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The Journal

More Grace please Lord

More Grace please Lord We continue our series in the sermon on the mount as Jesus corrects the teaching of the Pharisees who have twisted the Law. We know from Matthew 19:7-8 that the Pharisees challenged Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce. They said Moses commanded a certificate of divorce be written whereas Jesus says that he permitted it to be written because our hearts are hard. We know that this teaching was abused and in particular women were treated badly so Moses provision was to protect women against mistreatment. Matthew 19:1-9 instructs why Jesus says the only condition for divorce is immorality. In marriage 2 people come together and are made one flesh before God. This refers to sexual union but also recognises that that marriage entwines people physically, spiritually & emotionally & provides an opportunity for children which brings ever deepening bonds. God’s purpose for marriage is a lifelong commitment and this means that we need to be careful about not entering into marriage lightly as the Anglican Marriage service exhorts us. Jesus then speaks about the need to be truthful and to keep our Word which is an important compliment to the teaching on marriage. We recognise that marriages do fail because of various reasons. Any divorce is painful and difficult and we believe that in the midst of the high standard of this teaching there is always the offer of God’s grace which brings healing and forgiveness. Rev David O’Mara 

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Integrity in relationships

Integrity in relationships Whenever you reflect on the teaching of Jesus it is important to remember that however hard God’s commands seems they are for our good. Jesus continues to show us that our righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees - Matthew 5:20. For Christians we are more righteous than the Pharisees because we have Christ’s righteousness credited to us by faith. But we also learn that God is not only interested in outward obedience but is concerned for what is happening in our hearts which is where sin comes from - see Mark 7:20. Jesus teaches us that murder flows from anger and we must deal with this issue. At the heart of anger is pride and treating people with contempt and looking don on them i.e. calling them “Raca” or “fool”. In the same way Jesus affirms that adultery, sex outside of marriage is wrong and this time he focuses on the consequences of this disobedience with a warning of judgement. Why is Jesus so strong about adultery ? For Christians sex is a gift that can’t be separated from the whole relationship of love and commitment. Marriage is about a covenant or commitment of all we are and all we have. The wrong attitude behind adultery is to approach sex from the perspective of being a consumer and what I can get from the person. This attitude is essentially selfish. In fact the word Jesus uses for “lust” is a word connected to greed. This means that adultery or lust is about being greedy and making an idol out of sex. Marriages work well there are no idols and we seek Jesus as the centre of our life. Rev David O’Mara


 

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Blessed by God so we may bless others

Blessed by God so we may bless others In the next section of teaching from Jesus in Matthew 5:13-20 Jesus shows us how the new life that He is growing in us is to be expressed in the world around us. He uses 2 pictures of being Salt and light to communicate God’s purpose for our lives. Salt was used in the ancient world to stop food from rotting and so Jesus expects that we will engage in the world around us and bring hope in Christ. Salt also brings flavour to food and the Christian life invariably points to the beauty of Jesus. The other picture is that of being the light of the world. This implies that our world without Christ is in darkness and needs the light of Christ. As we engage with the world and do good works we will point people to Jesus and what He offers is much better than what the world offers. In the last section 5:17-20 Jesus says that He has come to fulfil the Law. This is great news for us because even though we have failed to obey God’s Law fully Jesus has completely obeyed the Law on our behalf and so now we can rest in His obedience. The Law is still very important for the Christian because through the Law God shows us what He is like and what He requires in terms of Christian living. Our great hope is that in Ezekiel 36:25-27 God writes His law in our hearts so we may obey Him. God’s Blessing - Rev David O’Mara 

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The way down is the way up

The way down is the way up Matthew 5:1-12 is known as the Beatitudes and speaks of the qualities of the Christian life. The first 4 beatitudes focus on our relationship with God and the next 4 focus on our relationship with each other. The first beatitude in v3 and the last beatitude in v10 ends with the same reward which is the Kingdom of heaven. So these verses focus on life in the kingdom of heaven and the qualities which God grows in us. Some of the translations use the word happy instead of blessed. Jesus is not declaring how people feel but rather he is making an objective statement about what God thinks of them. Blessed means that people have God’s favour on their lives. So being blessed is the pronouncement of what we are - approved. Blessed indicates that the smile of God is upon us. These beatitudes are not something we achieve through our own strength and power. Like all obedience and growth in godliness it is brought about by faith in God and His promises and is the fruit of His Spirit. This is why the first beatitude about being poor in spirit is absolutely critical to the rest. Being poor in spirit means that we see our spiritual poverty and this is when we are open to depending on God and not on ourselves. Progress in the Christian life begins by humbling ourselves and seeing that we are spiritually needy. The second beatitude is about mourning or crying over our sin with the promise of being comforted. As we see our sin God promises to comfort us as we mourn over our sin. He comforts us by providing forgiveness of sins and granting us peace - Romans 5:1 and removing condemnation from us Romans 8:1. Each of these beatitudes build on one another and they are all a work of God’s grace in us ! Jesus speaks about the importance of being poor in spirit in another way - For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted - Luke 18:14 God’s Blessing - Rev David O’Mara 

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Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene

Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene John 20:1-18 is packed with spiritual encouragement. In v2 Mary is not expecting that Jesus is risen. Her first reaction is to go and tell the disciples that someone has taken Jesus body. Later on she is crying and upset at what has happened to the body of Jesus and she sees 2 angels who ask her why she is crying v13. For some reason she suddenly turns around. Perhaps the angels looked behind her. Jesus appears before her but she doesn’t recognise Jesus v14 and He asks Mary who she is looking for ? v15 Again we learn that Mary thought this person is someone other than Jesus perhaps a gardener but when Jesus calls her name :- Mary recognises Him. Earlier in John 10:16 Jesus indicates that His sheep, that is those who are His children listen to His voice. Mary is demonstrating that she is one of His children. People will often say in regard to Christianity that seeing is believing. It is interesting that when Mary first sees Jesus see she doesn’t recognise Him. There is deep truth here that without God revealing Himself to us we can’t truly see Jesus. To put it another way that unless our eyes are opened by the Holy Spirit we are unable to recognise Jesus. Later in John 20:30-31 John explains that the purpose of writing the Gospel is that we may hear God’s Word and believe. Faith opens our eyes. The early disciples saw the risen Christ and this was important because they are the eyewitnesses so that our faith is based on evidence as it forms God’s Word. Even Thomas is painted as an anti type. He says unless I see I won’t believe but Jesus says in 20:29 about Thomas - Because you have seen me you have believed, blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. The pathway or route to saving faith is now to hear the message. Many people saw Jesus and walked with Him and talked with Him but didn’t believe. Seeing Jesus physically doesn’t guarantee belief because our hearts are hard. Only a miracle can open our hard hearts and that is what the power of the Gospel does. Jesus is revealed to us as the death of Jesus for our sins and His resurrection is preached. Believing is seeing ! God’s Blessing and Happy Easter - Rev David O’Mara 

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The full extent of Jesus' love

God serves us & empowers us to serve us John 13:1-17 – the setting for the washing of the disciples’  feet is the Passover Feast. The passover feast commemorated the time in Israel’s history when God  rescued them from slavery. The Passover is about God saving His people and so what Jesus does when He washes the feet of His disciples points to a new saving work. When Jesus  washes the disciples feet He is teaching them that the full extent of His love is revealed in the Cross - see 13:1. The washing of feet is a symbolic act which points to His death. To be a Christian involves allowing Jesus to serve us by accepting His death and allowing God to work in our lives. In fact the encounter with Peter teaches us that unless Jesus serves us through the Cross we are not part of His family and are also unable to truly serve others. Foot washing was the task of the lowest servant and so Jesus by washing the disciple’s feet is teaching them that He is willing to take on the lowliest task for their sake and because of His love for them. Jesus’ love is not motivated by what He can get out of the disciples. His own source of love is the basis for His love not what they can do for Him. In this passage we also see Peter misunderstanding what Jesus is doing but right at the end of the Gospel Jesus restored Peter after His failures and begins to change Him. God both expects and enables transformation of our lives through the power of the Cross and the work of the Spirit in our lives. In this short passage we see another individual who is highlighted. Judas is identified as the one who would betray Jesus and who has allowed the devil to enter him. Judas is a shocking example because he was one of the disciples and lived closely with Jesus seeing His example day after day for 3 years. Yet he falls away because he doesn’t have faith. Judas is a warning to us that we can be close to the Christian faith without actually ever accepting the Lord Jesus. We must ensure that we have come to know the Lord and submitted to Him. Jesus final command is that we are blessed if we obey Him. Obedience brings blessing and is the key to transformation through faith in God’s power. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

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An affectionate reverence !

Fear God and Obey His commands
Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 the writer now brings his teaching to a conclusion. He says that the whole duty of people is to fear God and obey His commands. Charles Bridge says that the fear of the Lord is that affectionate reverence by which the child of God bends himself humbly and carefully to his Father’s law. When the power of the Gospel is at work in our lives God through the preaching of the cross and the work of His Spirit captures our heart so that a fear of the Lord grows in our life and this leads to a desire to obey the commands of the Lord. The teacher expects that his teaching is more than information. It is transformative. Our primary sense organ is the ear. We are to focus on listening to the Lord. In the New Testament our Lord Jesus reveals Himself as the Word of God
John 1:1 and so He is 
a speaking and teaching God. We also learn that the Word of God is powerful Hebrews 4:12 and can penetrate our lives and reveal truths about ourselves and about God. The Word of God also corrects and rebukes 2 Tim 3:16-17 and can equip us to know the Lord and do His work. The teacher has studied life under the sun and he says that all this knowledge is meant to bring us 4 things. God blesses us with pleasure. In 12:10 the teacher describes God words as words of delight and truth. God’s pleasure can’t be separated from His truth. This is a reminder that people will often try to find pleasure apart from the Lord and this will not bring satisfaction. The key to this is that we delight in things which are beautiful and good and true. In Psalm 27:4 the Psalmist wants to dwell in the temple of the Lord so that he may gaze on the beauty of the Lord. Seeing the beauty God in the face of Jesus Christ brings us the greatest joy and delight. Secondly God bring us an unexpected gift which is pain. He uses the picture of a shepherd with a goad embedded with nails. Shepherds used these staffs with nails to keep sheep on the right path. God will allow pain into our life that we may not turn away from Him. This is a very hard lesson but we must not forget that God himself fully understands how pain can be used to bring joy and salvation - Jesus death on the Cross for our sin. His third observation is that God gives us a perspective that the totality of life is to fear God and obey Him. Finally the teacher instructs us to prepare to meet God for we are all accountable and good will bring his good and right just so that evil is dealt with and wrongs are righted. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 
 

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Remember your creator now before it is too late

Remember your creator now before it is too late Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:8 in this famous passage the writer uses graphic pictures to illustrate the effects of the ageing process. He speaks about windows (eyes) growing dim & when the keepers of the house tremble (arms) and the grinders (teeth) are few and the almond tree (grey hair) blossoms. By youth he doesn’t mean just someone in their 20’s but refers to any person before they get to the stage of rapid decline. What is most urgent ? The first thing which is most urgent is to enjoy life 11:7-10 and to remember our Creator 12:1,6. The command to remember is more than thinking about God. Rather it is an incentive to rejoice because God is the Creator and the giver of joy and life. As we get older it is all too easy to slip into a grumpy disposition. We must guard against a cynical attitude that causes us to forget God’s goodness to us. We are praying that people will come to All Souls and come to faith. What will they find when they get here ? Joy or gloom ? God has given us everything we need to be full of joy and so we are called to choose joy. There is also a danger that if we don’t choose to rejoice and enjoy God’s good gifts now, then as we approach old age when life becomes more difficult our resources for coping will be drawn from what we have stored up and if that is grumpiness or cynicism or a lack of graciousness then we will become increasingly more difficult people to be around. Of course there is always God’s grace and mercies which are new every morning and it is never too later to ask for God to change us and to repent of grumpiness. Last Sunday 24 March we held our AGM. Ministry reports were discussed and audited financial statements were presented. The results of the election were : Malcolm Rich & Tracey Rowe were elected as wardens and those elected to Church Council were : Guy Evans, Eugene Baidjurak, Sue Steinmetz. I appointed Suzannah Gaulke as my Rector’s Warden and Doug Kelaher as my Church Council representative. A short meeting was held after the AGM and the wardens appointed Nigel Bailey as Treasurer to replace our outgoing treasurer Rob Ryan and Shion Inomata was appointed as our Safe Ministry Representative. Our Church Nominators elected were : Eugene Baidjurak, Claire Graham, Sue James, Katie Stringer and Ian Cathers. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

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Stepping out in faith produces growth

Stepping out in faith produces growth the writer is seeking to instil humility into our character by helping us to know that life is uncertain and we can’t know the future but God does. In v1-2 we may receive a return for our investment or disaster could strike. However this inability to predict the future is not an excuse to retreat and play it safe. Rather we are encouraged to ship our grain across the sea and invest in 7 yes 8 ventures. God wants His people to engage in life and use the gifts they have to witness to His goodness and love. The writer continues to instil humility by reminding us that our knowledge of life is very limited. In v5 we do not know the path of the wind nor how God puts His Spirit into a baby in their mother’s womb. There are so many things in life which are beyond our understanding and control. We are encouraged to focus on what we can do which is to sow our seeds in the morning and not be lazy v6. As we move to the New Testament we are reminded to lay up treasure in heaven. This is not a scheme to encourage us to buy our way in heaven. Rather when we invest in spiritual things which have eternal significance it is showing that our heart has been captivated by Jesus love. That is what the power of Jesus’ death does. He captures our hearts with His love and then this changes our focus so that His priorities and values become ours. In the New Testament Jesus told a number of parables about sowing seed and many of these have links to Ecclesiastes. For example in Luke 12:15-21 Jesus told a parable about building up treasure in heaven. A rich man yielded an abundant harvest and said to himself what shall I do. This was his major mistake because he forgot that this harvest was a gift from God in the first place. He makes a decision to take life easy, eat drink and be merry. This sounds very much like Ecclesiastes which has encouraged us to enjoy God’s gifts but this man has forgotten God and so God’s values and priorities are far from his mind and his heart. Ecclesiastes 9:1-6 is encouraging us to step out in faith and use our gifts and abilities and resources to build relationships of love and sow God’s seed or Word of life. May the Lord enable this to increase. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

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Looking for the real thing

Looking for the real thing In chapters 1-9 the writer has been teaching us through his careful investigation of life under the sun that pursuing pleasure and education and power and wealth as ends in themselves will not bring satisfaction which we all long for. He has reminded us that we all must face death and that this is the great leveller of all people. Effectively the writer has been demolishing the false idols which people trust in for significance and joy and once he has shown their hollowness he seeks to move us onto his purpose of building a sure foundation to trust in - God Himself. In Chapter 9 the writer brings his argument to a conclusion and reminds us that all people face a common destiny of death but this is not a reason for despair. In 9:7-10 he teaches us that we are to embrace life and enjoy the good gifts which God provides for us such as food and wine and clothes. Within this section he is using wedding imagery. This is very interesting because the picture of God being a husband to his people is very strong - see Isaiah 54:5, 62:5. This picture of the celebration of God with His people reaches its climax in Revelation 19:7 where God invites His people who have accepted salvation as those who are invited to the wedding supper of the lamb - our Lord Jesus who takes away sin through His death on the cross. It is a rich picture of celebration. Despite the uncertainty of this life and at times its seeming unfairness we are being directed to look for certainty and sure hope beyond this world. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

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