Martin – 26 August 2018

Dear Friends

I have been test driving a few cars since arriving at Canberra: one from Nanda, and now one from Ginny. On my first official day of work at the church, my key got stuck in the ignition and so, while our car was being repaired, weborrowed Nanda’s car. The key for our car was removed but the barrel was the problem: just got worn from overuseand the key couldn’t engage the motor.One suggested repair was going to cost over $1000 so I chose the cheapest rem- edy: keep the existing key (which is now used for locking and opening the car) and get another new key to correspond with a new cheaper barrel. So, I have now two keys instead of one!

The current car I am driving, as you readthis, is Ginny’s Mazda. Margaret hasour car and is in Melbourne. One of thespecial features of Ginny’s car is it doesn’t need a key at all to start the car.There is a button! So, I have gone from one key, to two, to none in the space of 6 weeks!

In the Gospel of Matthew, the writer collects threads from his tradition about keys which are to be used to properly administer the church (16:19). It is pos- sibly an image drawn from Isaiah 22, where the prophet delivered an oracle against Shebna, a steward in the house- hold of Hezechiah: because he abused his office, the prophet favoured Eliakim instead, and it was to him that wasplaced ‘the key of the house of David’(Is.22.22). It seems Matthew is con- trasting the church with the house of Is- rael and stamping Jesus as having the authority to unleash a new order: the

church, the new emerging ‘house’ ofGod, not the house of Israel will be thenew gateway to God’s Kingdom.

But further, just as Eliakim’s leadershiplater proved wanting, it may be further suggested that while Peter is seen to re-ceive the keys to open ‘the house’, hetoo was found wanting. Peter was her-alded as the ‘rock’ but later he was re-buked by Jesus and castigated as a‘stumbling stone’ (Mt. 16.23). His faith apparently just couldn’t sustain thedeep conviction and understanding re- quired for the business of the new house of God etched by Jesus.

The keys are a symbol about authority: the authority that comes with faith to‘bind and loose’, the power and author-ity to determine what is to happen in the house; keys to determine not just entrance (which for Matthew is about embracing everyone not just the people of Israel) but house order. And those keys were ultimately given to members of the church (Mt 18:18), to all those who do the Will of God.

With our church meeting today, we could perhaps do well to remember this high calling and responsibility, as her- alded in Matthew, that all of us have, not just the leaders, in shaping the fu- ture directions of our church: that we allhave the special keys to this ‘house’ andthat, with this household blessing, we are all called to the business of doing the Will of God.

Salud!

Martin

Belinda Groves – 19 August 2018

Dear Friends

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for- ever; and the bread that I will give for the life ofthe world is my flesh.”

I have always struggled with these verses that feature flesh and blood. They seem so gory! And this is the reaction that the Jewish community had to Jesus’ followers and the early church when they practiced, at communion, what was considered to be a cannibalistic rite.

As I’ve been reading through John and preaching on bits of it over the last few weeks, however, I have been re-thinking these verses and this concept.

In the book I’ve referred to a couple of times now, Take this Bread, the author, Sara Miles, also speaks about the physicality of giving yourself to others, using the language of offering your own body as bread. Just as Jesus gave himself to us, each time we demonstrate love or care or generosity we are also giving our- selves to others. We are becoming bread.

And this week I have been thinking of people around our church who become bread for us:

Roy Henson, whose life we gave thanks for on Wednesday, pouring himself into ministries around Canberra and, in the stories I’ve heard, giving his time to others who needed a listening ear or counsel.

I’ve been thinking of our volunteers in the Community Centre – especially those from the church – Monica Holly, Sandra Trimble, Caroline Stein, Kerstin Wallace, Bev Galloway, Nanda Vernon, Kathleen Lui – and others on occasion – whose lives are being shared with others, who are becoming bread.

And I am reminded of the song we sang in the children’s talk last week:

Until all are fed, we cry out.
Until all on earth have bread.
Like the One who loves us, each and every one,
we serve until all are fed.

May we continue to be a congregation who are bread to others.

Belinda

 

Belinda Groves – 12 March 2017

Dear Friends

If you have been following our current sermon series in the book, Christianity for the Rest of Us, you will know today’s chapter, Justice, contains the story of Rev Lillian Daniel, a pastor from Connecticut who was arrested at a protest in support of health care workers. She didn’t mind being arrested, she says, but did have, “a moment of self-indulgent bitterness…that the church of Jesus could produce so many ministers willing to fall on the swords over issues of sexuality, but unwilling to notice the demonic gap between the rich and the poor.” Her secondary concern was that she had not told the church where she was and it took some time to bail her out of jail!

There has been a running joke that John might go to similar lengths this week to have such a story to tell. Though, if he is not standing in front of you as you read this, be assured he promised to leave his sermon notes behind – just in case!

Getting arrested for a sermon illustration might be going to extremes, but I have appreciated the opportunities we have had as a church, during this series, to engage actively with each of the topics.

We started with Discernment on the day we were signing up for small groups and thinking consciously about how the Holy Spirit might be given more room in our lives to guide us and grow us!

Then we moved onto Hospitality and – along with the delicious biscuits that the kids cooked for us – there have been many opportunities, to welcome new people to our church and to invite each other deeper into our lives.

Next was Contemplation and John led us, that day, in a contemplative service! We followed that with Healing; thinking about healing in every area of our lives – and how our Community Centre might be a way of meeting physical, social, psychological and spiritual needs. Then it was Testimony and we heard testimonies from members of our church. And last week I preached on Diversity, continuing a conversation about how we as a church welcome people of different ages, races, socio-economic backgrounds and sexual identities.

Today we are seeking to let Justice flow and I have one suggestion (I’m sure you can think of others!)

Many in our church are concerned about off-shore detention and last Sunday, Kelli Hughes outlined a simple – but powerful – way of protesting. It involves:

1. Calling politicians directly (Mr Turnbull 6277 7700, Mr Joyce 6277 7520, Mr Dutton 6277 7860, Mr Shorten 6277 4022, Ms Plibersek 6277 4404, Mr Neumann 6277 4755) and speaking briefly (for probably 2 minutes) to a staffer.

2. Telling them your name and electorate and asking if you can speak to the politician (who is rarely available).
3. Then, asking if your concerns (i.e. that as offshore detention centres close the detainees be treated with respect and found safe and appropriate places to live) can be conveyed to them.

May justice flow like a creek that never runs dry at Canberra Baptist Church!

Belinda

John Morrison -5 March 2017

Dear Friends

One of the popular spots in the under- cover meal shed at camp last weekend was the jigsaw table. One complicated 500-piece jigsaw was completed on the first night and a number of others were put together over the course of the weekend.

The first couple were colourful montages of different animals, birds and plants. As well as being quite beautiful pictures, they depicted the amazing diversity of the natural world. They reminded me of the awesome creativity of God who, in the beginning, “made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind” (Genesis 1:24) and “plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it.” (Genesis 1:12)

As I worked with others on the first puzzle, our diversity also struck me. The amazing creativity of God again! There were obvious differences in such characteristics as age, gender and personality, but more subtle variations as well. I noticed, for example, different methods – some tended to take a piece and try to find where it fitted; others would go looking for the next piece to add into their section; some focused on colour or pattern; some worked on shape.

As we all cooperated together, the picture took shape. At the end, however, there were three pieces missing. A diligent search under and around the table located them and with relief and celebration, the puzzle was completed.

It reminded me of an experience several years ago in my previous church. I had been preaching a series on the church as a body and, as an illustration, had distributed pieces of my favourite puzzle to people with instructions to bring them to our next gathering when we would assemble the picture.

Unfortunately, some didn’t attend or left their pieces behind, and the puzzle wasn’t complete. Not quite the illustration I had intended, but a powerful one nonetheless. I still grieve that there are pieces out there somewhere that are no longer part of the picture.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul has a masterful treatment of the importance of diversity and unity. He emphasises not only the variety of spiritual gifts, services and activities but their necessity. “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Cor. 12:8) So, like pieces of the jigsaw, we all have a place in the body and an important part to play. Diversity is not an unfortunate aspect to be minimised, but one to be fostered and celebrated. After all, it is the idea and method of the creative Creator.

As a member of one of the exemplary churches Diana Butler Bass researched told her: “It’s not just a matter of tolerating differences or accepting differences; it’s appreciating differences for the richness that they bring to our community”.

Vive la difference!

John