Retreat – Oct 8-14th – Camp Clayton, John’s Letters

 

We are holding our annual retreat/festival at Camp Clayton, Claytons Rd,  Bass Highway, just east of Ulverstone, starting at 3:30pm on Monday October 8th, and concluding Sunday morning the 14th.  Christians from around Tasmania as well as some from the mainland are planning to come and join us for a week studying John’s three letters, and enjoying a relaxing, rejuvenating time of fellowship and worship.Camp Clayton

Sessions are held each morning at 9:30am in Parkdown, except Thursday, when we have a 7:15pm session.   Saturday has morning and afternoon sessions.Visitors are very welcome.If you would like more information please email Phil Hopwood at phopwood@internode.on.net or phone 0407 566987.

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Grace From First to Last

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Grace is the first word in our name. We did not choose it because it sounds “religious.” Each word identifies our experience as a fellowship and grace is an integral part of our identity – especially our identity in Christ.

As a denomination, we have always understood grace to be God’s unconditional and unmerited pardon. But we tended to think of it as a component of salvation that needed to be “stirred into the mix” because of our inability to keep the law. We now see God’s grace as much more than that.

Grace is not some sort of passive concept of forgiveness. It is not a principle, a proposition, or a product. Grace is the love and freedom-producing action of God to reconstitute humanity into what the apostles, Peter and Paul, refer to as being made into God’s own people (2 Corinthians 5:17–20; Galatians 6:15; 1 Peter 2:9–10). It is not just a spiritual supplement that God provides because we can’t keep his law, like a whiff of oxygen to help a sick person breathe a bit easier.

Grace is an entirely new atmosphere that transforms us and gives us a new kind of life – life that no amount of law keeping could sustain. Note Paul’s explanation: “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:19-20 KJV). Grace is the environment that allows us, God’s new creation, to not just survive, but to grow and flourish.

At the risk of over-simplification (a danger inherent in all analogies) we might think of grace as God’s “operating system.” The Father, Son and Holy Spirit have been giving, receiving and sharing love for all eternity. When they extend that sharing of love to us, it is their gift of grace. This grace of God is not the exception to a rule–his rule is a gracious one, all the time, to give us life and to bless us, even if obstacles to our receiving it have to be removed at his own cost.

We see God’s grace most clearly in the person of Jesus, who as Paul said, loved us and gave himself for us. As the early church leader Irenaeus taught, the Son and the Spirit are the “two arms” of the Father lovingly embracing us back to himself. The Gospel of John gives us Jesus’ own encouraging words: “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one. I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22-23 NRSV).

As recipients of the grace of God in Christ, we not only share in the love and life of the Father through his Son in the Spirit, but we also share in the mission of God to the world. That mission is the complete restoration and renewal of all creation in Christ Jesus, through the Spirit, into a state of perfect glory.

God’s grace in the person of Jesus Christ is for all humanity without distinction to race, status or gender. And that is why the vision of Grace Communion International is for “all kinds of churches for all kinds of people in all kinds of places.”

With love, in Christ’s service,

Joseph Tkach

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Give Me One Good Reason I Ought to Go to Church

Give Me One Good Reason I Ought to Go to Church

“Why do I need to belong to a church, anyway? Why shouldn’t I just believe in Jesus and try to live a good life? Church can be a real pain, you know.”

Yes, church can be a real pain. In fact, all human relationships can be. Jesus’ command that we “love one another” (John 13:34-35) would not be much of a command if there were no good reasons not to love another. When we love one another in spite of how unlovable we are at times, we are loving others the way Jesus loves us. He loves us even though we are sinners, that is, even though we betray his love.

We tend to expect the church to be close to perfect, even though, if we think about it, we realize that the church is made up of people just like ourselves—quite imperfect. The truth is, no church is “just what it ought to be.” Every church has its problems. Despite problems, however, there are good reasons to belong to a church, and we will look at some of them in this article. First, however, let’s look at a few good reasons a person might want to stop going to one church and begin looking for a new one.

Read the rest of the article here….

Cartoon by Paul Abramson & Brent Giles
[important]Mornington Community Church:

You are more than welcome to join our small congregation for companionship, friendship, worship and inspiration each Sunday morning at 10am, in the Warrane Seniors’ Centre, 10 Binnalong Road, Mornington.   See the first post for a map and directions.

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Is the Holy Spirit a Personal Being?

Some groups claim the Holy Spirit is God’s active force that he uses to reach beyond himself, or that it is spirit essence that God is composed of.  It is so tempting to want to simplify the mystery of God and the Trinity and make bold pronouncements about his nature.  To use human logic, and concepts grounded in space and time to define the One who is outside space and time and who cannot be defined or confined by our world.

What makes a personal being personal, and not an inanimate object, or impersonal power?  Many scriptures talk about the Spirit in terms of wind,  power and energy.   Do they show the Holy Spirit to be a personal being?

If you are interested, have a look in our Sermons section for a discussion on this topic, along with a study sheet you can use to.  The sermon is entitled, “The Holy Spirit 2 – Is the Holy Spirit a Personal Being?

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Pentecost

 

 

 

Pentecost

 

There can hardly be a greater way to give thanks for our life together than the celebration of Pentecost. Through the Holy Spirit, the new creation of the church came into being. The church is the spiritual Body of Christ, sharing in his relationship with the Father, and in his mission from the Father to the world. The church is the new creation where the communion of the Father, Son and Spirit is to be experienced and lived out.

On Pentecost we celebrate the giving of the Spirit; we celebrate that and more. The Holy Spirit, of course, was not “new”. What was new was this creation of a “new humanity”, as Paul calls it, in Christ, by the Spirit. So, while the work of the Spirit in the lives of individual believers is essential and fundamental to our Christian walk, on Pentecost we celebrate the work of the Spirit in the communion of the church – in our lives together in Christ.

Yet the church is made up of frail, mistake-prone human beings. It is often difficult, sometimes even stressful, to be part of a church. It can certainly seem very “ordinary”, week in, week out. This is an old argument, an ancient response to the reality of doing church. So some want to reject the visible church, and say “It’s just me and Jesus”. Sounds good, but it rejects or ignores the whole story of the New Testament, and the point of Pentecost. It misunderstands the nature of Christ and the work of the Spirit in the world.

Yes, often the lofty description of the New Testament doesn’t always match our experience “down here”, here and now. (“The church is not peripheral to the world, the world is peripheral to the church” says Paul in Ephesians 2, The Message.) Pentecost deals with this directly. Church is not about our wish-dream, but about God’s reality at work in the world. It is the place where we learn to love each other, with all our faults and shortcomings and differences.

Pentecost is a “week of weeks”, or seven weeks from the resurrection of Jesus (Easter Sunday). The early church took this very seriously. Pentecost is tied directly in to the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Without the resurrected Jesus, we have no spiritual organism of the church. The “new creation” of the resurrection is played out in the “new creation” of the church.

The resurrected Jesus cooked fish, ate with his disciples, taught them personally, and offered them “peace”. (He didn’t reappear to Pontius Pilate, or the Emperor for that matter, tap him on the shoulder, and announce: “I’m back!”).  He gave his life in humble service and self-sacrificing obedience to the Father. He took the worst that human beings could do to him, and loved us anyway. He united himself with humanity; he took humanity into himself. And through his resurrection and ascension he transformed life forever.

Atonement is not just about forgiveness – it is about fellowship. Our fellowship with the Father through the Son by the Spirit. As Karl Barth has written, the Holy Spirit is always in fellowship. It is through the Spirit that we can have fellowship with the Triune God. So it is not just about one’s personal possession of the Spirit (or the Spirit’s possession of us), it is about the fellowship of the Spirit into which we are drawn together. Salvation is relational; salvation is communion.

On Pentecost, we celebrate the new creation of the church. We rejoice in the pouring out of the Spirit, and the fellowship we are now privileged to share and participate in. We give thanks that through the Spirit, we have fellowship with the Father through the Son, and with one another. And we participate in the Father’s mission to the Son, to share that good news with all humanity.

May God richly bless and encourage you this Pentecost weekend.

 

John McLean

Mission and National Director

Grace Communion International, Australia

 

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. John 1:16

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National Day of Thanksgiving

 

 

National Day of Thanksgiving

Tomorrow marks our annual National Day of Thanksgiving. The day is designed as a celebration to thank God, and to thank one another. It is endorsed by the Governor General, and has bi-partisan political support.

Thanksgiving is at the heart of the gospel; it is the spring from which our Christian life flows. When we see who God is for us in Jesus Christ, we can only respond with gratitude and thankfulness. All we are and do then flows from appreciating and experiencing the transforming power and insight of this eternal reality. We are not slaving away, hoping to please a critical, angry and easily offended God. We are sharing in the grace of God who is love – who has always loved us, and always will. For which our lives become a constant expression of grace and gratitude.

As one church leader put it, hopefully a day of thanksgiving can work as an antidote to the “culture of complaint, criticism and cynicism” that is so prevalent. We see the culture of complaint all about us every day; it oozes its way into just about everything we see and hear. It becomes “normal” that human beings are quick to believe the worst. To impute negative motives. It becomes accepted that it is always the most negative innuendo that makes its way so briskly through the rumour mill. That bad news sells, that good news rarely makes it into the public domain.

A culture of thanksgiving and gratitude, and a culture of affirmation, go together. Thanksgiving is a vital part of the blood flow of our Life Together. So, while giving thanks to God is an integral part of daily life, why not find time for special thanksgiving this weekend. And why not say, write, email, or text someone who has been a blessing to you and say “thanks” as well. (You just might change their lives for the better in the process.)

After all, our desire is to reflect Paul’s beautiful prayer to the Thessalonians: to always be a joyful church, a praying church, and a thankful church (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

John McLean

Mission and National Director

Grace Communion International, Australia

 

 

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Pentecost Service: Ross Town Hall, Sunday May 27th, 11am

We are holding our annual statewide Pentecost gathering at the Ross Town Hall, Main St. Ross, on Sunday May 27th, starting at 11am.  There is a hot lunch provided.

We will be celebrating the beginning of the Church brought about by the Holy Spirit.  In particular we will discuss the Holy Spirit, and the results of the Spirit’s work on earth.

If you’d like to join us but need a lift, please contact Phil at 03 6243 1231.

 

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“God & Science: In the Pulpit,” March 28th

Rev Dr Graham Buxton is the Director of the Graeme Clark Research Institute, & Head of Postgraduate Studies in the School of Ministry, Theology & Culture at Tabor Adelaide. He is an ordained Anglican minister with extensive experience in pastoral ministry.

On Wed March 28th, he is doing a free seminar at St George’s (30 Cromwell St, Battery Point), titled “God & Science: In the Pulpit”.

3pm – “Pastors & church leaders”
7pm – “Principals & schoolteachers”
(Both aimed at leaders but open to anyone interested)

Christian leaders find themselves in a unique role as those who speak with authority in the congregation and come across questions about science and  faith they may not have the resources to answer. Christian leaders need to know how to respond to genuine questions from their congregational members in an informed and pastoral manner.

The debate about creation and evolution remains a contentious issue, and contemporary concerns coupled with technological advances often add to the dilemma for many Christians.

Science can be an uncomfortable topic within the church community but it need not be. Christian leaders need a framework for thinking through the hype surrounding these topics in order to identify the genuine core concerns.

This seminar series will assist in creating a conversation and dialogue on how to discuss these issues with your congregation in an open and honest way.

It is also being promoted nationally by both Tabor Adelaide & The Institute for the Study of Christianity in an Age of Science and Technology (ISCAST).

Reverend Dr Graham Buxton is the Director of Postgraduate Studies in Ministry and  Theology at Tabor Adelaide and Adjunct Professor of Pastoral Ministry at Fuller Seminary in the USA. He is an ordained Anglican (1983), with extensive experience in lay pastoral ministry.  He is the author of Dancing in the Dark: The Privilege of Participating in the Ministry of Christ (Carlisle UK: Paternoster; 2001) and The Trinity, Creation and Pastoral Ministry (Milton Keynes UK: Paternoster; 2005).

To read an excerpt from his book The Trinity, Creation and Pastoral Ministry click here

To purchase the above book click here

 

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What on Earth is Lent?

“Lent”  What a strange, archaic and religious sounding word!

It is a forty day time of year in the Christian calendar.  [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lent] It isn’t a celebration in the sense that we normally think about celebrations like Christmas, Easter, anniversaries and birthdays etc.   It has to do with acknowledging our need of God and his love, help and guidance.  Many Christians give up something during Lent. Perhaps that is why Lent isn’t as well known or observed.  It is often chocolate or some other pleasure.  It has been suggested recently that we might try giving up one or more of our electronic gadgets.

Lent is an opportunity to take a look at our lives from the larger perspective, through God’s eyes.   To refocus on what is important, and clear away some of the clutter and distractions of our busy, technologically blitzed and overwhelming lives.  It helps us value who God is for us in his Son and his Spirit, that will be celebrated at Easter and Pentecost.

The Anglicans have always been good at finding helpful words and prayers for times like these.   Take the following from their “Book of Prayer” for the preface to Lent;

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the
pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation
of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those
more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to
commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

[http://www.bcponline.org/SpecialDays/ashwed.html]

There are a couple of excellent articles you might want to read for further insights into the purpose and value of Lent, particularly concerning the communal benefits of worship that Lent and other Christian celebrations provide.

Why I Observe Lent

Lent Gives Way to Technology Fast

You are more than welcome to join us at any of our services and celebrations 
on Sunday mornings at 10am,  at Mornington Community Church, 
10 Binnalong Road, Mornington.

 

 

 

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Science is About Explanation, Religion is About Meaning

Alister McGrath

There is an insightful article by Alister McGrath at ABC the Drum on Science and Christianity; the following is a summary.   I’ve listed some suggestions for further reading at the end.

In the article, McGrath comments on the “New Atheists” aggressive proclamation against belief in God, and goes on to talk about what Science can prove, and what it assumes about the origins of our wonderful universe. He writes, “Science is indeed one of the most successful and exciting ways of making sense of our universe.”   But adds that science is focused on method, “of making sense of things.” Which is an ongoing exercise with changing conclusions.

He makes the point that while many atheists put down Christians for believing in a supreme being without proof, “science regularly posits the existence of things whose existence cannot be proved to make sense of our observations.”   There are many things scientists presume without being able to see them or prove they exist, such as the existence of “dark matter.”  In fact outside of mathematics and logic, there are surprisingly few things that can be absolutely proven.  He points out how we ” mostly judge theories by how much sense they make of observations. Power to explain is widely regarded as an indicator of truth. Observations don’t prove theories; rather, theories explain observations, and are judged on the quality of those explanations.”

Theories are common in science, and can be held to for a very long time before “absolute proof” is found, if indeed it can be.   He uses the “big bang” theory as an example, which is currently accepted “mainly because it is more consistent with our observations of the universe than its “steady state” rival. It can’t be proved (after all, it’s a singular event). But it does make a lot of sense of things.”

Rather than running away from the reality of life, the universe and everything, Christianity looks to faith to find meaning and sense in the midst of all of lifes’ complexities, contradictions and perplexities; personal, societal and universal.  Some religious people use faith as an excuse to deny the realities of life, and the challenges of scientific discovery.  On the other hand, some atheists jump to unfair and distorted conclusions in their dogmatic refusal to accept that the existence of God cannot be disproven or proven.

McGrath writes, “For Christians, faith is not a blind leap into the dark, but a joyful discovery of a bigger and clearer picture of things, of which we are part.”  He quotes French social commentator and activist Simone Weil who talked about the judging Christianity as you do “the power of a torch… by its ability to illuminate the world’s shadows.”  McGrath points to how the apostle John wrote about Jesus being “light of the world” – and how as the Son of God he has “power to illuminate the dark matter of our soul and our world.”

He continues; “So how does the Christian faith light up the shadowlands of life? The Christian tradition speaks of God as someone who makes sense of the puzzles and enigmas of life, illuminating our paths as we travel.” McGrath adds that Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks made the point. that “science takes things apart to see how they work. But religion puts them back together again to see what they mean.”

Science explains and helps us understand how particular parts of the material universe function and work together.  Religion sheds some light on what it is all about, the meaning and “big picture” behind it all that helps us see our place in it all.

McGrath concludes, “The Christian vision, enacted and proclaimed in the Christmas story, is that of a God whose tender affection for humanity led him to enter our history as one of us.  At Christmas, we recall that God is one who tells us he’s there, shows us what he’s like, and accompanies us as we journey – even through the darkest and loneliest valleys of life.”

Alister McGrath is Professor of Theology at King’s College London, and President of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. He is currently writing a new biography of the Oxford apologist and writer C.S. Lewis.

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