This is the latest blurb that is published on the front of our weekly bulletin

The Five Solas

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As you might have heard, this year marks the 500th anniversary of The Reformation.

This really is an important event in the Christian calendar, but its importance lies not in the nice round number of 500, nor in the fond feelings it might arouse.

The significance of this anniversary is not so much about looking back, but it’s about a call to continue what was begun.

It is in the nature of man to take the loftiest of things and turn them around for the worst.

This is perhaps most true of religion.

There is no higher or loftier subject than that of God, and yet given enough time all religions seem to displace God from the centre and replace Him with man.

We shape God in our own image… we speak of what man can discover about God… we create the works that man must do to reach the God we have invented.

When the Incarnate Son became man He exposed the corrupt nature of man-centred religion.

This was God become flesh, revealing God to us.

Man, a finite sinful creature, has no hope to reach up to God and take hold of Him.

But in Jesus, God reaches down to us: in his Word he reveals himself to us. 

What’s more, we have no ability to work our way up, as if somehow we could erase the debt of our sin.

And yet it is grace, all of grace, that Jesus pays our debt for us. We simply accept this gift by faith.

The Reformation exposed what the church had become: man-centred religion… and it sought to take us back to God. 

The five “Solas”, (which just mean ‘alone’ in Latin), are the the catch-cry of the Reformation.

And these five statement capture this so well: ‘Scripture Alone,’ ‘Faith Alone,’ ‘Grace Alone’, ‘In Christ Alone’, ‘To the Glory of God Alone.’

And the call of the Reformation continues today, to turn from man-centred religion to Christ alone.

Simon Chaplin

More than a rain shelter?

Jamberoo Anglican Church

This weekend we give thanks to God for 150 years of ministry in our building at Jamberoo Anglican Church.

This milestone reminds us that this building has had a special place in our hearts for we who have regularly gathered here since 1867.

It is the place where we have baptised babies and new believers, married new couples, and said farewell to our loved ones.

This makes this building very significant to many generations of Jamberoo Anglicans.

Yet despite the fond memories of our church, the Bible makes it clear that this building does not perform a special religious function beyond helping us gather together in comfort and safety.

Before Jesus’ time, God’s Temple was the place at which God chose to be especially present, and his people gathered there to have priests make sacrifices with special rituals.

But when Jesus came, he transformed the way that we were to meet with God.

Instead of needing a physical building, we now meet with Christ, by his Spirit, as we hear his word in the Bible.

And because of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice on the first Good Friday, we no longer need to offer sacrifices at an altar in a temple.

What’s more, we no longer need to have a special priest to stand between us and God, because Jesus is that high priest who constantly brings our requests to our heavenly Father.

This means that the reason we meet together in a building like ours is to hear God’s word, pray to him, and to encourage one another through love and good deeds.

When we do this, it will create rich and warm memories that should prompt us to bring thanksgiving to God for all that he’s done in our special building.

And we should be energised to work together to extend the reach of our church to include more and more people in our village and valley.

Happy Birthday, Church of the Resurrection! 

Fake news or good news?

Silence

The Macquarie dictionary has announced its 2016 word of the year: ‘fake news.’

This term came to prominence in 2016, referring to websites that deliberately published disinformation — often then promoted on social media.

One such site published a story about a German town’s oldest church being burnt down by refugees on NYE.

Except it wasn’t the oldest church, and it didn’t burn down. A firecracker landed in some scaffolding while some refugees happened to be celebrating nearby.

ABC’s Media Watch summarised why fake news has such a power to be believed: “We love to hear things that confirm what we think and what we feel and what we already believe. It makes us feel very comforted.”

And this is exactly the premise behind these stories.

While the use of social media has seen these stories gain a widespread footing, the spread of false or misleading stories is not a new phenomenon.

People have always loved to hear lies that confirm what they already believe.

In the first book of the Bible we read that when the serpent whispered to Eve that she would become like God, and that she would not surely die, both Adam and Eve believed. They believed because this is the truth they wanted to hear.

Humanity craves autonomy from God and it is comforting to think that there are no consequences. But it is a lie.

The environment that has led the rise of fake news is that of our “post truth” world, (the 2015 word of the year!)

When two stories vary dramatically in the events which they report the question used to be “which one is true?” 

But that question is rapidly becoming irrelevant. Truth itself is becoming irrelevant.

But only truth will bring salvation.

Jesus not only speaks truth but is himself truth to our world. His good news is the only antidote to the fake news of sin.

Christ also brought you the truth, which is the good news about how you can be saved. Ephesians 1:13

Simon Chaplin

Last among equals

We’re all members of the one body (CREDIT: Pascal via flickr.com)

Whether we like it or not, it’s natural for any group of people to form structures to try and organise its membership.

So, when you get together a bunch of people to play on a sporting team, it’s pretty normal for a captain to be appointed.

And when you have an organisation like a club or a small business, you can expect someone to be appointed to lead and take responsibility for the running of things.

This, too, is the case in a church.

God has made it clear in the Bible that he expects there to be some within the church who will lead others, taking responsibility for what happens.

But just because someone has a leadership role, it doesn’t mean that they are more important than the others.

In one of the Bible’s writings there is an encouragement to all Christians in the church:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  (Romans 12:3-5)

In other words, none of us should look down (or up) on anyone else, just because of what they are doing within Christ’s church.

So, whether a person is preaching into a microphone, or controlling the microphone from the sound desk, everyone is of the same value to God.

And just in case we need any further proof, Jesus, whom we serve as King, actually considers himself lower than everyone in the church.

And that’s the greatest model of leadership we’ll ever encounter.

An important reminder as school returns

Back to school (CREDIT: Paradox 56 via flickr.com)

Whether it’s the school shoe sales or the return of 40kmh school zones, nearly all of us notice when it’s ‘back to school’ time.

And as schooling comes to our mind we should remember that education is a privilege we should never take for granted.

Many parents around the world would only dream of offering their kids the kind of education that is provided free to every child in Australia

Education empowers people to have a toolkit for life, whether it’s learning to read, write, add up or just relate to others .

The God who made all humans thinks that there is something that must be the foundation of all our knowledge and wisdom.

For, as we read in the Bible in the book of Proverbs, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7), and “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10).

So, a person can seem very knowledgeable and wise, yet if they don’t fear God, their very foundation of life is unstable.

This is why a comprehensive education will include the study of God as much as the study of all the other subjects.

For the children enrolled at Christian schools, the study of God is not only taught as a subject, but it should form the very heart of the syllabus.

Yet, due to the provision of Scripture (SRE) classes, children in our state schools can also be taught from the Bible about the God who made them and loves them and sent his son to die for them.

This means that even secular schools can offer parents and carers the choice to have their children taught the true foundation of education and life.

As we begin another year, pray that the Bible will be taught in a clear and compelling way to children in all kinds of schools, so that our kids will have a sure foundation for learning and for life.

The lesson our leaders must learn

Mike Baird and Barack Obama (CREDITS: Kate Ausburn, Whitehouse via Flickr)

At this moment in time we are witnessing a change in the leadership of the Premier of NSW and the President of the USA.

Both offices are positions of power, and both roles provide a powerful influence.

This makes it a good time to reflect on what Jesus thinks about leaders and leadership.

When one of his disciples tried to climb up the leadership ladder to grasp authority, Jesus said:

“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)

This ‘servant leadership’ runs against the grain of the world, which encourages people to climb the ladder of power, even if it means treading on other people’s fingers.

Yet, in his most famous sermon, Jesus made it clear that this is not the way things should be.

Instead, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)

Those who will inherit God’s blessing will be the ones who recognise that Jesus is king, and who follow Jesus’ leadership in serving others, as meek people, not as arrogant.

This is a very difficult thing to do in public office, and this is even more reason why we should be active in praying that our leaders recognise that the ultimate leader showed meekness and majesty as he willingly died for those he came to save.

After all, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:27)

Is Jesus Un-Australian?

Australia Grunge Flag

One of the core values of Australia is the right to a ‘fair go.’ When someone doesn’t get what they deserve, it often causes our blood to boil.

When one kid gets more lollies than another, then we hear the cry, “it’s just not fair!” And when one employee gets paid more than another person who does exactly the same job.

But imagine if everybody got paid the same, whether or not they worked a one-hour day, or an eight-hour day. How could that be fair?

Jesus tells the story of a landowner who hired workers for his field, and agreed to give them a set fee.

Later in the day, he recruited some more workers, and at the end of the day, he paid them the same amount, even though they’d worked far less than the others.

The workers who started in the morning were angry because they felt it wasn’t fair. They grumbled against the landowner and said, ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ (Matthew 20:12)

But Jesus said ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’  “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:13-16)

Jesus has chosen to give the full gift of eternal life to all who trust in him, whether that person followed Jesus from childhood or came to trust in him on their deathbed.

And given that none of us deserve any mercy, we should all be eternally grateful for the forgiveness God gives us when we trust in Jesus as our loving ruler and saviour.

Wise Men Indeed!

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? (Matt 2:1-2a)

Oh! We heard about that two weeks ago – it’s all part of the Christmas story, isn’t it? Well, actually, no, although it often gets confused with it. Those Christmas card pictures of Jesus in a manger with shepherds and wise men gathered around are a bit of poetic licence. In the gospels, Luke tells us all about the birth of Jesus, with stable, shepherds and angels and Matthew tells us only that Jesus was born and then writes of the Magi

The Magi probably came a year or more after Jesus’ birth, when he was described as a ‘child’ living in a ‘house’ (Matt 2:11). The Christmas card, with everyone gathered around the baby, obscures the point. Jesus’ birth is revealed to those who are not Jews! Gentiles – despised by most Jews! And whilst many Jews failed to recognise their Messiah, Gentiles worshipped him! 

Although God promised Abraham that “all the families on earth will be blessed through you”, Jews still thought of themselves as the only ones who could receive God’s blessing.

The earliest Christians were mostly Jews but, as more Gentiles became believers, Christian Jews struggled to know how to relate to them. Matthew probably wrote his gospel for these Jewish Christians and gives the Magi – the first Gentiles to acknowledge the Christ – a prominent place in his account. And from the fourth century, Christians have acknowledged God’s revelation to them by celebrating the feast of “Epiphany” on 6th January – last Friday.

Most of us are Gentiles who can be ever thankful that God sent his Son to bring us into a relationship with himself. To him be all glory and praise!

Trevor Lucas

Recognising the New Year

In Old Testament days the new year was recognised by a trumpet blast and a day of rest (modelled on Lev 23:23-25). Originally Ram’s horns were used, probably in time they were replaced by silver trumpets. The trumpet blast was a ‘memorial’ — a reminder of God’s goodness & faithfulness for the year past, also for the year to come. A holy assembly was called (a renewal of covenant obligations to God).

Of course, the modern way of ushering the new year is through parties and fireworks.

But the trumpet blast of Old Testament days has it counterpart in the trumpet call of New Testament days – but this trumpet announces the coming of the Lord, not for a new year, but for the beginning of a new age (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

And so a good new year’s resolution is to be ready for him. Christians now listen for the trumpet call which will announce the end of the age when the Messiah will come to judge the word and establish his reign.

And now, dear children, remain in fellowship with Christ so that when he returns, you will be full of courage and not shrink back from him in shame …… Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure. 1 John 2:28 and 3:2-3.

Graham Errington

Truth overcomes in a post-truth world

The Oxford English Dictionary has named ‘post-truth’ the international word of the year.

This is not surprising given that the Brexit vote and US election were enmeshed in what is being called post-truth politics.

Let’s face it – there is so much ‘post-truth’ around.

The rise of social media has been fuelled by people who claim to write the truth – yet there are so many lies and untruths in social media.

In the Bible, God is called the God of truth. The apostle John describes Jesus as ‘the Word become flesh’ who came to earth and lived among us. He said, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

From politics to personal life, what more do we want for Christmas than people who will tell us the truth?

There is much in our world which is post-truth – but remember at Christmas time we celebrate the truth of Jesus – the God of truth, who declares ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’.

Happy Christmas!

Dr Glenn N Davies, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney