No conflict: Christianity and Science

Chris Mulherin, who is the Executive Project Officer for ISCAST.org http://iscast.org/about (Christians in Science), spoke at the CMS Victoria Summer Under the Sun conference in January on “why there is no conflict between Science and Christian faith”.

I have copied part of his talk below, but you can find the full article here.

In the early 21st century, Christians find themselves in a profoundly important cultural space as they defend the credibility of their faith. It is an increasingly global and secular scientific culture the cutting edge of Christian engagement is the conversation between science and Christian faith. It’s good that Christians preach the Bible faithfully (my first love) but while the Bible contains all things necessary for salvation it doesn’t give people the tools to deal with the cultural forces that want to write off Christian faith as fundamentalist, unscientific nonsense.

Globalisation and the spread of techno-scientific thinking are advancing a secular scientific worldview to all corners of the earth. This view, most aggressively championed by the so-called New Atheists, challenges all non-scientific thinking.

Today the right to be heard depends partly on getting along with mainstream science, and, in a sense, that is as it should be. But that means that the credibility of Christianity depends on the way people view its relationship with science.  And if people are convinced that there is a fundamental conflict then there are no prizes for guessing which side most will vote on.

In the minds of believers and unbelievers, a lack of integration between science and faith can be one of the destructive forces working against Christian belief.  We need to prepare people to talk with non-believers for whom science is the model of truth and knowledge.

So, in the face of this changing balance of cultural forces, and views about what is credible and what should be relegated to in-credibility, what are the options open to Christians?

One option is to give up: it is to allow secular norms to dictate the nature and boundaries of truth. This path would accept that science and faith are in conflict and that faith can make no serious truth claims.

A second option is to beat a retreat to the Christian ghetto, boldly asserting a naïve biblical literalism and seeing much of science as deluded and as the enemy of faith.

But there is another option: a way that has been the orthodox manner of engagement since the beginning of the Christian era.

It is to follow the path trodden by the great Christian scientists and thinkers of history and to thoroughly affirm that all truth is God’s truth. It is to affirm the two books of God – the book of his Word and the book of his works.  It is to affirm that science and Christianity are complementary: they answer different types of questions, look for truth in different areas, and neither can claim a total grasp on knowledge.

The time for simplistic belief and unbelief is over.  Fundamentalists of both faith and non-faith varieties must give up their ground to an understanding that keeps science in its rightful place, as servant of a broader worldview – Christianity in its fullness – which offers the framework out of which modern science arose.

There is no conflict between science and Christianity.  In the words of Galileo, “The Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”

See also, Conference: Science and Christianity 2011  and  Science and Faith

An Eulogy for The Revd Gordon Hargreaves

The Reverend Gordon Hargreaves was my brother in Christ, friend and colleague in ministry and in mission, while we were both serving in Glen Waverley over the eleven years 1989-2000. I was asked to give a ‘Colleague in Ministry’s’ Eulogy for his Funeral Service today at Rowville & Ferntree Gully Anglican Church. I would like to share it with you.

Initially, Gordon and I served as vicars of our respective parishes, St Andrew’s and St Paul’s Glen Waverley .When our parishes, along with St James’ Syndal, were amalgamated into St Barnabas, Glen Waverley Anglican Church (GWAC), we ministered together for 5 years, Gordon serving as my deputy.

That Gordon willingly became deputy to a man who was his junior, both in age and experience, speaks of Gordon’s character. Like his Lord, Gordon did not grasp at his due status, his seniority, or count himself above others. Moreover, where his role as vicar of St Andrew’s gave him security of employment, the deputy role in the amalgamated parish did not carry job security. Gordon unhesitatingly put security and status aside in order to serve God’s people where God had called him.

It is indeed fitting that Gordon should die on Good Friday, when we recall our Lord’s death for us: “Christ Jesus who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant … he humbled himself and became obedient unto death – even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-9)

We all benefited from Gordon’s humility. Gordon’s self-effacing service allowed all of us to play to our strengths. Gordon allowed me, and all the members of this new church team, to flourish.

I could not have asked for a better partner in leadership, given the complexity of merging three parishes in tandem with a major $3 million building program.

Gordon’s eye for detail was legendary. When, standing on the site where the new church was to be built, Esther Cox enquired, “Where is the front of the church?” Gordon explained the building layout. Esther continued, “Where are the front pews going to be?” Gordon carefully indicated, whereupon Esther carefully placed her picnic chair and declared, “This is where I’ll sit!” Gordon thought it was marvellous. I don’t know how many times I heard him tell that story. It told as much about him as it did about dear Esther!

Gordon had an eye for detail and a heart for people. The worship service sheets noted in brackets the time allocated for each section. Why was this detail important to Gordon? It was important because he had a high view of the pastoral and liturgical duties that he had taken on. The scheduling skills he had applied in his engineering days were applied to bring out the best in our time of gathering for worship.

Do you know Gordon’s nickname? Yes, it was ‘Abe Lincoln’! You can picture him, can’t you? Tall, slim of frame, slightly stooped, bearded. All Gordon needed was a stove pipe hat! Like Abraham Lincoln, Gordon was a leader, a man of vision, of dedication, of carefully chosen words―of the people and for the people.

Gordon had a sense of occasion but did not stand on occasion. He was understated, softly spoken, not theatrical. When things got tough, Gordon held his composure. He was a dignified man. Not for him stifling formality or rigidity, but rather dignity. He respected the traditions and ways of other people. Hence he robed for the 8am Worship Service.

Gordon had an engineer’s eye for process and precision, which identified needed improvements in our performance. Interestingly, his desire to keep good relationships with people led at times to indirect ways of saying things. In our own relationship, he was always loyal but in private he never held back. I benefited from his incisive observations and wise counsel. Some of these conversations were held at Macca’s Glen Waverley at midnight, when we were free of our parish work and the additional work created by the amalgamation. They were special times in our friendship.

Gordon was a pastor. One parishioner observed, “Gordon was always just quietly there: caring, not interfering, interested in people.” Another recalled her family’s distress at losing contact with a teenager, and Gordon “sitting with the family, quietly, gently – a compassionate presence.”

Gordon was thoroughly Christian in his love for and trust in God. This was transparent in his prayers. A parishioner commented, “Gordon was a great one for praying. He would say, ‘keep you prayers simple. Don’t waffle on! Just a couple of points and keep it focussed.’”

Gordon was a great one for jokes. He had a dry wit and had an innate capacity to link a sermon to a recently heard joke. The link was at times tenuous (to say the least) but at other times was quite clear. At a wedding, Gordon recounted how in the Garden of Eden, Adam was talking to God and complained that he was very lonely. God asked what he would like and Adam said, “Someone who was beautiful, highly intelligent, compassionate and a good cook.” When God replied that such a request would cost an arm and a leg, Adam asked, “What can I get for a rib, then?” – I can only say that we men admired Gordon for his courage in publically telling that particular joke!

Speaking of married life, we cannot speak of Gordon without speaking of Gordon and Ann! Their married life was one based on love: their love for each other and for God, and God’s love for them. Gordon never tired of telling me of Ann’s care for him and their children, Elizabeth and Brad. I thank God for Gordon’s unabashed love for his bride. I thank God for Ann’s unabashed love in her care for Gordon, especially over these past eighteen months. Truly her wedding vow “to have and to hold … in sickness and in health … till death do us part” was lovingly kept. Thank you, Ann, from all of us for what you did for Gordon ― and the loving example it is to us all.

Ann and Gordon had a shared calling to serve God through bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to men and women and boys and girls. They served in Parishes in Ferntree Gully, Healesville and Glen Waverley (Victoria) and in Paraburdoo (Western Australia) as Bush Church Aid (BCA) Missioners. Their commitment and creativity shone forth in their myriad ministries.

Creativity was part and parcel of their shared ministry. I vividly recall one Good Friday morning being startled by a large procession carrying three large crosses to the top of the amphitheatre behind the church building. I asked Gordon, “What’s going on?” He languidly relied, “It’s Good Friday morning and we’re getting the crosses ready, up on a hill far away.” You had to love the guy!

On our last visit with Gordon and Ann, I asked Gordon what he would like us to pray for him. He replied, “A good ending.”

After the completion and opening of the Glen Waverley Anglican Church (GWAC) building, Gordon was interviewed [Church Scene, December 5, 1997, page 5] and said,

“At the end we were weary perhaps, but also deeply grateful to God for his amazing goodness in so many ways.”

Dear family and friends gathered here today, I suggest that,

At the end Gordon was weary, but also deeply grateful to God for his amazing goodness in so many ways.

Moreover, today,

We may be weary, but also deeply grateful to God for his amazing goodness in so many ways, in and through the life and ministry of a good, godly and loving man: Gordon Hargreaves.

Today, we thank God, and Gordon, we thank you, dear brother.

For a PDF version, please select the following link: Eulogy Revd Gordon Hargreaves

Easter Message: Oh My Lord Jesus

ya Rabbi Yesua, “O, my Lord Jesus” were the last words spoken by an Egyptian Christian before he was beheaded two months ago in Libya.

The Islamic State (ISIS) voice over on the video recording of this beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians triumphed, “recently you have seen us … chopping off the heads that have been carrying the cross delusion”.

For the murdered Christians, however, “The cross delusion” was rather “The cross certainty”!

Indeed, the brother of two of the murdered Christians thanked their killers for including the men’s declaration of faith in the video as this demonstrated that they were “a badge of honour to Christianity”.

This brother, when asked what he would say if he were asked to forgive ISIS, related what his mother said she would do if she saw one of the men who killed her son.

“My mother, an uneducated woman in her sixties, said she would ask [him] to enter her house and ask God to open his eyes because he was the reason her son entered the kingdom of heaven.”

Invited to pray for his brothers’ killers, he prayed: “Dear God, please open their eyes to be saved and to quit their ignorance and the wrong teachings they were taught.”

From where does this mercy, this power to forgive, come? Surely from – “O, my Lord Jesus!”

Mercy and judgement meet in the cross of Christ.

God’s judgement is due because humanity was in rebellion against The One from whom humanity comes.

And God’s mercy is dramatically demonstrated by His taking upon Himself the judgement due to humanity because “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

The cross declares God’s, “You are forgiven, Come on home!” The cross is the certainty of God’s power to forgive, to bring reconciliation.

In the words of Jesus concerning His persecutors, “Father, forgive them”.

Likewise, the cross of Christ is our certainty of eternal meaning, hope, mercy and life.

May the example of the Egyptian Christians, living and dead inspire our works and words of mercy and forgiveness – “O, my Lord Jesus!”.

You can view the video here.

Easter TV Media message

Easter is about life – life in Jesus Christ.
Easter eggs symbolise new life.
From an egg, new life comes.
Easter eggs remind us of the new life that Jesus brings.
Jesus brings life.
Jesus’ story does not end with his death.
Jesus rose from death to life.
Easter is a celebration of new life in Christ.
Enjoy your Easter egg and remember that it celebrates the new life that Jesus brings.

The Lord’s Prayer is the Disciples’ Prayer

I was reminded recently, via Facebook (where else!) that some sons know their fathers quite well. In the following I have deleted names to protect the innocent!

Son walks into the garage and tells his father the date proposed by his fiancée and himself for their forthcoming wedding. Father replies, ‘Bathurst (car racing) isn’t that weekend, is it?’

Son, ‘Good one, Dad!’

I smiled as I imagined the sigh from the son and expressions on their faces. Such is the stuff of a warm father and son relationship!

There is one Father and Son relationship that has existed from eternity. In this eternal relationship the Father and the Son know each other intimately. How precious the Father’s heart that speaks at Jesus’ baptism, ‘this is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.’ (Matthew 3:17)

When the Son is asked by His disciples how they should pray/speak to the Father, we can be sure that the Son knows exactly how they should address God: ‘Our Father who is in heaven . . . ’

How astounding that the Son includes the disciples as members of the family of God!

Jesus’ teaching through this prayer is radical with far-reaching ramifications: radical in its prayerful intimacy addressed to the Transcendent Creator, Sustainer and Judge of the entire world; far reaching in its scope of ‘your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’.

Significantly the Son, Jesus, knew He was leaving the disciples with a job to do and their preparation included Jesus’ answer to, ‘How do we pray?’.

Jesus replied with the Lord’s Prayer – which both Matthew and Luke place in the context of Jesus teaching his disciples.

In some ways, the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ could also be called the ‘Disciples’ Prayer’ as it was to be prayed by Jesus’ disciples.

Jesus’ prayer surely reflects His heart for His disciples’ life and ministry. Can we consider the Lord’s Prayer to understand and live more fully our discipleship in the world today? How do the phrases of this prayer help us how to view God and God’s world and to view our discipleship in God’s world: discipleship that will hallow God’s name and serve God’s kingdom purposes?

During this year I will be leading a seminar around Tasmania on Christian discipleship shaped by the Lord’s Prayer. The Seminar, ‘Christian Voices in Public Places’ will be an opportunity to grow our ability to engage with family, friends, work colleagues and community groups about contemporary issues.

Please keep your eyes out for details of the times (Saturdays) and places of the Seminar.

I was struck afresh recently by the early disciples adding a concluding phrase to the words of Jesus. The phrase is a great exclamation of praise: ‘for the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours, forever and ever. Amen.’

The early disciples effectively ‘bookended’ this wonderful prayer with God: from Jesus’ commencement of intimacy, ‘Our Father’, to the disciples’ concluding exclamation of God’s power and glory. Our daily life is to be ‘bookended’ by God.

In this New Year may our days be ‘bookended’ with God!

Shalom

John :-)

Note: This article first appeared in the February 2015 edition of the Tasmanian Anglican.

The Five Faces of Islam

At the CMS Summerview Conference Tasmania this year we had the pleasure of hearing Dr John Azumah speak.  Here are some my notes from one of his talks (my notes are not the responsibility of Dr John Azumah, although any credit is due to him!).

I found this helpful in educating me/us in the task of meeting people ‘where they are’ and not presuming to understand them simply because they are ‘Muslim’ or ‘Christian’ or ‘atheist’.

The idea of different ‘faces’ of Islam prevents the simplicisms of believing and saying “all Muslims are ….” Rather, Muslims are people for us to get to know, seek to understand, with whom to build the common good and to love in Christ.

Islam is diverse → Islams
The Challenge of Islam: Ebrahim Moosan: good and bad Muslims. 1.6 billion Muslims

1. The Missionary Face of Islam
pro Islam and anti-Christians/anti-Jews polemics (in the Qur’an) – this is built into Islam
Note:  Christianity sees itself as post Jewish (and Islam sees it itself as post Christian)
“Dawah” Islamic Mission 7th Century to 19th Century energised by Christian missions and financed by petro dollars/Muslim Governments.
“Missionary Face”– eg. Ahmed Deedat, South Africa

2. The Mystical Face
Bill Musk, “The Unseen Face of Islam” of Quranic Islam in Africa and Asia
Sufism, folk Islam, takes the supernatural seriously, dreams, exorcism, visions
Islamic Spirituality.
Similar to Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity. Experiential. Less influence of Bible/Qur’an among mystics
Mystical Face: Rumi 13th Century, Persian, Shakespeare of the East inspired by Christian mysticism.

3. The Ideological Face (Political Face)
Claims the public place for Islam: Islamic State governed by Sharia Law.
God’s will has to be implemented in God’s earth and Muslims (those who submit to God) are the ones empowered by God to bring in God’s rule.
No “Caesar’s coin” of Jesus’ teaching in Islam. No sharing between Caesar and God because Caesar belongs to God.
Ideological Face: Gumi: “Politics is more important than prayer”

4. The Militant Face
Seeks to achieve political ends through violence and warfare.
ISIS, Boko-Haram, al-Qaeda
Quote Qur’an and Islamic texts and romantised history and take Jihad into their own hands.
They do not follow rules for declaring Jihad e.g. by a Muslim Ruler (Some similarity to Just War theory)
“Militant Face”: reformist rebellions wishing to “purify” Islam, and therefore theocracy essential and democracy must be gotten rid of.
Inspire fear, use conspiracy, lies and propaganda, exploit weak and corrupt state institutions.
95% of victims of Militants are Muslims e.g. Pakistan
Many Muslims become disillusioned by Militant and Ideological Islam.

5. The Progressive Face
Reformers: self-critical, open to other world views.
Struggle for the soul of Islam
“Progressive Face”: Makmud Tahar(?), hung in 1985 for blasphemy.
Critical re-read of Islamic texts/ source books, defends rights of minorities, promotes gender equality.
Reformers quote Calvin, Zwingli (Christian Reformers)
Seen in Turkey, Iran, Sudan, Indonesia, South Africa West

*To listen to Dr John Azumah’s talks and also to hear Archbishop Glenn Davies, please chick here.

A case of mistaken identity!

Once a year, I attend Bishop’s Day at each of the Anglican Schools in Tasmania.  My role to the schools is one of Visitor and part of this role is to support the schools in maintaining their rich Christian and specifically Anglican heritage, ethos and values.

On Ash Wednesday I visited St Michael’s Collegiate School in Hobart where I visited classes in the ELC, Junior, Middle and Senior schools. I also watched a trailer of the Paddington movie and spoke at the Middle and Senior School Chapel service about life being a gift to be either treasured or trashed. I ended my day by meeting with the Principals and Chairs of the three Anglican Schools.

As many of you would know, I love visiting the schools, seeing the children in action and witnessing them being nurtured intellectually, emotionally physically and spiritually.  It was encouraging, inspiring and great fun!

I have to share two comments made to me on the day which made me smile……

“Are you his Father?”, one Kindergarten student asked me, whilst pointing at the Chaplain (a fine man 20 years my junior!).

Then at the Senior School, a staff member congratulated me on the “great news about my daughter”.  But it was not my daughter, it was the Dean of Hobart’s daughter who graduated last year from the School scoring in the top 100 students!  I must say, I was very flattered to be associated with such high intelligence! Now when I look at the beardless Dean, I do wonder at where our similarity lies! :-)

What an honour to be associated with these two fine fellas! Lots of laughter.

My thanks and congratulations to Collegiate and in particular the new Principal Judith Tudball on their outstanding school.

Celebration of Marriage Vows

I was asked recently for a copy of a ‘Celebration of Marriage Vows’ order of service (from my parish days as Vicar of St Paul’s, Glen Waverley, Victoria – a number of years ago!).

Here is a copy for you to view here.

Joy and tears of deep emotion surrounded the couples affirming their vows as the held hands facing each other and repeated the solemn words of their marriage vows. Oh, how deep the love that journeys through the weeks and months and years!

Even after all these years, I can still remember the emotion of the day and the impact that this had on the lives of the couples, their children, grandchildren, parents, members of their bridal party and friends who all took part in this ‘Celebration of Marriage Vows’ service.

As well as the actual service, we all enjoyed the cutting of the cake (by the oldest couple), tables lovingly prepared with afternoon tea for the reception, wedding photos to guess the identity of the couples! I am sure there were other details – it was a terrific celebration!

You might like to organise a service similar to this – a celebration to connect with the history of parishioners, their family and friends, and the wider community.

See also, Men and Women in Marriage and Excellent Marriage

Let’s make ‘Domestic Violence’ an oxymoron!

Domestic violence must become an oxymoron.

A recent newspaper article from a courageous Christian woman highlights the tragedy and suffering of domestic violence.

In my first year as Bishop of Tasmania I reflected on the inadequacy of Christian responses to domestic violence and chose to present some thoughts in a public forum on the Today Seminar on National Stop Violence against Women in Hobart, 26 April 2001. This is the text of my presentation “What does it take….to stop Domestic Violence?”.

Three years later I developed these concerns in an address to a Conference sponsored by Jireh House, a ministry for women and children seeking refuge from abuse.

It seems the issue is worth restating.  Below are excerpts from the Address, A Christian Response to Domestic Violence, given in Hobart, 29 April 2004.

I believe we can learn from some of the mistakes the church worldwide has made in responding to sexual abuse by clergy and domestic violence in the past. Mistakes that led to more children being sexually abused – or in the case of domestic violence, more women and children suffering deep and long lasting damage. (Domestic violence includes physical abuse, psychological and emotional abuse, sexual manipulation and abuse, isolation, economical deprivation and stalking.)

The first response of the church worldwide to allegations of sexual abuse by clergy, was ‘not to hear’, because the belief was ‘that good Christian men, who we knew, could not behave like that.’ So the church’s first response was ‘not to hear’ and its consequence, ‘not to believe.’ We face the same tendency when told of domestic violence.

Once the church did finally believe that this bad behaviour had occurred, the second mistaken response was to treat the abuse as any other one-off moral failure. This underestimates the grip this behaviour has in people’s lives, and the layers and layers of self-deception and control involved. (Isn’t this another parallel to domestic violence?) Thus, in the early days, offenders of child sexual abuse were handled using time honoured Christian strategies for dealing with moral failure. They confessed to their superiors in tears, promised never to do it again, and were sent off on spiritual retreats, etc., had absolution pronounced over them – and leaders felt that the perpetrators had truly repented and reinstated them.

Unfortunately, they were reinstated to positions from which they could abuse others. A few may have stopped, but others re-offended, and more young lives were ruined. What occurred in Boston occurred in too many places. Can we learn from their mistakes? When we reinstate someone, we need to ask, ‘Who are we asking to carry the risk, and pay the price if this doesn’t work, if this goes wrong?’ It is one thing to risk ourselves, but should we ask children to carry that risk?

Can you see the parallels with domestic violence? Are we also in danger in the area of domestic violence of simplistically applying great Christian principles? Of applying them in a way that colludes with the perpetrator about some watered down version of reality? In ways that do not even begin to address the grip that this has in lives, nor challenge them to the hard work of change that must flow from true repentance. We help neither victims nor perpetrators if we do that. Some mistakes Christians have made

1.We have fooled ourselves that domestic violence does not happen in good Christian homes – thus we have failed to hear and failed to believe.

My own experience is that when told of abuse by a man I know, I am inclined to disbelief: how can this be true? He is a Christian; I know him and have even ministered and prayed with him. This discomfort inclines me/us not to hear or believe a victim…

2. We have clutched at simplistic tools.

The discomfort and inadequacy we pastors feel when faced with this issue – our own discomfort, often rushes us into suggesting simplistic solutions to both victims and perpetrators. We often clutch at simplistic answers, because of our own discomfort. We can suggest solutions like ‘forgiving others’ or ‘God can forgive you’ as a way of trying to bring people’s pain to an end: to jam the lid back on the box of suffering….

3.The tools we have given perpetrators have often been inadequate.

If we have challenged the perpetrator, the tools we have given him may well have been inadequate. In practice we have assisted him or her to evade reality or the need to do the deep work of change…

4.The tools we have given victims have also often been simplistic.

We know the power that forgiving another has, so we can advocate forgiveness prematurely as a solution to a victim’s problems….

Conclusion

Our first step is to acknowledge that it can be our own discomfort as pastors that can help us collude with perpetrators into slick solutions, and pronouncing a rapid absolution. We also acknowledge that we need to insist that other professionals be called in, so that like Zacchaeus, the perpetrator gives legs to his sorry, by addressing what will help bring about change.

I can tell you some of the dilemmas. I don’t pretend to know the answers. I am both grateful for the ministry of Jireh House and confident that through today’s Jireh House seminar pastors and church leaders can learn more about our Christian response to domestic violence.

It will help us build a healthy church and a healthy Tasmania.

See also ministry to the Church in the Solomon Islands in 2012 concerning domestic violence. I participated with the team that led the workshops which were sponsored by World Vision.

The Christian community, the Church, must commit to making domestic violence an oxymoron.

Please remember: If you are in an abusive situation:

  • Contact free Domestic Violence support services from State Governments and volunteer groups which offer counselling, legal advice, and a safe place to stay.
  • Walk into your local police station.
  • If you have been assaulted, call 000 immediately.

Jesus loves me!

As the President of The Bush Church Aid Society Australia (BCA), I was invited to submit an editorial for the BCA Autumn Prayer Notes –  and here it is!

Jesus loves me!

I had just announced our song, “Jesus loves me, this I know, and the Bible tells me so”, when a parishioner walked quickly down the aisle, stood in front of me and presented me with a red rose. I accepted the rose with a light heart and a wide grin. Anglican life is rarely dull!

However, the best was yet to come! As I accepted the rose, she asked in a loud voice, “Bishop, do you love Jesus?” To the unexpected question I quickly affirmed, “Yes, I love Jesus!” The congregation was all smiles as I stood there in all my Episcopal glory, holding a red rose.

Expecting the parishioner to return to her pew, I announced our song for a second time. But the woman (who had remained standing in front of me) repeated her question in a booming voice, “Bishop, do you love Jesus?” “Yes”, I replied in a loud voice and again with a wide smile, “I love Jesus!”

Satisfied at last, she then walked back to her pew and turned to face me as I finished announcing for the third time our song, “Jesus loves me, this I know, and the Bible tells me so”.

At this point I confess that I was feeling a little relieved as I was not sure where the previous questions might have led. But just then, she shouted out for the entire world to hear, “Bishop, I love Jesus too!”

Well, you can imagine, the congregation erupted with joy, laughter, clapping and enthusiastically affirmed our forthright Sister. This was an undoubted “God-moment” and the angels in heaven would have danced wildly!

Our celebration of “Jesus loves me!” is central to our great Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter. The joy of the coming of Jesus Christ to a humble stable in Bethlehem, the unjust and cruel death of the Preacher of the Sermon on the Mount, the world changing resurrection and glorious ascension, all sound out “Jesus loves me!”

This is the Good News that we proclaim. And like the Anglican parishioner in Tasmania, we look for the response, “Yes, I love Jesus!”

BCA Missioners and supporters, let us all work and pray for the positive response of every heart to God’s glorious act of love in Christ Jesus.  There is no greater task!

May the Holy Spirit empower and bless our mission.

The Autumn Prayer notes can be found here

You can access The Bush Church Aid Society of Australia website here