Tag Archives: salvation

What is an Australian Easter?

Thank you for joining us, especially if you are not a regular church attender… we are honoured to have you with us, and trust that our time together is encouraging, welcoming and thought provoking.

What is an Australian Easter? It’s a bit different from Christmas, with its strong family associations and big lunches or dinners. Easter does mean chocolate, mostly eggs and bunnies.

But I think the Easter most Aussies think about is the holiday. The 4-day week-end, just long enough to get away for a few nights or to get out into the garden. And the weather is often great.

It fits well with the Aussie way of life: we like getaways and outdoor activities, and ironically sometimes need to be forced to take time out to do these things.

What place then does the Christian message have? It’s actually pretty jarring. Good Friday represents the cruel death of the one we call the Son of God, literally thousands of years ago, and literally on the other side of the planet. This part of Easter probably struggles for RELEVANCE for many people. So remote in concept, time and place.

And then on Easter Day there is the claim of resurrection from the dead. That this Son of God remained dead only for a few days and then appeared to his followers. This part of Easter probably struggles for BELIEVABILITY for many.

How about you? In the end, the Christian message is not about telling people they must go to church instead of going on holiday. It is a message that requires a personal response. What do you YOU make of Easter? Do you believe that these events actually happened?

The impact of Easter involves coming to terms with these extraordinary things that God did in our world. We may want him to take away our illnesses, our financial struggles, or our relationship difficulties.   And yet Easter challenges us to ask whether God himself might have some kind of agenda for the world.

After all, if he allowed his son to be nailed to a cross, he must have been doing something important. Likewise, if death itself is reversed at the first Easter, God must have some kind of agenda for the world… what is it?

My family and I wish you a happy (and reflective!) Easter.

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!

The cross is foolishness… huh?

Welcome along to St Augustine’s… I hope you’ve been warmly greeted by our regulars, and perhaps you will be able to stick around for a cuppa after the service.

Over this period in the church calendar called “Epiphany”, which refers to the appearing of the Lord, we are doing a series of sermons from 1 Corinthians 1-4. That will take us through until the end of February.

The passage we looked at last week was foundational for me as a young adult trying to understand the Christian message. It began with the words, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”. I remember as a university student thinking how extraordinary that Paul actually used the words cross and foolishness in the same sentence. I’d always thought of the cross as being a concept requiring nothing but the deepest respect. And yet here is the Apostle Paul suggesting that there is a kind of foolishness attached to it if we apply only human wisdom: that it’s a really silly thing to worship a saviour who died so gruesomely and helplessly.

But hearing Paul on this changed my approach to faith. Where I had once shared my beliefs in the assumption that people would soon enough see that Christianity makes sense, I now realised that in fact Christianity does NOT make sense to the world. So when we speak of it to friends, family or neighbours, we should not expect them to simply say, “Oh right, I see… I will now logically become a Christian”.

That’s not how it works, and I am still coming to grips with the fact that when someone becomes a Christian it is not because they’ve seen the inherent human logic and sense to it. Rather, somehow God has revealed something to them of himself and his own great wisdom and power. The Christian has not “worked out” how to get to God, but has had the way to God revealed to him or her. And so salvation is a gift from God, and not a human achievement.

After all, what kind of salvation would it be if it were something we achieved! May God continue to bless us all with his own wisdom, pointing us to his power, that we may boast only in him.

In love, Mark