To state the obvious today we celebrate our Church anniversary- 164 years of faithful witness within this community.
There are those in our society who would like to see the church gone.
On the 21st December 2018 Abe drove me to the hospital and then we had coffee, as we were close to the church building I asked Abe to stop by, the excuse was that I needed to visit the facilities, the real reason was more complex, I was missing the church, for me this building represented a safe haven and it stands for more than just a meeting place- the second reason was not of my making- there was an encounter that I needed to have, one that left me shaking and somewhat disturbed for a number of days..
I had not long been out of hospital, a week stay ended up in a 31 day marathon; I had an uncomfortable drainage tube in my side and was still struggling with the aftermath of the removal of my spleen. Never the less it was great to get out and the visit to the church was the icing on the cake for me.
As we drove down Coombes lane we saw a hose attached to the tap in the driveway- it went across the road and into a van parked there. This hose was attached to an industrial carpet shampoo machine- A carpet cleaning firm had helped themselves to our water. I went up to the third or fourth floor of the building across the road, there was a woman behind the counter, fortunately for me she recognised who I was; in the office space there was a guy cleaning the carpets. I approached him as asked him if he normally took other people’s water to do his work- I am not too sure as to the exact words I used, I may have strongly suggested that he was stealing-He came back as said: ‘are you calling me a thief?’I asked him the question: ‘whose water is it and did you have permission to run your hose in the tap across the road?’ ‘I don’t need permission, it’s public property ‘– (now you need to realise that not just anyone can use the taps around the church, the fitting requires a key of sorts easily purchased from any hardware store so if you are going to use a tap you need to be armed with this handle) This guy came prepared!
I said that it was not public property and the land belonged to the church, and the church pays it water bill like anyone else.
“So you are calling me a thief”,he said. He was angry and somewhat embarrassed as there was a witness to our conversation- he asked: “and what business is it of yours” anyway? I said that I was the minister of that church; I then said you can finished your job, but in future please ask for permission.
He said let’s go down to the car- we got in the lift, in hind sight not a very smart thing to do, he was stronger than I and very angry- well in the lift he swore at me abused me, and accused all clergy of being pedophiles- he insisted that the property was public property and I had no right in telling him he couldn’t use the water- he then said that he would have decked me if I had spoken to him like that in front of his wife- she was in the van waiting for him-All you churches are ripping people off and you can imagine what else he may have said. Again I said you can finished your job but in future get permission, the lift stopped at the ground floor, in anger he crossed the road to remove the hose, I then said ; “you didn’t hear what I said, you better remove the hose and not use it again”. You know there was a tap that he could have used attached to the building he was working in. ‘You will be sorry for this’, were his last words.
This encounter left me rattled for some days.
Why tell you this story? This guy was angry and he had a chip on his shoulder- he was also angry at the church- no not the Wollongong Congregational Church- but the church.
Leonie on her recent trip to Bathurst, sat on the train, a young guy and an older man were venting at the church in general- she went to another carriage, sat next to an older guy, he happened to be a catholic priest, they had a good conversation. Go figure from one extreme to the other.
There are those in our society who would like the church to go away. THEY ARE WELCOME TO THEIR OPINON and I would defend their right to say and believe what they wish-
Are they right?I do not believe that they are right!
I believe that many talk out of their hurt and frustration and ignorance and some do not realise what they are really saying- and of course others know exactly what they are saying- and again they are welcome to their opinion.
Sure the church has made many mistakes and I do not want to defend the mistakes of the past- and even the present- or the future.
Sure the church must be held accountable and perhaps more accountable than the average.
Of all organizations and people Christians are to be lights of hope and faith, beacons of love.
2 Corinthians 5:14-21 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Ambassadors for the Lord Jesus
Yes the church may have made many mistakes and I am defending those. Where there are human beings there will always be sin and sin will always have a negative impact on the world.We live in a broken world with broken people. The answer is in the Lord Jesus who said: Matthew 11:28-30 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
There is another argument in relation to church buildings not paying rates and churches having tax concessions- yes and even clergy having certain perks.
Maybe we should pay rates and not have any tax concessions- should it apply to churches then it should apply to all not for profit organisations. And by the way, a Non for Profit needs to make a profit just to survive!
Have you wondered? How many people do these church organisations employ throughout Australia? One Church group in social ministry has over 1,600 sites; the network employs 39,000 staff and is supported by the work of over 28,000 volunteers. (Uniting Care)
Not to mention: St Vincent De Paul society, Mission Australia, Anglicare, the Salvation Army and I am sure that there are many more .
Then add to this list the pastoral care that is done by everyday Christians, unsung heroes working in secret.
Don’t get me started on Hospitals, schools and employment agencies, rehab centers emergency accommodation and the list goes on.
Some may say that these are subsidised by the government, they may be right but I am sure that the subsidies are not enough to keep the ships afloat.
I said earlier that;So many talk out of their hurt and frustration that they do not realize what they are really saying- Why say this?
Well, imagine if every Christian charitable organisation in this country shut shop tomorrow. No don’t imagine it because it would cause so much social upheaval, the government set up would not be able to cope.
Ours is a mission that goes beyond brick and mortar it has eternal ramifications.
I believe that the world is broken and try as hard as we may like to we cannot fix it- and perhaps it is not our job to fix it-
Our job What is our job?
Our job is to be right with God- and this rightness with God will lead each one of us, individually and collectively in directions that we may not have thought of.
History has shown us this, men and women with a strong sense of Christian conviction have influenced the politics and social heart of many a nation.
There are many Christians throughout history who made an enormous impact in the world that we never hear of, yet we’re living with the results of their work.
Today I want to encourage you
I am not going to say anything that you do not already know, the author of Hebrews sort to encourage his readers, he has wonderfully outlined who the Lord Jesus is and why He came- he then moves onto the truth of what the church is and what one would call the FAITH component of Christianity.
1. 1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
2. 3 By faith Abel, 4 By faith Enoch, 5 By faith Noah
3. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
4. 8 By faith Abraham, 11 And by faith even Sarah
5. 13 All these people were still living by faith when they died
6. 20 By faith Isaac, 21 By faith Jacob, 23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him, 24 By faith, Moses, 29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea, 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, 31 By faith Rahab
The writer of Hebrews goes back to history,
Guess what you are not alone, God is there, and there are others who have had to work through the complexities of faith, see how they coped and follow their example!
The past matters, the past should be like a ladder, it is intended to spur us on to climbing that ladder.
It is not to be worshiped, but a stepping stone to lead us towards the walk of faith.
The church as you rightly know is more than brick and mortar, it is a living organism, it is organic and it is Christ centred ,12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
The church is made up of people and relationships, it is the environment that we learn to exercise the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit- this is why the Lord Jesus said to His disciples: John 13:34-35 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. 12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.