Christmas Seasons: Winter

Written by Anthony Douglas on Friday, 07 December 2012.

Winter SnowsThere are few things more painful than an unfulfilled desire to have children. A couple may try and try again, seeing their hopes dashed month after month. Infertility is a tragic withering of dreams in slow motion - something that thankfully, God understands full well.

We read in the opening chapters of 1 Samuel of Hannah, a devout woman  who has suffered much. While her husband loves her, he has another, fertile, wife. It is the Lord who comes to her rescue, giving her a son when all hope seemed lost. That son became Samuel, one of Israel’s greatest spiritual leaders, a rescuer in a time of darkness and gloom. Hannah’s response to God’s kindness was to sing of his love for even the weakest of his people.

In Luke 1, another woman with no expectation of a child finds herself pregnant through God’s intervention. Mary too instinctively responds by singing of God’s grace ‘...for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.’ Where there had been no hope of life, from a virgin’s womb life blossomed.

Mary’s son, of course, became Jesus: not just Israel’s greatest leader, but the ruler of the whole world. A rescuer in a time of darkness and gloom, and one who would never retire from the role.

Christmas is a reminder that even at our lowest, God knows us, loves us, and saves us. ‘Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vine ... I will be joyful in God my Saviour.’ (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Christmas Seasons: Autumn

Written by Anthony Douglas on Wednesday, 28 November 2012.

Autumn LeavesThough we live in a land of eucalypts, we still perceive autumn as the season of colour. It’s the time of russet and amber, of leaves bedecking the ground. It can be quite beautiful, but the display is nature’s last hurrah before the gloom of winter sets in.

Nevertheless, there is something glorious about the autumn show. Perhaps the pallor of winter makes us appreciate what precedes it all the more. The inevitable decay can be ignored, for a time.

In the history of Israel, we see played out a long slide into disaster. King after king seem to lead the nation further and further away from the Lord. In this extended twilight before the ignominy of death and exile, though, one star shines brightly: Josiah, the boy-king.

Josiah was prophesied: one from the line of David who would restore the people to the worship of God. He was only young when he came to the throne, but he knew his role and was faithful to his calling. He did away with pagan worship, and died in battle fighting for his people. It was the last gasp of the monarchy.

Skip forward through the centuries, and another boy-king was in Jerusalem (see Luke 2:41-52). He understood his calling and would reconcile his people to God. He too would die in battle for the sake of those he was charged to protect... but the winter would be brief, and the summer never-ending. This boy-king would reign forever.

It's Easy as ABC

Written by Anthony Douglas on Thursday, 22 November 2012.

In Anglican parlance, ABC stands for the Archbishop of Canterbury, the symbolic leader of the Anglican churches around the world. It was announced recently that the replacement for Rowan Williams, who steps down early next year, will be Justin Welby, currently the Bishop of Durham. Welby is described as an evangelical, with a long association with Holy Trinity Brompton, a large church in London.

It’s a tough job. The ABC is not a Pope, able to decree for all his denomination how things shall be. He has no official jurisdiction outside of the Church of England itself, merely influence. His task will be to figure out a way to settle the disputes that have arisen in recent years, without any power to compel the parties.

Welby

Just this week, the spotlight was upon him as the General Synod in England met and considered approving the appointment of women as bishops. It was a close vote, with the status quo retained only because the lay members of Synod voted against any change. Welby had openly said he was in favour of the change.

In other words, he is not quite what we would see as evangelical; however, having read some of his sermons, it is clear that he genuinely seeks to proclaim truth from Scripture. We should pray that he will do this well.

But why does all this brouhaha matter? ‘The Angican Communion’ has little to do with us in any practical sense, here in the Heads.

It’s true: nothing much that Welby does or doesn’t do will impact us - but that’s not the point. How Anglicans are seen to act influences how Anglicans are seen at a local level. This point is particularly significant in Africa, where Muslims have criticised African Anglicans for their lack of ethics ... because of the godlessness of American Anglicans! Welby’s role is not important for the unity of the denomination, but for the reputation of the denomination, and how that can enhance or cripple our outreach.

That’s why he could use your prayers.

0450 296 690

Breathless

Written by Anthony Douglas on Friday, 09 November 2012.

I’ve been watching the recent film version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with my scripture class over the last few weeks, and on Wednesday we watched the scene where Aslan dies as a willing sacrifice in place of the traitor Edmund. Many of the kids are unfamiliar with the story, and there was a collective gasp, followed by whispers of ‘Did he just die?’, ‘Is he really dead?’ and the like. The idea that one might die for the sake of another was, to be honest, a shock to them.

Today we remember the sacrifice of countless men and women who have died in war. They too drew their final breath and laid down their lives. They are not the only Australians who have lost their lives in our defence; we can think of police and fire officers, just to begin with. Nevertheless, their sacrifice was real, and costly, and meaningful, and so it is appropriate that at 11am we too will hold our breath for a moment, as we remember their gift to us.
Aslan

But it might have been for naught. There was no guarantee that their dying would achieve what they hoped for. I let my class keep watching until we witnessed Aslan’s resurrection, a reminder that Jesus’ own death was not futile. It is that death on our behalf that we remember and celebrate today as Max Hudson is baptised - that death and the subsequent resurrection that offer the hope of life to us all. And that, in the end, is what takes our breath away ... and gives it back.

So Easy to Miss

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 04 November 2012.

Last Wednesday was of course Hallowe’en; you’d have done well to not notice the occasion. Kids roaming the street in costume, searching for goodies...it’s become something of a custom in Australia in recent years.

But did you miss it? That apostrophe in Hallowe’en? It marks the abbreviation: Hallowe’en is All Hallows Evening, the night before All Saints Day in the church calendar. And, more importantly, it marks the date when Martin Luther chose to make his stand against the common practice in his day of extorting money from the poor, ostensibly to buy freedom from purgatory for their dead relatives.

It was bald-faced greed, filthy lucre at its worst; Luther’s objections provided the spark that set off the Reformation. It was 495 years ago now, but still an enormously significant event. Did you miss it?

You weren’t alone. When Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral, they were written in Latin. It was the equivalent of publishing something in an academic journal that doesn’t get read. And so, at the time, nothing much happened with them. It wasn’t until they were translated into German by friends of Luther the following year that they became widely known.

Luther SigThe world changed, and nobody noticed at the time. The gracious work of God is so easy to miss - sometimes even when it’s right under our nose! Praise God for the way he opened the eyes of his people to the treasures of his gospel, all those years ago... and for the way he does it still.

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