Newsletter 31 July

31 Jul 2020 by Rev John Thornton in: Latest News

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.  For in hope we were saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what is seen?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  Romans 8:18-25

We have a mezuzah at our front door.  It is basically a decorative container and inside is a piece of parchment with words from the Jewish Shema, part of the Jewish morning and evening prayer, taken from portions of Deuteronomy 6 and 11:              

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.  Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.  Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

It is a simple enough symbol that may signal to people entering the home: As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.  We have had people who clearly don’t know what it is, still touch it quite reverently.

The Uniting Church is a leader in speaking about the need to care for all of creation.  In times of drought, bush fires and climate concerns, we are alert to the need of speaking out for the future of this tiny planet we call home.

Leonard Sweet, in his book, Soul Salsa, suggest that we should Mezuzah our Universe!  Sweet says: ‘A postmodern (It’s a 20-year-old book) mezuzah is a ritual that helps us grow our own souls by modulating the mundane into the eternal.’

In these new stressful times it has been useful to me to follow Sweet’s suggestion:

  • Mezuzah your home
  • Mezuzah your furniture and objects
  • Mezuzah your calendar
  • Mezuzah your relationships

I find that it lifts our faith out of the world of self and gives a new appreciation of all that we are called to be stewards of.  God saw all that he had made, and it was good.  We have an important role to play in the care of all of the creation.

COVID-19 continues to bite

For those groups who have returned to face to face worship and / or are now welcoming community groups who are using our premises, please, please, please proceed with caution.  There are a number of not very clever people making life difficult and dangerous for the general population.  This virus is going to be with us for a long time and until we have a vaccine, it is vital that we set an example to the community and remain vigilant.

I lead my first face to face church service last Sunday and was extremely impressed at the care taken by the local church council to make sure every box was ticked.  Well done to all local leadership teams who are working so diligently. Thank you and keep it up.

Crystal Ball thinking

I was asked this past week to look into my crystal ball and answer a question regarding some future dates.  I did not really need a crystal ball for that one, but it has got me thinking about things of the future.  What might things look like as we seek to move forward, and having had the opportunity – welcome or not – to think more deeply about the why and what of our church life.  Here are a couple of thoughts.

  • Online activities will not be a passing phase – Thinking of our MNC Presbytery Sunday service, I see no reason why this will not continue, even when all congregations are re-gathered. It may well move to a time away from an o’clock that clashes, but it has exciting possibilities.

The interaction between so many of our people from across the presbytery during and after our Sunday services has been a major feature for me.  Many of us know each other so much better because of these Sunday morning gatherings.

We already have an Online Prayer Workshop happening and I am excited about the possibility of Online Bible studies.  It might be good to experience the breadth of spiritual life outside of our local bubbles?

  • Sharing of gifts. With a very much improved number of ministry agents now among us, I foresee an exciting future as we will get to share the many gifts and graces now spread across our region.

For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you – or rather that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.  Romans 1:11, 12

We will no longer be hearing how pleased we are with ‘OUR MINISTER’, and I look forward to hearing how thrilled we are with all ‘OUR MINISTERS’.

  • Greater care. This period seems to have provoked even greater pastoral care for each other and brought out many creative ways of doing so.  I doubt that our work has been perfect, but we have tackled this important matter with great zeal.  I think that we are likely better equipped now than before and that equipping has been to a great extent locally grown. 
  • Mission focus. I see that while these months have been more inwardly focused as we sought to look after each other, this valuing of one another may well sharpen our care and concern beyond present boundaries.

We have an opportunity now to see what God is about in our local mission field and prayerfully join in the harvest.  There are flower buds beginning to poke through in our garden! How about yours?

Through our lives of prayer, support, and positive encouragement of each other this presbytery can be a part of God’s ongoing work in this region.


The Uniting Church acknowledges that the Church is able to live and endure through the changes of history only because its Lord comes, addresses, and deals with people in and through the news of his completed work.  Christ who is present when he is preached among people is the Word of the God who acquits the guilty, who gives life to the dead and who brings into being what otherwise could not exist.  Through human witness in word and action, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ reaches out to command people’s attention and awaken faith; he calls people into the fellowship of his sufferings, to be the disciples of a crucified Lord; in his own strange way Christ constitutes, rules and renews them as his Church.  UCA BASIS OF UNION para 4

Might we yet see transformed lives?

‘Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man.  It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it.  He is not interested in flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoiled.  He thinks you are killing him.  He will do everything he can do to prevent you.  He will not be made into a man if he can help it.  The real Son of God is at your side.  He is beginning to turn you into the same kind of thing as Himself; He is beginning, so to speak, to ‘inject’ His kind of life and thought, his Zoe, (spiritual life) into you; beginning to turn the tin soldier into a live man.  The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin.’  C. S. Lewis – The Weight of Glory

Pentecost 9

Readings: Genesis 32:22-31, Psalm 175:1-7 & 15, Romans 9:1-5 and Matthew 14:13-21

The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.  He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.  When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.   Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.”  But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”  So he said to him, “What is your name?”  And he said, “Jacob.”  Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”  Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.”  But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?”  And there he blessed him.  So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”  The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.  Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.

I have often found that those followers of Jesus who most impact my life are the ones who walk with a limp.  People who have journeyed through tough times and have prevailed.  There is often a vulnerability and an authenticity that cause even the greatest cynic to stop and consider.

  • How are you at wrestling?
  • How many times have you dug in and really fought things out?
  • What is your story of fighting through a hard time and prevailing?
  • How did you experience a blessing?