Jul 142019

This morning I learned something.  Do you ever feel you are past learning or cannot be bothered to learn new things?

At our Thursday prayer time we were discussing the talk that Kieran will be giving this morning.  Without stealing his thunder, the three attributes of believing, behaving and belonging were being talked about.  Which comes first for the Christian?  Should one come first?  Is there a ‘Jesus’ type of order?

Anyway, when it comes to ‘belonging’, which I have tended to prioritise, it dawned on me that true belonging is for every Christian who has trusted Jesus.  I belong because of what Jesus has done.  Sherrie said it like this: “A child belongs because they are a child.  That child might not believe in their parent or behave like they are a part of the family.”  But they still belong, not because of what they have done but because of what has been given to them.

I learned this morning that Christian belonging needs to be understood as more than a feeling, yet so many Christians opt out because they declare they don’t belong.  I need to do better at helping greater robustness in true belonging.

I also learned something BIG on the men’s weekend.  I learned, after 35 years of being a professional Christian, that I have never truly understood forgiveness.

We discussed this at the 7:30am service last week, so I thought I’d give a summary.  Feel free to discuss it with me because it has far-reaching implications.

On the cross, Jesus declared, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”  God’s forgiveness does not primarily require our understanding.  It does require his initiative and authority to forgive.  We have this in Jesus.

Forgiveness comprises my relinquishment of two things:
1) my right to revenge, and
2) my right to harbour bitterness.

When it comes to me forgiving another person,
I do it – after much, much, much soul-searching and clarifying – because Jesus has forgiven me.  It is ONLY between me and Jesus. It goes, “Dear Jesus, I forgive Bill x,y,z as a decision of my will.  I relinquish my right to revenge and bitterness. I resolve to leave this with you who have given your life to win my eternal forgiveness. Amen.”

I’m doing two things. I’m opening the hand to restoration – not relationship or friendship – by letting the offence go, but also declaring STOP!  I have been wronged.  I cannot and may never progress with the offender unless they agree they have done wrong and owe me some recompense. This is about justice.

The insight here is that forgiveness does not necessarily lead to reconciliation with the person.

Reconciliation may, sometimes, be possible – when the offender sees the injustice they have done and acts with contrition and seeks to make reparation.

Understanding forgiveness gets all confused when I rush from forgive to reconcile.  I need to do a lot of work to understand my grief, loss, bitterness, guilt, shame, etc. before I can come near the act of declaring forgiveness; and it may never get beyond me and God.  But he demands this work of me.  This is why he sweated blood in the garden, to, in time, make this miracle possible and to set me free.

Still learning after all these years.


Jul 072019

Welcome to St Philips, Archbishop Kay!  And welcome to the clan of Pritchard on this special day when Evan, Zara and Bobby are baptised and Naomi is confirmed.

Because we want to honour the special things that are happening today we have decided to defer a whole raft of other pieces of good news to next week. 

I’m often asked to give more dot points of what is going on, so here are but a few of them that would make great testimonies.

Kieran finished the Bible overview on a high on Wednesday night.  I know it was a high by the energy with which people were telling me about it.  Next term there is the opportunity to read and study together what many scholars believe to be the greatest chapter of the greatest book ever written, Romans 8.  This will be a high because Kieran is so excited about it.

Graham Whitley was hoping to share more from Kakuma Camp in Kenya today.  We shall defer that video till next week but do pray for Jeremy, Lucy and Jeremy’s grand children, without parents and living without effective shelter and barely-basic resources in the middle of the wet season.

The Men’s Weekend last weekend saw 20 blokes learn, listen, eat [a lot] and play and enjoy nature.  The theme, “Turn up for one another”, resonated – and we did.  I think I understand forgiveness for the first time after over 30 years of being a Christian.  Now that is exciting!

Last Friday night there were more kids at youth group than ever before, but it’s the quality of engagement that we pray for, so please join in with that.

Last Friday Kieran and Barb shared a celebration with two families whose teenagers are working on Equip, a training experience for future Christian leaders.  It was a highlight especially to hear parents affirm the progress of their children and hear the teens share their 5-step action plans for the future.We are pushing our Growing Young initiative. The next step, following your survey suggestions, is a process called ‘appreciative enquiry’,  a fancy name for listening to people in all life stages to best achieve a vibrant future for all life stages at St Philips. Let Kieran and Barb know if you’d like to participate.

A women’s Alpha Course has just had their Holy Spirit weekend in Mandurah.  Pray for the participants for the Holy Spirit’s ongoing enlightening.

A Friday women’s group is doing Christian growth subjects online from Ridley College. They’re loving increasing understanding together.

Kieran has been invited to contribute to the lunchtime groups at Christ Church Grammar run by chaplain Nick Russell.  Great energy and sharing there.

Lots of parents, teachers, but especially kids, coming to appreciate the melding together of the knowledge gained through the New City Catechism curriculum in KidsChurch.

North Cottesloe Primary volunteers have their own badges.  Just a great ministry of affirmation.

There is a lot more I could dot point but space is short.  You are all inspirational in your stepping into the world Jesus loves.  Keep it up BUT please come and tell us your stories.


Jun 302019

You may not be aware that today is Refugee Sunday. For decades St Philips has been spiritually, personally and materially active in this justice ministry through Wakimbizi, one of the church’s many ‘out’ focused ministries. ~ Malcolm

Life in a refugee camp.

Few of us fully appreciate how tough life in a refugee camp can be.  Jeremy Largo, a member of this congregation, is one who has experienced the full horror of it.  Even in his resettlement in Australia, he is experiencing the awful suffering of those in the camp.  Four months ago, Jeremy learnt the tragic news of his daughter’s death in the Kakuma camp in Kenya.  She died after giving birth to twins, both of whom have also passed away. Grace had no husband; he was killed in the civil war in Sudan.  She leaves five orphaned kids, all under 12 years old.

Grace’s kids are now cared for by Lucy, her best friend, a single mother with seven children of her own.  Their humble home is totally inadequate to accommodate the enlarged family and, with the onset of the rainy season, conditions could hardly be worse. Understandably Jeremy is devastated and frustrated at his inability to do little more than talking by phone each day with Lucy and his surviving grandchildren. 

The Wakimbizi group helped settle Jeremy here in Perth back in 2005.  He later moved east for several years but returned in 2017 determined to rebuild his life, beginning by joining this parish.  Through the good agency of World Vision (bless you, Donna) the Lutheran World Federation was able to visit and assess the needs of the orphans and their carers.  (We have the list and it is extensive!)  World Vision has also promised aid to the family.  The Wakimbizi group was able to provide some immediate relief and, through the generosity of this congregation, has now sent funds for provision of a shelter.  Hopefully, construction can start soon.  Pastors from St Philips Kalobeyei have visited Lucy and the orphans to comfort and assist them.

You may remember a musing headed ’Alphonsine’s Story’?  Aphonsine with her three siblings was also settled in Perth by Wakimbizi, back in 2004.  Well, Alphonsine started a charity, Christian Ebernezer Jireh (CEJ), which provides support for widows, disabled persons and orphans in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.  Her mission is to provide for those who slip through the support gaps of other, mainstream NGOs.  Almost single-handedly, she has already funded it to the tune of $180K!  Can you guess how God is working here?  Yes, CEJ is meeting some of the critical needs of these poor orphaned children and their foster mum.  Shortly, you will see a video of the new mattresses and clothes which CEJ provided for the family and hear the words of the grateful kids.  So this is an ongoing story and I intend to relay it to you as it unfolds.  If you feel moved to help shape the outcome, please speak to me or John Pearman.  And please speak to Jeremy, who may not be known to many of you. 

Graham Whitley

Jun 232019

Welcome to our AMEP Sunday – that is, our Annual Meeting of Enrolled Parishioners.  Quite a mouthful. The meeting is at 11:30am today and usually takes about one hour.  It is a formal meeting that deals with Reports, Elections and Budgets.  We always finish with a time for Q&A but the meeting cannot address business from the floor that has not been submitted previously.  No business has been submitted for this meeting.  If something comes up, we table it for [continue reading…]

Jun 162019

On 9th June 2019 Mal concluded his sermon introducing the Coming to Jesus theme by saying that throughout the Bible, when God’s people were in exile, their  reaction was either to assimilate, to rebel or to achieve a positive activism that was marked by loyalty and subversion. I have spent my working life working in, consulting to and seeking to support, build and grow communities, civil institutions and the best of industry.  Never before has a Christian faith that exemplifies [continue reading…]

Jun 092019

A few bits of housekeeping. I enjoyed what Nick Russell from Christ Church shared last week.  We are fortunate to have Nick as a chaplain and I commend him to you.  Support him any way you can. Kieran is the Vicar of Rottnest this weekend, so trust he is enjoying our first winter squall out there with the family. I will be in Melbourne next week catching up with my mum.  Things have changed considerably for her.  She has become [continue reading…]

Jun 022019

Welcome to Nick from Christchurch.  Today I am looking forward to an insiders view of a school chaplain’s life. I have been musing as I consider staying alert to the challenge to ‘switch on’ following our How to Be Rich Series.  It got me thinking about contentment. A brief explanation: If I am going to be generous I need to do something really hard, that is, say “no” to myself. And no one likes to be told, “no”! “No” always [continue reading…]

May 262019

Earlier this week, Barb Totterdell, Sally Howe and I attended a conference in Sydney called House. We were richly blessed to be a part of such a high-quality children’s and youth ministry conference. Why did we do it? If the axe is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success (Eccl 10:10). We want to be as sharp as possible as St Philips begins the journey of “Growing Young”. We are delighted to be [continue reading…]

May 192019

I’ve been so encouraged by a number of things happening recently within our church and beyond, particularly with regard to ministry with young people. Here are just some of the things that are encouraging me. Partners in Prayer It is fantastic that there are almost 60 people in our congregation praying specifically for one of our young people. There is no question that this will be significant in the lives of our young people and in the life of our [continue reading…]

May 122019

This week a number of people with some degree of profile in the Christian world have died. I’ve watched the outpouring of grief and the recognition from many of how these people have impacted them personally, often from a distance, through books, speaking engagements and the significant choices that these people made in how they lived and what they gave themselves to. One of these people, a man named Bruce Chapman, who many of you won’t have heard of, died [continue reading…]