counted as having been buried for your sins. And, wonderfully, his resurrection becomes the guarantee that one day you too will be resurrected… raised from the dead to be with him for ever. And yes, this connection with Jesus is called … your baptism. In Romans 6, Paul puts it like this:

Don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.

What a joy this is! It calls for a visible symbol to help us celebrate. And Jesus chose water baptism to represent visibly this hidden spiritual baptism: an outward sign of our inward cleansing and preparation for eternal life with God. Thanks be to him!