Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Some of you have asked about new sermons….I don’t get to preach (on Sundays) as much as I would like, but when I do it is a joy – to share God’s word. St Thomas’shave been doing a series on Esther and I was asked to finish it off with Esther 9 and 10. It’s not the easiest of passages – not least the killing of 75,000 men – to preach on before Christmas…but it was remarkably appropriate. You can listen to it here.
Thanks for all those who prayed and continue to pray about the situation here with the fires. It is difficult to imagine the scale and size of what is going on here. For some reason every big event is measured by the size of Wales…to grasp what is going on – so far in NSW alone an area the size of Wales has been burned. There is one fire alone which is still burning and is almost 500,000 hectares. For us it is personal…Becky and her family were 20 km away from the fire this morning – and this evening they are only 10 km away. It is difficult to describe how quickly these fires move.
I have been doing a lot of thinking about climate change – and will try to share some of that later. But it is clearly ridiculous to think that if only Australia cuts it 1.3% contribution to global emissions we would not be having these fires. It’s almost as ridiculous as believing that Scott Morrisson is responsible because he went on his holidays. What you get here though is a real sense of fear amongst some people…..not least the young. I came across these four earnest young women in the centre of Sydney this week – there was absolutely no point in talking to them because their belief is of a religious fervour. I don’t blame them because they genuinely believe that the end of the world is nigh….but those who feed this hysteria are morally culpable when the seeds they sow grow to their full hysterical fruition. Just as culpable as those who ignore the human aspect of climate change.
This evening we watched a programme about farmers and the drought in New South Wales. It was heartbreaking. We plead with the Lord for this breaking of drought…..but not least the spiritual dought on the land.
In Church this morning I was greatly taken by a couple who had returned from six months sabbatical in Tanzania – Jonathan and Cath Morris. In particular, they spoke of being generous with our time and how in Tanzania they had never heard the word ‘busy’. I wonder how many of us are too ‘busy’ for other people and too busy for the Lord. It is a trap I have often fallen into.
We visited an American missionary couple, Russ and Cathy, living in West Sydney (Russ is one of my colleagues in Third Space). Sometimes missionaries struggle to acclimitise and adapt – but I was very impressed with the way this family has become Australian – whilst remaining true to their roots! When I go West it does remind me being in Mississippi and the Matthew’s home was tastefully American – not least in the wonderful paintings from Cathy’s mum. Here are a couple of examples.
St Thomas’s is now like St Peters – seeking a new pastor. We miss Simon and Kathy – but the work continues. Yesterday they had a community outreach in the grounds of the church before the evening carol service (which was packed)…I was not sure what to expect – but it was wonderful – and a great opportunity to connect with local people who do not normally come to the church –
ABC – Australian Born Chinese. I’ve mentioned before my love of the Chinese Presbyterians here – and again it was my joy to speak at an outreach at Gracepoint Presbyterian on Friday. There is an enthusiasm and joy with the mostly young people present – and it was great to have several non-Christians who seemed engaged with the Gospel. It’s good to see that they have appointed a Sri Lankan Aussie to be their missions paster (Kamal Weerakoon) and it was also good to meet an old friend and colleague of David Ellis’s (St Petes elder and former OMF missionary leader) – Joe Mock. He had some lovely tales to tell!
We are just a couple of days from Christmas – it has been good to observe from a distance the Christmas outreach in St Peters (and elsewhere). Given the weather, smoke, fires and disorientation, it just does not feel like Christmas at all. I suspect the Christmas we miss is a Northern European/American one. But we can still celebrate the birth of the Saviour of the World. As even this letter has indicated – there are millions from every tribe, language and nation who now worship the One born in Bethlehem – the Light of the World.
Have a great Christmas,
See you next week…
Yours in Christ,
PS. Here is a beautiful version of Silent Night from St Petes…. (even though it makes me feel a wee bit home sick!)