What a joy there is in being together in worship today. We take it so much for granted but, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer says. “between the death of Christ and the Last Day it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Christians are privileged to live in visible fellowship with other Christians.…Not all Christians receive this blessing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the Gospel in heathen lands stand alone. They know that visible fellowship is a blessing.” — Life Together, Chapter 1 “Community”, p. 18
The season of Advent continues … as we await the Last Day. Last Sunday, at the start of the Advent season we asked the question, “What would you do today if it were your last day on earth?” – today our focus is on the difference that Christ’s Incarnation, Presence and Expected Return makes in our life. You don’t need to be a Christ Follower for this reality to make a difference in your life – it will anyway! However, choosing to follow Jesus does turn this difference into a pleasant journey.
Today, in Merredin, we join together to celebrate the baptism of Reze Coetzee, the daughter of Fanie and Suzette. Today she enters into this journey as she is baptised into Christ. Some might say that she is too young to understand this, and that there is no conscious decision on her part. That’s true but, as I always say, with regard to the baptism of infants, when the parents are convinced of their own faith in Jesus Christ then they want their children to share that faith. Infant baptism, has two aspects to it – there is the covenant of Christ, in which God commits to receive and be with the child; and there is the covenant of the parents, in which they undertake to lead their child in the way of righteousness by the example of a Christian life. And, as at every baptism service, we all have the privilege of affirming our own baptism vows as we profess our faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed.
I am still in the throes of planning the detail of our program/life for next year and some of this is included elsewhere in this Newsletter. The three main events are the Alpha Course talks which will be given during the usual Sunday services in each congregation. In Merredin this will finish by May 6th but the other congregations, who only have two services a month, will only complete in September.
The Alpha Course is a practical introduction to the Christian faith, covering such areas as Jesus, the Bible, prayer, the Holy Spirit, resisting evil, witnessing, healing and sharing faith. Many people around the world have been deeply influenced by the course which began as an introduction for new members at an Anglican Church in Central London. It has also been credited as being one of the vehicles which God is using in the present revival spreading through the United Kingdom. Another is the 24/7 Prayer Movement (which is connected to the same Anglican Church in Brompton). We will be setting up a Prayer Room along the guidelines of the 24/7 Prayer Movement during Holy Week next year.
Superimposed over the Alpha Course will be the LentEvent which runs during Lent from February 22nd (Ash Wednesday) until April 8th (Easter Sunday). I received the LentEvent Journey Guide and Resources this week. Having looked at the 2012 material, I see that it is much more focussed on the Sunday services (and group study) than on being a personal journey guide. That’s not going to work while we are focussed on the Alpha Course. I believe that it would be better for me to give guidelines and encouragement in the Newsletter than for each of us to purchase a Journey Guide. We will still use the LentEvent focus on “This One Life” and as an interest stirrer and fundraiser for Missions during the season.
We are however still going to use the E100 Bible Reading Challenge during 2012. In Australia, most Christians own a Bible, but only 39% will read it one or more times during the week. Only 20% of Christians read the Bible on a daily basis. One of the main reasons for not reading the Bible is that people find it hard to understand. The E100 Bible Reading Challenge features 100 carefully selected readings designed to give people a good understanding of the Bible story. The “E” stands for Essential and each of the essential 100 readings range from a few verses to a few chapters. The motivation behind the challenge is to build a regular habit of spending time with God through Bible reading and prayer.
Thank you to all those who completed the NCLS questionnaire and the Pastoral Information form. Copies of the latter are available for those who have not yet completed it. I had to fill in a very different NCLS form as the Pastor of the church. I found it quite inspiring and it affirmed for me that I am in the place where God wants me to be – both geographically and spiritually. I am convinced more than ever of my call to the ministry. The questions dealt with positive things like hope, satisfaction and confidence, which all got a big tick from me. It also dealt with negative things like unhappiness, depression and uncertainty which are not at all a part of my life.
Finally – Sven and Linda have decided, after much prayer, to forgo the opportunity of a firm job in Melbourne, in favor of staying in WA. We are delighted – Linda will join Tegan at King Edward and Sven is waiting a response to a number of job applications. Meanwhile Quinten is changing jobs in a couple of weeks.