Weekly Church Service; Advent two – 9 December 2018

Advent two – 9 December 2018


Sentence:

By the tender mercy of our God, the Dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Luke 1:78 – 79


Collect of the day

God of our salvation, you straighten the winding ways of our hearts and smooth the path made rough by sinning, keep our hearts watchful in holiness, and bring to perfection the good you have begun in us. We ask this through him whose coming is certain, whose day draws near, your son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Today’s readings

Malachi 3:1 – 14
Luke 1:68 – 79
Philippians 1:1 – 11
Luke 3:1 – 6


Some thoughts on Luke 3:1 – 6

So important is the emergence of John the baptiser in human history that Luke dates his appearance in six different ways. In his gospel Luke introduces John as prophets were introduced in the first testament (“the word of God was spoken to John son of Zechariah in the desert”). As does Matthew and Mark, Luke cites the famous passage from Isaiah regarding “a Herald’s voice in the desert” to describe the baptiser’s mission – but Luke quotes more of the Isaiah prophecy then his synoptic counterparts, including the promise of universal salvation that is so central to Luke’s Gospel.

Forms of “baptism” were common in the Judaism of gospel times, in some Jewish communities, it was through baptism rather than circumcision that a Gentile became a Jew. But John’s baptism was distinctive. His baptism at the Jordan was a rite of repentance and “metanoia” – a conversion of the heart and spirit. The baptiser’s ministry fulfilled the promise of the Ezekiel (Ezekiel 36:25 – 26) that at the dawn of the new age, the God of Israel would purify his people from their sins with the clean water and instil in them a new heart and spirit.

In his book Sacred Fire: a vision for a deeper human and Christian community, theologian Ronald Rolheiser writes about the two baptisms that John speaks of in today’s gospel: “John’s baptism is only a preparation for Jesus’s baptism. What’s John’s baptism? It is a baptism of repentance, a realisation of what we are doing wrong and a clear resolution to correct our bad behaviour.

What is Jesus’s baptism? It is an entry into grace and community in such a way that empowers us to internally to do what is impossible for us to do by our willpower alone.” ©Connections/MediaWorks




What is Advent?

What is Advent?

Advent is the season of the year leading up to Christmas. The word “Advent” itself means “arrival” or “an appearing or coming into place.” Christians often speak of Christ’s “first Advent” and “second Advent”, that is, his first and second comings to Earth. His first Advent would be the incarnation – Christmas time

The Advent season lasts for 4 Sundays. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, or the nearest Sunday 2 November 30. Advent ends on Christmas Eve and thus is not considered part of the Christmas season. The Advent celebration is both a commemoration of Christ’s first coming and an anticipation of his second coming. As Israel longed for their Messiah to come, so Christians long for their Savior to come again. Advent is seen as a time to prepare one’s heart for Christmas and for the ever shall return of Christ (and the judgement He will bring to the world).

Churches that observe Advent usually decorate their sanctuaries the liturgical colour of Advent, royal blue or purple. Some churches change the colour to rose on the 3rd Sunday of Advent to signify a greater emphasis on the joy of the season.

One of the most common Advent traditions involves the use of evergreen wreaths, branches, and trees. On the first Sunday of Advent, churches and homes are decorated with green to symbolise the eternal life that Jesus brings. An Advent wreath – an evergreen circle with 4 coloured candles surrounding a white one in the middle – is placed in a prominent spot. The candles are then lit one at a time, on successive Sundays. The first candle is the candle of “open” or “expectation.” The 3 remaining candles, “peace, joy, love”. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the central white candle is lit, this is the “Christ candle,” a reminder that Jesus, the light of the world, has come.

Advent calendars, used to count down the days to Christmas, are popular in many homes. And Advent calendar contains a number of covered “windows” that are opened, one a day, until Christmas Day. Each open window reveals a picture related to the season or a poem or a Bible verse or a treat of some kind. Many parents find an Advent calendar is a good way to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas – although there are secular versions of the calendars too.

Should Christians observe advent? There there is certainly nothing wrong with commemorating Jesus birth and anticipating his return – such commemoration and anticipation should be an everyday part of our lives. Are Christians required to observe Advent? No. Does observing Advent make one a better Christian or more acceptable to God? No. Can celebrating Advent be a good reminder of what the season is truly all about? Yes, and therein lies its greatest value.

Weekly Church Service; Advent one – 2 December 2018 – Includes Sermon Audio

 Includes Sermon Audio

Advent one – 2 December 2018


Sentence:

Stand up and raise your hands, your redemption is drawing near. Luke 21:28


Today’s readings


Daniel 7: 9 – 10, 13 – 14
Psalm 93
Revelation 1: 4b–8


Collect of the day

Eternal God, you have taught us that the night is far spent, and the day is at hand. Keep us awake and alert, watching for your kingdom, and make us strong in faith, so that when Christ comes in glory to judge the earth, we may go out joyfully to greet him, and with yours saints, may worship you forever: through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God, now and forever. Amen.


A thought to ponder upon

Bethlehem and Bedlam: Weren’t they intimately related at the first Christmas when Jesus was born? Sometimes we forget that. Remember that Bedlam in Bethlehem that night? Just think of it – a crowded inn, a stable, a census, political intrigue, soldiers marching in the street, a busy city, people pushing and shoving, people scrambling for shelter. In that Bedlam in Bethlehem so many centuries ago, Christmas happened. Christmas broke through in that busy hectic uproar, it happened here and those with the eyes, ears, and hearts of faith saw it, heard it, and felt it.

This is the good news of Christmas; God meets us where we are. God breaks into our uproar, our busyness, our hectic pace, our darkness, and our confusion through the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem – Jesus, who we know as the King of Kings, the light of the world, and the gracious, forgiving one who understands.

In Jesus, God gives us a new understanding of what God is like, a new experience of God’s compassion and tenderness, a new relationship with God, not built on fear but built on love. Every now and then, in the mists of Bedlam, we find Bethlehem. We are reminded that God loves us, and that’s the thing that keeps us going. James W Moore


Sermon Audio

The Reverend Josie Steytler preaches from the text after the gospel reading.

Direct MP3 Download ⇓

Weekly Church Service Christ the King – 25 November 2018 – Includes Sermon Audio

Includes Sermon Audio

Christ the King 25 November 2018


Sentence:

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing.              Revelation 5:12


Today’s readings

Daniel 7: 9 – 10, 13 – 14
Psalm 93
Revelation 1: 4b–8


Collect of the day

Everlasting God, whose will is to restore all things in your well beloved son, our Lord and King; Grant that the people of earth, now divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his gentle and loving rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


A thought to ponder upon – John 18:33 – 37

We celebrate the kingship of Jesus with John’s Gospel account of what is perhaps Jesus’s most humiliating moment: his appearance before Pilate. It is a strange exchange: Pilate had been blackmailed by the Jewish establishment into executing Jesus for their ends: it is the accused who dominates the meeting and takes on the role of the inquisitor: Pilate has no idea what Jesus is talking about what he speaks about “the truth.”

Pilate, a man of no great talent or exceptional competence, was under a great deal of political pressure. He had needlessly alienated the Jews of Palestine by his cruelty, his insensitivity to their religious customs and his clumsy appropriation of funds from the temple treasury for public projects. Reports of his undistinguished performance had reached his superiors in Rome. Jesus proclaimed himself the ruler of the kingdom built on passion, humility, our love and truth – power that Pilate cannot comprehend in his small, narrow view of the world.

The kingdom of Jesus is not found in the world’s centres of power but within human hearts; it is built not by the deals among the power elites but by compassionate hands: Christ reigns neither by influence the wealth but by selfless charity and justice.

Are we a people who radiate thankfulness and appreciation?


Sermon Audio

The Reverend Josie Steytler preaches from the text after the gospel reading.

Direct MP3 Download ⇓

Weekly Church Service 18th November 2018 – Includes Sermon Audio

Includes Sermon Audio

26th Sunday after Pentecost


Sentence:

The Lord will judge the ends of the earth, he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed. 1 Sam 2:10


Today’s readings

Ruth 3:1 – 5, 4:13 – 17

Song of Hannah
Hebrews 9: 23 – 28
Mark 13: 01 – 13


Collect of the day

O God, welcoming refuge for the outcast, and upholder of justice for the oppressed, maintain the hope of the poor, so that the time may soon come when no one need want for food and shelter, and all will learn to share freely following the example of your son, who gave his very self, who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


A thought to ponder upon – Mark 13: 1 – 13

Most probably still on the second full day of the Passion Week, as Jesus was leaving the Temple, the disciples drew Jesus’s attention to the massive stones of the temple. Josephus, the ancient Jewish historian, confirms that they had reason to be impressed. Herod Antipas was still finishing the Temple his father, Herod the great, had begun. It was famous as one of the architectural wonders of the Roman world. Even today visitors to the Temple Mount can see the remains of some of these massive stones. But Jesus was not impressed. He predicted that the stones would be thrown down in judgement. The scene now moves to the Mount of Olives, from which there is a good view of the city and the Temple. The two pairs of brothers – Peter and Andrew, James and John – came to Jesus privately and asked him to elaborate on his comment. They were interested in when the destruction would take place and what signs they should be looking out for. Responding to their questions, Jesus launched into a great discourse about events that would happen, both the near and distant future. He starts by describing the beginning signs,. Which fall into three categories: imposters or deceivers purporting to represent Jesus, calamities of human origin such as wars and rumours of wars, and natural calamities such as earthquakes… and famines. Jesus told the disciples not to be alarmed by these events, for they are just the beginning of birth pains. Although these signs began in the first century, those living in the 21st century are no strangers to any of them. Imposters claiming to represent Christ are everywhere, deceiving the gullible. Alarming as these catastrophes are, children of the kingdom are enjoined “not to be alarmed” because these events do not signal the end of the age.


Sermon Audio

The Reverend Josie Steytler preaches from the text after the gospel reading.

Direct MP3 Download ⇓

Weekly Church Service – Remembrance Day 11 November 2018 – Includes Sermon Audio

Includes Sermon Audio

Weekly Church Service – Remembrance Day 11 November 2018


Today’s readings:

Ruth 3: 1 – 5, 4:13 – 17
Psalm 127
Hebrews 9: 23 – 28
Mark 12: 38 – 44


Sentence: Luke 6:38

Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put in your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.


Collect of the day

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of evil and make us your children and heirs of eternal life; Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever,

Amen.


Remembrance Day symbol – The Poppy

Since 1920, the red poppy has been used as a symbol of commemoration to soldiers who have fallen in times of war. During the First World War, poppies were among the first plants to blossom on the devastated battlefields of northern France and Belgium. According to soldiers folklore, the vivid red of the poppy came from the blood of their comrades soaking the ground. Poppies grew in profusion over the earth which had become the grave to thousands of soldiers, making the poppy an appropriate symbol to represent the sacrifice of life and the bloodshed of trench warfare.

The sight of poppies springing up amidst the ravaged battlefields of Ypres inspired Lt Col John McRae to write one of the most notable and popular poems of the period, In Flanders Fields. It is believed that the poem was written on the 3 May 1915 after McRae risk witnessed the death of his 22 year old friend, Lt Alexis Helmer the day prior.

In November 1918 a meeting was held with the YMCA secretaries from around the world providing Moina Michael with a chance to discuss the poem and her decision to wear a red poppy. This inspired the French YMCA secretary, Anna Guérun to take the idea further and begin selling poppies to raise money for those affected by the war – particularly widows, orphans, veterans and their families.

The poppy soon became widely accepted throughout the Allied nations as a symbol of remembrance which was to be worn on Armistice Day. Poppies were first sold in Australia in 1921.


Sermon Audio

The Reverend Josie Steytler preaches after the gospel reading.

Direct MP3 Download ⇓

Weekly Church Service 4th November 2018 – Includes Sermon Audio

Includes Sermon Audio

24th Sunday after Pentecost


Sentence: Mark 10:29-31

Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength, and you shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.


Collect of the day:

God of peace you taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: by the power of your spirit lift us to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Today’s readings:

Ruth 1:1-18.
Psalm 146
Hebrews 9:11-15
Mark 12:13-17, 28-34


A thought to ponder upon – Mark 12:13-17, 28-34

The likeness (of Tiberius Caesar) and inscription (“Tiberius Caesar, son of the Divine Augustus” around the coins perimeter) on the denarius (valued as the wage of a day’s labour) represent the person of Caesar and his authority.

Jesus is not establishing a political kingdom  in opposition to Caesar, so his followers should pay taxes and obey civil laws. There are matters that belong to the realm of civil government, and there are other matters that belong to God’s realm.
Jesus does not here specify which matters belong in which realm, but many Christian ethicists today teach that, in general, civil government should allow freedom in matters of religious doctrine, worship, and beliefs about God, and the church should not attempt to use the power of government to enforce an legions to any specific religious viewpoint.
All forms of the Christian church throughout the world today support some kind of separation between matters of church and matters of state. By contrast, totalitarian governments usually try to suppress the church and subsume everything under the realm of the state. Historically, when the church and state had become too closely aligned, the result most often has been the compromise of the church.


Sermon Audio

The Reverend Josie Steytler preaches from the text after the gospel reading.

Direct MP3 Download ⇓

Gratitude

More than just a feeling, gratitude is actually a practice: one we can cultivate and even develop, which will transform our experience of ourselves, our lives, and our world. Br. David Vryhof offers practical encouragement for rediscovering this essential, countercultural practice. Find out why there is always reason for gratitude. Go to https://www.ssje.org to find out more.

SSJE is a convenient way of describing the “Society of Saint John the Evangelist”

 

SSJE86
Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof lives at the Monastery in Cambridge where he serves as Communication Brother. He loves that his day is grounded in the Daily Office (while his actual office is grounded in plenty of post-it notes and to-do lists!). He is the community’s sole sports fan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Gratitude
cultivating our awareness and response

– Br. David Vryhof, SSJE

I have a memory of my fifth-grade teacher asking us to write a short paragraph describing the things in our lives for which we were thankful. I sat for the longest time just staring at that piece of paper. I couldn’t think of a thing for which I was thankful.

I was surrounded by gifts, but I didn’t recognize them as gifts, and so I couldn’t begin to express my gratitude for them. I naively assumed that everyone had food and clothing, a loving family and a comfortable home. I was unaware of how privileged I was to enjoy these things on a daily basis, and simply took them for granted.

Gratitude springs from the awareness that we have been given a gift. Often this awareness comes upon us in sudden and unexpected ways. We are walking along and suddenly our breath is taken away by the beauty of the autumn leaves, or we are talking with a close friend and suddenly we realize what a gift this person has been to us. We’ve been given a gift: something has come to us from outside ourselves – something unexpected and even undeserved – and our lives have been enriched by it. We feel grateful.

This awareness can rise in us suddenly and unexpectedly, but it can also be cultivated. We can develop our awareness, and learn to practice gratitude. Learning to see with eyes of gratitude, becoming more aware of the gifts that surround us on every side, is an ability that needs to be kept alive through constant practice. In the words of Rabbi Abraham Heschel, “The insights of wonder must be constantly kept alive.” 
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Brian does it again!

sundayjournal128BrianHaigBrian Haig has published yet another Sunday Journal. Be sure to get yours. These journals are for prayer and reflection and follow the revised common lectionary.

Brian notes “A major purpose of this publication is to encourage you to reflect upon the devotional pathway you may, or may not be currently following.”

sundayjournal128front

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