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-

 

 

It is one of the strange things about our culture that we are one of the few groups of people in history who find it hard to believe in God. There are many reasons for this, but one is that we have inherited a very narrow understanding of what it means to experience God, and what God is like. In our series at St. Mark’s on the Song of Songs we come this week to a passage that considers the incredible range of things to enjoy in the world. Love, the beauty of nature, food, smells, recreation, rest, and so much more. Each one of these is a gift of God, as are the many sensitive capacities that we have to experience all these different pleasures and joys. The question becomes not how we could possibly experience God, but how we could avoid it! So where will you experience God today?

-Andrew –

Having been in the Hills for nearly a year now, I am entering into my second autumn and enjoying the explosions of colour everywhere among the trees as the leaves change and fall (not enjoying so much the necessity of raking them up!). Autumn is a beautiful time, and so can winter be when it comes, even among the cold and rain. There are many different things to experience in these seasons. This week in a couple of contexts I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on what the Bible calls the practice of ‘lament’, which is calling out to God in grief and questioning when things are not going right. When disaster or disappointment strikes, or we are going through a dark, wintry time. It’s important to understand that God welcomes this kind of expression from us (two-thirds of the Psalms are actually songs of lament), and that it is an opportunity to move into a deeper experience of God’s presence and love. This week is the Sunday of ‘Pentecost’, which celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit on the church after Jesus returned to his Father. The seasons for the church and for Christians after Pentecost have often been autumn or winter, but we have hope that spring is coming.

-Andrew-