Newsletter 24 July

24 Jul 2020 by Rev John Thornton in: Latest News


Where will faith be found?
Not in the rights-denying,
policies of our governments... 
Where will faith be found?
Not in the strategy-driven,
rule-keeping efforts
of our institutions... 
Where will faith be found?
Not in the desperate,
flailing of our churches... 
Where will faith be found?
In the acts of everyday people,
who see and respond to an opportunity,
to make a difference in their neighbourhood;
those who create beauty,
by eschewing what is deemed right and proper,
choosing, instead:
to take risks,
to make music,
to dance,
to respond to the rhythm that is all around... 
Attuned to the rhythm of God,
our senses are awakened:
to the gifts and the needs
of our neighbour. 
And there, will faith be found.

(Spill the Beans Worship Resources)


There is such a lot of talk going on right now about what to do about going back and / or not.  Each congregation needs to make their individual decisions on these matters, doing so with a great deal of prayer and diligence.  However, the regathering of the saints is only one part of our future thinking. 

It is important to offer pastoral care for those who have spent many months apart from corporate worship, but there is opportunity for so much more.  Within these weekly missives I have sought to encourage, inspire (perhaps frustrate) challenge you to keep thinking beyond what was. 

I still hear the desire of church members wanting others in our communiyty to become a part of their regular Sunday gatherings.  Some still seek for an old fashoned ‘revival’ so that people can return to their faith.  The reality check that I offer this week is that people cannot return to something that they never knew or experienced.  There cannot be a revival when there is nothing to revive! We are living in a time where a couple of generations have grown up with no Christian input.  The church in the local community has moved from the centre of life to the periphery.

Friends, better music, audio visual magic, drums, electric guitars, new carpet , individual comfortable chairs and dancing in the aisles, will not necessarily bring people into the worship life of our community.  The world has long since moved on. 


COVID-19 is our opportunity to reflect on what worship, witness and service means in 2020 and beyond.  It is a chance for us to recalibrate our thinking. 

We are presently working through some parables of Jesus where he offers some clues as to the kingdom of heaven:

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches. 

For too long there has been the sense that the church is the reason for all that we do as followers of Jesus.  In fact it is the mission of God that forms our character.  Our gathering is important, but only to better encourage, restore, inform and resource our sending.  Perhaps in this time we need to focus our prayer and thinking as to what God is calling us to in mission?

I fondly recall Tony Campolo – now sadly gravely ill – at an Adelaide Charismatic conference many years ago giving the blessing at the end of an afternoon rally.  I don’t recall his words, but they would have gone something like:  You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.  Go! Make disciples!’

It was a gathering of loud enthusiastic Christians, including me!  At the end Campolo cried out, ‘Do I hear an Amen?’  A thunderous roar broke out.  ‘That’s great’, said Campolo.  ‘Now we have buses lined up outside to take you all out into the mission field of Adelaide.  Go!!’  Those of us gathered looked nervously at each other as we wondered if this crazy American was bluffing or not.  With some relief, there were no buses.

Should our gathering be our first thought in these times, or should our sending take priority?  Perhaps we should be holding both of these important matters in the same conversation?

Nature thought for the week

I think this week’s gospel should be an encouragement to all.  I have spent weeks talking about our gardening endeavours and I bring them to something of a close until Spring perhaps.

However, as I consider the values of our present time and the importance government and corporate and sport are giving to big financial matters.  I look at a tiny mustard seed and am forced to smile. 

Who are we, the church, in the great scheme of things?  Well, we are one tiny seed.

Latest COVID update

There is a new important update attached regarding tightening of restrictions on 24 July - refer to COVID-19 Information for Presbyteries and Congregations > Latest COVID-19 Synod Guidance Notes.

Please give it your full attention.

Synod has subsequently advised that Police visits are happening, and that it is vitally important that we all comply with government directives, for a range of reasons:

  1. Our paramount concern for people’s health and safety.
  2. It will be an extremely poor Christian witness if one of our churches is found in breach and fined.
  3. The fines are real and substantial, and at this point in the outbreak a fine will be issued rather than a caution.
  4. A gentle reminder that any incurred fines will be the responsibility of the local Congregation/Church Council.

In a visit this morning Police followed up "with further questions around what is happening on church property.  They asked for church Covid-safe plans and requested the name and birthdate of the Minister.  The police said they were doing this with all churches.  We don’t know if this is in that area or across NSW."

Pentecost 7

Readings: Genesis 29:15-28, Psalm 105:1-11, 45b or 128, Romans 8:28-39 and Matthew 13:31-33 & 44-52

I offer no commentary on the scriptures this week, thinking that I have offered enough meat in what has preceded it.  Just take these wonderful words of the Apostle Paul and absorb them.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.  And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. 

What then are we to say about these things?  If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?  Who will bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn?  It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.  Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.