Dear friends

 

Last Sunday Belinda preached on the story of Jacob’s dream about a ladder stretching between earth and heaven (Genesis 29:10-19a). The LORD appeared to him in that dream and promised to be with him and bless him. Belinda titled her sermon “Surely God is in this place”, based on Jacob’s exclamation when he awoke.

The sermon also quoted the day’s Psalm (105): “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?”  The answer is “nowhere” and as Belinda said: “God is with us collectively and individually too.”

We were invited at the end to briefly say where we would be this week and what we would be doing, and to respond after each person spoke with the words “Surely God is in the place.”

I hope you have been conscious of the blessing of God’s presence with you throughout the week so far, wherever you have been and whatever you have been doing. I’m aware though that some of you have had a very tough week trying to cope with such things as discouragement, illness, Covid restrictions, mental health issues, strained relationships, employment issues and the pressures of caring for others. There are many needing our encouragement at this time. Some of those things are very difficult to share.

We are all aware of the recent increases in Covid infections in Melbourne and the renewed shutdowns there. We have been particularly mindful of our friends at Collins Street Baptist Church. So at the end of the service on Sunday we recorded several video messages that we sent to the Church.

Rev. Simon Holt replied: Belinda and everyone at Canberra Baptist, thank you! You’ll have no idea what a gift this is to us. With tears still in my eyes, thank you! We will find a way to share this gift with our community on Sunday. To know that you are with us and we are with you in all of this … what a beautiful grace this is.”

Rev. Carolyn Francis said: I am so deeply moved by this message and the profound thoughtfulness and kindness that accompanies it. Thank you! It is so difficult to feel genuinely connected at this time and yet I so strongly sense your care and our shared faith. I am so very grateful. Thank you for your prayers and your companionship on the journey.”

On Wednesday night 20 participated in a very stimulating 1½ hour conversation, via Zoom, on “Innovatively emerging from Covid”. We began with a video clip of Christopher Grundy’s song “Invocation”, which includes the lines “Speak to us, God, for we are listening… Show us what can be, what can be.”

We then discussed where we thought our Church was at using the “Cycle of Discovery”, a 3-stage model of crisis-response recommended by the Baptist Association of NSW & ACT.

For the rest of our time we discussed the following 3 questions in breakout groups and then together.

  1. What new things have we had to do during Covid which we will keep doing?
  2. What programs and activities have we had to stop, but as time has passed, we realise we are missing?
  3. What “out of the box” ideas do you have for our Church?

Much constructive feedback and many great ideas were shared. We agreed to convene again in a fortnight to further refine some of the ideas into implementable plans. You’ll no doubt hear more soon.

Romans 8:26-39 is one of the lectionary readings for this coming Sunday. Like last Sunday’s Genesis reading, it reminds us of God’s unfailing presence. Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, not even hardship, distress, persecution, famine, peril, death etc, etc, etc.

I’ll actually be preaching on the Gospel reading however – Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52. This covers 5 short parables about the Kingdom of Heaven. After last Sunday’s fantastic pictures of rocks and pillows from the kids, I’ve asked for them to send me some related to their pick of the parables. You can look forward to seeing them in the sermon Power Point. And don’t miss the children’s talk from Rebecca, which promises to be very memorable. Without giving too much away, it involves a princess.

During the service we are also going to do something we haven’t done for quite a while – the passing of the peace. Obviously though, we won’t be doing it in the old way. We are going to try doing it without speaking, both in the church and in Zoom breakout rooms. The traditional wording is “Peace be with you” or “The peace of Christ be with you” or similar. It’s a form of greeting, blessing and encouragement. So between now and then, think a bit creatively how you might be able to express that sentiment with a handwritten sign, a drawing or painting, an object, a photo or a gesture. Then be prepared to pass the peace with it during the service. If you want some ideas, have a look at the following YouTube clip from Community Christian Church (with the backing song “Pass it on”). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2OlhzbxfXM

 

from John Morrison