I cannot really think of a better verse with which to stand on the threshold of that amazing annual journey we call Lent than Psalm 50 verse 23: “Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice, honour me.” . Tomorrow we step over the threshold and the journey will begin. But today, we stand on the threshold. We’re about to clear our fridges, make pancakes and make space for something new. I wonder how you’re feeling?...
We give thanks to God for all that we have shared in Toowoomba since arriving in 2010 and express our deep gratitude for the prayer, friendship and love of this parish. We feel richly blessed to have been part of the unfolding ministry and mission of Christ in this city and region. For Toowoomba is a very special place. Like anywhere, it is not perfect and has its own challenges and struggles. Yet its blending of heritage and innovation makes the Garden City a fertile space for so many people to flourish. It is therefore a great personal challenge to leave, not least because we have enjoyed so many loving relationships with others, both within and beyond the immediate boundaries of our church communities – far too many and invidious to mention by name! We can also see so much potential for healthy growth of many kinds in both church and the wider community. Fortunately we will not be too far away and very much part of the wider diocese’s support for Toowoomba and the Western Region. (Do please also pop into see us in Milton too if you are passing – and join in our diocesan faith education as and when you can!) We also believe that God has new things in store for this parish, building on the vision and mission action plans we have discerned and nurtured together as clergy and laity in recent years. There are seasons for different gifts and people and God calls us always into new ways and spaces. We hope and trust therefore that seeds we have sown can ripen, prayer and hospitality continue to grow, and Christ’s love be shared more fully and deeply with all God’s children (of whatever culture, gender or sexual orientation, capability, faith (or none). May God bless us all in our lives and endeavours in this continuing journey!
from Jo and Penny
Lepers stuck out from the crowd. They were obliged to do so by edict that demanded that they ring a bell or call out 'unclean, unclean', and that they separate themselves totally from the rest of society. They would have done so anyway, as the horrors of their progressive illness disfigured their bodies, and the smell of their rotting flesh repulsed any who came near. They would have been acutely aware of being different. Leprosy in the days before modern medicine and antibiotics was a death sentence, but an horrific death by inches over many years. The ten lepers in our story today had clearly become bound together by their common tragedy. In its face other social barriers were set aside. Yet in the midst of this group that stuck out from surrounding society, one stuck out even more. The question is: 'what made that tenth leper stand out and how can we be like him?'
Most of us probably know the old saying about some of the great Australian metropolitan cities: in Sydney, it is said, they ask ‘how much money do you have?’; in Melbourne, they ask ‘which school did you go to?’; in Adelaide, they ask ‘which church do you attend?’; and in Perth, they ask ‘so what did you come here to get away from?’ There is some truth in that even today. What then, I wonder, would be the question we would ask in Toowoomba? My hope is we would ask ‘what gifts do you have to enrich our world?’ This question is certainly at the heart of Jesus’ good news and behind today's Gospel passage about the nature of divine table fellowship. It is assuredly a great question for us on our parish thanksgiving weekend…
The traditional patterns of the Christian season of Advent are difficult to maintain in our contemporary Australian culture. Yet its themes of hope, peace, joy and love are as essential as they have ever been. They bring us back to the heart of biblical faith and its meaning for us all. In a real sense they are the true gifts of what we receive at Christmas. This is certainly true of today’s gift – that of hope – so vital for our times. For when we look at our world it can be easy to feel despair. There are also plenty of people ready to play on our fears and anxieties: cynics and doomsayers who suggest that the conflicts we see are only going to get worse and that there is little cause for hope. Yet there is nothing new in this. Our gospel reading today was written in just such a time of fear and anxiety and it invites us above all to wake up and to pay attention to the things of God, when we find ourselves in times that promote fear…
by Jon Inkpin for Advent Sunday 2014
Keep awake – keep alert – again and again we hear this message repeated in the Gospels, especially around this Advent season. Keep awake: like an alarm clock, this message challenges us to rise from our slumbers and get living. It calls on us to open our eyes, open our ears, and open our hearts, to the love of God coming afresh in, and among and beyond us. What a vital message this is for a Christian new year, as well as a preparation for Christmas. Are we awake? Are we alert? Are we expecting God to live and grow and come to birth in and among us?
In many ways, the best response to the Advent challenge is that which we see in Mary, the mother of Jesus. That is why we have taken Mary’s song, the Magnificat, as our Advent theme this year. ‘Give Thanks – Give Life’: that is the refrain. For giving thanks and giving life are two major elements of Mary’s song, the Magnificat, which we also can share in. Just as Mary gives thanks for the Holy Spirit whom she sees and hears God in and around her, so we too can open our eyes and ears to that same Spirit among us. Just as Mary opened her heart, and her very being, to the love and power of God, so we too can open our hearts, and our very selves, to the love of God in Christ Jesus. Giving thanks and giving life: these things can be symbolised or embodied in ordinary Christmas presents. Yet they are most fully embodied in the giving of of our whole human lives…