New life in Christ

New life in Christ - The foundation of our hope and trust

The Chinese congregation was joyfully expectant as baby Angus was baptised, his father confirmed and eight people reaffirmed their commitment to Christ.

As Christ is our wellspring of life through the Holy Spirit, so we celebrated new life in Christ at the Wellspring Anglican Chinese Congregation in Hobart!

Baptism is a celebration of Life.

Baptism with water signifies the cleansing from sin that Jesus’ death makes possible and the new life that God gives us through the Holy Spirit.

We declared this life affirming proclamation at the commencement of the Baptism Service in Mandarin, Hakka and English! These words affirm our commitment to life twice over: life through our parents and life through the Holy Spirit.

New life is joy filled and often accompanied through pain of birth. Life involves this chaotic intermingling of joy and pain. Why this note of sorrow? Well, life is chaotic and in prior weeks I have been involved with the sudden death of a much respected and loved Rector of the Parish of Deloraine, Revd Bill Knuckey, and time with his grieving family and parish, and a few weeks earlier the unexpected resignation of the Rector of Devonport.

In the midst of this sorrow the loving care of the parishes was amply evident, their heart for the grieving realised in practical compassion.

As affirmed so powerfully at the Service of Thanksgiving for Bill Knuckey,

I have this hope that because Jesus is the resurrection and the life because you (Bill) believed in him, you will never die, but sing praises of Jesus in heavenly places, which will be wonderful.

What is the foundation of our hope and trust in new life?

The foundation is a Person. The foundation is the One who said,

I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. John 11:25,26

Jesus finishes with the most important question every person will answer: Do you believe this?

At the funeral of a Christian we declared, Yes, we believe!

At the Chinese congregation, in Mandarin, Hakka and English, we declared, Yes, we believe!

On Resurrection Sunday, in languages all around the world, the minister declares, Christ is risen! and we respond with shouts of joy, He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Yes, I believe!

Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

New life in Christ is for living. Enjoy!

Shalom,

+ John
Bishop of Tasmania

See article, New Life in Christ: http://www.tasmaniananglican.com/ta201404-01/

More articles in the April issue of our Tasmanian Anglican magazine: http://www.tasmaniananglican.com/ta201404-00/

Easter: Prof Ian Harper, Australian Financial Review

Professor Ian Harper was invited to submit an Easter message for the Easter Weekend Edition of the Australian Financial Review. Please pray that this message strikes a chord in the hearts God has prepared to receive this message.

An Easter Reflection…

There’s nothing like the death of a close friend to remind you of what really matters.  Last week, on successive days, I attended the funerals of an old friend and a young colleague, and gave the eulogy at one of them.  Death seems so final; such a full stop at the end of life’s sentence.

I’m always struck by what people say at funerals.  They remember the person they knew far more than the things they did.  Seldom do they say anything about what the person owned and never how much money they made, although possibly how much of it they gave away.

What people value is the quality of their relationships with the person who died.  After all, this is what they’ll miss.  Some of the deceased’s achievements will last and the wealth they accumulated will be shared around but the ability to relate―the catch-up over coffee, the unexpected phone call, the shared laughter, the hugs and kisses―this is what disappears and leaves those of us left behind feeling abandoned.

When my mother died, my father said it was like someone had torn off his right arm.  “You could still feel it but each time you looked there was nothing there.”

At Easter, Christians reflect on a very significant death.  It was untimely―Jesus of Nazareth was only 33 years old when he died, young even by the standards of the day.  It was violent―death by crucifixion was the cruellest method of execution reserved for the most despicable criminals.  And it was unjust―Pontius Pilate caved in to the demands of the mob even though he could find no grounds for sentencing Jesus to death, let alone death on a Roman cross.

Jesus’ death profoundly shocked and confused his disciples.  Didn’t he claim to be the long-awaited Messiah or Christ who would deliver the Jewish people from their oppression at the hands of the Roman Emperor, the latest in a long succession of tyrants to oppress the Jews?  How could such a deliverer be so easily despatched and show no signs of resistance?

If that was all there was to the Easter story, it would have been forgotten long ago.  How many would-be revolutionaries have ended up on the gallows or before the firing squad, never to be heard of again?  The death of Jesus of Nazareth would be just another political assassination, and there would be no Easter and no Christian church to celebrate it for that matter.

Christians remember the death of Jesus because it was like no other death before or since.  It was not a full stop.  The testimony of the gospel writers recorded in the New Testament is that Jesus did not stay dead but came back to life, with a resurrection body that was recognisable to his disciples, including the famously doubting Thomas, but which was also ethereal and could disappear from view.  After some time meeting and eating with his disciples, the Bible records that Jesus ascended into heaven to be with God the Father, where he lives still and from whence he will one day return to inaugurate the renewal of all creation.

The reason Christians celebrate Easter is not to remember the unjust execution of the founder of their faith but because, miraculously, this was not the end of his story.  The dramatic reversal of events that all human experience before and since associates with finality and irreversibility is the basis of one of Christianity’s most essential qualities―hope.  For Christians, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead affirms that nothing is beyond the redeeming grace of God and that death itself is not the final denouement it appears to be.

If death can be defeated, then nothing can separate us from God’s redeeming love, as St Paul writes in his New Testament letter to the Roman Christians.  But, by the same token, as Paul writes in another letter, if Jesus was not raised from the dead after all, then the Christian faith is “worthless” and Christians are to be pitied above all people.

You don’t need to be a believing Christian to be buoyed by the message of hope that Christians see in the events of the first Easter.  The chocolate eggs and bunny rabbits that fill supermarket shelves and department store displays at this time of year may seem tacky to the faithful but they symbolise the essentially life-affirming message of Easter.

We are surrounded by death every day; not just literal death but the figurative death of projects, businesses, and plans we might have for the future.  Things are always dying but the Easter message is that this is not the end of the story.  In the midst of death and decay there is new life (eggs) and life in abundance (rabbits).  And this is not just about life after death―the ‘pie in the sky when you die’ view of Christian hope.  Of course, this is a very real part of the Easter story.  But Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life and life in abundance.”  This refers to the here and now.  The abundant life we are promised is not one rich in material goods―that may or may not be our lot―but a life rich in hope and love.

The lives I helped to celebrate at the funerals I attended last week were both marked by hope and love.  Speaker after speaker affirmed the hope for better things, especially in the lives of others including children, that drove both people to give so much of themselves during their lifetime, and also affirmed the love they gave and received along the way.  The fruit of hope and love―human relationships―this is what people remembered as they looked back on lives well lived.

The simple message of Easter is that redemption is always at hand.  As desperate as things may seem, life bursts forth in the most unexpected way.  And the life we celebrate is marked by the love we share with one another in human relationships.

Happy Easter!

Easter: The victory of hope

“I feel weak and angry.  It seems hopeless”.

A young woman speaking during the candle-light vigil held after the tragic death of Reza Barati on Manus Island.  She said what so many of us feel when faced with an injustice.  We ask, “Can anything be done?”

We can channel our outrage, for sure.  We can muster our strength as best we can.  But I want to express more than that.  I cannot be content with simply “I hope it will get better.  I hope justice will come.”  But hope demands more, much more. Hope demands a solid basis.  

In Jesus Christ, in his death and resurrection, we have so much more: we have the victory of hope.

Jesus faced the depths of human cruelty and injustice.  He plunged those depths for love, losing his life.  But it was not in vain.  On the third day he was raised to life.

Easter celebrates and refreshes my faith in Christ’s victory over death and evil.  His victory is not just a victory for which I hope – it is a victory which gives me hope: a personal hope. 

It is a great comfort to know that there is victory over death. Therefore we can live with the complexities and cruelties of life in the sure hope of eternal life.

Christ’s resurrection gives me a motivating hope in the present.  It stimulates generosity and compassion and forgiveness.  How can it not do so when it sheds an eternal perspective on the petty winds and waves of our society?

Christ’s resurrection gives me a hope for the future.  Ultimately I look towards the return of the risen Jesus who will bring justice and restore life in its fullness.

Because of Jesus, I can do more than just say, “I hope our work will bear fruit”. Rather, I say, “I have hope; therefore I work for life in its fullness.”

I exclaim with the Apostle Peter, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”.

At Easter: 1000 Children in Detention!

MEDIA RELEASE    11 April 2014

Australia’s Anglican Archbishops express ‘profound disquiet’ about children held in detention this Easter

 The Anglican Archbishops in Australia will commence Holy Week with a call for more humane treatment of refugees, particularly children in detention.

 The Archbishops have released the following statement deploring the fact that recent figures suggest that around a thousand children will spend Easter in Australian sponsored detention.

 “As leaders of the Anglican Church of Australia we wish to put on record our profound disquiet that at the end of February this year there were more than 950 children in detention facilities and alternative places of detention in Australia, and a further 177 children in offshore detention in Nauru.  The average time people spend in detention is more than eight months.

 “While our Federal Government has been drawing attention to the number of days without boat arrivals, this is another set of numbers that needs close scrutiny.  These children are innocent victims of tragic circumstances.  To use the words of the UN Charter on the rights of the child, detention of children should be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate time.

 “As church leaders, we are not seeking to express a party political opinion on this matter.  Within our Church there is grave disquiet about the asylum seeker policies of both major parties.

 “It is our view that those who flee from desperate circumstances by boat should not be punished by prolonged detention whether in Australia, Nauru or Manus Island. They are not the people smugglers. They are people made in the image of God, who deserve respect from all Australians, but especially our Government and its agencies.  They come to Australia out of desperation, fleeing religious, ethnic or economic persecution. They seek asylum under the Refugee Convention that as a nation we have signed. Many will be found to be refugees, as the Government’s own statistics demonstrate.

 “We call on the Australian Government to ensure that asylum seekers are treated humanely and respectfully by those charged with their care and protection, and that they are attended to in a timely manner.”

The Most Reverend Dr Phillip Aspinall,  Primate and Metropolitan of Queensland

 The Most Reverend Dr Glenn Davies,  Metropolitan of New South Wales

 The Most Reverend Dr Jeffrey Driver,  Metropolitan of South Australia

 The Most Reverend Dr Philip Freier,  Metropolitan of Victoria

 The Right Reverend John Harrower OAM,  Bishop of Tasmania

 The Most Reverend Roger Herft AM,  Metropolitan of Western Australia

For further queries or requests contact Archbishop Driver’s Media Advisor on 0414972537 or E: kmclachlan@adelaide.anglican.com.au.

Six things a child needs

This Blog post is from an article written by James Oakley (six things a child needs from her Christian Parents). Thank you James for allowing me to publish your wonderful work.

Dear Mum and Dad,

How are you? I’m fine, thanks.

Well, enough small talk. You know I get to write a birthday wish list each year (even though you won’t get me everything – jetskis ARE getting cheaper, you know!) Well, I wanted to write a heaven wish list – you know, what I want you to do to help me know who Jesus is, and to trust him so I can go to heaven. I know you think the children’s minister is awesome, and that he will do the job just fine, but I want YOU to help me more than ANYTHING!!.

Well, here goes.

1. Show me what love means. I hear it ALL the time – ‘God so loved the world …’, love this… , love that…  blah blah blah. What does that even mean? Kids at school talk about love, and it just doesn’t make sense.

You’re always trying to get me to like you – is that because you love me? Do you love me when I’m in time out? What about when you’re explaining what I did wrong? (But you do know that WASN’T me, it was my brother!) And when I yelled at you that I hate you – did you love me then?

How will I know what God’s love is? From seeing your love?

2. You should say you’re sorry. I’m not dumb, you know. I’ve known ever since I was six (which is, like, FOREVER!) that you get things wrong too. So please don’t pretend you’re perfect. Tell me when you’re wrong, and say sorry. It will help me to say sorry too. And I love you and respect you more when you’re open with me. That would be cool.

And that time you yelled at me, and then said sorry to me AND to God was, like, WOW! I could see that you meant it. You showed me how to say sorry to God too.

3. Tell me stories. I LOVE it when you tell me stories. I love made-up stories, but I love the true ones even better. I love hearing about you when you were little (well, mostly when you got in trouble. Those stories are FUNNY!) I love when you say how you met. I love stories from the Bible , and I REALLY love hearing about Jesus. Stories are how I find out who you are, how the world works, who Jesus is, how I fit in.

4. You have to take me seriously. I know I ask a LOT of questions but I really like it when you take my questions seriously. I know they sometimes seem silly  – like ‘did Jesus go to Macca’s?’). And I know that I sometimes say things that are hard  – like ‘Sometimes it’s hard to know if God’s real.’) But it’s really great when you don’t laugh and don’t make me feel like I’m being silly. I’m glad I can ask and say things and you still love me.

5. I need you to show me how to follow Jesus. I’m always watching. I’m not dumb  – I see how you spend your time. I can work out what matters to you. Let me see you following Jesus – reading the bible, praying, helping people.

6. Help me to see who I really am. I want to know the truth about the world and about me. I know I’m not an angel or a princess, but I’m not hopeless either. I’m all these things at different times. Please help me learn how it all fits together.

I think that’s about it, Mum and Dad.

Good luck.

From your favourite daughter.  XXX

PS. I’m sure a jetski will help me get to heaven faster. PleasePleasePlease!!

This article can be viewed in the latest edition of the Tasmanian Anglican magazine. Available here:  http://www.tasmaniananglican.com/ta201404-00/

A prayer for our Children and Youth

I was sent this email recently from our Director of Youth Ministry.  With his permission I would like to share it with you.

I am convicted that if we want to see change in our churches in Tasmania we need to be people of prayer. The Bible encourages us to pray, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “pray continually”.

When I preached a series on prayer, in my reading I saw this quote that rebuked my prayer life.

‘If we were really convinced that prayer changes the way God acts, and that God does bring about remarkable changes in the world in response to prayer, as Scripture repeatedly teaches that he does, then we would pray much more than we do. If we pray little, it is probably because we do not really believe that prayer accomplishes much at all.’

Please join with me and pray for the Children and Youth of this state;

Awesome God, Thank you that we can come to you in prayer and that you hear our prayers. We pray for the children and youth of Tasmania.Thank you for the young people you have given us to grow as disciples. We pray for the young people who don’t know you. Please reach into their lives and bring them into a right relationship with you through your son Jesus and help us to be your instruments to do this in our community.Give us hearts to see young people saved. Help us to be people who love prayer. In the name of Jesus. Amen

James Veltmeyer (Director of Children’s and Youth Ministry)

james.veltmeyer@anglicantas.org.au

The Synoptic Qur’ans

Guest blogger Samuel Green has researched and written many articles which have come from his desire to understand Islam and from the many questions that Muslims have raised with him or he has heard Islamic leaders comment on.  His desire is that we all try and work through our differences and agree on God’s will. Here is an extract from his February Newsletter (permission granted).

I would like to talk to you about a new way I have been talking to Christians and Muslims about the Qur’an.

When Christians and Muslims talk it is important to have some similar concepts so that we can appreciate what each other is saying.  I think such a concept is that of the synoptic Qur’ans.  This helps Christians to understand better the nature of the Qur’an and it helps Muslims to understand the nature of the New Testament.

So what do I mean when I talk about the synoptic Qur’ans?

Muhammad never made a collection of the Qur’an; it was his companions who did this and he allowed variation in the way they did it.

Muhammad’s companions made their collections from their own material and a variety of other sources.  These Qur’ans were highly similar yet different.  Some had 111 chapters, others 116.  The chapters were arranged differently and there were differences in the verses themselves.

These different Qur’ans were consistent but each had its own unique character.  In the early history of Islam there were synoptic Qur’ans.

However it was decided that only one of these Qur’ans would be preserved and the others were destroyed and so Islam has one Qur’an today.  It is as if the church got rid of Mark, Luke and John and kept Matthew.

This action of the early Muslims may have made Islam simpler, there is only one Qur’an, but it has made it all the poorer.  Not preserving all these other authentic synoptic Qur’ans removed the testimony of significant companions and how they understood the content and presentation of the Qur’an.  Again, imagine how much poorer Christianity would be if it had only preserved the Gospel according to Matthew?

Also, the more evidence you destroy the less confident you can be.  Removing the testimony of the other authentic synoptic Qur’ans means we have less material to work with and this can only led to less confidence.

Finally, Muslims have said to me, “There were 30 Gospels and Christians only kept four.  What about the others?”   The early Christians had good reasons for keeping the Gospels they did; these were the authentic Gospels, but this question can equally be asked of the Muslims.  There are over a dozen different Qur’ans from which only one was selected; what about the others?  But the situation is actually worse for Islam.  Christians preserved what was authentic, four Gospels, while Muslims destroyed what was authentic and just kept one version of the Qur’an.

Speaking about the Qur’an in these synoptic categories is advantageous because it is an accurate descripts of what happened and it also provides categories to help Christians and Muslims understand better the nature of their scriptures.

A fuller version is available at: http://www.answeringmuslims.com/2014/01/jesus-gospels-and-synoptic-qurans.html

Your brother in Christ, Samuel Green

More information on Samuel’s work is available at: http://www.answering-islam.org/Green/

Humanity

I recently read this letter to the editor In the Mercury newspaper.  It may convey how many of us felt as we farewelled Reza Barati at his memorial service recently.

“I went to a memorial service at St David’s Cathedral for a young man I didn’t know. Reza Barati died recently on Manus Island.  The service was hosted by the Anglican Church and the local Kelisa Christian congregation.  It was sad but not without laughter and hope.  Among the prayers was one for Immigration and Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison and Michaelia Cash, Assistant Minister.During an inspiring service I learned a bit about a young man who didn’t get the chance to live his potential.  I learned where he came from and was introduced to his family in Iran.  Reza loved the gym, was helpful and courteous.  He liked Facebook and to read. He dreamt of enrolling in an architecture course in Melbourne, the city of his dreams.  I found out too he was about the same age as my youngest child, that he had a friendly face and was considered a gentle giant”.

(Permission given to publish)

See also, Memorial Service for Reza Berati. http://imaginarydiocese.org/bishopjohn/2014/02/28/memorial-service-for-reza-berati/

Tasmanian Anglican Articles – February 2014

The February edition of Tasmanian Anglican is now in circulation.  I encourage you to read some of the articles included in this latest edition.

In this issue

 

 

Take up and read!

Our foundation for understanding God. ‘Let’s open our iPads at Nehemiah chapter 1.’ 

CMS SummerView Mission Conference was underway and our Bible Study leader wanted us to have our Bibles open. Participants flipped open their iPads to touch a screen or flipped open a book to touch paper pages.

Reading by touch screen or paper is a personal preference, the discussion of which can lead to much good-natured banter.

Of course, it matters not which is your preferred reading style. The issue is to read: to read the Bible.

Why? Why do you read the Bible?

Take a moment to reflect and note down the immediate thoughts that pop into your head.

Well, what have you noted? I wrote down three reasons: the Bible guides me, nurtures my life and inspires me!

We are all different and the reasons that quickly come to mind may be very different.

Whatever the reasons may be, followers of Jesus are to follow his example and be soaked in Scripture.

Do you remember how Jesus responded when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness? Yes! Jesus quoted Scripture.

The Scriptures were part and parcel of Jesus’ life. They guided and guarded him. If this is true for our Lord, how much more true it is for us, his followers?

During a former season of my life as a university chaplain in Argentina we wanted a logo for our mission. We were called the Argentine University Bible Association. It was clear that the Bible would appear somewhere! The result, after much scribbling, crossing out, discussion and prayer, was a sketch of two people facing each other in conversation, with a cross in the centre of their conversation, and standing on an open Bible.

We thought that this was pretty good, and still do. It continues to symbolise the call of university mission in Argentina today.

The Bible, open and active, is vitally used to proclaim Christ who is the way, the truth and the life.

The Bible is our foundation for understanding God and God’s world and our participation in it. Praise the Lord!

Gayelene and I visited a Christian bookstore at the beginning of this year and bought two copies of the same Bible reading devotional in order that we can encourage one another as we read the Bible.

How do you find encouragement to read the Bible? I have a reading buddy! ??And you?

God bless your Bible reading in 2014!

Shalom,

+ John
Bishop of Tasmania

This was published in the February edition of TasAnglican magazine.  Click here for the link to TasAnglican