Next week we start the school holidays. Many people in our church also take the time in winter to head away on holidays to warmer places. Some of us wish we could join them! In our sermon series at St. Mark’s on ‘Finding Our Pattern of Life’ we are going through the topic this week of how we care for our ‘souls’. Our soul is another word for our ‘life’ – the thoughts and feelings we have, the things that we do, our energy, our personality, our passions. These things are our soul. Part of caring for them is understanding what gives life and what takes it away. Rest and holidays are something that give life and remind us that we are more than just working machines. Jesus promised that those who followed him would find ‘rest for your souls’ (Matthew 11:29). So, enjoy your holidays, and let’s help each other bring the cares of our souls to Christ, for His rest. -Andrew-

Across my life I have learnt to play a number of musical instruments. When you first pick up a new instrument, it feels very odd and you make terrible noises. But, with practice, it can come over time to feel like an extension of your body, and you know just what to do to make the sound and music that you want. As Christians, one of our challenges is to see our physical bodies as an ‘instrument’ of God, an instrument that as Psalm 139 says is ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ and capable of producing the beautiful and powerful ‘music’ that God wants to make in the world. This week at St. Mark’s we are thinking about how the way we care for our bodies is part of our discipleship as followers of Jesus. This opens up many fruitful and interesting topics to consider as we grow in our knowledge of God – thinks like what we eat, how we sleep and how we exercise our bodies, and do all these things in a way that leads to Jesus – as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, ‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God’. -Andrew –

This Sunday marks the anniversary of my first year as Senior Minister of St. Mark’s. I want to acknowledge the great welcome and support that my family and I have had from our church in this time. It’s been a period of great learning for me, of dealing with various big and small issues and getting to know the members of our church and the wider Emerald community. I’m looking forward to another year and hopefully many more to come.

This year has been a time of listening and waiting with God to discern where he might be calling us to go in the next period of the life of St. Mark’s. Many of our members have been involved in times of prayer, discussion and reflection on this question, and I am encouraged by the sense of unity and purpose that we have had. In the next couple of months we will be finalising the plan of our new Vision that describes what we hope to do together at St. Mark’s in the next ten years. The plan is that we will launch this Vision to our congregations in a special service of celebration on Sunday August 26th, just before the start of Spring. This will be a time to reflect on what God is calling each of us at St. Mark’s to be and to do, as members of our church and in our own lives with Christ. I’m looking forward to sharing more with you then, and please pray for clarity and wisdom as we approach that time. Thanks. -Andrew-

This week at St. Mark’s we are starting our new series of talks on the topic of ‘Finding our Pattern of Life’. We’re going to be looking at how Christians might develop a plan for how their whole life can be centred on God. One of the biggest problems that our churches experience at the moment is the way in which the normal lifestyle in Australia has no place in it for the kinds of activities and priorities that lead to our spiritual growth. The church used to be very much at the centre of the community, but not any more. Rather than being discouraged by that, it is an opportunity for us to do what many Christians have done over the centuries in similar situations, which is to live more ‘intentionally’ as a follower of Jesus and to encourage each other to do the same.

This week we start with the fundamental question of what we are seeking when we come to God for purpose in our lives. The story of Elijah in 1 Kings shows us the point at which this prophet, tired and discouraged, came to the desert to seek God’s words for him.

God spoke to him ‘out of the silence’

and gave him a new mission and a new hope. We will think about the role and practice of prayer in our own faith and how to put this foundational building block in place in our plan of discipleship.

-Andrew-

 

This week we are finishing our series at St. Mark’s on the Song of Songs. This love poem in the Old Testament gives a rich picture of a romantic relationship, with all its ups and down, and the joy that can be found there. Our challenge has been to take this picture and see how it fits with our relationship to God. This week we consider the conviction that the young woman in Song of Songs has that for her, ‘love is strong as death’. She feels that no power in the world or beyond it can conquer the love that they have. Of course, we know that this is not true, however strongly these lovers may feel at the time. There is no ‘happily ever after’, despite what the movies promise. Our love does falter and diminish in many situations, and death provides a final end to that experience of love. So, we turn as we move on from the Song of Songs to the Christian hope that through Jesus the love of God is indeed stronger than death, so much stronger that death itself will be overcome by love in the end. This is ‘good news’ indeed!

-Andrew-