Thursday, September 3, 2009

Life Cycle

Maybe I am just simple, but every year it never ceases to amaze me how all those trees go through the cycle of dropping their leaves in autumn (well in the middle of the City it is probably more like winter!), letting the sun shine through for us in the cold weather, then growing all that new foliage in spring with all those big green leaves to make shade for us in the summer. And we don’t have to do a thing to help! Spring is such a lovely time of the year – first the yellow daffodils, then the coloured flowers and then the bright azaleas make their appearance. And they seem to pop up everywhere. It is also amazing how persistent the little plants are – not just the flowers but the weeds too – the way they push their way up even between the cracks in the middle of the road if the gap has not been fully sealed, and other places where they may not necessarily be welcome.

To me it is hard to understand how little seeds, which are so small, have within them the ability to grow into their own kind of plant. When I look at a plot of ground I find it hard to know how I would even start to make something yellow, red or green out of that! It is just dirt – but somehow the little seeds extract what they need, interact with their environment, and produce a hue of colour with different shapes and sizes out of the dirt. We do take a lot for granted, don’t we! I guess if I were a Botanist I might be able to begin to explain some theory of the mechanism that makes all this happen, but whatever the theory, it should not be allowed to detract from the beauty of the process.

Many poets and writers have made analogies between the annual life cycle of nature and our lives, and the more we consider this the more detailed the analogy can become. But one message that comes through is hope for the future. Just as nature repeats the annual growth cycle, so as we go through life we experience opportunities and set-backs which form the cycles of our lives. Sometimes things seem good, but sometimes we need to be reminded that the good times are on the way.

As Christians we thank God for the gift of life He has given us, and seek to Him to nurture our lives so that we can experience the good things they have to offer. We believe, however, that to receive this virtue within ourselves we must recognise that He exists, and that He sent His Son Jesus Christ into the World to show a way of life for us to follow; to reconcile the World to Himself. Many Christians share the hope that Jesus Christ will return to this Earth and transform everything into a constant eternity of life. The cycle of ups and downs will be replaced by an eternity of everlasting life. These things may be hard to believe and impossible to understand, but to those who accept them they hold out a hope for the future.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Running Late

I am one of those people who is always running late - if something important is on, friends tell me a time half an hour in advance so I will not miss out! My excuse is that I am always doing lots of things, and I try to fit in that extra job that runs me late. But isn’t it the case that many of us try to do too much? We take on too many jobs, try to go to too many places, visit too many people and attend too many functions so we just run out of time! In principle there is nothing wrong with this, except when it starts to impact on our ability to enjoy the things that we do do. Things that we should be enjoying become a bind because we don’t take time to enjoy them! Where are you going now, I might ask? Are you going somewhere that could be left off your busy schedule, or doing something that could be achieved just as effectively in a less onerous way? As we all know good time management is necessary in effectively planning each day.

The Where are you going question could, of course, equally apply in reference to what vision or objectives you might have for your life. It seems to be that people who are able to develop objectives for where they want to be at some time in the future have much more success in achieving than those who do not. Somebody once said, to fail to plan is a plan to fail. I have never been strong on setting personal goals, as I recognise that there are a lot of factors beyond my control so I do not want to pre-empt a final outcome, but nevertheless it does seem good to set goals for where you want to go. You then must learn to be able to accept and adjust to the detours and route changes along the way!

And in a third sense the Where are you going question relates to the unknown phase of life beyond the life we are living now. There is no definitive human detail about that journey, but setting the goals comes from an inward acceptance or understanding about those things which we personally and inwardly believe. At times people have to face a stark confrontation with eternity. For instance just recently I was asked to visit a person living quite “normally” who had gone into hospital for tests and was suddenly confronted with the news that they would not be going home! I am sure for some this is an all too familiar story! One or two weeks – who knows? But it is when confronted with such a reality that people are forced to think about what might be going to happen. Many people choose not to think about this journey, but if we do, in most cases it gives us a liberating feeling, and the outcome of being able to enjoy life on “this side” to a higher level. It doesn’t hurt to think about it! As Christians we believe that our Creator has given us information about how this phase of life fits into a continuum of life, distilled into the collection of writings we call the Bible. Here we read about processes of life which apply generically to all generations, and about a central event – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who has reconciled this World to the Great Creator.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Australian National Day of Thanksgiving

Saturday 30th May this year is to be celebrated as Australia’s National Day of Thanksgiving.
“The National Day of Thanksgiving is a unique opportunity for Australians to celebrate and give thanks for our God given heritage as a nation and to demonstrate the God given values of honour, respect, thankfulness and gratitude towards our fellow man that have made us the great nation we are. It is a day for us to pause as a nation and say thank you to God and to each other for those many things we often take for granted but which really make our lives worth living. Let us use this day to be a blessing to those who have been a blessing to us during the past year.”

In a Message of support for National Day of Thanksgiving 2009, Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia said; “How important it is to spend time in quiet gratitude, and to voice our thanks to those who have earned it. Our National Day of Thanksgiving is a marvellous opportunity to remind ourselves how much we have to be thankful for, and, though we walk through tough times and shadowed valleys, to acknowledge the efforts and contribution of those who walk with and before us.” (Reference )

It is interesting to note that our National Day of Thanksgiving is on the Whitsuntide week-end. Not many of us in Australia are familiar with the name “Whitsuntide” any more, although it is still commonly used in Europe. It is the weekend that falls seven weeks (50 days) after Easter – Easter being just after the March equinox – and hence Whitsuntide marks the beginning of the Northern Hemisphere summer. This is no doubt a good time for celebration in that region! The name was also well recognised in the UK until more recent times when the associated holiday became known just as Spring Holiday, and aligned in date with the USA Memorial Day Holiday on the last weekend in May. Because the date of Whitsuntide is related to phases of the moon, it is a variable date and moves like Easter.

The need for community sharing, networking and giving of thanks was recognised in the lifestyle set out in the Bible. God instructed His people to gather together three times every year. In early Biblical times these gatherings, or Feasts, were known respectively as Passover (or the Feast of Unleavened Bread), Pentecost (or The Feast of Weeks) and Tabernacles (or The Feast of Booths).

In the Christian era these Feasts generally became the periods of Easter, Whitsuntide and Christmas. Passover directly aligns with Easter, Pentecost with Whitsuntide, and there is a loose association between Tabernacles, which heralded the commencement of the New Year, and Christmas. Some Christian groups are more particular about the time of these celebrations, and look to more specific dates. Everyone was encouraged to attend these Feasts and partake of the fellowship offered by the opportunity.

We all know of Easter and Christmas, but the time of Pentecost, or Whitsuntide, is recognised as the Birthday of the Christian Church. It remembers the day, ten days after the ascension of Jesus Christ, when God evidenced His Power through the presence of His Spirit. The Disciples of Jesus were meeting together and when they spoke in their own language, were understood in the native language of all those who heard. It was as a result of the events of that day that the identity of the Christian Church went forward with a unique message and subsequently spread around the Globe.

It is perhaps contrary to the original intent of its Author that there are so many different “brands” of Christian churches today, but they all carry a similar basic message. The common denominator is proclaiming the Mission of Jesus Christ in His sacrifice and resurrection at Easter and the giving of Power at Whitsuntide. Through a personal acceptance of His sacrifice, we can be reconciled to God. Also for many believers there is the promise of His return to fulfil the lifecycle of this phase of God’s Plan of creation and the herald the beginning of the next, which we remember, among other things, at Christmas.

For Christians there is much Thanksgiving in recognising and accepting the greatness of our God, and the grace we receive through Jesus Chris at all times. However, Whitsuntide is a special time for thanksgiving and celebration.

The details of the Biblical Feasts and how they have influenced the development of our society makes an interesting study. If you would like to discuss this in more detail please feel free to come along to our Church some time (see Church Notices for dates and times), or to call into a Church closer to you where you would no doubt find someone happy to talk with you about these things.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Recently we had one of our senior members talk to us about his World War 2 experiences. He explained how he felt two days after his eighteenth birthday receiving a letter telling him he had been selected for what seemed like was going to be a special assignment. After leaving his home in the country and travelling to Sydney he realized he had been drafted into the Army! He recounted some of the funnier incidents along the way in the transformation of a collective of young immature men into a cohesive group of Servicemen working together and obeying orders. On occasions, he recounted, they had only one set of clothes which they were wearing, but were told to “change their clothes every day”, which may have meant wearing their shirt inside out every second day, changing socks from one foot to the other, wearing singlets back the front and so on. He shared with us the personal frustration of not being able to understand why all these things were happening and the only way to carry on often was to stop trying o understand! How did one distance the actions which they were required to perform from their own personal repugnance of what they were doing?

No doubt many have heard similar stories, and been faced with the same imponderable questions about life and human behavior. Some may have shared the same experiences. But the interesting thing about this presentation was that this was the first time our friend had actually felt the confidence to openly talk about these events. Sixty years of inward turmoil based on low self-confidence had followed his experiences, and only now did he gain the strength to share his feelings. Many who have come through this path have been able to readjust to a “normal” lifestyle in different ways, but there appear to be a lot who still carry a legacy from their earlier life experiences.

When people came to face these big questions in life the Blame Game is often played. People will ask, “Why does God allow these things to happen?” What these people do not take into account is that as well as a God there is a Devil. It is the effects of the Devil that brings about the undesirable events in the World. And in choosing not to follow God’s ways people are actually siding with the Devil. Now we could have great philosophical discussions about what is meant by God and by the Devil, but generically these forces represent what is for the long-term common good and what is against it respectively.

Along with most Religions, Christians believe that our present existence is part of a continuum of life given us by God, and accept that in our present condition we cannot understand all the why’s and wherefore’s of human behavior and the consequences of our actions. However we do believe that behind it all is a Master Plan which one day we will understand. For Christians an outline of this Plan is presented for us in that Instruction Book for Life – the Bible. And it is in the Bible that we see the story of God our Creator sending His Son to be an ambassador to reconcile the World to Himself. This is the story of Easter – how Jesus Christ gave His life that those who believe in Him might have life everlasting.

It all sounds so simple and yet so inexplicable, but those who hold to this explanation of why the World is like it is find within themselves with an inward peace which allows them to accept conditions around them and to want to share their belief with others. Like our friend, many are hurting on the inside, many have bottled things up inside themselves for many years and have difficulty expressing how they feel. If you have never confronted the Christian Message of the crucified and resurrected Christ as a starting point to understand the World around you, then maybe this Easter might be a good time to take up this challenge.