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Dec 102017
 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” wrote Charles Dickens as he begun to pen his famous novel The Tale of Two Cities. You may be able to describe your 2017 in a similar way. My 2017 has had both “best” and “worst” times. Planning and beginning to be part of a team who are planting a church has counted in the “best”. Hurting my back and still slowly recovering has to be counted as “bad”.
Life in all its beauty and fullness can have both best and worst times. These times can sometimes persist for long periods and sometimes they can change rapidly from one state to the other. Some people take a more optimistic view of life and delight in it, while others view it differently and can roll off clichés such as “Life is unfair, get used to it.” How are Christians supposed to view life? Should we take an optimistic or a more pessimistic view of life? (I assume people holding either view would call their view “realistic”.)
The Bible is not afraid of trying to make sense of a life that seems to be bereft of joy. The Psalms are littered with sorrow and lament and there is even a book of lament, called Lamentations. Psalm 88 is a unique song in that it doesn’t follow other lament psalms that rejoice in the character of God at some point. Psalm 88 records a period in the life of a very melancholy character who finishes the psalm on this note:
You have caused friend and neighbour to shun me;
my companions are in darkness.
Fair to say that this person had a more pessimistic view of life.

I am most grateful for this psalm for in times of sorrow it gives the reader comfort. The psalmist here is not attempting to sugar-coat life, giving a “band-aid” answer or the Aussie macho response of “Just get on with it!.” Instead, it is an honest reflection on a time when life seemed to contain little joy or hope. Sometimes just hearing that life is difficult and lamenting is the healthiest thing we can do. I turn to Psalm 88 when others have come to me in states of depression and sorrow and it is amazing how much people relate and gain strength from it. Isn’t God wonderful! This would be the last type of psalm I would ever think of including in a book I wrote. But God in his wisdom and sovereignty knows what is best for us.
As I walked, quite bent over, through the worst of my back injury this year, there were times of sorrow, but the turning point was when I was prayed for at the front of church during Communion. Miles spoke some of God’s deep truth into my heart. He paraphrased part of 2 Corinthians 12, saying, “God’s grace is sufficient for you, for His power is made perfect in weakness. . . for whenever you are weak, then you are strong.” This has been my self-talk for much of this “worst” time journey. I was transformed by the renewing of my mind and have been able to praise and delight in God for all my times, both best and worst.
(There are countless sections of the scriptures that speak of the joy of being alive but I’ll leave that for another musing.)
As I have reflected on this year, it is abundantly clear to me that God’s grace has been sufficient. So, with this in mind, I am very conscious of finishing this year strongly. Moving on to planting The Common, while welcoming the Carrs as they begin their time at St Philips is my focus. My beginning at St Philips 5 years ago was the “best” of times. I look back with much thankfulness, joy and fondness at my time here.

Blessings,

James

Dec 032017
 

A couple of weeks ago there was a terrible accident where a distracted driver ploughed her car into a school building. Two 8-year-old boys were killed and others injured. As one little boy lay dying he said, “I want my Mum.” When the crunch comes, we just want Mum – one who genuinely and deeply cares. For an 8-year-old, that’s often Mum. This sad story didn’t cause me to reflect on motherhood, as much as it triggered a pondering on [continue reading…]

Dec 032017
 

http://media.blubrry.com/stpips/p/stphilips.net.au/main/media/SR-20171203-Barb-Totterdell.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 18:27 — 6.3MB)Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | RSS | Why not subscribe?1st Reading       Isaiah 64:1-9 (p.606) 2nd Reading     Mark 13: 24-37 (p.826)  

Nov 262017
 

http://media.blubrry.com/stpips/p/stphilips.net.au/main/media/SR-20171126-James-Duff.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 26:44 — 9.2MB)Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | RSS | Why not subscribe?1st Reading       1 John 1:5-2:8 (p.989) 2nd Reading     Luke 5:27-32 (p.837)  

Oct 292017
 

I wonder what you think it means to be a good guest? What kind of guests do you like having in your home? I’ve just got home from hearing a few great talks at an evening run by the Centre for Public Christianity. One of those talks was on what it means to be good guests in this world that we live in. One of the key principles in the talk was that to be good guests we need to [continue reading…]

Oct 222017
 

http://media.blubrry.com/stpips/p/stphilips.net.au/main/media/SR-20171022-Barb-Totterdell.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 17:31 — 6.0MB)Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | RSS | Why not subscribe?1st Reading       Acts 1:1-11 2nd Reading     Hebrews 4:14-16  

Oct 152017
 

http://media.blubrry.com/stpips/p/stphilips.net.au/main/media/SR-20171015-James-Duff.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 23:00 — 7.9MB)Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | RSS | Why not subscribe?1st Reading       Colossians 2:9-15 (p.957) Colossians 4:1-6 (p.958) 2nd Reading     John 14:1-7(p.877)  

Oct 082017
 

http://media.blubrry.com/stpips/p/stphilips.net.au/main/media/SR-20171008-Paul-Gill.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 20:27 — 7.0MB)Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | RSS | Why not subscribe?1st Reading       Isaiah 61: 1-11 (p.603) 2nd Reading     Revelation  3:7-13 (p.996)  

Oct 082017
 

Malcolm and I were having a conversation on Monday as he read about what had happened in Las Vegas. My response was a small sigh of despair. Mal reminded me that we are not a people without hope. Indeed we are not. I have found myself this week wondering about how we ensure we remember that and live as a people with hope, rather than buy into the worlds lies and our fears and, consequently, live as a people without [continue reading…]

Oct 012017
 

http://media.blubrry.com/stpips/p/stphilips.net.au/main/media/SR-20171001-Pam-Kerruish.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 20:39 — 7.1MB)Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | RSS | Why not subscribe?1st Reading       Revelation 21: 1-15 (p.1007) 2nd Reading     Revelation 21:16-22:1-7 (p.1008)