Weekly Letter – 21st December, 2020

Dear fellow servants of the Lord Jesus,

“Fully”

“When we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”  So writes the apostle Paul in Galatians 4:4 and 5.

There is something more in the story of the birth of the Lord Jesus than that, amazingly, the second person of the glorious Trinity was “enfleshed” in the womb of the virgin, Mary. God become man is astounding in itself.

Paul draws our attention to the “when” concerning the “what”. It was when the time had fully come. One word says it all – that God’s eternal purposes, painstakingly and in many ways unveiled over history have reached the time of their fulfilment. But we assume this to our peril.

In our rush to get Christmas over, to sing Joy to the World and then go on holiday, or wait to be able to return unwanted gifts, the Test to get under way, or Mission to start, it’s very easy to lose sight of the long and carefully laid out period of promise. From Genesis chapter 3 on, and for upwards of 2 millennia, God’s people, the faithful among them at least, longed for the redemption he had faithfully promised. And it would not come until the time for its appearance had fully come – by God’s estimation. Simeon in the temple (Luke 2), in grateful relief, understood what was happening as he held the Baby in his wizened arms:

“My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

The Conception and Birth was not just a random event that could have happened any old time. It took place over 9 months at a certain point in history (4BC??) because God in his infinite wisdom planned it that way. And if his plan for the 2nd Coming of his Son is any guide, this was because he is patient with sinners, giving us “extra time” to turn back to him.

Not recalling the “time fully come” nature of the Birth deprives us of remembering the amazing patience of our God with sinful humans and of the sense of urgency to get the gospel appeal out to a lost world. How marvellous is his patience! How glorious is his redemption of sinners!

Christmas

Please pray for the events planned and prepared for over the next week:

Monday & Tuesday 21st and 22nd:     
Christmas Kids Club (same program twice) at both St Peter’s and St Andrew’s

Thursday 24th :
YouTube videos for Christmas Eve for Families and Christmas Day Readings and Carols available

11.00pm  – Christmas Communion Celebration live on St Peter’s Green

Friday 25th Christmas Day:  
 9.30am – Christmas Day at St Andrew’s (Any time) Christmas Readings and Carols from St Peter’s (access through YouTube)

Our new Rector

Jason Veitch will begin his ministry among us on Monday 10th January.

His official Commencement of Ministry Service will be on Saturday 30th January at 2pm at St Peter’s.  (We will probably need to book for this, but more details to come).

As we celebrate God’s amazing kindness to us in the sending of his Son into this world, may each one of you continue to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

My wife, Glenda, joins me in wishing you a very blessed Christmas,

In Christ,

Deryck
Acting Rector

Weekly Letter – 9th November, 2020

“I must give my heart to God.”

As we join in celebrating all things Indigenous this NAIDOC week in COVID-affected 2020 it’s important to remember its thoroughly Christian roots. William Cooper was a Yorta Yorta man from Victoria born in 1860. Mainly brought up in very loving and enjoyable surroundings at the Maloga mission on the Murray River he impressed all with his eagerness and aptitude for learning. Even though his formal schooling was very brief he grew and developed through working for many different employers, pastoralists, even members of Parliament. However, all this left him realizing that there was something missing at the core of his being. So, in his early twenties he spoke with his dear missionary friend, Daniel Matthews, saying: “I must give my heart to God.”

One biographer has said, “The faith community seems to have nourished Cooper for a life of activism.  Matthews’ evangelical work provided Cooper and other Yorta Yorta with powerful way of understanding and protesting against their plight, and so helped equip them to fight for equality.”

For the rest of his life, which saw him a widower three times and often leading the itinerant life, William worked tirelessly to bring the plight of his people to public notice. He was a prolific letter-writer to governments and other leaders around the country. There is a long list of protests he involved himself in, including for land rights (1874-on). In 1938 he even led an Aboriginal  protest to the Germany Consulate in Melbourne to protest the “cruel persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi government of Germany,” for which he has been deeply honoured by the Jewish community and the nation of Israel.

Even though in many ways he was before his time, his lasting legacy continues to grow and develop. In 1940, as inaugural Secretary of the Australian Aborigines League, he wrote to church leaders across the nation urging the observance of Aborigines Sunday. He urged that it be primarily set aside for the preaching of the gospel to Aboriginal people and to pray for the advancement of their welfare. Throughout his life he made frequent protests about what was being done, or not being done, and suggested ways forward. Many of these have only come to reality since his death in 1941.

NAIDOC week is the direct descendant of Aborigines Sunday. Its name reflects this: “National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee”, although it has become much wider in focus. As we are all learning, there is much in Indigenous history and culture to celebrate and learn from. In a small but significant way our parish is contributing to this with the fellowship we have with Macarthur Indigenous Church. Please keep praying for this church, under Pastor Michael Duckett’s leadership to continue to grow in gospel influence within our local Indigenous communities.

William still speaks to us all: “I must give my heart to God.”

Have you given yours to him yet? Is he the centre of your life as he was for William?

Grace and peace,

Deryck
Acting Rector

Weekly Letter – 2nd November, 2020

Blast from the past.

Dear sisters and brothers,

In the 1662 Prayer Book service of Morning and Evening Prayer as the minster and congregation join in responsive prayer there is this:

Minister:             Clothe thy (your) ministers with righteousness;

People:                And make thy (your) chosen people joyful.

This is not, “happy minister, happy people”, though that may be true. Rather, the righteousness of ministers is linked to their people being joyful. Ever thought of Christian joy like that?

This prayer is not asking God that ministers will be perfect in this life, but that their deeds, their life now, will match their words. That as we see them live out their lives before us they will demonstrate that like every true believer they are clothed with the righteousness of Christ. In both senses of the word,  God will count them righteous in his sight because of the death and resurrection of his perfectly righteous Son. And that they will be working to demonstrate righteous, Christ-like living in all they do. Putting God first in all things, loving their spouse (if any) and children (if any), obeying God’s word, being humble, grateful, meek and patient, loving and kind, generous and hospitable, gracious and wise. . . . .

By making the two requests in one sentence the prayer links the people’s joy – even in suffering – to what they see in the life of their minister. And that rings true, doesn’t it? When you see your minister whoever they may be – (clergy, GG leaders, etc  etc) living a life worthy of the Lord, bearing fruit in every good work, proclaiming faithfully and living even at great cost by the Word of God, is that not a great joy to you? The prayer is not limited to the minsters and people in one parish or congregation.

I heard recently of a well-known and very effective senior minister in the Church of England. At great cost to himself and his family he has resigned from the CofE because of the changes made by bishops and others to the Bible-determined official doctrines of the CofE. This was no sudden decision for Rev Melvin Tinker of St John’s Church Hull. It cost him financially and relationally. St John’s has over 500 members (very unusual in the CofE). It has significant property and other assets. Melvin has been instrumental in God growing that church through conversions over 17 years, sending many former atheists into ministry and missionary work. So his congregation had great cause for sadness at his announcement.

But there has come to them a deep and righteous joy. This joy has led them to leave also! And this terrible ejection of godly ministers and people has led to more people coming to faith in the Lord. God clothed his ministers with righteousness and made his chosen people joyful.

We are all joyful at the prospect of Jason and his family joining us in mid-January. My prayer, and I trust it is yours as well, is that God will continue to clothe Jason with the gospel and life of righteousness and that no matter what we experience together God’s chosen people will continue to be made joyful.

Are we back yet?

Elsewhere in this News you will find details about our 10am and 6pm services beginning to meet face to face again. Can I remind you that for various reasons listed church will feel very different? We will need extra patience with one another and the restrictions. We will need to keep looking out for one another and not judging one another for coming or not coming. Please thank our staff and helpers for all they are doing to make the start on November 15 as hassle-free as possible and pray that each gathering will demonstrate that we belong to the Lord Jesus.

Mothers’ Union.

As you know, St Andrew’s is one of only two churches in the Diocese of Sydney to receive a grant running for two years to fund a new ministry to kids and to women in its area. The funding is by the Mothers’ Union, whose members will pray daily for these ministries and trust that a very effective partnership will be developed. Pray for Jason and his team as the advertising and selection process for a worker begins. Pray that this seeding money will be wisely used to help bring the gospel to many. If you know little about Mothers’ Union, check out their recently launched new website at https://www.musydney.org.au/  You will be encouraged and surprised.

Till next week,

With grace and peace,

Deryck
Acting Senior Minister

Weekly Letter – 5th October, 2020

Dear sisters and brothers,

“Preach it, brother, preach it!”

Eleanor died of a stroke last Friday. Even in her eighties she was an unforgettable character. She and her husband met in 5th grade at school and through their local church. Brought up in a Christian home she never knew a time when she didn’t know Jesus loved her. With four children she and her husband lived in Kenya, the UK and Hong Kong with him working for the Bible Society. Everywhere they lived, even in “retirement” Eleanor sought out women to disciple and mentor. She did so individually and through small group leadership. Only the Final Day will reveal the impact of her regular phone calls with people in present and past churches, her hospitality, her thoughtful encouragement of preachers, her gospel-focussed life, her generosity and her love, especially for the struggling. She could talk easily with children, teenagers, young men and women, older men and women, people from other cultures and backgrounds, with the titled and with those who were homeless and destitute. She loved talking about Jesus. And she loved hearing about Jesus. Her favourite comment? “Preach it, brother, preach it!”

Eleanor exemplified the older Christian in a marvellous way. Which leads me to mention some of St Peter’s, St Andrew’s and Macarthur the Indigenous Church’s older Christians. It’s so encouraging to hear of our older (NB: I did NOT say, “elderly”!) believers caring for one another. COVID has brought all kinds of changes which have meant the loss of much fellowship with others. Yet numbers of our Indigenous members’ fellowship regularly around the word and singing; last week quite a number of our over 55’s got together for a fun time at the Palmers’ home. They plan to do this regularly. The Wednesday morning Growth Group is up and running again. I hear of people excited to be growing and helping others grow in their love for the Lord Jesus Christ and his word. While we are still not back to meeting face to face yet it is so encouraging to hear of older believers pressing on in loving service of others and the Lord.

COVID-19 SAFETY
While we are so looking forward to joining together again for fellowship and re-connecting in person, you will know that we need to do this safely and legally. We are, as you know, planning for some limited return to this from November 15.
At the risk of repeating myself, I remind you that meeting together will look very different to how it was back in February for our 10am and 6pm services. (At this stage we have no plans for 8am to return, but we are working on devising some). The church hall, where we have to meet, will be set out differently; there will be no congregational singing or the sharing of bibles and there are some conditions regarding entry. There can be no mingling before or afterwards, nor morning tea or supper.

 Please remember this is all in place out of love for one another and in obedience to Government regulations, helping to ensure the health and safety of everyone returning to church.
We have registered our parish as COVID-19 Safe with the Government and we have COVID-19 Safety Plans which are constantly being reviewed and updated.
Whether you are joining us for a service or visiting the church during the week, please make sure you are abiding by our conditions of entry.

CONDITIONS OF ENTRY:
Those who choose to attend church in person will need to follow our church’s COVID-19 Safety Plan, which includes booking ahead of Sunday to indicate your intention to attend a service. It is highly likely we will be unable to run a kid’s program alongside church, though we continue to talk and pray about this.

So, what will need to happen?

· All site visitors must check-in upon arrival
· Please sanitise your hands as you enter the building (hand sanitiser will be provided) and/or wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds
· Please maintain physical distancing of 1.5m at all times
· Chairs are set out in accordance with social distancing requirements, please do not move your chair to be closer to others.
· Disinfectant wipes are provided on-site. Please use them to wipe down any hard surfaces that you touch
· There will be no sharing of bibles or news sheets
· Wearing of a mask is not required, but is highly recommended

Additionally, please do not visit the buildings:
· If you have travelled to Victoria in the past two weeks
· If you have travelled overseas in the past month
· If you have been at a COVID hotspot (as outlined by the NSW Health Public Health Orders and Restrictions)
· If you are experiencing a fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or feeling generally unwell
· If you develop symptoms or start feeling sick while at Church please leave the premises immediately and inform a staff member.

That’s a lot! Of course, we will continue to livestream our 10am and 6pm services and to screen the pre-recorded 8am service each week. Provision for a kid’s program online will continue.

Churches all over the world are having to find ways to fellowship and to proclaim the gospel to a needy world. My friend Eleanor and her husband had set themselves to invite neighbours and friends over for tea or coffee on a Sunday morning to watch either their own church’s livestream service or the one broadcast each week from St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney. They didn’t always have their invitation accepted, of course. But it was their relaxed Jesus-centred determination to use the pandemic time profitably for the gospel which is such a great example and encouragement.

Will we be that kind of example and encouragement to others?

Your brother in our risen Lord,

Deryck
Acting Senior Minister