Well, it looks like everyone will be zooming to church for another two Sundays (6th Sept and 12th Sept), and we will wait to see what the public health orders are after midnight on the 17th September.
It is good then to remember the final words of Ephesians, that we are ‘to be strong in the Lord…in the strength of God’s power (3:20)’ and – most importantly – that we do this as a community of faith. We strengthen each other in the Lord. We cloth each other in strength by the power of God working in us.
How do we do that? We put on the full PPE of God! We reveal the sanitised hands – the open and vulnerable hands – of love to each other. We behave as a community dressed in a gown of grace. Our shoe covers are the readiness to speak God’s peace into each other’s lives. Our mask is our faith in action revealing that we are ready to go wherever God calls us to go, to do what God calls us to do. Our face shield is our salvation, our assurance of being God’s. And our gloved hands are the Word of God that touches our lives and shapes our lives, and equips us to touch the lives of others.
And we can continue to be this community even in lockdown. There are the messages of encouragement we can give to those in our household. There are the messages of encouragement we can send to others in the household of faith. And there is practical help that can be offered. (Can I remind you again of the opportunities that were listed in the bulletin last week; to support the work of Canberra Refugee Support here in Canberra which has been unable to hold it regular fundraising events – https://canberrarefugee.org.au.; to give the Baptist World Aid appeal for their partner agency which is working with Afghan refugees in other countries in the region Click here to give to the appeal.; and to sign the petition, being support across Christian churches and agencies, calling on the government to welcome a special intake of 20,000 Afghan refugees and support the ongoing well-being of all Afghan refugees and their families – Click here to sign the petition.) And we can pray.
Ephesians 6:18 says: ‘Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.’
Let us persevere in prayer. Let us keep alert to what is happening around our world and in our community. Let us continue to call on God for the situation in Afghanistan; for the countries so terribly affected by Covid; for our own cities as they struggle with these challenges,; for the families who cannot be together – especially those who are grieving for loved ones at this time; for people who have lost their jobs and livelihoods; for children and young people and older people too who are facing mental health challenges; and for those who we know who are sick. We continue to pray for so many in our congregation and for Lisa Churcher in Uganda in the slow and difficult recovery from the surgery she has had.
And let us come together to do all of these things – to strengthen each other, to encourage each other, to help each other and to pray together.
We do that each Sunday as we worship, and in our small groups, and during lockdown, we are also invited, to gather as a community, for Community Hour each Wednesday from 5:30-6:30pm. Everyone is welcome. To join Community Hour at 5:30 this evening, click on the link in your bulletin or here – On Zoom.
Tonight we are sharing stories of place. Where is a special/significant place in Australia for you? Where is a particularly beautiful place you’ve been in Australia? Where in Australia do you feel most at home?
I anticipate there’ll be some beautiful photos shared (perhaps keep it to one photo each!) But I am reminded of visiting Max Callan just before lockdown and him telling me that he’d been able to go on a bus ride, just around Red Hill and Deakin and Yarralumla, and how excited he’d been to see the people’s gardens, to see the signs of spring and – most of all – to see the wattle starting to bloom. It struck me that it was such a simple ordinary pleasure – driving past people’s gardens – but it was one that had filled him with so much joy. Sometimes the places that are special and significant to us, the places where we know we are truly at home, are not that far away and not that exotic. I don’t think I will look at wattle ever the same again after that visit. I will never see it as ordinary. I will know what joy it can bring and how signs of new life and spring – even in a challenging period like the one we are in – are to be welcomed and fostered and celebrated!
And to end with prayer, below is a prayer by Monique Hughes from Common Grace for Wattle Day.
Grace and peace and ‘Happy Wattle Day’ to you all,
Heavenly Father, Creator God,
We thank and praise you for your good gift of creation. For your rivers, mountains, soils, skies and seas that sustain life, bring joy and heal.
We marvel at the diversity and wondrous complexity of life you have called by name. The beauty of relationship between all you have made, designed to live and flourish together.
We thank you Father God for calling us into relationship with you, commissioned to care for your good creation. To nurture, protect and join with all creation in singing your praise.
We ask your forgiveness Lord for our failure to love your creation as you do. For our complicit actions and complacent hearts that have chosen profit over protection. For our desire for comfort over concern and compassion for others. For our refusal to heed the warnings given to us over and over again. For our failure to acknowledge our total dependence on you Lord.
In a warming world, witness to floods, droughts, heat waves and fires we cry out Father God. We seek your holy wisdom of a Jubilee for the Earth. For rest and renewal of the relationship between us and all your creation. For your land to be healed, balance returned and the precious diversity of your creation sustained.
Lord, we ask you for courage to take up our cross and follow you. We pray that we would not be overcome by a spirit of despair. That we would not grow weary or feel overwhelmed by the work ahead. Instead Father God we ask you to awaken your church with a spirit of hope, a spirit of courage and a spirit of love. We pray you would embolden us to speak out for justice for our vulnerable neighbours, our children, future generations and all your creation.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-12)
Rev Belinda Groves