Dec 20

One Small Life

The little babe was a gift too big to wrap.

That one small life was all life.

A King, born at the back of the Pub

and there was the rub.

No one  expected the helpless,

the human, the ordinary.

 

Those in the know, with robes

stretching back to Moses,

The priests with pedigree,

who whispered  in the ear of God,

and owned His nod.

Guardians of the books,

who knew where to look

for that warrior King

promised for greatness.

Destroyer of  enemies.

A King bigger than

their own importance.

That King will be born

In Bethlehem of Judea”

they said.

Yawned, stretched,

went back to bed.

Drugged by certainty

and confidence, God

would have woken them

personally.

 

While in the hills shepherds thrilled

to angels singing and bringing

news of new life. For free.

 

And star gazing Pagans

who weren’t supposed to know

or go, traipsing across the desert

for months.

Laid gifts before the Child

and gave thanks for inclusion

that touched untouchables,

and welcomed the unwelcome.

 

That Baby grew into the promises

and laid eternity

at everyone’s feet.

 

Geoff Miller ©

10/12/12

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=249

Dec 20

The Meaning of Christmas

Though we are in the Christmas season when we celebrate the joy of Jesus’ birth, we are in shock following two horrific events. In the Philippines, Typhoon Pablo killed over 1000 people with 900 more still missing and 80,000 left homeless. In Newtown, Connecticut, 20 children and six teachers and administrators were brutally murdered by a 20-year-old gunman who also murdered his own mother. We grieve these terrible losses and struggle to make sense of them.

For my thoughts about the Newtown shootings, click on this link to watch the new Speaking of Life program. In this program, I point out that, while there are no easy answers, it helps to have an eternal perspective.

That perspective is offered by the Christmas story itself. It’s the story of the Son of God coming to be with us in the midst of our sin and sorrow, in order to bring us his salvation—the ultimate healing. As we thank God for sending his Son, born in a manger about 2,000 years ago, let us pray for those who are suffering and grieving in the wake of these tragedies and let us also pray for our Lord’s return in glory when all tears of sorrow will be wiped away and all this world’s wrongs will be made right.

The word Christmas

Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given (Isaiah 9:6)

Our appreciation of the Christian meaning of Christmas is enhanced by understanding the origin of the word Christmas. It is the contraction of the words Christ’s mass, which is derived from the Middle English Christemasse and the Old English Cristes mæsse. The suffix –mas is from maesse, which means “festival,” “feast day” or “mass.” Maesse is derived from the common Latin word messa, which means “dismissal” and is taken from the formal Latin word missa, the feminine past participle of mittere, meaning “to let go” or “to send.”

Over time, missa came to signify the Eucharistic service—a practice that continues in Catholic churches, probably because the concluding words of the service are “ite, missa est” meaning, “go, the mass is over,” or “the prayer has been sent.” You will find this sort of information in an etymological dictionary, like the one online at www.etymonline.com/.

Celebrating and proclaiming the Messiah’s coming

As the etymology of the word Christmas indicates, the Christian celebration of this day has its roots in the idea that Jesus has been sent to us. The church gathers on Christmas to worship and take communion in recognition of his coming through his birth to Mary in Bethlehem. From this gathering, the church is sent out (dismissed) to proclaim this good news in all the world.

When Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist regained his voice, he proclaimed a rich prophecy concerning the coming Messiah (from the Hebrew word Māšîaḥ, meaning “anointed one,” which in Greek is Christós and in English is Christ). In Luke 1:78, Zechariah refers to the long-promised Messiah as “the dayspring” (KJV) or “the rising sun” (NIV), sent “to us from heaven.” The Greek word translated “dayspring” or “rising sun” is anatole—a word used by Greek speakers in two ways. First it is used to refer to the light of the sun and the stars rising—also meaning, “from the east,” since the sun rises in the east and sunrise is another way of saying daybreak or dawn. Second, anatole is used to refer to a “shoot” or “branch.” It was used this way in the Septuagint (the Old Testament in Greek) to convey the meaning “branch” found in Jeremiah 23:5 and Zechariah 3:8 and 6:12.

Thus, in Luke 1:78, anatole could be translated “the branch from on high,” a reference similar to Isaiah 4:2, “the Branch of the Lord.” However, the translators chose “dayspring” (KJV) and “rising sun” (NIV) because verse 79 contains the imagery of light coming into darkness, just as the dawn chases away the darkness of night. The translators were likely correct in this choice, though the idea of “the branch” is lurking in there too. It appears that Luke uses anatole as a play on both meanings of the word—celebrating the Messiah as both humankind’s new branch and new day.

Christmas proclaims that God is the light of his people from all eternity. And when, in the fullness of time, Jesus came, it was to fulfill all the ordinances and messianic prophecies concerning him. These were shadows, cast by the real light, for Jesus alone is “the dayspring” (Malachi 4:2; Luke 1:78) and “the morning star” (2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 2:28 and 22:16) of the promised everlasting day in which the sun never sets. With Jesus’ first coming, the eternal morning dawned. In this we find great hope for it carries with it the promise that all wrongs will ultimately be righted and all tears wiped away. Thus Jesus’ first coming carries with it the promise of his second coming in glory, when the fullness of this hope will be realized in the new heavens and new earth, proclaimed in the book of Revelation.

Our celebration at Christmas of Jesus’ first Advent (coming) is a joyous celebration of his love, his faithfulness and the promise of the fullness of his kingdom at his second Advent. Because of his birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension, the love of God dwells not just among us but also, by his Spirit, in us so that we will love one another with his love in the same Spirit.

Christmas is about the light and the love of God being sent to us in a most personal way—in the incarnate person of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. I pray that as you and yours celebrate Christmas with this fullness of meaning, you will find the joy, hope and comfort that come through our Lord’s presence.

Sincerely in Christ’s service,

Joseph Tkach

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=238

Dec 11

Is Mary “the mother of God”?

There are many mysteries to life and Christianity.  How on earth does God become one with us?  The story of Christmas provides the answer.  A controversial question that goes along with Christmas, is the role of Mary.  Is she “the mother of God?”, or simply and only, “the mother of Christ” ?

We invite you to look in the sermon section for a message on this topic, as well as many others.

 

 

CARAVAGGIO Adoration of the Sheperds (detail) 1609

Photo by carulmare

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=225

Nov 29

Advent: Bad News, Good News

You probably know about the 1815 Battle of New Orleans, in which the Americans resoundingly defeated the British. But do you know that this battle was fought two weeks after the signing of a peace treaty ending the War of 1812?

News traveled slowly 200 years ago—but not today! We are kept on constant alert about everything and anything. Competing news channels are desperate to attract and keep our attention. They try to convince us that we have a right—even a duty—to be informed, and they feed us a steady stream of “breaking news.”

In this hyped-up media environment, an international crisis or major natural disaster must compete for attention with “news” that Lady Gaga has gained 15 pounds. Accuracy and objectivity are often casualties. Reality TV confronts us with the bizarre and offbeat. Entire channels are devoted to fringe diets and fads. You don’t know what to believe!

This barrage of media keeps many in a state of tension and anxiety. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), anxiety disorders have increased 1,200 percent since 1980.

I suspect that one reason for this increase is the increase in the number of 24/7 news programs on radio and TV. In the 40-minute drive from my home to the office, I can hear several news stories repeated, each time with slightly more “information” than before. It is as if I am being force fed the news, like a goose being prepared for pâté de foie gras. So I often find peace by turning off the news. It is not that I want to stick my head in the sand. On the contrary, I find I need to get my mind above all the trivia and conflicting details so that I can see the big picture.

And whenever we talk about the big picture, our focus returns to Jesus. Focusing on him isn’t religious escapism–he was and is a real person in time and space. Jesus pitched his tent with humanity when he became human. And now, following his death, resurrection and ascension, he lives in us. Unlike the shifting priorities of the media, Jesus is “the same, yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

It is certainly appropriate to call Jesus the Lord of history. He is a source of information that we can rely on, as we struggle to make sense of our frustrating and uncertain times. He promised us peace, but not as the world gives it (John 14:27).

In view of Jesus’ Lordship, the apostle Paul confidently gave this advice: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). Peter gave similar advice: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

My comfort and peace comes in knowing the good news, and by this, I mean the genuine, cosmic good news of what Jesus has already done. The Gospel confronts us with that reality—not the contrived hype of so-called Reality TV.

I pray daily for the peace that transcends understanding to be upon you all, my brothers and sisters in Christ.

In Christ’s service,

Joseph Tkach

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=216

Nov 21

More Sermons Added

Check out the sermon section for new sermons on Advent, Temptation, The Letters of John,  Love or Love Not the World, and the purpose and focus of Worship.

We hope you will find them inspiring, thought provoking, and helpful in your life’s walk.

You are very welcome to come and visit us at our Sunday services at Warrane Senior Citizen’s Centre, 10 Binnalong Road (off Cambridge Rd), Mornington at 10am.  We are a small, relaxed and happy group so don’t be shy!

 

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=213

Oct 02

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.

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=209

Sep 06

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

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=197

Aug 09

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.

[/important]

 

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=190

Jun 18

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?

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=178

May 25

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

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=175